Movie adaptations of games – hit or kit?

Movie adaptations of games appear in cinemas more and more often. Unfortunately, they usually pick up strong whips from both viewers and critics.

The scenario is always the same. The game gains immense popularity, the first rumors of a movie adaptation appear, names are announced, very famous and liked, and then the wait comes. And the longer the wait, the more the audience’s expectations grow. Everything seems buttoned up, the first trailers appear, which slowly begin to divide the audience and sow seeds of anxiety among players. The premiere is finally here and … it turns out that it is at least weak, pale, bad. What went wrong? After all, there is a budget, there are names, there is a demand and a supply – how it looks! As a gamer myself, I have often felt unpleasant disappointment with the productions that I had great hopes for.

During my undergraduate studies, I had classes in film and new media. I remember our lecturer passionately saying that soon games would completely dethrone the position of films in culture. Well, a few years have passed and the situation has not changed so radically, but it cannot be denied that games are taken more seriously by the audience, but also by the creators. A dozen or so years ago, they were mainly entertainment, now they provide a whole range of impressions. More and more film directors, actors and screenwriters are involved in the production of many games.

Just have a look at Death Stranding Hideo Koijmy from 2019, in which actors such as Norman Reedus (known primarily from the series The Walking Dead), Mads Mikkelsen (Good for you) if Léa Seydoux (Adela’s life). Interestingly, the Mexican director also contributed to the production of their image Guillermo del Toro (Faun’s maze) and a Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Neon Demon) who did not take part in the dubbing sessions. The game is a bit monotonous at first, but the visual, acting and fictional level rewards everything. I spent many hours with this title myself. I was surprised by the level of immersion. Besides, the last few hours of the adventure are mostly cutscenes that are watched like a really good movie.

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Maybe this is the inflammatory factor in film adaptations? An immersion level that cannot be recreated so strongly on the big screen? The movie closes the story in just two hours, and we spend a lot more time playing the game. We get used to the heroes, and most importantly, we get into their skin – after all, we decide whether our character will go forward, backward or stay a little longer on the hill to be able to admire the views that a special effects specialist would not be ashamed of.

Out of curiosity, I searched the Internet for various lists of the best films based on games. It turns out that the most successful productions are Mortal Kombat directed by Paul WS Anderson from 1995. The movie aged very badly, but had something that convinced a lot of viewers. A musical theme, now iconic, that makes you laugh today, but has an incredibly high sentimental value. Let those who have not played at a house party with this energetic song at least once throw a stone! It seems that it is because of the music Mortal Kombat as a film it was so memorable in a positive sense. If you have nice memories of this production, do not refresh it after many years. Let it be a pleasant memory.

Of course, the movie has been continued. However, the announcement of the production of the new version turned out to be a big surprise Mortal Kombat. Such a way in 2021 Simon McQuoid appeared in cinemas with a refreshed version of the classic. Expectations were huge, but the movie was crushed by both viewers and critics. Production turned out to be bad on every level. The story was not engaging at all, and the funniest thing – the title tournament did not even come to pass. We could feel really cheated.

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An interesting case is the film adventures of Lara Croft. In 2001, the acting incarnation of Lara, beloved by players, appeared on the screens of cinemas. She was played by her extremely popular at that time and considered to be the sexiest star in Hollywood – Angelina Jolie (Witch). Lara Croft: Tomb Raider directed by Simon West it wasn’t a thrilling action movie, but its strength was based on the character of Jolie. It is no discovery that Lara Croft (even in the first versions with geometric, almost triangular breasts) was a dream for many players. Choosing sexy Angelina for this role, the developers achieved their goal. The film enjoyed great popularity, and many viewers turned a blind eye to the poor storyline to enjoy the film version of Lara. No wonder that in 2003 Jan de Bont realized a sequel Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life (also, the adaptation was not very successful).

As with the Mortal Kombat Hollywood has not forgotten about the beautiful adventurer. Along with the new installments of the games – in which Lara is younger, more dressed, without great curves – there are plans for a new series. This time she played the role of a young girl Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina). The film was directed by Roar Uthaug in 2018 and called it simply Tomb Raider. The production was moderately received, and computer effects of rather average quality were considered to be its greatest weakness.

