The film industry has tried again and again for a bang at the box office by adapting a video game. We had the Resident Evil movies from 2002 to 2016, which raked in approximately $1.2 billion worldwide. Still, the quality was not the best, especially for fans of the parent series. Looking into the future, we have plenty more worries coming, like Tom Holland’s role as Nathan Drake is in development hell, and nobody has heard about The Last of Us movie, and I am scared to listen to any news. The solution I have is to have video game TV shows rather than the blockbusters from Hollywood.
Countless failures have come from studios trying to get games in front of the masses on the big screen. Even if the film makes money, like Resident Evil, it can still attract plenty of heat from critics and audiences. Well, everyone hates your creation, but hey, at least you made some cash. Unless you are Doom with a budget of $60 million and earned $58 million; or more recently, the performance of Assassin’s Creed, which brought in $240 million off of its $125 million budget, so not the worst or close to the best.
THE SOURCE OF THE EVIL AND FAILURE
A few reasons go into why these fail rather than succeed: One is simple: time. Take the first Uncharted. The movie is taking a different approach, but still, the introduction of Nathan Drake to PlayStation 3 owners was approximately an eight-hour experience, which is tough to do in a roughly two-hour-long film. Now take the two hours of Warcraft and compare it to the countless amount of time one can spend playing World of Warcraft and its subsequent additions that flesh out its world. The bigger the scope, the bigger the production, which makes it harder to transfer from game to film.
The other issue comes from the elements in the game that get taken into account for the movie. In embarrassingly cheesy ways, we get the first-person ending of Doom or the drugs used to power up Mark Wahlberg to take down mobsters in Max Payne. The filmmakers need to balance those game-y aspects along with what will suspend the audience’s disbelief. Pressing the slow-motion button that makes Max dive and precisely kills his targets works when playing Max Payne 3 on PC or a console. It does not quite work for a non-gamer viewer who wants to see Wahlberg avenge his family.
The final sin I want to discuss is walking a fine line of developing the world and its characters in a way that the people who played the game will understand and the people who want to watch because of Alicia Vikander as Lara Croft in Tomb Raider or Michael Fassbender in Assassin’s Creed. Warcraft made the mistake of getting too lore heavy, leaving many people confused about its universe, unlike the resounding success of Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter films. Always learn from those that succeed and not from those that tripped over a bag of money.
MAYBE THERE IS HOPE… AND SOLUTIONS
The Witcher Netflix series let itself grow with eight episodes rather than tying itself down to a 2 hour and a half experience. Some people love it while others hate it with a 66% critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, while its audience rating is 92%, so take what you want from those results. It helped that it brought on a streaming service rather than going through Warner Bros. or some other Hollywood juggernaut that would throw money at it then push it out the door. It may take years of producing more seasons to reach the 90 to 100 hours of The Witcher 3, but extending the length to let the project breathe rather than shoving in lore, characters, and a story in confinement will suffocate the project.
It may not be a video game, but HBO did crush it with Watchmen, taking a twist on the classic graphic novel to move the timeline forward over 30 years and still maintain the heart of the book with some new faces on people’s TV screens. That formula and execution are what can merge the gaming and film industries in unison so everyone can win, fans get something enjoyable, and corporations make millions of dollars.
Now imagine how successful Uncharted could be with its focus on a young Nathan Drake. It would look better as a series to see the Indiana Jones-esque hero evolve as a troubled young boy to a man finding treasure and facing terroristic threats. Taking creative liberties can work in favor of the creator but only by proper execution like Damon Lindelof did with Watchmen.
You do need a director and writer who have enough freedom from a network who knows the material. Both the showrunners and the leading man, Henry Cavill, have an understanding of the books and games when developing The Witcher to make it the best video game TV show possible. Getting clueless people involved solves nothing, and any controller or keyboard wielders will spot the lack of heart and brains instantly.
Additionally, one needs not to make it feel like a video game because nobody wants to relive an FPS moment like in Doom. A filmmaker who understands the project will know how to make both sides of an audience happy. Marvel is a mighty example as it unites both comic book readers and non-nerds who know icons like Spider-Man but may get lost about the Eternals or Ant-Man, yet will pre-purchase tickets to see heroes save the world. A good storyteller can adjust to the variations in an audience’s knowledge of the IP to make it enjoyable despite one’s education of that universe. The director and writers must show the audience the heart of the project that encompasses both a game and film, as one can do with The Last of Us adaption by giving it an emotional narrative with the characters realistically crafting weapons to survive. Please, don’t have Joel listen and get some grey vision to find his enemies like Superman. That works for PlayStation gamers and not some couple wanting to see a zombie flick.
Dear filmmakers and studios, know what to take in and take out of the experience to transfer over from computer monitors to big or small screens.
What captures people is the story and its characters. Showoff the charisma of Nathan Drake as a young man, let people feel for Joel and Ellie’s journey and put in Doom Slayer over The Rock when facing demons on Mars. Non-gamers will forgive the nods to gameplay mechanics if it is not done in a cringy way and does not get in the way of what people are enjoying.
I have hope that my favorite games can go off the console or PC and onto the big or small screen where it can thrive because I love these properties. I am worried about the developments to come yet excited based on what other nerdy franchises have turned into from getting molded into a new form of media like comics to the big and small screen. I think it’s smart to give something like Devil May Cry a Netflix series rather than one movie that may or may not turn into more.
In reality, all we can do is wait and pray for quality products. If not, we will need to voice our concerns, not like the trolls, though, and not give them our money to show studios we mean business. With services like Netflix and networks like HBO, maybe we can get a good video game TV show, at least something better than the movies that we have seen in the last 20 to 30 years.