The other night, I finally got to watch Prince of Persia, and as I sat through it, I could not help but be immensely disappointed. I didn’t mind the white-washing, and the special FX were grand, but this was not the Price of Persia that I had grown up with, as the film left me quite underwhelmed.
And while it wasn’t a bad film, it most certainly was not a Prince of Persia film. See, that’s the problem these days, as Hollywood just cannot match that feeling that one gets from playing the actual game.
We spend hours, grinding, toiling and shooting away at the screen, developing an attachment with our favourite characters (TALI!), receiving a fitting epilogue at the end. It’s these epic experiences that define a game, make it so memorable in the first place.
And while there are plenty of games on the market that have big screen influences, they aren’t exactly beholden to them either, as they use the best of that world, and combine it with their in-game universe for an action-packed experience.
But you can’t reverse engineer what a game has done, and expect it to work on the big screen. I’ll admit, there have been a few great video game movies, such as Wing Commander and Silent Hill, but they’re unfortunately perched perilously high on a mountain of manure, made up of such gems such as Double Dragon, Tekken and Doom, and the all time number one offender, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li.
It’s a horrible track record so far, with the majority of these films doing nothing to encourage Hollywood to actually sit down and think about what it is exactly that they’re constantly doing wrong.
And don’t think that this is me being a snob either. As much as I admit that the Jean Claude Van Damme Street Fighter is a terrible film, I still love it because it’s bad in a good way. Plus, I happen to be the president of the Raul Julia fan club, but that’s besides the point.
One of the main problems with translating these properties onto the big screen is also seen in how Hollywood has to force certain ideas on the film in order to appeal to demographics. For instance, name one such film where there wasn’t a love interest.
You can’t, right? It’s a symptom of the Tinsel Town beast unfortunately, as for example, a Mortal Kombat movie may just get all the young adolescent males inside the theatres, they’ve got to also cater for the suffering partners of that demographic, and shove a superfluous love story angle in as well, in order to maximise ticket sales. That’s why we have films like Dear John, and not Dear John Rambo.
I get that when Hollywood does venture into video game movie territory, they don’t do it half-assed, sinking quite a few hundred million dollars into making such a film. And they need to see a return on their investment at the end of the day, which means shuffling as many butts into seats as possible.
And the only way to do that is to make the end result film as demographically- suitable as possible, which means said awkward romance angle, a lack of story-telling for more action and baysplosions, while the rest of the audience laughs at the constant stream of sardonic humour and one-liners.
I can’t fault Hollywood for that, they are a business after all, but it’s just another sad truth about why games and films are so incompatible. But before you lynch me with examples of your favourite rebuttal, I will admit that there have been gaming films done right, just not under the Hollywood banner.
Animated short films, such as Assassin’s Creed Embers, web exclusive episodes such as Mortal Kombat Legacy and international CGI movies from Japan, like Final Fantasy: Advent Children. These guys got it right, taking everything that made the games so wonderful and endearing, and distilling those ideas into a format that I wanted to pay money to see.
Hell, I’m a massive Batman film fan, and even that short CGI clip for Arkham Asylum was so well done, that I’m hoping Warner Bros takes advantage of it for when they reboot the caped crusader after The Dark Knight Rises caps off the trilogy of Christopher Nolan films.
It’s only when you get away from the Hollywood sphere of influence, that you can really see what is possible, with an end product that appeals to both gamers and the mainstream market. These guys took a risk, and the end result was amazing.
But I’ll be honest here and admit it, Hollywood isn’t going to stop any time soon, and before this decade is finished, we will most likely see a PG 10 Mass Effect film, where out of touch Hollywood executives ASSUME DIRECT CONTROL and create something that capitalises on all those negative points that I mentioned above.
But hey, at least I’ll get to see a real life Tali, just magnified on an IMAX screen.