If we are already on the topic of the series Tomb Raiderit would be a sin not to mention this year Uncharted Ruben Fleischer with Tom Holland (series Spider-Man) in the title role. The cast also includes: Mark Wahlberg (Transformers), Antonio Banderas (Pain and glow) if Tati Gabrielle (The 100). Unfortunately, the production turned out to be poor. Tom Holland got stuck playing one role. Instead of the sly Nathan Drake, we got another version of teenage Peter Parker. The plot of the four parts of the cult games has been combined into a strange mix. We expected a captivating adventure movie, and we got a pretty bad experience for Indiana Jones. The premiere took place only a month and a half ago, and most viewers have already completely forgotten about it …

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There were also trials with the series Assassin’s Creed. In 2018 Justin Kurzel into your project with a simple and specific name Assassin’s Creed engaged Michael Fassbender (X-Men series), Marion Cotillard (Annette) and Jeremy Irons (Gucci House). Big names, big budget and flop once again. The biggest complaint was the inversion of the proportions known to players. In games, the fates of the heroes take place primarily in the past, and are only interrupted by short sequences in the present day. The filmmakers decided to reverse this pattern – most of the story takes place in the present, and only a few in the past. As you can guess, the scenes in the past are the most interesting, so viewers got a boring image, tempting with beautiful Renaissance Spain mainly in promotional materials. No wonder everyone felt cheated.

The situation was slightly better in 2010, when Mike Newell directed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. He played the role of Dastan Jake Gyllenhaal (Maze). The adaptation turned out to be a fairly simple story that appealed not only to adults, but also to older kids. Mike Newell tried to capture the spirit of the game, and the visuals looked really good. The color palette gave the production an atmosphere, the humor was quite on the level, the action scenes turned out to be satisfying. It wasn’t a masterpiece, but it gave hope for a new and better era of game adaptation. As you can see, these were too optimistic visions.

The horror genre was doing pretty well in this market. Silent Hill Christophe Gans from 2006 and Resident Evil Paul WS Anderson’s 2002 films may not be outstanding films, but they have proven themselves as genre cinema. Both productions are very loosely based on games, focusing primarily on conveying their atmosphere, not the plot. In case of Resident Evil the creators went much more towards an action movie, and Silent Hill he stayed in the atmosphere of horror. It is worth noting here that on the aforementioned lists of the best film adaptations of games, it is Silent Hill that most often wins the podium. The players appreciated the atmosphere, and the new viewers were quite easily charmed by the hazy town.

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What about productions for children? In my opinion, they are doing the best. The series from Netflix was very well received The Cuphead Show! based on the game Cuphead. The platformer has been transformed into a miniseries, in which the crazy adventures of two cups have gained a group of admirers. Viewers are immediately reminded of the animations from the 90s, and the episodes in which the creators refer to the bosses from the game are by far the best. Maybe in the case of animation it is easier to reflect the spirit of the games? The Cuphead Show! it definitely proves that if you want, you can!

It was worse in the case of Sonic. The first version of the movie Hedgehog aroused the most emotions. Fans were so outraged by this sight that the developers quickly realized their mistake and changed the appearance of the main character. As a result, in 2020, he appeared in cinemas Sonic. Lightning fast directed by Jeff Fowler. He played the evil doctor Ivo Robotnik Jim Carrey (Bruce Almighty). The film was a really good family cinema aimed at the youngest audience. Children liked the adventures of the hedgehog, which will result in a continuation Sonic. Lightning Fast 2 – premiere this weekend, so we’ll see how it turned out.

I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t mention my favorite, that is Detective Pikachu from 2019. Agreed, I will not be objective here, because the Pokemon series is incredibly close to me, but I find that Pikachu talking in his voice Ryan Reynolds (Free Guy) is great. The plot is quite simple, but we have a lot of references to the game series or the old anime series from 1997. The graphic effects are on the level, and the computer version of the pokemon, not the animated one, looks very good. It is worth noting that the series of games is really large, so the developers could approach the topic loosely. I went to this movie with a group of friends, there were practically no children in the room, and we again felt as if we were seven … Would I come back to this movie? Definitely not. It was a good production that influenced nostalgia, which was best absorbed by the group of the same-year-olds. And that’s it.

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It’s hard to say why the movie adaptations of the games are so problematic. Most often they are associated with weak and unimaginative cinema. It would seem that the creators have everything at their fingertips – a good story, great actors, impressive budgets. Why doesn’t it still come out then? New projects inspired by characters from the gaming world are announced all the time. With almost every production I leave the cinema with more and more heartache, and the announcements of the next films inspire fear rather than excitement in me. The Last of Us, Street Fighter, Tekken – more reports appear in the media. And I guess it’s all about money, because how else can you explain the rash of these high-budget pastiches? Catching a few magpies by the tail is never satisfactory. The creators want to pack a little bit of everything into movies based on games, so as to satisfy each of the possible targets, which in turn loses any identity, character or uniqueness. As a result, it does not satisfy anyone.

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