Changing the Game in Video Game Adaptation

Seeing as the video game industry has become so massive, with such hits as Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which grossed $1 billion in 15 days in December, and Modern Warfare, which sold $400 million in a single day in 2011, why is it that film adaptations of video games are so often flops? Especially in the wake of the dismal Silent Hill: Revelation, it seems that the studios producing such adaptations really need to rethink their approach.

Some of the only successful such adaptations include Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the Resident Evil franchise, so perhaps the film industry should take notes from their example. In the article below, Resident Evil producer Jeremy Bolt, for example, said “When we developed the first screenplay, director Paul W.S. Anderson flew to Tokyo and spent a great deal of time with the game creators. We listened to their comments and respected their positions and that of the fans as much as we could. We see that as part of the success.”

So is that the key? True collaboration between the video game studio and the Hollywood studio? Well it’s certainly a start. It’s true that the video game creators know their fans much more intimately than the big-wigs in Hollywood. Ubisoft is taking this approach by putting together a complete package before proposing their projects to the studios, specifically by signing A-list stars (Michael Fassbender is slated to star in and produce Assassin’s Creed, and Tom Hardy is already attached to Splinter Cell).

But Prince of Persia showed that having A-list actors isn’t enough, as it failed to connect to audiences even with Jake Gyllenhaal as the star, and other recognizable actors such as Ben Kingsley and Alfred Molina in supporting roles. There must be more to it than that – in my opinion, the weakness of these adaptations is primarily in the story. There is a delicate balance between pandering to the preexisting fans of the video game and being accessible to a new, wider audience, and the best way to appeal to both is through a story that is new and exciting for the fans that can also stand alone as a solid movie in its own right. If you ask me, the producers of these adaptations need to put more stock in their screenwriters.

What do you think would make film adaptations of video games more successful? Are there any video games you’re dying to see made into movies?

Why Video Game Companies Are Taking More Control Over Their Movies
Tatiana Siegel @ The Hollywood Reporter

130118-videogamearticle

From books to plays to theme park rides, Hollywood has a long history of transforming successful intellectual properties into box-office hits.

But when it comes to video games, the track record is surprisingly dismal. Despite sales figures that have made film executives drool — Activision’s Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 grossed $1 billion in 15 days in December, and Modern Warfaresold $400 million in a single day in 2011 — only one film based on a video game, 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, has ever crossed the $100 million threshold domestically ($131 million).

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Top Ten of Twenty Twelve

I would be remiss if I did not post my Top Ten Films of 2012 list, and what a better way to start up the reboot of Mewling Quim. Now, I of course haven’t seen every single film that came out this year, but I saw a good deal of them, so here is my judgement. I’d be delighted to hear your top ten lists, or your thoughts on mine.

1. The Avengers (Joss Whedon)

120102-avengersI think it’s pretty much a no-brainer that The Avengers would be my favorite film of the year, if not of all time. This box office smash has an incredible ensemble cast, compelling action sequences, stunning visuals, and above all, phenomenal writing. I just rewatched this film last night and I am truly astonished at the clever, quick-witted, and sarcastically humorous quips that all fit impeccably with the different characters. This is, of course, all thanks to the incredible Joss Whedon.


2. Django Unchained
(Quentin Tarantino)

DJANGO UNCHAINEDI’ve always loved Tarantino films, but Django goes beyond what he has done in the past. Not only does this film tell a touching love story that is not overdone, but it also includes all the badassery you would expect from Tarantino. I’m not one to flinch at violence, but the true brutality of some of the scenes in this film were hard for even me to watch, reflecting the horrors of slavery around which the narrative centers. Pair that with an impeccable and clever performance from Christoph Waltz, a terrifyingly real one from Leonardo DiCaprio, and a better-than-expected one from Jamie Foxx, and you’ve got my #2 pick for the year.

3. The Cabin in the Woods (Joss Whedon)

120102-cabininthewoodsYes, another Joss Whedon film. It’s been an admittedly great year for the guy (including the stellar premiere of his adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing at the Toronto Film Festival leading it to be promptly picked up by Lionsgate and slated to be released in the near future). Cabin in the Woods reflects Whedon’s roots in his love for the monster-of-the-week spoof, appealing to horror film lovers of all kinds. I don’t want to say too much about this film because its greatness lies in its surprises, so if you haven’t seen it, just go watch it. You won’t regret it.

4. Looper (Rian Johnson)

Joseph Gordon-Levitt; Bruce WillisLooper offers one of the year’s greatest serious sci-fi flicks, with all of the plot twists and mysteries you would expect from one. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is incredible and is an uncanny young Bruce Willis. As the film was written for Gordon-Levitt, is major shortcoming is that, once Willis got on board, Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of the young Joe Simmons is a bit restricted by his need to also be a young Bruce Willis. While the acting from both parties is great, I wish I could have seen Joseph Gordon-Levitt play the character the way he would have originally. Also, the ending was both horrible and great at the same time – just the way I like them.

