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Why Video Game Movie Adaptations Need New Respect 283

An anonymous reader writes "Hollywood has yet to find any video game property it is willing to treat with the same respect as J.R.R. Tolkien or J.K.Rowling, arguably still following the principles that led to the appalling Super Mario Bros. movie in 1992: 'A game lacks the complexity that a movie requires.' Yet a modern gaming masterpiece such as Mass Effect has the depth and breadth to deserve better treatment in the proposed trilogy. Is Hollywood again going to disrespect fans who, in this case, have as much right to see a good plot respected as the readers of Lord Of The Rings? This article discusses why and how Hollywood should grow up regarding these adaptations."
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Why Video Game Movie Adaptations Need New Respect

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  • Respect? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by spooje ( 582773 ) <`moc.liamtoh' `ta' `ejoops'> on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:35AM (#34543956) Homepage

    Where was Hollywood respect when they were talking about dwarf tossing?

    Hollywood only cares about making money so they can throw some ewoks into a movie to sell some extra toys to kids they will.

    • yeah, the last thing that comes to mind when thinking of the LOTR movies is "respect for the original plot". I understand that a movie can only be so long before your audience falls asleep, but hand waving saruman away with a one-liner and instead tacking on 10 minutes of happy ending, fade out, happy ending, fade out was a slap in the face to anyone who read the actual books

      The LOTR movies might be enjoyable in their own right, but they dont do justice to the original work by Tolkien

      • by mcvos ( 645701 )

        All (most?) of those happy endings were actually in the books. It's just that they still had quite a bit of story in between them, and that got skipped. If you skip the story leading up to it, you'd better skip the ending too.

        I don't mind that some stuff got cut. And some of the additions were brilliant even! (The ring is much scarier and has real personality in the movie.) The problem is that also some unnecessary nonsense was added, and some of the cuts necessitated more cuts that weren't made. It's still

        • I think the happy ending GP was referring to was the Hobbit ending, which I'm actually very glad they removed, as it seemed entirely unnecessary.
      • Director hubris. They think they can make classic works even better, because they are such great directors.

        I understood moving pieces around to fit into three three-hour movies, but changing stuff and adding stupid love stories to make them more suitable to American Viewing Audiences was just dumb.

    • George Lucas only cares about making money so he can throw some ewoks into a movie to sell some extra toys to kids.


  • Right? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alarindris ( 1253418 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:37AM (#34543964)
    If you want someone to make a movie the way you want to see it, become a director.

    It seems there is a heavy feeling of entitlement as far as media and the arts go here.
    Like people often say here, ideas are a dime a dozen. The implementation is the hard part.
    • Re:Right? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:09AM (#34544084)

      I had a similar thought to yours when I read the story heading. The only time that comic books got decent adaptations were from people who really loved them. Why did it take decades for many good comic based movies to be made after their original stories have long sit idle? Because the people who pitch and produce passionate and -good- adaptations of these stories needed to grow up first. Plus, having a good history of success making comic movies has made it easier for the pay masters to open their wallets to the idea of comic movies. Video game based adaptations will have their days, but they will need those few first break-away hits to make people stand up and notice. Wing commander and company were not these success stories, alas.

      • Re:Right? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @08:52AM (#34545004)

        It wasn't fantastic but it was quite true to the feel of the original game: the silent hill movie adaption.

        I imagine that video game adaptions fall prey to the same problems that book adaptions do: if the author doesn't give a damn then it gets turned into a generic crap hollywood film.

