Name a good videogame movie.
Some will point toward Final Fantasy The Spirits Within, others will point to the recently released Tomb Raider starring Alicia Vikander. The only issue with this is, the new Tomb Raider film is just ok. It’s a serviceable action film that features some pretty big set pieces, but is ultimately set back by the it’s pacing, acting, directing, and occasional bouts of silliness. Alicia Vikander kills it as Lara, but everybody else in the film underwhelms. Far too many times have I seen online reviewers and fans state that this is the best videogame adaptation.
Should we set our bar so low that we expect an ok film to be considered good?
The answer is an emphatic no. One of the primary issues that gets glossed over constantly is that you are taking the entire length of a videogame’s runtime and condensing it into a two hour movie. It just doesn’t work, couple that with the film studio not respecting its core audience and this is why most adaptations fail.
Look at Resident Evil, it was loosely adapted from the video game series and ended up having a far more convoluted plot. Popular characters from the franchise were featured, but were only included to show the fans that there connections to the source. It should have never made it past the second film. How it produced 6 films is beyond me and they are already looking to reboot the franchise. Let’s hope that it takes a more horror oriented approach, because the outlandish action in the original film series lost its charm fairly quickly.
There are a number of failed videogame adaptations. Doom, Super Mario Bros, Prince of Persia, Silent Hill, Warcraft, Assassins Creed and the original Tomb Raider films. With the bar practically on the ground, any film that happens to be just ok, is immediately met with praise. We shouldn’t celebrate mediocrity, how is it that over 40 movies have been adapted from a videogame and maybe 3 are decent? The new Tomb Raider is a step in the right direction, but if they are going to commit to a grounded approach then they should also work to replicate the gritty feel of the videogame reboots. Hopefully, when the sequel arrives, Lara isn’t the only character that is three dimensional and the pacing will be much better.
Gamers are well aware that there are certain narratives that could be adapted to the silver screen successfully. Hit games like Uncharted and Halo could be successful if given the proper treatment. The right director can make all the difference in the world. Did anyone think that Uwe Boll was going to show any respect to Far Cry or Bloodrayne? Having known actors attached to an adaptation is a start, but does not instantly translate to success. See Assassins Creed with Michael Fassbender and Max Payne with Mark Wahlberg. Both films were unsurprisingly below average and did their respective franchises a disservice. It is becoming increasingly difficult to get hyped for a videogame adaptation. any sort of skepticism is warranted, there just aren’t enough examples or any in some people’s opinions of a successful videogame movie.
It begs the question, why haven’t any of these hit games been made into a television series? Halo Until Dawn and Nightfall were two limited series that were actually pretty good in expanding the Halo lore. If Marvel can adapt its more grounded franchises into successful television series, how can’t Max Payne, Hitman, or even Alan Wake follow suit? There is more than enough material to pull from and there are a plethora of games that are episodic. The task of adapting a videogame is a risk, but a breakthrough is needed for this sub-genre of film.
Otherwise, that bar will remain on the ground for the foreseeable future.