5. The Amazing Spider-man (Marc Webb)

130102-spidermanThank god somebody finally gave us a likeable Peter Parker. No offense to Toby Maguire, but he was almost too sniveling and insecure to play the witty Spiderman, with a penchant for sarcastic banter. Andrew Garfield on the other hand… I wants me some more of that. While Garfield is almost too cool to be the nerdy Peter Parker, but at least he brings out the cleverly sarcastic side of Spiderman. His portrayal is also emotionally honest, and Emma Stone plays his counterpart, Gwen Stacy (who is so much better than Mary Jane anyway) wonderfully. Although it is a bit awkward to find the balance between retelling Spiderman’s genesis story so soon after another trilogy with striking out into a new narrative, I almost feel as though that essential part of Peter Parker’s life gets skimmed over. Overall, a highly enjoyable film and I can’t wait to see the rest of the new trilogy.

6. The Dark Knight Rises (Christopher Nolan)

DARK KNIGHT RISESOkay, I’m a huge Batman fan. He’s my favorite (at least DC) super hero by far, and The Dark Knight (2008) was probably my favorite movie of all time, until this year when it was usurped by The Avengers. The Dark Knight Rises, however, while still totally enjoyable and almost as epic, really fell flat for me. Nolan needs to stop playing with voice alterations – it’s bad enough with Christian Bale as Batman, and I think it’s gotten worse, but why give Bane such a whiny voice? I wish I could have heard Tom Hardy’s delivery of the lines a bit better, as I’m sure he did an incredible job. Also, I am still entirely against Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. It’s just wrong. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was the saving grace of that film, and I hope to Odin they do some films with him as Robin.

7. Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)

120102-wreckitralphIf you like video games – or even if you don’t – see this movie. Yeah, so it’s a kid’s movie, but sometimes they can be really great. Sure it’s a little predictable in terms of the plot, but that’s okay sometimes, especially when you get the hilarity of John C. Reilly and Jane Lynch involved. Pair that with great classic video game references and a fascinating world where characters in these games meet up for drinks at the bar after the arcade is closed, and you’ve got a solid 108 minutes of fun.

8. Les Misérables (Tom Hooper)

130102-lesmizYou may be surprised to see this film so low on my list, especially seeing as it is based on my favorite musical of all time. I was a bit perplexed by this film – I went into it expecting to love Hugh Jackman and hate Anne Hathaway (my hostility against her is probably unwarranted, but oh well), but I was surprised to find that, while Jackman’s performance was emotionally strong and resonant, his wonderful Broadway voice just does not translate well to film. Hathaway, on the other hand, provided the single best scene of the movie with her impeccably performed ‘I Dreamed a Dream’. I didn’t like the fact that I liked her. Plus, my favorite character, Eponine (Samantha Barks) was somewhat forgettable (although I recognized her from a TV special of the musical when she unfortunately played opposite a Jonas brother, for fuck’s sake), and Marius (Eddie Redmayne) was a little whiny not well-suited to the screen. But overall, this film was basically the musical on the big screen, which simply doesn’t work. Film is something completely different than the Broadway stage, and it should be treated as such.


9. Prometheus
(Ridley Scott)

130103-prometheusI was really excited for Prometheus. I re-watched all of the Alien films shortly before going to see it to make sure I wouldn’t miss any hints or references. Well, there were plenty of those, but so much of the film just didn’t make sense. The acting was great, the visuals were great, but the story somehow seems incomplete. I suppose this is likely on purpose, as I’m sure Scott will be continuing the franchise, but come on. Even if a film is part of a series, it has to be able to stand on its own.

10. The Hobbit (Peter Jackson)

130102-thehobbitIt truly pains me to put this film at the bottom of my list. I was such a hardcore LOTR fan back in the day – I love the books, and I can’t even tell you how many (probably dozens) of times I’ve seen those films. The Hobbit isn’t bad, of course. It just isn’t great that either. The book is meant to be light and funny and it has an episodic structure as opposed to along epic narrative, so they felt the need to pull a super villain from the appendix to heighten the drama bit. But, I’m sorry, The Hobbit is about Bilbo, not Thorin Oakenshield. And it is Martin Freeman’s rendition of Bilbo that really saves this film – he successfully retains the goofiness of this children’s story amidst all the attempts to make it an epic tale like Lord of the Rings. (Also, side note: when you have a scene with such excellent actors as Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Lee, and Hugo Weaving who can’t carry a scene because it is pure exposition and completely bores the audience, that is the writer’s fault. Rewrite it or cut it out altogether.)

So those are my thoughts on 2012. What are yours?