I think most gamers would agree that game-to-film adaptations, with the exception of a select few, are generally very disappointing. What seems to be the problem? I think the problem is a fairly simple one that Hollywood seems to repeat over and over, which make the movies seem unfamiliar and often leaving a sour taste in our mouth that can sometimes carry over to the games itself.
I would say that the basis of the problem with these movies are simply that Hollywood hires people that are unfamiliar with the source material. Often times, movies will introduce characters and elements that are not present in the games, which often leaves fans scratching their heads. Resident Evil is a good example of this, in which Alice was created to be the series main protagonist. Many fans of the series were upset that Jill Valentine was completely ignored in the first movie and didn’t pop up until the sequel, likely because of fan backlash.
One that I think many, many people will agree with is the Super Mario Bros. movie. Other than the two main characters, Mario Mario and Luigi Mario (goofy, isn’t it?), the movie is so dramatically different that I can’t even begin to count how many stories I’ve heard and read about people walking out on this movie. Super Mario Bros. is the prime example of everything that is wrong with game-to-film adaptations. It’s hard to believe that a story as simple as Mario’s could turn into such a disaster. Save the Princess! What’s so hard about that? A plumber gets sucked into a plot to kidnap the Princess and it’s his job to save her. Instead we get this ridiculous story about merging the dimensions so he could rule both worlds. What is this, Mortal Kombat? The story of saving Princess Daisy feels like it was thrown in last-minute to create a relation between the movie and the game. Stick with the source material and you’ll be fine. There’s a reason people become so enamored with the stories in games, there’s no reason to tamper with them.
Mortal Kombat is often considered one of the best game-to-film adaptations ever, and even did so in steep contrast to the game’s over-the-top violence. The only blood we see in the movie is when Johnny Cage cuts Scorpion with the rotary blade and when Liu Kang punches Shang Tsung at the end of the movie, Shang gets a bloody lip. The primary argument though is that the movie stuck to the game’s storyline with only one minor change: In the game, there was only one tournament, in the movies Shang Tsung had to win 10 straight.
Another that is highly praised among fans is the Silent Hill movie. They recreated the atmosphere of the games perfectly and stayed about as faithful to the story as you could ask. These two elements in place led to a blissful experience to Silent Hill fans who were likely hesitant about the movie and whether Hollywood would screw it up. I wish all video game movies would follow these two examples. They’d likely start making more money because they would start drawing the fanbase of the games, plus the casual movie-goers.
Then we have a movie like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which seemed to get just about everything right except the casting of the lead role. I’m a huge fan of Jake Gyllenhaal, but he was not the right choice for Prince Dastan. He just didn’t seem to fit the character and you could tell he was very unfamiliar with the games and the character he was playing. Could he not at least have played The Sands of Time before making the movie? Other than Jake’s “meh” performance as Dastan, I think it was a fine movie that could definitely be expanded upon with a sequel, especially since Disney originally had such high hopes for the franchise to take the Pirates of the Caribbean‘s throne. The only issue in this one was Jake, but if he got a little more into the role, it could be magical.
There is absolutely no reason that the stories in many of these game-to-film adaptation should be changed in the way they are. While there may be a few elements that wouldn’t work on the big screen (anyone remember the first-person view in the Doom movie?), there are many times when things are changed for the sake of trying to make the film “different,” which is everything that goes against fans of those games going to see the movie. They will walk about disappointed every time and in the end, the people who made the movie lose out.
My pleads to Hollywood: Please stop fiddling with the stories in these adaptations. They’re successful for a reason, so why mess with the formula? It’s proven many times to be a bad thing! Also, keep Michael Bay and Paul W.S. Anderson away from any video game project you do. There are plenty of people out there who are actually fans of these games who will be faithful and do a much better job those two “style over substance,” sorry excuses of directors. Kevin Tancharoen’s upcoming Mortal Kombat movie will hopefully show you the way and maybe some day, sooner than later, we can finally start getting some consistently good video game movies.