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Why Are Video Game Movies So Awful? 385

An article at CNN discusses why big screen interpretations of video games, even successful ones, often fail to succeed at the box office. Quoting: "The problem with successfully adapting video games into hit Hollywood spin-offs may lie in the way in which stories for both mediums are designed and implemented. Game makers chasing the dream of playing George Lucas or Steven Spielberg will always strive to coax human emotion and convincing drama from increasingly photorealistic virtual elements. The Hollywood machine, in its endless chase for big bucks, can't help but exploit the latest hit interactive outing, often failing to realize it's often a specific gameplay mechanic, psychological meme or technical feature that makes the title so compelling. Both sides may very well continue to look down in disdain on the work that the opposite is doing, which can doom any collaborative efforts. But where the two roads truly diverge is in the way stories are fundamentally told. Films offer a single, linear tale that's open to individual interpretation, whereas games are meant to be experienced differently and in a multitude of ways by every player." On a related note, reader OrangeMonkey11 points out that an 8-minute short has showed up online that appears part of a pitch for a potential Mortal Kombat reboot movie. Hit the link below to take a look.

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Why Are Video Game Movies So Awful?

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:52AM (#32507288)

    Box Office failure != Bad Movie. Doom wasn't much of a movie compared to the best, but it was OK compared to the output of Hollywood et al. Mortal Kombat was an OK beat-em-up Movie and compare it to a Steven Segal movie, then it's not so bad.

    They aren't *great* movies and the game link has made people invest much more money into the movie than the idea deserved, but that makes them less profitable rather than bad. It's just that the investors expected a block buster and got an OK movie. Compared to expectations, a flop.

  • by Pav ( 4298 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:53AM (#32507296)
    Even though hollywood has been losing the popularity war for years they still consider themselves a "higher" artform and don't take videogames at all seriously. I guess it's similar to how theatre regards hollywood, or classical music regards popular music. I would imagine this will change over time as the baby boomers retire and people who have real experience with video games take over.
  • by hairyfeet ( 841228 ) <> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @03:59AM (#32507320) Journal

    What is sad is even when it should be a simple matter to make a slam dunk they STILL manage to fuck them up! great example: DOOM. hell you take Aliens, throw in equal amounts of Event Horizon, and voila! Instant dark and scary shit. I think it is because they get a bunch of guys that have never touched ANY game, much less the game they are making, to write and direct the things.

    That is why one of the first thoughts as I played Bioshock is "Please don't let anyone make a movie, PLEASE don't let anyone make a movie of this!". I mean can you imagine some hack script writer that had never played the game, and what they would do to it? Instead of Ayn Rand's theories pushed to the point of madness you would probably get some hackney Robocop 3 style "comment on consumerism" along with the little sisters being nothing but freakish ghouls and Big Daddies Frankenstein monsters.

    To do the stories in most games right you would need writers and a director that had actually played the game and cared about telling the story, not just cashing a check. Sadly I just haven't seen that kind of care and love put into a game based movie yet. The closest I've seen so far IMHO is RE1, and even that they fucked up, just not as bad as...say a Uwe Boll "production". IMHO the story should have been about what a SWAT style team would do when faced with a "gates of hell just opened up" kind of situation, but instead by the end of the movie it became Supergirl VS Frankenstein.

  • I liked some of them (Score:5, Interesting)

    by iSzabo ( 1392353 ) <tyler DOT szabo AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @04:01AM (#32507324)

    I liked Max Payne, and for the most part Hitman. I found Resident Evil hard to follow, and a little shallow, but it wasn't all bad. Silent Hill was good for a horror movie.

  • Eating cake is fun (Score:5, Interesting)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @04:30AM (#32507476) Journal

    Watching somebody eat cake. Not so much.

    But what about porn movies then? Ah, exactly. If you are one of the few slashdotters to have a partner, film yourself. And I mean with the camera just on a tripod filming your regular style. Not exactly movie magic is it? Every single celeb that does a playboy shoot remarks on how much work is involved in setting up a shot. There is a reason for this, reality is not all that attractive.

    Playing a game is one thing, watching somebody else play a game is another, trying to turn the tension/emotion from active playing into a passive experience. Impossible.

    Take Doom. It seems simple enough, lets forget about the required process of raping the story (and the doom makers must have been pedophiles for raping such an underdeveloped story) but what is Doom? It is running around in a FIRST person view and shooting baddies. You could make a movie out of that. But why? We already seen that, it is the game. So the movie has to add things. Story... but story requires people in movies (well with bad writers anyway) and Doom is about being alone.

    In the end the movie had all kinds of stuff added on to it that make it into "Not Doom". The more you make it into a standard movie, the more you get away from the game.

    Books have the same problem. How do you do Hobbits? It is very easy for some pratt writer to come up with short people but does he ever think about how hard it is to cast for them? Noooo, not those fancy smancy writers. Story/setting elements that work in one medium can't always be transferred to another. The solo, silent experience of Doom doesn't translate into a "10 little indians movie".