        A production company was put together and there was US and Scandinavian and European involvement, and I wrote a couple of script drafts which wet down well and everything was looking fine and then the US people said 'Hey, we've been doing market research in Power Cable, Nebraska, and other centes of culture, and the Death/skeleton bit doesn't work for us, it's a bit of a downer, we have a prarm with it, so lose the skeleton". The rest of the consortium said, did you read the script? The Americans said: sure, we LOVE it, it's GREAT, it's HIGH CONCEPT. Just lose the Death angle, guys. Whereupon, I'm happy to say, they were told to keep on with the medication and come back in a hundred years. -- Terry Pratchett

        now anyone familiar with the book will know from this that the person across the table didn't even read the back of the book or even the first 2 lines of the back of the book, to quote them here for anyone not familiar with professor terry Pratchett works:

        Mort has been chosen as Death's apprentice. He gets board and lodging and free use of company horse, and doesn't even need time off for his grandmother's funeral.

        and there's so many crappy directors who just keep making the same film over and over, if given a story they chop off everything which doesn't fit their one and only story and then nail the 2 together poorly.

    • Ideas are indeed a dime a dozen, but we're talking about already successful ideas with existing fan-bases.

      Personally I think the problem is that people try to make a movie based on a video game, rather than making a movie based on characters, setting, and plot.
      There is often the same issue with games based on movies, and they usually suck just as much as the game-to-movie attempts.

      Don't make a movie of a game, just make a movie.
      Don't make a game of a movie, just make a game.

      • You could make a movie that's inspired by a game, or loosely based on it. Take the characters, the main gist of the "plot" and maybe even the look, but adapt it in a way more suited to the cinema.

        Of course, then everyone will complain about the discrepancies/inaccuracies/inconsistencies or whatever. OMG not canon oneleventyone!!!!

        • by mcvos ( 645701 )

          Tomb Raider worked well enough. No idea how far it strayed from the original, as I haven't played it, but Indiana Jones-clone-with-hot-chick-and-SFX-overdose is a perfectly valid movie concept, apparently.

        • Of course, then everyone will complain about the discrepancies/inaccuracies/inconsistencies or whatever. OMG not canon oneleventyone!!!!

          You mean like how everyone complained about Knights Of The Old Republic not being yet another dumb merchandising exercise of the movie characters? Oh, wait, they didn't. It actually received high praise, several awards, and was described as one of the most influential pieces of work of the Star Wars universe. And it sold a metric buttload of copies too.

          And it actually did b

    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      If you want someone to make a movie the way you want to see it, become a director.

      Even that didn't work for video games, see the Wing Commander movie.

    • Well now that's a helpful sentiment. It's like saying if you don't like watching your favorite football team lose, you should suit up in pads and start running windsprints. Directing movies has significantly high barriers to entry. Oh, you can become an independent director, but nobody is going to watch your crap.
  • by IamTheRealMike ( 537420 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:39AM (#34543974)

    The first Mass Effect was the business, story wise. Deeply thought out, self consistent world, interesting characters, a shadowy nemesis and a basically solid beginning, middle and end. Everything Hollywood needs to make a great movie.

    But Mass Effect 2, though technically speaking a better game, definitely fared worse on the plot. The plot in ME2 suffered heavily from being wrapped around a fairly trivial design doc and didn't really have any beginning as such. Basically: hero dies, is rescued by an enigmatic terrorist leader with access to incredible resources, who tells him to recruit the most badass characters in the galaxy to fight an alien menace. 90% of the game involves this "recruitment". It's a race against the clock but nobody demonstrates any sense of urgency at all. There's never a "well, he'll do, let's get going!" to be heard. Once you have some arbitrary number of characters you jump through a wormhole, fight some baddies and blow up a space station. Fin.

    There's some other stuff in there that advances the plot of the trilogy as a whole, but it's pretty weak.

    Basically, if the author of TFA is hoping that Mass Effect will become a successful video game/movie crossover franchise, he'd better hope they only try and do it to the first game.

    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      As with movie sequels often the original writers were not planning to write one but commercial pressures demand they do. Sequels are often pretty poor for that reason.

