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Why Game Movies Stink 264

Via Cathode Tan (who has some commentary of his own on the subject), a Guardian article attempting to ascertain who is at fault for crappy game movies. From the article: "Because, unlike cinema, computer gaming is a medium which requires the player to make things up for themselves. An individual game may be laden with 'plot points' but its narrative is always up for grabs. It is a format of scenarios rather than stories, elements which can be bolted together in differing orders with varying outcomes. Cinema, on the other hand, is designed for people who like to watch and listen, and who expect the film-maker to get their story straight before the movie reaches the theatres. Viewing a film based on a computer game is like hanging around in an amusement arcade, peering over the shoulders of other people playing video games. It has less to do with story-telling than conceptual shelf-stacking. And it is symptomatic of the painful death of the art of narrative cinema."
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Why Game Movies Stink

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  • Uh.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Threni ( 635302 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:20AM (#15196348)

    most games stink
    most movies stink

    It's basic algebra/logic/common sense...
  • Poppycock! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Daniel_Staal ( 609844 ) <> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:21AM (#15196351)
    So, the movie will never be the same experince as playing the game. That's obvious.

    It is still possible to write a good movie based on the plot points of a game. "Tomb Raider" comes to mind, as does "Mortal Kombat". Neither is all-time great cinema, but they are both perfectly good movies. They took the plot points of the video games and built a good story around them.

    If you can't make a good movie from a video game that's a failing of the writers you are using, not of the concept itself. Given the quality of plots coming out of Hollywood in general, it should be obvious that good writing is in seriously short supply.
  • Seriously? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by steveo777 ( 183629 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:27AM (#15196405) Homepage Journal
    From TFA "Without the luxury of a joystick in our hands, the viewer has no chance to make the incoherent on-screen antics any better - or worse. We just sit ... and stare."

    Okay, walking into a movie theatre, sitting down on the couch with a DVD, or even catching a game at the bar, we all experience Television or Movies in the same way. We can't control anything. People who go to a movie go there to see a story unfold. They don't go there to make things happen. When people go to see a movie based on a video game, they expect the same level of excitment the videogame delivers. This can never happen.

    Silent Hill was probably one of the best videogame movies I've seen. The game doesn't concentrate on combat, but on storey and making you piss your pants. The movie keeps your heart unsure whether or not it's worth each heart beat. Just like the game. The movie has very little combat. The game does not focus on combat. The game has a deep story that takes forever to discover and understand. The movie uses the time you're in the theatre to deliver enough story to understand what's going on. The only problem is that if you haven't played Silent Hill 1,2, and 3, you may not understand the movie's symbolism, and thereby, believe that it's just wonton violence.

    Silent Hill was good. Not the best, but good. Compare it to any other video game movie, and we're darn near a 10, at least a 9. TFA goes on to campare it to Street Fighter and Mario Bros (THE worst video game movie EVER). Not really a fair analysis. Street Fighter the game doesn't really have a plot. And Mario Bros the movie didn't have a plot. Not really a fair comparison there.

  • by Flaming Babies ( 904475 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:28AM (#15196409)
    ...but movie games are far worse.
  • by elrous0 ( 869638 ) * on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:28AM (#15196417)
    the painful death of the art of narrative cinema.

    No, the problem isn't the "painful death of the art of narrative cinema" its the "painful dearth of art in popular video games."

    Let's face it, most video games have a very simple storyline (if any storyline at all). Most of that storyline concerns itself, not with introducing interesting and complex characters and plot points, but in setting up cheap excuses to get you into some predictible gaming sequence. The focus of "Doom 3" isn't charcter and plot, that's all just there to set up a fairly predictable FPS.

    Decent movies; on the other hand; rely on good writing, plot, and character development pretty much EXCLUSIVELY. That often means that a video game adaptation movie either has to reduce itself to being just as mindless as the video game, without even the benefit of any interaction (what the article complains about) or make HUGE alterations and additions to the original videogame storyline just to "flesh out" some interesting characters and plot developments (something which makes the studio and fans howl).

