This was a very big week for video game fans. Gamers were treated to the week-long Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), an annual event that premieres the newest innovations in upcoming games and technology. Then the first trailer for Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph" hit the web, aiming to do for video game characters what "Toy Story" did for toys.
The buzz around the trailer proves that audiences are still excited by the prospect of movies based off video games. There's just one problem -- film adaptations of video games suck. At best, a handful of them are merely okay. The world of video games is moving along nicely, providing gamers with new worlds, new characters and breathtaking new entertainment like it's no big deal. So why can't Hollywood figure out how to translate it all to the silver screen without it becoming a laughable disaster?
We propose a new set of rules for Hollywood to follow for future video games movies. Hopefully, they can turn the tide from "embarrassing" to "awesome."
Hollywood: Find a Producer That Cares
This is going to be the hardest thing to change because Hollywood sees no need to change. The film industry makes movies for a global audience: lowest common denominator stuff that appeals to the biggest group of people without offending anyone. It's more important that there's a lot of merchandise, and it should have "brand recognition" that ensures a built-in fanbase will be guaranteed ticket-buyers (For example: a board game like "Battleship"; a comic like "The Avengers"; a TV show like "21 Jump Street") .
Hollywood can slap "Soulcalibur" on any old piece of action schlock and it will make a cheap profit. No video game movie has ever been made because the producer thought "this is a unique piece of art that's worth translating into a movie." The person who controls the money actually needs to care about the game's legacy, and doing it justice on the big screen -- not just bilking people out of their money like some kind of carnie huckster.
Producers: Explore Different Genres
Most of the video games that have been turned into movies involve some assortment of these premises: fighting tournaments, first person shooters, sexy ladies and/or zombies. It makes sense; they translate to the screen with practically no thought required and will surely pilfer cash out of frustrated 20-something men. However, there are other kinds of people who both play video games and like movies.
Why hasn't family-friendly fare like "Pikmin," "Sonic the Hedgehog" or "Kirby" -- colorful, comedic stories with big adventure -- ever been considered for the big screen? And why has Hollywood insisted on live-action rather than animation? Wouldn't that format better serve to capture the imagination of a game, rather than trying to get a real person to recreate a hyper-exaggerated computer generated avatar?
Producers: Hire a Director That Actually Knows How Video Games Work
When asked why video game movies don't work, iconic director (and avid gamer) John Carpenter explained: "They don't have anybody that's giving it the kind of storytelling love that it needs. It's a different medium, so you have to do it differently." Directors need to know you can't just plug Link into an action movie, spouting off one-liners. Fans of a video game feel an especially close connection to a game's hero -- they control his or her destiny, after all. And you can't short-change the world surrounding the hero; it's a vast canvas that needs to be explored. And the director needs to be willing to lead his cast and crew through some illogical scenarios... because that's the nature of video games.
"The Matrix" and "Run Lola Run" are two of the best examples of video game storytelling ever used in a movie -- and they're not based on video games. Until we get an actual video game movie that takes it seriously, the final battle of "Scott Pilgrim" will be the best video game movie scene ever.
Screenwriters: Embrace the Craziness
Of all the complaints you can lodge against the awful "Super Mario Bros." movie, who would have expected "they over-thought it" would be one of them? Video games have been around for over 30 years; audiences get how they work and can accept an internal logic better than you give them credit for. We don't need to learn about Mario's struggling plumbing business and its feud with the Scapelli Construction Company (who are also meddling with a dinosaur bone excavation site). Mario is a plumber who must rescue the Princess of the Mushroom Kingdom from the evil turtle-like Bowser. That's all we need to understand, to accept the adventure.
If "President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue Ronnie?" made sense then, it should still make sense now.
Directors: Do Interesting Things With the Camera
Most video game movies are static, flat projections of cheap CGI. The fighting movies can't land a punch with any "oomph." The horror movies have no sense of creeping atmosphere. Video games are kinetic, immersive experiences that get the player to be active -- and their movies should do the same. While you couldn't always recreate the POV experience of a video game, you could at least fill your shots with enough energy to make the audience move.
Say what you want about "Ghost Rider 2," but directors Neveldine and Taylor know you need to put the camera in new and interesting places if you're making a cinematic roller coaster.
Screenwriters: Do We Need So Much Dialogue?
Once you clutter up the plot with unnecessary backstory and details, you get stuck with long, drawn-out exposition that gets recited poorly. It does nothing to take advantage of the visual opportunities that exist in movies.
Having M. Bison descend from the sky and kill a man with "Psycho Power" is a much clearer demonstration of his villainy than having Chris Klein explain how "this guy walks through the raindrops."
Fans: Use Self Control, Vote With Your Dollar
If you're the biggest "Donkey Kong" fan in the world and the "Donkey Kong" movie looks abysmal, don't pay to see it "just because." You don't need to "support" the product with blind loyalty. If it looks bad, don't give it your money. No one is going to question your fandom; Diddy Kong is not going to feel betrayed that you skipped his movie.
You'll never get better video game movies unless you tell Hollywood (with your hard-earned money, not angry anonymous internet comments) that you refuse to accept poorly-made cash-grabs posing as movies.
Everyone: No More "Resident Evil" Movies
The series has been propped up by international 3D sales; do we really need four of these (with a fifth one on the way)? What are people getting out of this series that they can't get from the four "Underworld" movies, "Ultraviolet," "Aeon Flux," "Salt," "Colombiana," Scarlett Johansson's Black Widow and the remaining filmography of Michelle Rodriguez?
Everyone: Just Ignore Uwe Boll
He'll go away soon enough.
What do you think a video game movie needs to be good?
'Super Mario Bros.' (1993)
'Double Dragon' (1994)
'Street Fighter' (1994)
'Mortal Kombat' (1995)
'Mortal Kombat: Annihilation' (1997)
'Wing Commander' (1999)
'Lara Croft: Tomb Raider' (2001)
'Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within' (2001)
'Resident Evil' (2002)
'Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life' (2003)
'House of the Dead' (2003)
'Resident Evil: Apocalypse' (2004)
'Alone in the Dark' (2005)
'Silent Hill' (2006)
'D.O.A.: Dead or Alive' (2006)
'Resident Evil: Extinction' (2007)
'In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale' (2008)
'Far Cry' (2008)
'Max Payne' (2008)
'Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li' (2009)
'Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time' (2010)
'Resident Evil: Afterlife' (2010)
'Resident Evil: Retribution' (2012)