      Games are slowly getting better, using proper script writers and trying to make vocal work easier for the actors. Actors in games have a particularly hard time because they tend to end up in a sound recording booth reciting lines that have little context. Even with animated movies there is a fixed plot and some character development. Most game

    • Re:Mass Effect (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ZombieWomble ( 893157 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:39AM (#34544204)
      I once heard an observation about the ME series that makes a lot of sense: ME1 is following the template of a movie; ME2 is following the template of a TV series with a large ensemble cast, like Star Trek.

      After our hero is introduced and the scene set, it's then broken into "episodes" which are heavily focused on one member of the "cast", who the rest of the time just stay in the background and throw in the occasional quip. Every now and again throw in a plot advancing episode to keep things ticking over, and finish with beating on a Big Bad. But be sure to wrap up with a bit of a cliffhanger to ensure people are hyped for the next sesaon.

      The actual plot of any given episode, most of the time, is immaterial - any events which happen in a character episode are expected to be contained within that episode, and exist only to frame character development or provide obstacles for them to overcome. Since most games follow the movie template, it does feel very different to play, but not necessarily worse - the focus on characterisation did pay off, I feel. Still not perfect, but then nor is the characterisation in most good TV series either.

      Sadly, having said all that, I do agree that it wouldn't work as well as a movie, which does make me concerned about the quality of any adapation, since it's going to have to stray pretty far from the plot to fit it into a movie-shaped box.

  • Movies are tales can be written down in 2 pages, maybe one.

    Games are interactive experience, that often have worldbuilding.

    Games are not tryiing to write a story, but can be the result, would be a side effect of the worldbuilding and gameplay.

    There are games that have zero lore, and zero story to it. Think... Minecraft.

    But is this important? Not, because you can make a awesome movie inspired in Minecraft. Key word here is inspired. The less material Minecraft have, the better movie a inspired moviemaker h

  • by Spy Handler ( 822350 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:49AM (#34544010) Homepage Journal
    the movie
  • If so, it had a good budget, effects and commercial success.

    • It also had breasts, which in male geek (and partial female geek) culture, makes a reasonable substitute for plot and character development.

      • It also had breasts, which in male geek (and partial female geek) culture, makes a reasonable substitute for plot and character development.

        And THAT is what I am calling Angelina's breasts from now on. As in: "Did you see the Plot and Character Development in Cyborg 2, classic."

  • No more Uwe (Score:4, Insightful)

    by MrQuacker ( 1938262 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @04:55AM (#34544024)
    How about we just stop letting Uwe Boll direct videogame inspired movies.
  • by IrrepressibleMonkey ( 1045046 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:05AM (#34544072)
    Uncharted is the perfect candidate for a popcorn movie, but from all the revelations/rumours it sounds like the movie studio is determined to dump everything that is good about the character and plot while adding unnecessary father/son (and Uncle???) dynamics.

    At which point you have to ask: "Why bother?"

    Oh yes, it's the money you can scalp from disappointed fans. Great.
    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      Oh yes, it's the money you can scalp from disappointed fans. Great.

      So watch the trailers, read some reviews, and it if looks like it's crap, don't watch it.

      Scalp? No one is forcing you to spend your money just because you like the game.

      • Scalp? No one is forcing you to spend your money just because you like the game.

        Oh behave. I rarely watch video game movies and I can't remember ever seeing one at the cinema. Like most of the Slashdot crowd, I'm very selective about all my spending and research everything from films to games to washing mashines before parting with my money.

        But let's not kid ourselves that all consumers will ever be like that. Or that those who don't research a film before going to see it deserve to be ripped off by a film that solely relies on a name borrowed from a previously successful video gam

  • Respect? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SmallFurryCreature ( 593017 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:13AM (#34544094) Journal

    Respect that respected Science Fiction authors get when their thought provoking stories are turned into action flicks with rappers?

    Respect Tolkien got when Elves appeared at Helms Deep?

    Hollywood knows about respect, it is what is underneath their boots.

