Games, Movies, Opinion

Do We Need Movie Adaptations of Video Games in a World of Cinematic HD Games?

I’ve been sitting on this topic for over a year. Every time there is a rumor of a new movie adaptation of a video game I consider writing it. I’ve probably started writing the article at least half a dozen times, but for one reason or another, I scrap it. But after reading Neil Bolt’s post over at Bloody Disgusting on the horror games he feels Sony’s new PlayStation Productions should turn into movies or shows, I’ve decided I’m finally going to run with it.

First off, let me state that I am not against movie adaptations of video games. I definitely feel there are titles and genres where this can work well and I’ll get into this a bit later. Also, I recognize that in Bolt’s post he doesn’t necessarily call for direct adaptations of each of the games, so this is in no way an argument against his post. His post simply re-energized my desire to write this piece. Finally, I am willing to admit that I would completely contradict what I am about to write solely for a Nathan Fillion lead “Uncharted” film franchise. That said, with as far as video games have come in terms of storytelling, graphics, and acting, do we really need film adaptations of games?

Same listening to music in the bath as a killer looks on
Hayden Panettiere as Sam in 2015s “Until Dawn”

The stories and narratives told in many of today’s video games go just as deep as anything we see in film and game cutscenes are just as gripping and well directed. Game makers are investing in much of the same storytelling techniques, technology and acting to bring their stories to life as movie studios. Game publishers have even started using actors in their games for more than just voice work, leveraging technology to recreate their likeness, as was the case in 2013 with Quantic Dream’s “Beyond: Two Souls” starring Ellen Page or Supermassive Games’ 2015 release “Until Dawn” starring Hayden Panettiere and Rami Malek. It’s because of these types of advances in storytelling and technology that I feel many modern video games have reached a point where they are just a different form of cinema. Nothing showcases this more than 20th Century Fox’s decision to release a new digital series for the Alien franchise using cutscenes and re-shot first-person scenes from the game “Alien: Isolation.” Turning these types of games into feature films, in my opinion, is no different than a movie reboot or remake.

Obviously, this doesn’t apply to all video games. In fact, the classic video game movies of the 90s are a prime example of this. While sure, Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, and the Mortal Kombat films were awful, they’re a prime example of how these types of games can be leveraged to make films. Early video games had memorable characters and some basic lore, but the overall story was lacking and there definitely weren’t any cinematics. This allowed filmmakers to build upon the premise of the games and take some creative freedoms along the way, some more than others (I still haven’t forgiven the makers of Super Mario Bros. for making Koopa human)

Koopa from the Super Mario Bros. movie sticking out his tongue

A good example of this would be the Resident Evil movie franchise. They took the lore of the “Resident Evil” games and built around that. The film went on to spawn five sequels all built around the “Resident Evil” universe.

Another area I think there is an opportunity is when realism is lacking. Games that have poor graphics or lack cinematics, but have strong stories could definitely be adapted because we’ve never truly had that film-like experience that we see in modern games. One recent title that comes to mind is Quantic Dream’s 2010 game “Heavy Rain.” The original game’s graphics are a product of their time and aren’t great (though the game was remastered for PS4 and is due to be released on PC later this year), the acting is about as good as you can expect from a PS3 era game, but the game’s story is perfect: A boy goes missing, believed to have been abducted by the “Origami Killer,” a serial killer who drowns his victims using rainwater. It would make a perfect thriller and is a prime example of a newer game that would be a solid option for film adaptation. For the same reasons books or comics work for being adapted, older less movie-like games work because we haven’t seen the subject matter in a truly cinematic medium that brings the story to life.

Origami left by the "Origami Killer" in Heavy Rain

With so many modern games giving us strong stories, characters, and acting I don’t feel we need to recreate what we already have. Sure, it might be a different cinematic experience, but it’s cinematic nonetheless. There’s a beginning, middle and end to the story and we become invested in that story and its characters. Games like “Life Is Strange,” “Until Dawn,” “The Last of Us,” “Beyond: Two Souls,” the “Uncharted” franchise and even the latest “Tomb Raider” games have captivated me with their stories, their characters, and their cinematics just as much, if not more than some of the movies in theaters today. So do we really need movie adaptations of modern games?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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