Every generation has its own respective medium which breaks out from the niche market and into the mainstream. Comic Books have grown exponentially and these characters have jumped off their pages and now appear on animated TV shows which garner millions of viewers, films that make billions at the box office, and other forms of media that many enjoy. It’s hard to believe that we just recently got out of the “comic book movie dark ages” when we are spoiled with critically acclaimed films in this day and age. We had to revel in the likes of Batman and Robin, Daredevil, Elektra, and Fantastic Four before we could bask in the glory of Batman Begins, Iron Man, and The Dark Knight. Those critically panned films had to be made so we could usher in a new era of more competent and mature films. This is going to happen for video game films as we’re currently on the cusp of getting out of the “Dark Ages”. Why were we in the dark ages? It’s likely due to the fact that studios nonsensically adapted anything without realizing what translated to the big screen. Below, you’ll find our rationale on why some games just don’t work as movies.
Why Some Properties Don’t Work:
Games require agency and for you to sink into the controls; something you can’t do with films. Video Games are exciting because they let you enact crazed Indiana Jones esque action sequences (a la Uncharted) instead of simply watching them. You have control over the outcome and your choices truly matter. In film, this isn’t possible until we’re able to have choose-your-own-adventure-films; there’s simply no agency. To make up for a lack of agency, filmmakers have to adapt properties with compelling narratives and/or lore. A recent film that didn’t match this criteria was the Aaron Paul led Need for Speed. Many believed Need For Speed would usher in a new landscape for video game films but what could it possibly bring to the table besides being a Fast and Furious clone? The Need For Speed games rarely feature interesting stories as they trade narrative in favor of mechanics and gameplay. The crux of the Need For Speed games are the relationship between the player and their vehicle, something that can’t exist in the film. It’s impossible to translate a game like Need For Speed to the big screen, and when they did, it was a jumbled mess. Need For Speed does not even have any lore for the filmmakers to fall into and play around with. Instead, it was an original film that tried to cash in on the recent Fast and Furious craze by slapping on the Need For Speed title onto it; hoping that audiences would respond to it.
Why Some Properties Work:
Much of this is theory based since we haven’t received a decent video game film but when compared to the recent failures, it should make sense. As previously stated, you don’t have any control over the film. You can’t choose what move to make next as you could in a video game; and to compensate for this, you have to adapt interesting properties, not just popular ones;something that entices the viewer to step foot in the cinema instead of staying at home and playing the game themselves. Upcoming adaptations such as Assassin’s Creed work because they’re taking the enthralling narrative of the Historical Action-Adventure franchise and telling a unique story that exists within the universe without directly adapting from any specific game. This way, the viewer is able to see a new story set in their favorite universe without it meandering into a retelling. However, this is only possible because the franchise has years upon years of lore that is captivating and has set up a world which players keep on coming back to. An example of directly adapting a video game into a film is Ratchet and Clank. The upcoming film will retell the original PS2 game’s story while also expanding on certain plot points of the later games. Why will Ratchet and Clank work? Since it’s adhering to the series’ resident artstyle, it’s hard to differentiate game from film since the animation is transcendent in both mediums. With the animation being the same and it telling the original game’s acclaimed story, the film is a surefire hit since it is a known quantity and will definitely be a hit with both younger and older audiences. Both of these games have impressive worlds which are ripe with new and fresh stories but also the stories that started the franchise out. While viewers won’t get any control, they’ll be able to feast on faithful and visualistic works that perfectly compliment their original medium.
What You Should Be Excited For:
Next year, we are going to get a slew of films from respectable properties with even more prominent figures backing them. These films may not end up being the saviors we expect them to be, but at this point, it’s fun to speculate.
The Angry Birds Movie
On the younger front, we have The Angry Birds Movie which boasts a stellar cast which comprises of Jason Sudeikis, Josh Gad, Maya Rudolph, and Bill Hader. The film is a prequel to the games themselves, investigating why the titular birds are so angry. The premise seems genuinely interesting and visually faithful to its source material, and with such a talented cast, The Angry Birds Movie will be a hit for Sony and Rovio, the makers of the game.
The Angry Birds Movie hits theaters on May 20th, 2016.
Ratchet and Clank
We also have the previously mentioned Ratchet and Clank. Not only does the game retell the already acclaimed premise of the original game but it also boasts the same voice cast; something that hardcore fans will truly appreciate. Other members of the voice cast include Sylvester Stallone, John Goodman, and Bella Thorne. Not only is it visually faithful to the source material, but Insomniac Games, the creators, have aided on all fronts possible, including screenplay and animation. To coincide with the release of the film, Insomniac Games will also be releasing a new entry in the Ratchet and Clank franchise, one faithful to the film. Maybe, for once, we’ll get a great movie-adapted video game!
Ratchet and Clank hits theaters on April 29th, 2016.
On the more mature front, we have Warcraft, the latest film from sci-fi visionary Duncan Jones. With an impressive cast consisting of Toby Kebbell, Dominic Cooper, Ben Foster, and Paula Patton, Warcraft will likely have great performances. The cast themselves are fans of the game and have spoken highly of the marriage Duncan Jones has created between practical effects and CGI. Jones himself is an immense fan of the franchise and it’s great to see a young and experienced filmmaker oozing with passion. The film takes the abundance of lore in the Warcraft universe and has translated it into a riveting story. Detailing the conflict between two wildly different races, Warcraft seems to be taking its source material seriously by diving deep into its content to tell a compelling story of war. Produced alongside Blizzard Entertainment, the creators of the franchise, we know for sure that this will be unique and faithful interpretation of their critically acclaimed games.
Warcraft hits theatres June 10th, 2016.
And finally, we have the long awaited Assassin’s Creed game which boasts a powerhouse of a cast and crew. Produced alongside Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed is directed by Justin Kurzel, director of Snowtown and the recent adaption of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. The latter has received unanimous acclaim for faithfully adapting The Scottish Play for what it is, a gory and horrific tale of greed and war. Both Macbeth and the upcoming Assassin’s Creed have the same core cast, Michael Fassbender, who also produces, and Marion Cotillard. If the trio was successful at adapting Shakespeare’s complicated and intricate play, they will likely succeed at another historical drama, the Assassin’s Creed film. Both the game and play share similar themes and historical relevancy so we’re sure that Justin Kurzel will be right at home with Assassin’s Creed. What’s noteworthy is that the film isn’t retelling any of the stories from any of the games, but instead taking full advantage of the series’ lore and world to tell their own narrative; giving the creators their own liberating choices.
Assassin’s Creed hits theaters on December 21st, 2016.