    And what do you expect when they serve an audience that thinks Mass Effect has depth? What depth? Evil monster with no motivation appears and gets blown up by equally unmotivated guy/gal. Great literature this does NOT make. Granted it has depth if you grew up on superman comics but then Hollywood got you well covered.

    Games to movies rarely will work because most games are simply NOT about story. Tomb Raider? It is about solving the puzzles and making the jumps. As much as I would like to see a well proportioned woman spending an hour and half flexing her body on the silver screen, it would have any depth. Except maybe her cleavage.

    Tomb Raider, Doom, Mario Brothers: These are games, you play them for the game. NOT the story. Trying to bolt a story on top that becomes 90% of the content instead of 10% is going to require addition of stuff the player simply does not want. Case in point: Lara Croft in the original is a rather bland character with no boyfriend or past. In the movie she suddenly gets a love interest. HELLO! She was supposed to be MY fantasy, not some other guy.

    But in a game, this doesn't matter. The little we know about the game Lara Croft is plenty, but jumped up movie directors think they GOT to tell a story. That is were Hollywood keeps going wrong, they still don't get that what they could produce is eye-candy porn. Take Transforms (please). Remove the humans and just gives us 1.5 hours of robots fighting. Zero attempt at story and even less at badly acted out emotions. I liked revenge of the fallen, just fastforward when a human shows up.

    Tomb Raider the Story does not work. Tomb Raider the action-adventure does, but focus on action, not bolted on "depth". Give me a mindless 2D movie where I can park my brain at the door and just enjoy myself.

    Hollywood isn't ruining game movies by not adding enough depth, but by adding to much. Pure 100% action, that is why I play games, add this to game movies and you are golden.

    • by Tim C ( 15259 )

      That is were Hollywood keeps going wrong, they still don't get that what they could produce is eye-candy porn.

      I take it you've not watched Avatar then.

    • Of course most movies have rather simple plots too... or rather, can be reduced to one.

      For example Citizen Kane: A man dies and a reporter makes a documentation about him.

      War of the worlds: Aliens attack Earth.

      Pulp Fiction: Two hitmen have a variety of amusing misadventures, as has a boxer.

      While I wouldn't say that, for instance, Mass Effect has the most complex of plots I would call it on par with what passes as a plot in your average Hollywood movie. (The ones above not neccessarily included.) Wh
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by houghi ( 78078 )

      And here we are talking about only video games. What about "Chess, the movie" and "Chess II, return of the King."

      • And here we are talking about only video games. What about "Chess, the movie" and "Chess II, return of the King."

        I take it that you've never seen Chess: The Musical? Quite good, actually - Nobody's Side is one of my favorite songs. You've probably at least heard One Night in Bangkok before (aka: the song that financed the musical, in popular mythology at least).

    • THAT would be the type of game I respect and like for the story "what can change the nature of man". "regrets". As you said the other game incomparison have no depth. Still a film on PS:torment would lose part of the depth by having a prefered start / middle and ending path. That would break it for me, as every time i replay it, I get a different story.
  • WTF!? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Aceticon ( 140883 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:20AM (#34544126)

    The vast majority of games out there don't have enough plot to fill a matchbox. How exactly are they worthy of extra respect versus any random short-story?

    Really, Super Mario Bros. the movie was very close to the spirit of the games (light entertainment) and had more plot that all the games put together.

    Just because some games have a bunch of fanboys out there doesn't mean that they or their game are worthy of special respect.

    Might as well complain that movies about popular sports like football (the American one and the Rest Of The World one) don't show enough respect for the game - at least there are more fans for any of of those sports than there are for any specific computer game.

  • Sorry, but... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @05:32AM (#34544166)

    Any game that has a story good enough to be told well in a movie should have been a movie in the first place.

    I play games for the gameplay, not some damn story that interrupts gameplay (you know, the reason we play games in the first place?) every ten seconds.

    We need a gaming crash like we had in the US in the mid-80s again. Sadly this won't happen because modern gamers would actually *like* E.T. and give it "Game of the Year."