    Super Mario is even worse. The entire game is surreal with not a shred of real world realism. How the hell do you translate any of the game elements? Actually the movie made a good attempt but the references ended up closer to in-jokes then part of a coherent world.

    Uwe Boll is perhaps the cleanest attempt, he takes the title of the game, some of the most basic elements and then tries to cash in on the connection. And it barely works.

    The gamer is always going to be disappointed because it is not the game, the casual fan doesn't see the point and the non-gamer doesn't get the references.

    Who is left as your audience? The sucker. Now there is one born every minute but they tend to be short of cash because everyone else is tapping them as well.

  • by Tim C ( 15259 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @06:17AM (#32508038)

    Personally I didn't mind Doom that much, but then I went into it expecting nothing but a run-of-the-mill shoot 'em up with some vague occult/horror undertones, which is more or less what we got. Not great by any means, but I don't feel robbed of the time I spent watching it.

    I do agree about the first-person bit though.

  • by TheTurtlesMoves ( 1442727 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @06:59AM (#32508248)
    I liked doom the movie. I even brought the DVD. But then i was expecting a movie with all the plot of well Doom.

    I loved playing Doom and Doom II, but lets face it, there was zero plot, and still to this day its the kind of FPS i love. Shoot to kill *everything*. Doom3 was not a plot improvement, but dam scary. My wife and daughter would sneak into my office and go boo--which would totally freak me out. My brother didn't even finished Doom 3, since he found it too tense and too scary.

    The movie was more of "doom 3" thriller style than the kill em' all of the previous 2, but thats was ok. As for plot. Well you know it was fine. I always say that if you want a plot, read a book and leave Hollywood out of it. Think of movies that get lots of positive reviews, like wall-e or up. How is these "plots" more of a plot. They are not.

    Sure doom the movie was no Shaw Shank Redemption nor a Schindler's list. But it *was* a doom movie, and i liked it for that reason. For the same reason i like the Resident evil movies, a pretty stock standard zombie flick. I like zombie movies.
  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @07:36AM (#32508466) Journal
    Short stories tend to make better films than novels. Consider something like Blade Runner. The film was quite long by movie standards, and only managed to include about 20% of the plot lines (let alone actual events) from the book - and the book itself was pretty short. A story that's about 50 printed pages long typically has about the right amount of material for a film.
  • by jollyreaper ( 513215 ) on Wednesday June 09, 2010 @10:50AM (#32510386)

    it's simple, really - spin-offs are, by definition, lame and derivative.

    books based on tv shows, books based on movies, tv shows based on movies, movies based on movies (aka sequels), video games based on movies, and movies based on video games - all are driven by profit over artistry. these products don't start with the question "wouldn't this be a neat idea?", they start with "can we extract more profit from this franchise?" because people already have a positive relationship with the brand, there is less incentive to work on quality, because there are large numbers of people who will consume the product regardless of its quality. since the product's quality does not dictate its profitability, the quality tends to suck.

    It's possible to wed good storytelling with commercialism. Those of us who grew up in the 80's might recall the GI Joe comic book. The original toyline had barbie-sized dolls that you dressed up with soldier clothes. When the GI Joe line was revamped, they went with the smaller "action figures" that were of molded plastic with the clothes as part of the model. They also tried to come up with a storyline to go with the toys and also approached Marvel Comics. A guy named Larry Hama got the gig. He took a rejected idea he'd worked up for a stand-alone storyline he'd worked up for Nick Fury and friends battling an evil terrorist organization and worked in the toy line instead.

    It just so happened that you got someone in charge who really liked the concept, really liked the characters, and put some heart into it. There's no freakin' reason why the comic tie-in should have been any good. It should have been awful. Everyone involved in the process should have been looking shame-faced in the mirror saying "I'm only doing it for the money." But people actually liked what they were doing. And even through the executive meddling, they were pleased with the results.

    But how often do you get hands-off freedom on these projects? Not often. You don't get people who are doing it for the love of it and oh, by the way, I'm making money, too! You get people who are just cashing in. And really, who could get inspired over making an A-Team movie or GI Joe movie? The people signing the checks aren't demanding quality, they just want something flashy that will sell. How does McDonalds design a new burger? Put in lots of fat and grease and sugar, stuff that appeals to the lowest common denominator of taste. Sure, we could use quality ingredients and make a healthy, nutritious, and tasty option here but let's be real, we're just cranking this shit out. So you get movies with titty, explosions, titty, bad writing, and it just gets shoved out the door.

    The other problem with the licensed products is they're not even expected to be any good. EA buys the Harry Potter license. They just need to put the faces in a game and shove it out the door. So long as the game doesn't crash on load they're guaranteed to sell a shit-ton of copies. Is it really worth their time to polish it up to be a 10/10 of a game? Not really. It'll sell just as much if it's an uninspired 5/10. Use an off-the-shelf engine, slap some skins on some models and push it out the door. It's a big mac, not a goddamn $40 kobe steak burger.

Each new user of a new system uncovers a new class of bugs. -- Kernighan