Last week Sony Pictures, alongside Naughty Dog and PlayStation, officially confirmed that an Uncharted film would be headed our way in 2016. This news was followed by ‘hot off the press’ rumours from San Diego Comic Con, tipping Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams to play the wise cracking and ass-kicking Ellie in yet another Sony and Naughty Dog picture, The Last of Us.
While casting news and any potential story details still remain the result of fan-boy/girl hysteria, it’s fair to say that these announcements have fallen short of the crazy reactions expected from those who have sunk hours into these games.
Yet another Sony exclusive, the cartoon shooter Ratchet & Clank, is being converted into a motion picture for 2015 and Halo is to become a TV series directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, it’s clear to see that a plunge into the mainstream is the next logical step for video games. The question on everyone’s lips (and in any potential review headlines) though is: ‘can a game ever work and as piece of cinema?’
It’s certainly a question studios must ask themselves before throwing millions of dollars at a director who has spent the past year playing on his Xbox for ‘research purposes’. But when it comes to video game movies, these certainly aren’t the first, and like everything else in the movie industry, there is no consistency; some can be flops, some can be even bigger flops, and some aren’t actually that bad.
Take Tomb Raider for instance, the most iconic female in gaming was portrayed by possibly the most iconic (and beautiful) woman in movies, Angelina Jolie. While not the greatest or most successful film in history, it certainly did a ‘ronseal’ job; tombs were raided, people were killed and very few clothes were worn. The same can be said for Resident Evil, which statistically speaking, is the highest grossing video game movie ever made, the success of which generated three zombie slaying sequels. But again, it was more of a shrug and a sigh type film than a must see.
They can’t all be guaranteed to bring in the punters though. Remember Super Mario Bros? That cute cartoony Italian plumber on a constant mission to save the princess? The 1993 attempt of Mario movie was everything the games aren’t. Never mind leaving your brain at the door, leave any glimmer that Mario will be hopping on brightly coloured mushrooms there too. It was more of a dystopian mind trip than an 8-bit adventure in Mario land. If there was a ‘how not to’ guide to video game movies, this would be it.
That’s not to say video game films should completely mirror the game though. Who could forget Dwayne Johnson’s Doom? Yes we get it, a monster shooter in space based on exactly the same premise as the original PC shooter. But can anyone tell me the purpose of switching the camera to a ‘behind the gun 1st person shooter style’? – If you want to broaden your audience to movie goers, don’t film it as a video game.
The problem is a movie based on a game conjures up something of a catch 22. Gamers are more than likely to think ‘I’ve played this first hand, so why would I want to just sit and watch it’? and on the other hand movie goers might think ‘I haven’t played this, so I’m not really bothered about spending my money on going to watch a silly game imitation’.
That said, Uncharted is basically the modern Indiana Jones and The Last of Us is just 28 Days Later for the masses. They all use ideas from other successful brands. Hollywood is a strange beast in that regard and if an idea can generate lots of money for the champagne sipping executives then they will milk it for everything it’s worth. Genres come in and out of fashion, consider: western, sci-fi, horror and the current comic book craze. All of them swallow the industry up at one point or another. Perhaps with gaming being one of the fastest growing markets it’s finally time for the video game movie to step up to the mark and reap the rewards.
Just a tip though, if you want to star an Italian plumber, make sure you stick to Nintendo’s script!
Image Rights; jDevaun