    • I play games for the gameplay, not some damn story that interrupts gameplay

      It sounds like the story-driven games you've been playing are the Squaresoft ones. Good story-driven games work the story in organically, not through Square's bullshit 70/30 cutscene-to-play ratio.

  • ...have as much right to see a good plot respected as the readers of Lord Of The Rings?

    The movies for Lord Of The Rings had many parts cut and bits moved around here and there. In particular a huge chunk of the Two Towers was cut. The plot was not set in stone and unchanged.

    Don't get me wrong, Peter Jackson did a wonderful job. There were some changes that I really don't like though.

    So with that said, don't expect Hollywood to treat any story with respect. They just do what they want.

  • Yes, the board game: []

    Next will be Tic-Tac-Tow

    Anyone who is looking for "respect" in Hollywood deserves the respect that the upcoming "Yogi Bear" CGI animation deserves. Or Garfield or the TWO chipmunk movies had.

    I'd tell the poster to grow up, but that would require leaving their parent's basement, which would be hard for a person over the age of 25 who has never had a real job and has as their most prized possession a collection of McDonald's Happy Meals fig

  • I hate the Lord of the Rings movies. Hate. They're visually stunning, I'll give them that. Though, thats as far as I go. I read the books years before the movies came out, and to put it mildly, together they are a literary masterpiece. A literary masterpiece that Peter Jackson completely fucked up and shat upon within the first five minutes of HIS Fellowship of The Ring movie (by explaining who and what Sauron was and why the one ring was so important). Oh, and in The Two Towers, please show me where t
  • for what? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @06:11AM (#34544328) Homepage Journal

    Can we keep seperate types of art seperate? There is no need to unify everything, just for the sake of doing it. The Mona Lisa is a great painting, I'm sure a novel about it would suck. Some books don't make good movies, and many movies would suck in book form. Likewise, while a few games make good movies and vice versa, the usual case is that they don't, so why try?

    A movie is first and foremost about storytelling, in a carefully set up series of scenes, with a dramatic curve and a specific ending that everything in the movie is subtly linked to so that near the end you get the feeling of everything falling together like the pieces of a puzzle. Well, good movies anyway. It's about changing perspective, it can tell the story from various angles, leave storylines hanging for a while then return to them - there is a lot in the way how the story is told, in pacing and in letting the viewer know more than the protagonists on the screen.

    Games are about decisions, reactions, about finding out clues and hints and about consequences. You are the protagonist, so even if they include cinematics of the evil guy planning his next move, the protagonist then knows about it. The pacing depends on you more than on the story. There are usually multiple routes and endings. It is a lot more about your character than about the story. And one of the challenges is that even the most meaningless random encounter could kill you, while in the movies we all know the hero never gets hurt except by the bad guy himself or one of his leutenants. All the nameless "random encounter" guys are just there as targets.

    A good movie and a good game are not made following the same recipe. A good movie about a game, or a good game about a movie, will have little in common except the setting. Example: The Aliens and the Predator movies, and the AvP games (don't get me started about the AvP movies, they were crap). Great movies, great games, exactly because the games did not try to copy the movies but created their own world within the movie setting.

    • Can we keep seperate types of art seperate? There is no need to unify everything, just for the sake of doing it. The Mona Lisa is a great painting, I'm sure a novel about it would suck..

      Ah, so you're familiar with Dan Brown's work then?

  • In the year 3000... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by matunos ( 1587263 )

    Movies will *be* video games, so who cares?

  • Readers generally dislike movie adaptations of the book such as a lot of the LOTR fans from the original trilogy didn't like the movie because it was better played in their mind. Gamers tend to have that higher standard as well, and they will always expect more from something that adapts from what they are used to. A game isn't built like a movie and when it is, it's called Final Fantasy 13... hah. Though, anyone seen the IGN april fools movie trailer of the legend of zelda? That looked like it had amaz
    • by grumbel ( 592662 )

      Gamers tend to have that higher standard as well, and they will always expect more from something that adapts from what they are used to.

