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Why Video Game Movies Keep Failing

Why do video game movies keep failing? Look at this list: Not one cracks through the “fresh” barrier. Not one above 50%. Not one broke $400 million. Yet, they keep on coming.

“Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” is the highest grossing of them all and it had fuck all to do with the video game. Not to mention white-washing several characters. It was the John Carter of its time (which was actually at about the same time, directed by Jerry Bruckheimer, he of “The Lone Ranger” and “G-Force”, the movie about spy hamsters). “Resident Evil” movies have had some success, but they’re full of tedious action and zero plot. Only fans of the video game series keep the movie series going and no one with a newspaper to write for is going to praise a movie full of zombies, CG, and girls flipping around with guns.

More known is the fact that video game movies are some of the worst every screened – “Alone in the Dark”, “Mortal Kombat: Annihilation”, “House of the Dead”, “BloodRayne”, “Street Fighter”. By money and reviews “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within” is the best that has been offered. Why does this keep happening?

I’ll tell you why. Because the producers and directors keep twisting them into things they’re not.

“Resident Evil” is not an action-horror game. It’s an atmospheric setting of terror inspired by the films of George A. Romero. It’s full of jump scares, camera angles that hide stuff, and lots of dread. There are no matrix jumps or rogue AIs.

“Mortal Kombat” is not a buddy movie about three strangers becoming friends as they discover the innocent place they were going harbors a dark secret (that’s Harry Potter). It’s a martial arts movie like “Enter the Dragon” combined with violence like “The Running Man”. It’s not PG-13.

“Super Mario Bros.” is not… whatever that movie was about. “Super Mario Bros.” the video game is about… well, I’m not sure about that either. But it should never have been a movie. It’s too trippy, doesn’t have a story, doesn’t have character relationships, and the only reason producers made it is because they’re the most recognizable mascots.

“Silent Hill” is about being lost in a misty town where satanic shit’s going on and disfigured monsters want to kill you and you have to figure out why. That’s why I like the Silent Hill movie. Even though it used different characters and a different plot, it stayed true to the spirit of the material. And that’s the key.

You aren’t going to be able to perfectly translate a video game into a movie — not even a cinematic one like Parasite Eve or Vagrant Story or God of War or Deus Ex. The mediums just don’t line up. But we’re not asking for a perfect translation from game to screen. We’re asking for respect of the source material.

There is no reason there can’t be a good video game movie. It just hasn’t happened yet. Because these directors and producers don’t care. They see some franchise that the kids like and slap it on whatever screenplay was shoved under their bathroom stall yesterday. But as time goes on, people who did grow up with these characters, who know what it felt like to play the game, will be able to put that same feeling into the movie.

Eric Juneau is a software engineer and novelist on his lunch breaks. In 2016, his first novel, Merm-8, was published by eTreasures. He lives in, was born in, and refuses to leave, Minnesota. You can find him talking about movies, video games, and Disney princesses at http://www.ericjuneaubooks.com where he details his journey to become a capital A Author.

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