    I mean, ask yourself, how exactly would YOU make an interesting movie out of Halo, whose "star" is a faceless, anonymous, killing machine with virtually no backstory (and working under the studio requirement that he has to occupy most of the screen time, with a large number of pure mindless action scenes)?


  • My theory... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by BMonger ( 68213 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:31AM (#15196437)
    I've always though game movies stunk because they either fall into two areas:

    1) They are the same plot as the game. You already played the game, why do you want to watch the same thing in cinematic form?

    2) They are too far away from the plot. The fans already know the plot line and you've thrown something completely different at them and they cry about how it's not true to the game.

    I prefer the latter personally.

    Oh wait...

    3) Uwe Boll
  • by voice_of_all_reason ( 926702 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:31AM (#15196439)
    Because watching a FPS movie is about as much fun as watching someone else play a FPS video game.
  • Re:simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:32AM (#15196453) Journal
    And? Romeo and Juliet can be distilled down to a one-or-two-paragraph summary that still contains the more intricate plot points, too. This has not led to people saying "most plays have very simplistic plots", and it appears to have been completely irrelevant to the quality of movies made based on it, some of which have been good and others bad.
  • Umm, no (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jayhawk88 ( 160512 ) <> on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:34AM (#15196476)
    What a bunch of pretentious crap. Game movies have been bad because there is currently little to no incentive for the studios to do anything worthwhile with the license. Why go to all the trouble to make sure the script is solid and the directors vision is good, when you have this huge built-in audience who is going to see the movie regardless of any bad buzz or reviews?
  • by Volante3192 ( 953645 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:35AM (#15196483)
    Disagree 100%. I get the feeling that after watching these things that the scriptwriters and director(s) simply read the summary on the back of the box, maybe read the manual and pulled the rest from their nether regions. Thus, they don't understand the *feel* of the game. I firmly believe many games made into movies had something going for them, other than German tax breaks. Doom? Oddly, yes. Alien worked. Course, that deveated so far from the original it barely deserves the name. Tomb Raider? Indiana Jones worked. What'd they do wrong? Hmm, oh yea, made it NOT like IJ and more like one of the last two Bond films...(gag). They would manage to screw up Half-Life, and that one practically gives you the script as you play it. Still seems to me the best one made so far is Mortal Kombat. It didn't take itself seriously, at all. Decent action, music, enough of a plot to move along... and it was short.
  • Re:Silent Hill (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:37AM (#15196498)
    I personally thought Silent Hill the movie was great.

    I think you misspelled "utter rubbish that made me want to rip out my eyeballs and stuff them in my ears".
  • Re:simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Pulse_Instance ( 698417 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:39AM (#15196524)
    The part of the story that makes it interesting isn't the main points, you can take any great story and sum it up in a couple of paragraphs that contain the more intricate plot points. What makes a story great is how it happens and unfolds, this includes the little details. Would you call the original Half Life a good game if all you did was find out that aliens showed up, you went to their world then you fought the boss of the soldiers attacking you and finished up with killing the large Alien at the end? No that would be at the most 30 minutes of game play it takes these points, which I've probably messed up a bit, and everything in between to make the game and story great.
  • Re:Seriously? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kisrael ( 134664 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:39AM (#15196529) Homepage
    From TFA "Without the luxury of a joystick in our hands, the viewer has no chance to make the incoherent on-screen antics any better - or worse. We just sit ... and stare."

    Okay, walking into a movie theatre, sitting down on the couch with a DVD, or even catching a game at the bar, we all experience Television or Movies in the same way. We can't control anything. People who go to a movie go there to see a story unfold.

    That's an interesting quote from TFA. The thing about "the luxury of a joystick" is that a joystick is a damn primitive interface. Books and to a lesser extent Movies are able to delve ino the various layers and nuance of the human experiences in a way that games just can't now, and for the foreseeable future.

