by Jon Michael May
A bitter and often vocal complaint among video game fans, is that films adapted from or inspired by Video Games, have always and will always be terrible. The opposite is said as well, in that movie tie in games are often poorly executed and rushed to market. The Forward Onto Dawn prequel film to Halo 4 and N64 Goldeneye adaptation of the Bond film can be sited as rare exceptions to the rule.
While both ‘rules’ can be argued ad nauseam, the former is ypically more lamented, or at least more common. As the film rights to Game IP’s are snatched up by Hollywood Studios that don’t fully understand what they’ve purchased or why it’s even profitable, the capitalization of a trend is set in motion. We see this in double dose films (Armageddon & Deep Impact) as well as the exploitation of viral videos, memes, and internet celebrities. They’ll even snatch up the rights to a Twitter account and make a show of it, Shit My Dad Says. The perception a new property or trend can make money based solely on its popularity, blinds those in the position of calling the shots, as to why the property is popular to begin with or what’s even worthwhile about their new acquisition.
My Dad says, “it’s good you got paid up front, cause this show sucked.”
Video game movies, when taken on their own, usually exist within the ‘so bad they’re good’ manner of appreciation. While I don’t mean to belittle the effort put into them and believe no sets out to make a terrible movie, for whatever reason, the end results speak for themselves. Where comic movies were once in this same grouping, we’re now in a generation of Comic inspired and adapted films that can stand toe to toe with other critically acclaimed films.
A new generation of writers, directors, and creative talent who grew up with comic books, now have the opportunity to pay justice to the source material they hold dear. Thirty years ago, few comic books movies existed of decent quality without Superman or Batman taking center stage. It took a new generation of comic book fans to transition into film makers, before comic book movies could mature into something respectable.
Video Games must make the same transition, but in a slightly different manner. The video game movie often fails because the video game experience doesn’t translate directly to film. It’s not possible to condense the story, if there even is one (Battleship) into a two hour film. The original experience is lost in translation and what results is a watered down version of story, inspired by a Video Game.
While still a relatively new art form, Video Games are in the same stage as those early comic book moves. Roughly around the Tim Burton Batman era. We’re just now getting into a generation where adaptations of games can be done correctly. Forward Unto Dawn may be one of the best examples so far of a game universe being properly transitioned onto film, though a number of fan efforts deserve credit as well. Portal: No Escape and Mortal Kombat: Rebirth, which led directly to Mortal Kombat: Legacy, merit mentioning as examples of Video Games source material translated into a well received film/series.
Forward Unto Dawn achieved what others couldn’t, because of the way it approached the story it told. In addition to treating the source material with the necessary care and respect it deserves, 343 Industries didn’t try to recreate any of the games. They took the material that previously existed and created a new story set in the established Halo Universe. That is where the future of video game movies can exist and prosper, not in trying to recreate the experience of a game on film, but to take the world the game created and to tell a new story set in that world.
It’s still a tricky endeavor and plenty of mistakes are left to be made, but with the right talent and depiction on the source material, it can be done. If you haven’t seen Forward Unto Dawn, I highly recommend it. Even if you’re not a video game/Halo fan, it’s worth checking out. It’s a fine piece of military sci-fi in its own right.