Maybe don't green light that Tetris movie juuust yet...
The movie has been "inspired by" the famous video game. No, I haven't played it, and I never will, but I know how it feels not to play it, because I've seen the movie. Doom is like some kid came over and is using your computer and won't let you play.
For whatever reason, video games and movies don't play well together
. Every so often, someone with dollar signs
in their eyes will try to make a movie based on a video game franchise, only to run into this unscalable wall: video game movies suck.
It's kind of hard to say why. Some would say that video games mostly involve getting from Point A to Point B and thus their plots end up as simplistic, existing just to give the player an excuse
to go out and fight things. Others would say that video games are essentially just movies that have showmanship sacrificed in favor of control, so sacrificing the control leaves you with a bad movie. Maybe directors just invariably pick the wrong games. After all, if the game itself is bad, then it's not surprising if its adaptation is bad too.
The reality? Well, it tends to vary. Platform games
tend to be about getting from A to B, and thus don't require plot within the games themselves (maybe a three paragraph setup in the manual
and a two minute ending
), so the writers need to improvise. The average first person shooter
has a few minutes of narrative cinematics, but even the more cerebral examples of the genre will, by definition
, feature hours of plot-free gunplay
to rival the dumbest summer blockbuster
. Fighting games
tend to have a similarly flimsy plot with multiple endings
depending on the player's character, and the writers have to mishmash these various plot threads into a coherent whole.
Conversely, the only video game genres that consistently pay much attention to plot (RPGs
, action adventure
and adventure games
) tend to have far too much
plot to squeeze into a two hour flick without leaving a ton out
. Additionally, there is the problem is translating a story from the interactive medium of video games into the non interactive medium of film. In video games, a story is told through the players own choices and interactions with the game
. By nature, films do not tell stories in this way, which causes great confusion for screenwriters who are tasked with somehow translating seemingly "plotless gameplay" into a linear narrative.
On the other side of the adaptation equation, blame can also be pinned on the studios and directors who put out these films. The generation that grew up and has grown up playing video games has yet to produce a whole lot of filmmakers. As a result, the vast majority of people in the film industry aren't really all that familiar with video games, including the ones they are tasked with putting on film; some of the older film industry fellows have an outright disdain
for the younger medium.
Thus, filmmakers don't really know how to adapt the games effectively; even if they choose a good game with a good plot that's not too hard to adapt, they probably aren't going to understand just what makes the game so appealing to people anyway. One cannot distill the core taste
if one does not know what the taste actually is. Indeed, this medium ignorance, aside from resulting in bad game adaptations, is also the direct cause of Pac Man Fever
. It's essentially the cross-media version of a Porting Disaster
There are also filmmakers and directors that know a popular game series but they barely understand why
the series are popular to begin with. Rather than contacting the developers that produced the games to get their advice or even asking the fans themselves for help, the filmmakers decide to just wing it and try to interpret the popularity from their own point of view, which can cause fans who see the final product to groan and face palm as they watch a film that they think was made by someone who has zero knowledge on the subject matter and material. This is usually caused by filmmakers and publishers that just want to cash in on the brand name of a famous series, though not all people do this.
The situation is similar to what was the case with superhero movies and shows: poor understanding of the comics led to poor adaptations, until the people who actually grew up reading the comics got good standing in the movie business and helped drive the current train of popular and critically acclaimed superhero films.
So far, no one's nominating video game movies for Oscars. If you hear new, exciting rumors about an upcoming film (like the rumored John Woo
movie), tread carefully, or you may be crushed beneath the descending ceiling
of bad writing.
Often (although less universally
) the inverse is also true, of course, which is the problem with licensed games
For some reasons (such as less risk-taking/far-fetched plot than other genres or a high immunity to gameplay and story segregation
effect), Dating sim
movies (rare as they may be) seem exempt from this, although as with anything, there are exceptions.
Animated adaptations of video games also tend to be received more favorably than their live-action counterparts, perhaps because a medium as focused on zaniness and stylized aesthetics as animation is just better suited to the often eccentric, strange and overall unrealistic kinds of stories and settings of most video games. Also, the fact that animated movies are produced with methods similar to those used for video game cutscenes helps, in that they can — at the very least — have the merit of being visually faithful to the source material. Contrast The Problem with Licensed Games