    I don't 100% agree with him but I see where Ebert was coming from. Run, jump, shoot, throw, duck is just a very limited subset of what it means to be human. And w/o full blown AI, a "choose your own adventure" style game will tend to have less depth and meaning than a director-selected plotline. When we do get AI, gaming might end up looking more like LARP, live action roleplay.
  • by The-Bus ( 138060 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:50AM (#15196640)
    Twenty years ago, no one thought comic book movies were going to be any good. Then Batman came out. If any project is paired with a director who has a specific artistic vision and is familiar and passionate about the work, more often than not a good movie will result. My favorite movie of this year so far happens to be based on a graphic novel.

    I don't see any interesting video game works in the horizon save for Halo: Fall of Reach which at least has been rumored to be attached to pretty good directors (Ridley Scott, Guillermo del Toro). Just give it time. It may take another two or three years for a good video game movie to be made, or longer, but it will eventually happen.

    Now, if they could only get licensed games to be good...
  • Re:Poppycock! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by TooMuchEspressoGuy ( 763203 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:55AM (#15196696)
    Ah, where are my mod points when I need them?

    The parent is absolutely correct. Most game-movies fail because they aren't like the games at all. For example...

    Super Mario Bros. should have been a pipe-and-koopa-filled Mario and Luigi adventure to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser. Instead, we got some bizarre sci-fi thing involving parallel universes and evolved dinosaurs(?)
    Doom should have been like the games - an intense survival-horror flick where the main character blasts his way through demons (and even Hell itself) to save the world. But, nope.
    Street Fighter... don't even get me started. How they adapted a fighting game into this piece of motion-picture crap, I'll never guess.

    Either way, the success of movies like Advent Children proves that people want movies based off of the actual games themselves, rather than some contrived movie plot written by someone who has obviously never played the original games in question.

  • Cop-out (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sc0ttyb ( 833038 ) * on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:58AM (#15196730)
    I'm sorry, but this whole thing gets on my nerves.

    The reason videogame movies blow isn't because of the source material (usually). It's because the writers/directors/studio bigwigs/what-have-you take too many damn liberties with the mythos.

    Okay, let's take Silent Hill for a start.

    DISCLAIMER: I am a Silent Hill fanatic.

    The makers of this film had an interesting, unique mythos to work with. They had interesting characters, bizarre environments, crazy monsters, excellent music, etc. So instead of using that as it was presented, they decided to pick and choose what they wanted and slapped it all together. Granted, they nailed the visual aspect of the game, but nothing else.

    For a start, let's talk about Pyramid Head (er, sorry - the Red Pyramid). He shouldn't have been in this movie at all because he's totally pointless outside his original context. Pyramid Head was only relevant to Silent Hill 2 because he a manifestation of both James Sunderland's sexual frustrations and his guilt. Including him in the movie just smacked of "hey, this guy's a cool villain, let's use him!"

    And don't even get me started on the whole plot/character deviation from the first game. You know, things like the lead character being Harry Mason and not this Rose person, his daughter being Cheryl and not Sharon, etc. Harry Mason's presence in the original Silent Hill game is very important, as it plays a rather significant part in Silent Hill 3, where it wraps up some of the first games loose ends.

    I could go on and on, but I won't. The fact of the matter is that they take too many liberties with the games. Don't change things that don't need changing. For the parts that can only be experienced with a controller, use your head and try and think of a way to convey that experience to the audience. Play the game through and take note of your emotions/feelings as you play a particular part, then use that to transfer it to the big screen.

    I think bad game movies are more a lack of effort and adherence to canon as opposed to having nothing to work with.
  • Re:Poppycock! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iainl ( 136759 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @10:59AM (#15196742)
    If you think Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat are perfectly good examples of the cinematic art, then Mark Kermode isn't really speaking to you. The whole subtext to his discussion both here and elsewhere on the issue is that the failure of many blockbusters to aspire to anything greater than a series of explosions linked by some car chases is directly connected to the games-as-films phenomenon.
  • by clambake ( 37702 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:00AM (#15196748) Homepage
    I always just assumed that the lazy, talentless hacks who spend all of 15 minutes throwing together a script full of plot holes, boring dialog, nonsensical character motivations, no character development whatsoever and cliched plot elements that have to be grafted over the originally interesting game-storyline (to make the movie "marketable", of course), while blowing the entire budget on dime-a-dozen pure-CGI special effects that were only really believable ten years ago while ironically being less visually interesting than those in the actual game itself were the source of the problem...

