Hollywood, Please Stop Adapting Video Games into Film - Article

By Jeffrey Knox, March 20, 2014
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Dear Hollywood,

You are good at what you do. You make movie magic. Blockbusters, indies, novel adaptations, comic-book adaptations; all of these excel on screens across the world. But time and time again you fail to bring convincing adaptations of video games to the big screen. Since 1989 you have attempted to adapt the interactive/visual medium of video games to the solely visual medium of film. Since 1989 you have not improved with your number of attempts. Hollywood, please stop adapting video games to film.

Video games are a very special form of entertainment. They are a medium which requires interactivity. This gives players a specific feeling of accomplishment, frustration, elation, and disappointment. Films can arguably do the same, but to nowhere near the same effect. This interactivity creates a relationship with the gamer which no film, book, or other medium of entertainment can. Adapting video games to films loses a large amount of this relationship immediately.

Allow me to make a snowflake analogy:

Each individual who plays a game will not have the same experience as another individual. Although many games are linear and will ultimately have the same beginning, middle, and end, how each player gets to those checkpoints is different - even if only slightly. When you are creating your film it will be impossible for you to model the characters as each individual has perceived them. Much of a video game relies on the players' own character traits and how they make decisions. This creates a very personal experience that your films will never be able to recreate. 

For example, the beloved series Tomb Raider has been played by many. Each person will have a specific set of feelings tied to Lara Croft in a way that your one-dimensional, headstrong, cocky, and incredulously sexy Angelina Jolie version did not replicate. There is also Max Payne, another character with a unique relationship with players. A man bent on revenge, and a life filled with conspiracy, his film version was criticized by the game's creators as being "poorly portrayed in the film, falling short of the game's standards."

The Resident Evil franchise has become your most successful adaptations. Spanning a series of five films, it has become a cult favorite. Each of these films were not critical successes but they did earn a respectable amount of money (Resident Evil: Afterlife earning the most, with close to $300 million worldwide, which was over four times its budget of $60 million). Congratulations! But have you been able to replicate this success? Not in the slightest. 

Let's talk money. Box-office returns. Commercial success. Commercial failure. You are producing these movies to a niche audience: videogamers. Anyone who has not played the videogame is going to have trouble understanding the history of the characters, unless you run an excellent marketing campaign. The same can be said for a book to film adaptation as well, but books have a larger demographic appeal and are easily accessible to the general public. 

The number one grossing box-office hit was Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, released in 2001. It made $274,703,340 worldwide, produced on a budget of $115 million. Tomb Raider was an easy sell: a female Indiana Jones. In terms of adjustment for inflation, the film made $194 million domestically, which is comparable to a Marvel adaptation of Thor or Captain America. Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life fared worse, with a worldwide total of $156,505,388. A little over half of the original. 

Ranking second is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Heartthrob Jake Gyllenhaal was cast in the lead with Jerry Bruckheimer producing. This monumental film was budgeted at $200 million and made $336,365,676 worldwide. Critics received it poorly and many perceived it a flop considering the lack of return based on a huge budget.

Other examples include Max Payne (2008) and Hitman (2007). Both films failed to reach $100 million worldwide. Max Payne at $85 million and Hitman just barely missing it with $99 million, respectively.

This article is being released on the heels of Need for Speed (2014), an action/adventure film based loosely on the Need for Speed franchise. Starring Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad fame, Buena Vista was hoping to hit a home run in the shadow of the Fast and the Furious. Instead, the film opened to $17 million in its opening weekend in the US which fell far short of the Fast and the Furious 6 standards of $97 million. Need for Speed couldn't even top Tokyo Drifts (2006) $23 million opening weekend, the weakest of the franchise. 

Hollywood, you have five videogame adaptations in the works. The Last of Us, Angry Birds, Assassin's Creed, World of Warcraft, and Splinter Cell. The Last of Us will be excruciatingly difficult to adapt. The game has been called an interactive movie experience by many. It is cinematic in its own right. The best adaptable facet The Last of Us has is its characters. You better get casting right. Angry Birds is a mobile game in which Birds attack Pigs by slinging themselves through the air with a slingshot. There is little plot, no three-dimensional characters, and yet you are planning to make a movie out of it? Assassin's Creed, World of Warcraft, and Splinter Cell have a little more leeway since these three franchises give plenty of options in terms of plot, characters, and setting. Perhaps something good can be made from them, but dreams have been dashed before.

An already interactive medium such as videogames is very difficult to adapt to film. There is bound to be disappointment. You have tried your best, gained a little money, lost a lot, and it is time to hang up your hat. Hollywood, please stop adapting video games into films. And never, ever, ever, ever share this with the world again:

Source of Box Office Returns: [Box Office Mojo]

Banner Source: [Vulture]

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