Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Why Do Video Game Movies Have To Suck?

I had the pleasure of watching the movie "Hitman" yesterday night. It's based on the popular video game series from Eidos. "Hitman" had a really cool opening credit sequence in which you see how the child assassins are trained. Too bad this sequence was ripped off of "Dark Angel." Oh, I don't mean ripped off in concept. I mean, they literally cut the footage from "Dark Angel" and pasted it in their movie. Like stock footage, except it's footage from an actual TV show that has nothing to do with the movie.

"Hitman" boasted bad acting, bad delivery of lines, bad dubbing, bad plot, and bad dialogue. That said, it had a number of cool (though not "Matrix"-level) action sequences and great cinematography. So essentially: it was a live-action video game. Except the Agent 47 from the game I played bears no resemblance to the awkward, easily love-struck 47 from the movie. So essentially: it was worse than the video game. Why make a film of this caliber at all?

Why is it assumed that movies based on video games will suck, that the suckitude is inevitable? Video games are one of the most lucrative forms of entertainment we have. Why do the movie studios feel it is OK to crank out unspeakably bad movies based on them? Is it a budget issue? Are they rushing these films out the door to meet a certain timing concern (perhaps to have the movie coincide with the launch of the new game)?

Look, I can see how in them "olden days" adapting a video game to film can be sort of awkward: "Super Mario Bros." comes to mind. I mean, does Frogger really need to be turned into a film? But take a concept like Bioshock. That game should be like a blueprint for a really kick-ass motion picture. You do not automatically hire Uwe Boll to direct "Bioshock" the movie. You do not have Uwe on speed-dial just in case a video game movie script arrives on your desk.

Rant over. Having watched "Hitman," I feel primed for "Ballistic: Ecks Vs. Sever."


  1. But it had Timothy "Olyphantastic" in it. How could it be bad?

  2. Moderately Decent Video Game Movies:

    Resident Evil
    Mortal Kombat (the first not the ones after)

    ....ok that's all I got, I'd put Street Fighter in there too but apparently I am the only one that found humor in that movie. Come on Kylie Minogue as Camie ANND Raul Julia as Bison...what's not to love there.

  3. The same way it took Hollywood until 2008 to figure out that a GOOD superhero movie will sell better than a crappy one they just slap together, EVENTUALLY video game movies will get good.

    I'm hoping it starts with Shadow of the Colossus.

  4. Valerie -

    I think it's the exact opposite of what you're proposing. They overdevelop these vidgame movies to the point where they don't resemble the vidgame at all. They have to question every motivation, every posture, every bit of action and try to explain it somehow.

    Can't we just get the "cool" and not have the windbag explanantions of who these creatures are and why they exist and why it's really bad if we actually get near their six inch fangs.

    (See Resident Evil, Doom, etc...)

    Audiences aren't stupid and when they are at the theater they aren't playing the game during the movie - so quit "briefing them" and let the entertainment rule.

  5. The "Mortal Kombat Vs. DC" cut scenes were a better movie than "Hitman"

  6. "Moderately Decent Video Game Movies:

    Resident Evil"

    true, true

  7. I really liked the 2nd Tomb Raider movie, Silent Hill had some nice moments but was ultimately a mess. The Resident Evil series seems to be best of the Video Game adaptions.

  8. Timothy Olyphant: great on Deadwood, looks like a bald Tim Robbins as Hitman...just didn't work at all for me in the previews, so I didn't bother.

    He was a really weak villain in Die Hard 4, too.

  9. Silent Hill was good until the moviemakers decided the game's plot was too complicated and oversimplified it to hell. Most of the movie did at least capture the atmosphere of Silent Hill.

  10. Up until 2003 I would have simply given the glib "because it's based upon a video game" answer. I mean there is not a lot of substantial story to a lot of these games.

    However, the success adn relative good quality of the Pirates of the Caribbean films based upon a theme park ride make me want to agree with you. Hire the writers of the first Pirates movie to adapt your videogame. Unless they did and lightning simply did not strike twice, or unless they are above that sort of thing now,

  11. Great article written on the topic. Quote "And let's face it: Storytelling in movies and games is fundamentally different and that's a fact that has to be accounted for somewhere in the process. Hideo Kojima notwithstanding, videogames typically provide about 15 minutes worth of cheesy, awkward exposition for scriptwriters to work with. No matter how awesome it may sound, sooner or later most movie audiences that don't consist of me (and a few of my friends) are going to get tired of watching guys shoot each other and want to know what the hell's going on. Yet studios keep aiming for that elusive sweet spot at which gamers don't feel betrayed and non-gamers don't feel lost, a spot I don't think even exists; sooner or later you have to pick your audience and pander to them accordingly. It's harsh, but that's life. You really can't please all the people all the time."

  12. Well, has any video game property been given over to an A-list director? Peter Jackson couldn't get Halo off the ground. As it stands, I don't think there will be any good video game movies, ever. They'll continue to wade in the area between guilty pleasure and atrocious shit.

  13. A lot them seem pretty low budget and involve... oh damn... what's that crazy guy's name? Not Udo Kier, although that's the name that keeps popping into my head.


    What the hell? I confused Udo Kier with Uwe Boll.

    Not that you can't make a good movie on a low budget. But you can seldom make a good movie where your budget causes you to use stock footage from an old TV show.

    I don't think a movie based on a video game inherently has to suck but it seems this is a movie genre where all things good about movies go to die.

  14. You do realize this is the same Hollywood that's currently making a live-action LEGO movie, right?

  15. Joel makes a great point. Films based on video games carry such a heavy stigma, it's hard to imagine anyone willfully, with an established career, wanting to possibly sully it. Even with Silent Hill, you had a director who was very vocal about his adoration for the source material. And yet, it still sucked. My biggest issue with video game films is, why would I want to watch a video game instead of play it?

  16. Thanks... and that's also a good point. I'd much rather play a game than watch it. That's why I can't watch golf, fishing or bowling on TV either and those things are generally free to watch.

  17. Hopefully, the success of "District 9" will enable Neill Blomkamp to direct a decent "Halo"-movie.

    His "Halo"-short film was surprisingly well done.