Portal

Video Game Movies: The Next Generation

by Jon Michael May

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Video game movies…it can be done!

So apparently we’re in a strange bizzaro world where JJ Abrams gets to do whatever the hell he wants to…says people who don’t understand how Hollywood works.  He makes money, his movies are often entertaining, and he makes money.  Did I mention he makes money.  It is the movie business after all, and not lets all smoke peyote, dance around a fire, rub paint on our faces and act out this script I wrote.  It’s about what a dog feels when he can’t find his bone.
http://kotaku.com/5982227/half+life-portal-movies-are-in-early-development-stage-jj-abrams-says
http://kotaku.com/5982169/gabe-newell-and-jj-abrams-say-they-want-to-make-movies-and-games-together

So Abrams may very well make a Portal or Half-Life movie.  Go for it.  Despite the steady stream of expletives from the internet about how much it will suck, you’ll never know what it will actually be until you try.

When people see this, I think they miss the point and maybe Abrams does to.  I don’t know yet.

I’m of the opinion a video game movie can work, it just hasn’t been done right yet.  Think of it this way.  Twenty-years ago, how many super hero comic books movies had been made that were of any decent quality.  A handful at best and none that I an recall that weren’t called Superman or Batman.  It took a new generation of film makers to come along, people who had grown up with those characters and could handle them responsibly, to do them justice.  Games are the same way.  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 there are also some fan efforts that also deserve credit  And that’s because of the way it was handled.  In addition to treating the source material with the necessary care and respect, they also didn’t try to recreate any of the games.  They took the material that already existed and used it to tell a new story.  That is where the future of video game movies, 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 story set in that world.  If Abrams can do that, then a Half Life and Portal movies could be wildly successful.  If not, video games movies will likely continue to suck.

Also, 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.