Home > Essays > Will we ever get a good film from a video game?

Will we ever get a good film from a video game?

by Kob Monney

Despite the relationship between Hollywood and video games being tetchy at best and rarely resulting in a film or game that could be considered good, the last week has brought more news of films being turned into games and games being turned into films. The question of why is rendered mute, for both the game and film industry it is an opportunity to capitalize on a pre-existing source. The work of gaining awareness and traction amongst the public is almost half done; it’s proven to work in this medium, why shouldn’t it work in another?

Alas the thought of a property being proven in one medium is hardly evidence enough that it will work in another medium. To adapt the source and utilise its strengths for whichever medium it is being adapted to is a tremendously tricky thing to do. What do you retain, what do you discard? What kind of audience are you writing for? How do you make the film/game feel fresh and new without relying too much on convention and stereotype?

The news of Silent Hill being turned into a film was met with a lacklustre ‘meh’, (I’ve neither seen the original nor played the games so perhaps I’m the audience Hollywood wants to reach). The film rights to Tomb Raider were bought from Square Enix by GK Films (a company headed by Graham King who has had successes as producer on The Departed, The Aviator, Traffic, Rango to name a few). Add to that the kerfuffle over the rights for Dead Island, the announcement of Devil May Cry being optioned for a film, Sam Raimi’s World of Warcraft film (seemingly stuck in development) and a script being written for Shadow of the Colossus. The mooted adaptations of Halo and Gears of War fell by the wayside, joining the scrap heap with Spyhunter and Splinter Cell; a list that goes on and on of video games and films, not even counting the films that have been released. Most of which are rather poor.

Games adapted into movies haven’t fared as well and may never be able to offer the thrills and immersion that a game could offer. Turning films into games is a different proposition. Whether it is down to a lack of funds, scope or time, the constraints placed upon developers mean that the game never fulfils its potential, coming across as unblinkingly conventional. For a movie property turned game decent is probably the best we can ask for but in the case of Battle: LA the silver lining could lie in its distribution model. Releasing on XBLA, Steam and PSN as a digital download may remove the constraints of scope (digital downloads for the most part have a narrower focus), production time (not as big as a triple A title and probably using less game assets) and (possibly) even funds. However past experience of Kick Ass and Watchmen downloads have proven that digital distribution has not resulted in a game free of constraints.

Last Monday saw the release of a trailer for Battle: Los Angeles and surprisingly it looked…decent if wholly derivative with what looked like your usual turret and vehicle sections. Some reviews are out and the most notable one is on Kotaku with Mike Fahey writing in his mini-review that “On standard difficulty this took me all of 40 minutes to make it to the end credits” and that “Battle: Los Angeles is on the low end of the quality spectrum to begin with”

It would appear as if we have another disappointment on our hands.

This result keeps on happening and it is been happening for so long that I’m at a lost to find the reasons why. Is it impossible to fashion an excellent game from a film and vice versa?

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Categories: Essays
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