As Warcraft: The Beginning looms on the horizons, I can’t help but feel a shiver head down my spine. Why you ask? Because films adapted from video games generally have an awful track record. From the disastrous Street Fighter, to the seemingly neverending franchise of Resident Evil, to all the trash that Uwe Boll has made (please stop him…please. I beg), all of these films have disappointed both fans and filmgoers alike. As a gamer and film junkie, I want to explore why these films have failed and what it bodes for the future. Will Warcraft, Assassins Creed, and Uncharted finally buck the trend or are they doomed to fail?
Many gamers have baffled themselves trying to work out the failings of film adaptations that they have longed for. How do directors and producers get it so wrong?! Games are rich in their lore and offer complex stories to compliment gameplay. So why does it not translate? The first problem is your audience. Who is the film made for? Video games have a built in audience similar to comic book fans, but films are targeted at much broader audiences (Studios have to make bank fam). A lot of the lore is adapted to fit a film medium. These are two distinctly different mediums, film has much tighter time constructs limiting the amount of lore you can onto the pack onto the screen. Or else the story becomes too convoluted. The other major problem is alienating either one of your audiences. It’s a tight-rope between pleasing established fans and walking your new audiences through all the basics. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is a classic example of a film that needed to know a thing or two about the DC Universe. The lore has to be modified to fit all audiences.
Deviation is a natural part of every adaptation, it is fundamental part of the process. It makes said book/video game/comic narrative more manageable and presentable on the big screen. Ain’t nobody got time for a six hour direct adaptation of The Fellowship of the Ring, let’s be real. So if book and comic adaptions have been so successful then surely a video game is manageable? Uhm…clearly not. The only decent adaptation has been Mortal Kombat…aaaaand that wasn’t exactly amazing. For some obscure reason they haven’t been able to balance out the canon from the original story with the adapted story. Resident Evil is a classic example. The films use little to nothing from the STORY of the games. Sure they mention Umbrella, the T-Virus, Albert Wesker, etc, etc, but none of these actually tie into any cohesive story. Fuck, they don’t use any of the main characters from the games as a protagonist. Instead Hollywood decided to slap together some Resident Evil terminology with a generic action script and bam! There we have a successful formula for making a video game adaptation. Uhm no… sadly, Warcraft, Assassin’s Creed, and Uncharted all threaten to fall into this trap. Adaptations are allowed to deviate from the source material, but needs to remain relatable to the core fans. Slapping titles on some script doesn’t make it an adaptation, it’s a fucking cash grab. STOP THAT SHIT!
Another major problem is our method of engagement. Yes, they’re both forms of entertain but we don’t engage with it in the same manner. Film is a form of passive engagement; the viewer is presented a narrative that they can enjoy. You don’t have to think your way through a complex puzzle, you just have to sit back, relax and enjoy(or hate it if the film is total kak). Video games are different; they’re a form of active or interactive engagement. You’re actually supposed to solve puzzles, traverse levels, uncover secrets, and ultimately learn more about the story. So what’s the point of all of this? Well, the enjoyment of video comes from a combination of the story AND the action. It takes two to tango and this is where the problem lies. The interactive element of video games doesn’t always translate well on screen. Don’t believe me? Want the perfect example? Hitman is a game about stealth, cunning, and improvisation. The entire game is based on avoiding conflict to eliminate your given target. Would that make a good movie? No… well, maybe a really cool action sequence. Did the movie follow the lore? NO! The movie shat on everything the games had embodied BECAUSE the games were never written to be adapted to screen. Hitman focused on strong gameplay elements rather than story to draw in players and unfortunately these elements don’t work on the silver screen.
Does this mean that all video game are gonna suck? NO! There is hope! Remember when comic book adaptations were meh at best? Have you seen what they’re doing now? It’s inevitable that Hollywood will find a formula to make these things work. Why? Because money… you don’t need another reason. Let’s be honest the Marvel machine is bound to run out of steam soon (people are going to lose interest), and they need the next best thing to churn out those dollar bills.
So here’s my prediction:
Ratchet and Clank – Good
Warcraft – Flawed, but a good starting point for the franchise.
Assassin Creed – I think this will be the real starting point for the video game adaptations as a whole.
Let’s see how things pan out over the next few months.