Movie adaptations from books, comic books, and plays are common and have had a wide range of successes. However, making a movie based on a video game is a different monster altogether. It’s like invading Afghanistan, no one can do it right. While at times they can make some money at the box office, these movies have never been a hit with critics and rarely please fans. The mostly critically acclaimed one, and I use the phrase loosely, was Final Fantasy and the best performing one at the box office was Mortal Kombat. That being said, here are some games that I’d like to see get made it to movies even if they have already been screwed up already and will most likely be screwed up again. Just maybe, if done right, these could be great (ok, maybe enjoyable) films.
An alternate past, Bioshock imagines an objectivists dream under the waves turned into a living nightmare. The game is a first person shooter in which the player has no clue just who the hell they are until the very end. The game’s story-line plays like a 1940’s Sci-fi pulp novel. The key to making this one work on the big screen would to keep it pulpy, and to try to cut down the extra crap that happens in the game after the player gets past Andrew Ryan. (And there was a lot of crap.) I could see this as a full color Sin City type movie. Over the top melodrama and hardcore action is a must. I can’t stop thinking about what a good screen writer and actor could do with Sander .
Max Payne 3:
Yes, Max Payne, the movie with Marky-Mark Walberg, was a mess—a dull, bland boring betrayal of a film. It didn’t match the game in humor, mode or action. So why do this again, you ask? Well, I would go so far to say that adapting the first or second game would be a mistake. Both are too long and too convoluted to make any sense of, and include copious amounts of gun violence at the same time. However, Max Payne 3 could make for good movie viewing. I liked the game a lot, in fact much more than Max Payne 2. The plot is basically Man on Fire and has enough space for supporting characters and the hardcore cinematic gun violence I’ve been craving since John Woo went American. I’d like to see Jon Hamm play Max—if only because I want to see Jon Hamm in a video game movie, or any movie for that matter. My one rule for this movie is, they have to keep the sound track.
Is Mass Effect the next Star Wars? Maybe. Movie going audiences have a love/hate relationship with epics. We loved Hobbit (or at least people still turned out), Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. Golden Compass and Chronicles of Narnia… yeah not so much. Same goes for Sci-fi epics: Star Wars and Star Trek, gooooood…. Chronicles of Riddick, on the other hand…well you get the point. The Mass Effect series did make one hell of an impact in the gaming world. It also has a deep and rich enough lore, art design and character cast that could easily spell long term franchise. I think the biggest selling point for a series of movies in this franchise, at least for me, would be to see many of the beloved characters that I got to know so well over the years through the game on the big screen. The first big question? Will Commander Shepard be a man, a woman, transgender, poly, pan?! Oh, the options! The other burning question is: will Shep get a first name?
Yes, they tried this one too, and yes it was crap. Part of me really wants to see this horror survival game get a movie that really lives up to its potential. Call me crazy, but I would really like to see this one produced on a very minimalist scale: very few characters, very little dialogue, and lots of scares. What I loved about Doom 3, which surprised me, was the constant tension in the game, broken by moments of terror, and then being able to shoot that terror in the face. I don’t think the action route would be a good way to go. I’m thinking more atmospheric terror, much like in early 2000’s Japanese horror movies, just with a BFG 9000 and no stupid ghost kids.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine:
This was a fun, relatively minor game from a few years ago, that was part of a whole bunch of games put out over the course of a few years based on the Warhammer 40K table top game. While similar to Mass Effect in scale, I think that going small in a movie adaptation would work better than going big and epic. The scope was narrow and the characters limited in the game. There would also just be way too much explaining to do in a large-scale 40K movie. Keep the plot simple and straight forward, with plenty of action (a la The Raid Redemption) and this could be a real winner. Three super human super soldiers hacking and slashing their way through a legion of Orks? Come on!
It has always perplexed me that video game movies never seem to even be good at the basic level. Maybe games can get away with very flimsy plots in a way that movies can’t? I don’t have a good answer. If there is one thing that I have noticed, it is that a lot of the movies adapted from video games tend to miss the mark of what made the game great or fun. So far what works in games hasn’t translated well to film, but it’s still worth trying until film makers get it right.