Unless you’ve injected yourself with copious amounts of morphine over the years, it’s quite clear that movies based on games have generally been awful, time and time again. It’s a depressing trend, but one that makes sense. Hollywood sees anything remotely popular as a cash cow; a chance to exploit its popularity by ‘cashing in’ on it and hoping to lure in fans, without putting in any consideration into the film itself. This leads to bad casting, directing, budgets, and of course, popcorn stains on the silver screen from previous viewers who hurled their snacks at the screen in a fit of rage.
But often it’s actually the game itself that is the fundamental problem. The simple truth is that some games can be translated into film format better than others. After all, games are a unique form of media and artistic expression that provides experiences far different from films, books and music. As a result, some games, as good as they are, just cannot be converted into cinematic form without sacrificing major elements of the source material or butchering it altogether. The problem is that a lot of people still haven’t wrapped their heads around this. Therefore, I give you this list of games that should simply be left alone and are not worth passing through the filter of cinema. I’ve tried to include some of the most notable and acclaimed games as examples, because those are the ones that money-hungry executives want to get their grubby little mitts on the most and could cause the most internal damage to fans.
5. Call of Duty
At first glance, Call of Duty sounds like the most marketable franchise ever. It’s got explosions, guns, enough patriotism to choke Captain America, and of course, interesting and chaotic battle scenes that serve as great set pieces. That sound you’re hearing is Michael Bay typing a proposal letter to studios. All joking aside, Call of Duty has actually been considered in the past for a film translation, around the same time a Guitar Hero TV series (shudder) was announced. We haven’t really heard any development past that, but it’s probably best to keep it that way. When you think about it, Call of Duty has never really focused on story or character development. Its sole purpose has always been putting the player in explosive combat scenarios in the safety and comfort of their living room; In other words, providing a polished, immersive action experience. Characters are usually relegated to squad mates in battle and are not explored upon in order to focus on action. For a game, that might be enough. For a film, however, we expect a bit more. War movies like Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down have provided exciting action while still exploring complex themes and developing likeable characters. That means a Call of Duty film would have a lot to live up to. And considering how most studios would treat it, it won’t get that kind of attention. Chances are it will turn out to be just another action movie. And do we really need that? Especially since we already have the games to give us great action experiences? Azanog the Walrus God says no. And I think he speaks for everyone.
These are arguably the big three franchises that bear the glorious Nintendo label. So why should they be tucked away and hidden from the world of film? Well, for exactly the same reasons Team Ninja screwed up Metroid: Other M (See: Completely mishandling a franchise). None of the protagonists or any of the other characters talk in any of these games with the exception of Link’s famous “HYAHHHH!!!” or Mario’s “It’s-a me, Mario!” As a result, adding any kind of a voice or characterization to them is likely to piss off at least some fans. Furthermore, all of these games were born from gameplay mechanics. With Mario, side-scroller platforming. With Zelda, open-world gameplay. And Metroid gave us exploration-based gameplay. Sure, the stories and settings in these games were still appealing, but they were always kept simple, so much so to the point where every game basically has the same recycled plot. Do you start to see why these wouldn’t work as films? Besides, these franchises are held in too high regard for us to be meddling with them anytime soon.
3. Shadow of the Colossus (possible spoilers)
Prepare to soil your limited edition Colossus undies, fans. The infamous CEOs and suits of Hollywood are already planning to make a movie based on this beloved game. However, I can not stress enough how bad of an idea this is. In the game, fighting the Colossi was a central component of the game. Each time you killed one, you really got the sense that you have defeated a giant, and that you have made a significant impact on the world around you. You were questioning your own actions as you continuously defeated them. But you somehow kept going because of the promise of resurrection for the Wanderer’s dead wife. You were curious to see what happened next. And by the end, you looked back and felt a huge sprout of guilt and realized that you may have been the villain yourself. And yet you completely supported that idea by playing through all of those actions in the first place. So can a film extract those same emotions from the same story? Hell no! SotC had the best kind of game story; one that required it to be a game in order to be good. Simply watching the hero in the movie slay all of the Colossi one by one and then giving us the same ending that the game had won’t exactly get us to build shrines for it. And did I mention that the director of Street Fighter: Legend of Chun Li is set for the project? Sink in peril, mortals.
2. Any full fledged RPG. Seriously, any.
Yes, this does seem like a stretch, but just think about it. What is the main selling point of most RPGs? That’s right; the ability to create your own character and do whatever you see fit. You essentially create your own identity in the game. You choose how the character behaves, develops, and interacts with the world around him. There are multiple choices you can make, and they all have consequences that can be pretty deep, and it’s fun to replay RPGs, making different choices with different characters each time. Lastly, the game worlds are unrestrictive and sprawling, letting you choose where to go, what to do, when to do it, how you’ll do it, and what order you’ll do it in. Sounds great doesn’t it? Well it’s also something that can absolutely not be done in a film. Films are linear affairs with preset characters that develop in a specific way and are essentially the director’s identity. Do you see what I mean? Sure, some RPGs like Mass Effect and Final Fantasy could stand on their own as films because you play as (mostly) predefined characters and there are still clear story structures to follow. However, RPGs like Oblivion, Fallout, Stalker, Dragon Age, and World of Warcraft are built around the concept of going, doing, and being whatever you want in a world influenced by your actions. And you just can’t replicate that in a movie. So why even try? Also, bonus: Far Cry 2. Not really an RPG, I know. But how would you turn that into a movie? You wouldn’t.
1. Half-life series (specifically #2)
And finally, the crowning jewel of this list. People have already gone to Youtube and started making an abundance of fake Half-life movie trailers and even writing potential scripts for the film. I think I even remember Uwe Boll asking Valve for the film rights at one point. Of course they declined; otherwise I’d be pretty sure there is no God. But they also stated that they don’t think a Half-life film would work. And I agree. Just think for a minute about how the world of Half-life 2 was presented to you. Much like Gordon Freeman himself, coming out of stasis and entering City 17, you too knew absolutely nothing about the city as you exited the train and entered the first level. The story itself was pretty standard; aliens come to earth, enslave mankind, and someone has to stop them. However, it was your interaction with the characters and discovery of the game world that made the story truly interesting and drew you in to the plot and characters. Slowly but surely, you pieced together details about the setting and how it came to be. Not to mention the technology that is used and the way the characters behave. That’s all well and good, but how in the world would you translate that into film form? Keep in mind that there were no cutscenes in the game whatsoever and the protagonist never spoke, not to mention it was entirely in first person. Mix that all together and you’ve got a formula that can only work in a video game. Don’t believe me? Check out the trailer for the CGI fan film production of Half-life 2. Well produced, for sure. But something feels off. Seeing Gordon Freeman in third person in a film like this just feels awkward. It’s just not true to the game. Even a sidestory to the Half-life mythos would not fare very well for a film. The actual plot of the game is rather generic and unremarkable if you think about it. It’s the EXECUTION, however, that made the story great. Therefore exploring the world of Half-life in film form is meaningless. Half-life 1 and 2 were great games, and they should stay that way. As great games.
Well, there you have it; Games that will hopefully never be made into films if we’re lucky. What do you guys think? Are there ways some of these films could work? Or do you too agree that they should be left alone and like fine soups, should not be subject to alteration from the chefs of Hollywood?