      Kind of, thats why good video game movies don't adopt an already existing story, but write a new one in the same universe. Resident Evil: Degeneration and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children do that and they are as a result fine video game movies. The trouble with adoption is that you have to rewrite, reinvent and just change stuff around that people are already deeply familiar with and while one can't avoid that in a book, it just feels out of places in games where the source material already is in no small

    • Resident Evil is originally a novel, no?

      No, novels were made from the game, not the game from novels.

  • I think the problem is not the history of the games themselves or the question of how to convert the game mechanics on film. The problem for me are the stupid "adjustments" that a idiot director makes in the history. As an example, do you remember the movie "Catwoman"? The movie have only the name from the comics history, the rest is a retarded vision from a jerk director who probably wanted to leave his "mark" in the movie. And the exact same thing happens in adaptations of games to movies.
  • You could make a movie out of Half-life 2. Or even the original Half-life. It's not difficult at all. You have established characters, half-decent plot, tons of special-FX opportunities, at least an hour and a half of actual movement and things happening and people explaining plot, characters and sub-plots all the way through, and it fits in well with other movies which have (to be honest) not dissimilar plots, scenes, dialogue, etc.

    But then you'd have to find someone who knew that game well enough to di

    • I like your rant, but I'd also like to point out that there is plenty of "good" stuff (TV and film) being made these days. Just because Hollywood is shoving crap down our throats left and right doesn't mean there isn't anything else - if you ignore the crap (which is incredibly easy to do) you'll find some good stuff. And more often than not, the good stuff is widely recognized as good. The latest 3D CGI-fest may do well for a couple of weeks with the under-25 crowd (with some exceptions that do really well

    • There have been plenty of movies worth going to the cinema for recently. Up! and A Serious Man being two I saw last year that were worth 20x the price of one Avatar ticket!

      But your point is good. Most movies suck because most movie viewers suck and will be lining up en masse for Yogi Bear.

  • ...and it even featured Dwayne "the really sucky actor" Johnson; a sure sign of bad plots.

  • by Legion303 ( 97901 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @09:10AM (#34545106) Homepage

    Video games don't need movie adaptations. We've progressed past that point. Hollywood can suck it.

  • When was the last time you played a good video-game adaptation of a movie?
  • from TFA:

    However, judging from the synopsis currently on IMDB, the story looks set to take place during the First Contact War – events that transpire prior to those of the game itself. Fans of the series will know that this is an integral part of Mass Effect mythology, but once again, this has me pounding my head into my desk. Mythologically significant or not, The First Contact War has no direct connection to the events of the game. Once again, Hollywood seems to think it knows better. With a trilogy outline so clearly established in the first game, and with Hollywood apparently envisaging Mass Effect as a movie trilogy, this change to telling a story that pre-dates the first game’s storyline is completely nonsensical.

    Once more proving that Hollywood executives, in thinking that they know better than celebrated videogame creators and millions of die-hard fans, apply their reverse-Midas touch to yet another solid gold idea to turn it into worthless, poisonous lead.

  • Is Hollywood again going to disrespect fans who, in this case, have as much right to see a good plot respected as readers of The Lord of The Rings?

    Wha? Did you really compare a recent pop-culture video game to a book series that's enjoyed over 150 million copies sold over the last 56 years? I personally feel that it probably does deserve better than its likely to get, but saying that its an epic structure worthy of the same respect that one of the seminal works of modern fiction received is just plain sil

  • Games made after movies are even worse than movies made after games!

    Anyone else notice the inverse is true as well?

  • by McDozer ( 1460341 ) on Tuesday December 14, 2010 @10:31AM (#34545762)
    Ninja's have captured the President...are you a bad enough dude to get him back?

Solutions are obvious if one only has the optical power to observe them over the horizon. -- K.A. Arsdall