Many critics, scholars, and audiences alike are convinced that we will never get a truly stellar film based on a video game. And for good reason. The last two video game adaptations, Assassin’s Creed and Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, both fell into the same fate as all other video game movies. In fact, the former had a talented director (Justin Kurzel of Macbeth) and an A-list cast (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons etc), and even these factors could not save it from impending critical doom. The highest Metacritic score for a video game film was a 58/100 for Mortal Kombat. Despite the horrible track record, there is hope for a great video game movie, now more than ever. To see why, it is necessary to look at the commonalities between a great video game and a great film.
The primary objective of any video game or movie is to engage an audience. Usually, strong storylines are central to any great video game or movie. For example, Bioshock Infinite and The Last of Us are paragons of excellence because of their emotionally resonant and impactful storylines. Of course, there are innumerable films that also fit the bill. While a video game is much more interactive and less “story-driven” than say a film, keeping an audience interested through story is a common interest. There is nothing preventing a video game movie from having an excellent plot, as impactful storylines have been achieved in both mediums. It is matter of time when the right filmmakers come together and hone in on a video game with strong characters and emotions and adapt it into a film that has equally strong dimensions.
Resisting Fan Service
One of the biggest complaints people have about video game movies is their complete dedication to recreate moments from the original game(s) rather than telling a story. While it is totally fine in measured amounts, an over-dedication and reliance on fan service often permeates many video-game movies. This sentiment is understandable, as the filmmakers want to appease the fan-base. However, fans and general audiences are so much more than vessels to please with pretty nostalgic images. A lot of us are smart and informed consumers that know what constitutes a great film or video game. If we cannot articulate it, we can certainly feel it. As a result, not having constant fan service will certainly be welcome if great storylines, well-developed characters, and the like are in its place. You know what, maybe leave a little bit of fan service.
A perfect, almost analogous case study is the superhero film. Most superhero films are adaptations of comic book stories. While comic books and films have their unique differences, there was a point where many studios and audiences alike believed a great superhero movie would never be made. Unperturbed by the seeming impossibility, filmmakers worked harder and started to look at the commonalities between great comic books and films. Eventually, we started getting a slew of truly amazing superhero films, and they dominate a large portion of the US and international box offices. If it can be done with comic books, it can certainly be done with video games. It is just going to take some time, hard work, and dedication from filmmakers. Might I suggest a Metal Gear Solid film or an adaptation of The Last of Us.