    Now I read, they are only a symptom?

    No, the real problem is, quite simply, Hollywood can NOT make a movie where the story is already written for them and the market for that story is pre-built-in. They can't HELP but change it based on market testing, on director's "creative" whims and seniour executive's cocaine fueled brain farts... Only to discover after the fact that the original story that sold so well as a game was, in fact, quite good and was the primary reason why the franchise was so popular in the first place, and that changing it to make it more saleable actually made it less appealing to everyone.

  • Re:My theory... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gulthek ( 12570 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:02AM (#15196766) Homepage Journal
    Game movies can suck for the same reasons that any other movie can suck: it's a bad movie! Bad acting, bad script, bad direction, etc.

    Just because the inspiration for the movie was a videogame instead of a book, doesn't mean that these movies have to be treated with special care.
  • by stlhawkeye ( 868951 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:03AM (#15196788) Homepage Journal
    And movies in general suck. Seriously. I see movie previews and they're just god-awful. The only stuff I like to see any more are kid's movies, they have the most mature and sophisticated humor of almost anything that's out there. You find more clever wit in a 90 minute animated Pixar film than every action movie or romantic comedy of the last 5 years combined.

    So, take the same vapid cadre of writers who produce the piles of drek and schlock out there and sick them on material that's already (in general) not good (game plots), and why is anybody shocked that they make crappy movies out of it?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:11AM (#15196865)
    Savage was awesome in Wizard. Add to that a kid with a powerglove, and revealing the warp whistle secrets in SM3.
    Result: Best videogame movie ever!

    On a serious note, I would say this movie is responsible for SM3 being the best selling video game not packaged with a system.

  • Nope (Score:2, Insightful)

    by kratei ( 924454 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:12AM (#15196891)
    "A cursory glance at the list of cinematic stinkers which have taken their lead from PCs, Xboxes and PlayStations reveals that there has never been a half-decent movie based on a computer game."
    I rather thought Final Fantasy was at very least a half-decent movie. I know some people didn't think much of it, but it was better than a ton of non-game-movies I've seen. In any case there have been so few movies based on computer games that it isn't right to write off the genre yet. Just because there has yet to be a gem doesn't mean that there can't be.
  • by Programmer_In_Traini ( 566499 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:24AM (#15197007)
    These guys thinks too much. We've read it before, we've seen that before.... movies based on games are, more often than not, crappy.

    Not because the producer fails to grasp the concept of game or because it lacks the player involvement or any sense of reality.

    Let me break the hard truth on you : budget.

    There are 2 scenarios :
    1. A small producer trying to get some movies under his name because it fits nice on a resume. Its like acculumating hours of flights for a pilot. He'll take a quick project, small budget movie just to get experience

    2. Big producer accepting the project for a big budget movie, but he'll use only a fraction of that budget because people tend to except low quality anyway. He'll use the remaining budget to fund a big movie that will catter to a much bigger audience, rewarding him with more money.

    Its all about the money really.

    Well, anyway, that's my 2c :)
  • Re:simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by thos_thom ( 723520 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:27AM (#15197046) Homepage Journal

    Yes, but, I can distil the story of any major hollywood film down into two paragraphs but you try and convey the understanding one gets from reading two hundred or so snippets of chozo lore (metroid prime) or the ever increasing pain of finding the diaries of people who have killed themselves and left behind their last thoughts for you to find in a mansion full of terror (resident evil 1) in a two hour film. A game film that tries to express the 15 hours of emotion evoked from a massive involving plot most of which you have come to by thinking then re-told in a two hour third person form where everything gets handed to you on a plate, just seems like a waste of time.

    I hear people say that you are more likley to say you enjoyed a book, over a film, because of the ammount of time you need to invest in it. I think its the same with games and films. You invest more time, it uses your brain more, you like them better. How can they compete.

