One of the more popular Hollywood trends at the moment is adapting video games. Franchises such as Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed have tried to tap into this apparent need. But are these adaptations really necessary? For many important reasons, this doesn’t seem to be the case.
One notable observation is that none of these movies seem to be doing well. Although the Resident Evil movie franchise continues to churn out sequels, every installment is still critically underwhelming. All of the video games movies coming out are simply not living up to the source material. So from these continued attempts and repeated failures a question emerges: what exactly is going wrong?
Evolution of The Video Game Narrative
Once a very limited art form, video games have evolved over the past several decades. In the past, the most advanced games were two-dimensional side-scrollers with limited movement and small levels. Now, gamers get to traverse entire three-dimensional worlds with fully realized characters.
It isn’t just the physical space within the games that has become three-dimensional, but also the stories themselves. Fully developed characters, extremely detailed worlds and interesting, long form stories have catapulted this genre into the mainstream.
Narratively speaking, turning a video game into a movie is taking a step back. Video game narratives can have anywhere from 20-plus hours of content that helps flesh out the story. An adaptation into something roughly two hours long would only minimize the original story.
The Limited Scope of Film
In order to get audiences to come to the theater, films have to stay under three hours long, sometimes well under three hours long. How on earth could anyone expect that such a short amount of time could cover these stories? Games nowadays take roughly 20 hours to play through, and each minute of gameplay adds unique elements to the story’s progression.
In addition to that, an important feature of video games is interactivity, which involves placing players within the story and making them choose the outcomes. This simply cannot be replicated in the film industry. Black Mirror: Bandersnatch tried to pave the way for interactivity, but it doesn’t seem to have resonated with audiences. Also, such an experience is impossible to produce in movie theaters filled with dozens of viewers. Boss fights, quick time events and the ability to make narrative altering decisions are what set games apart. Films, given their limited scope, simply cannot offer any of these features.
Watering Down The Originality
This speaks to a larger point about video game adaptations. Whenever a game becomes iconic enough to be considered for a film adaptation, there is a reason for that. The gameplay was groundbreaking, the story unique and the acting performances were utterly iconic (as is the case with Nathan Drake in the Uncharted franchise).
Any new film interpretation will use new actors, altered storylines and overall a brand-new creative team. The magic that made the original experience of playing these games disappears with those original creative teams.
We Need New Stories
The biggest problem in the film industry right now is creativity. At the box office level, we are almost never getting new ideas. There are sequels, prequels, spin-offs, reboots and soft reboots – the list goes on and on. Nothing is original anymore, everything is rehashed. If any idea results in even the slightest of box office profits, it becomes the start of a franchise, doomed to eventually overstay its welcome.
As the movie industry begins to run out of old movies to reboot and create franchises from, they have been looking to new arenas. Television shows, comic books and even board games have all become fair game (the 2012 film Battleship comes to mind).
What seems to be surprising to many movie fans, however, is that video game movies keep failing. Tomb Raider, Assassin’s Creed, Warcraft, Mortal Kombat and the Resident Evil series have all been duds. Or at least they have consistently failed to live up to the source material.
One video game movie that actually looks promising is the upcoming Uncharted adaptation. Starring Tom Holland and possibly Brian Cranston, this film is supposedly going to follow Nathan Drake as a young man before becoming the treasure hunter fans so dearly love. That’s why this looks so promising. It won’t actually be adapting the game, rather it will be set years before the game even begins.
So why even make it an adaptation of Uncharted at all? The creative minds behind this movie should simply create something new. That’s what audiences are craving for right now, it’s also what is sorely lacking in modern film. We are all craving for a little more creativity in the films we watch – so give us something new.