  • Re:simple (Score:3, Insightful)

    by drsquare ( 530038 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @11:46AM (#15197226)
    No, it's because games aren't taken seriously enough to warrant making a decent film out of them. Most of them just intend to cash in on the name, using the cheapest staff they can get. There are games that could have been made into decent films but weren't. For example imagine that Mortal Kombat had been made by Tarantino, or that Doom had been made by Spielburg. Same original material but they might actually be watchable.
  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @12:08PM (#15197435)
    Most games offer, as has been said numerous times, rather shallow story and plot. Most writers simply take that and run with it. The net effect is a movie with a shallow story and plot.

    Why does it matter in the movie while it doesn't in the game?

    Because the player of a game is more involved than the watcher of a movie. He's part of the experience, he is "in" the game, not "looking at it".

    Quite the same reason why Game-TV isn't really getting off the ground. Play a few hours of a shooter and then watch others do it. You'll understand the difference.

    If they want to make GOOD movies based on games, they should take the general idea and write a plot around it. Not try to copy the "feel" of the game. Can you imagine what Indiana Jones and the last Cruisade would've been like if the game had been out before the movie? Can you envision the movie? And how bad it would've been? Just imagine the movie would have been watching Indy do what you make him do in the game...
  • Re:Poppycock! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SuperRob ( 31516 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:02PM (#15197946) Homepage
    The entire article uses faulty logic, and applying Occam's Razor, there is a much more obvious and likely reason why game movies (and any other film based on an IP) suck ...

    Because they don't take it seriously, and think that the IP can stand on it's own.

    Take a look at Batman. The good movies were the ones where they took the time to craft a plot, work on character development, and generally respect the material. The bad ones were the ones where they assumed that because of the strength of the IP and the established characters, you didn't need to do any of the things that you normally need to do when building a movie script.

    Writing a movie script is a process, one which I only scratched the surface of in my screenwriting class. But it was enough to show me that the bad movies are the ones that diverge from the standard process that people use to develop a screenplay. I'd say that has far more to do with it than the lack of interactivity.
  • Re:Poppycock! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by nelsonal ( 549144 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:18PM (#15198116) Journal
    I'd say it's related to that, say you have a given budget for a film that can be allocated to script, director, actors, story (IP). If you pay more than 0 for the right to use the characters then your script, director, and actors must be less well compensated to offset. Not that pay always goes with talent (Randy Quaid as a recently noted example generally works cheap for low budget art house films).
  • by Chr0nik ( 928538 ) on Tuesday April 25, 2006 @01:36PM (#15198292)
    Sounds like the only game-based movie that I've heard of that stuck to the plot.

    I disagree with the article completely. I think the problem with game based movies is that they don't stick to the plot points that made the game interesting in the first place.

    Take doom for example, They changed it from scientists finding an ancient civilization on mars, studying their culture, and religion, and accidentally opening a gateway to hell, to finding an ancient civilization on mars, back engineering their technology, and creating monsters via genetic engineering. A sort of a resident evil on mars, However they kept all the references to the gates of hell opening, they didn't ditch the pentagrams, or any of that stuff. etc.

    The reason hollywood can't make a decent game movie is identical to the reason they can't really make any movies that are very good anymore. They have completely lost touch with what people want.

    The main flaw with the article is that if people felt that watching game movies was like looking over someone's shoulder in the arcade, they wouldn't go to see them. There wouldn't have been enough people who have seen it, to come back with a "well that sucked verdict" in the first place. People want to see them. They want to see or perhaps eveng get deeper into the plot line of their favorite game.

    The sad truth is that Hollywood is out of ideas, out of touch with society, and couldn't write a decent script even if they had ideas and were in touch. They check popularity ratings of games and books, and base movies off of them. Most of the time, wrecking what attracted people to the game or movie in the first place.

    There are a few exceptions to the rule, but too few and far between. Gone are the days when guys would get an inspiration, pitch it, focus group it, get an awesome writing team on it, and give the people something that entertained them, and all that for a reasonable amount of money.

The other line moves faster.