August TVGB Q&A / Games on the silver screen

Hollywood loves nothing more than franchises. The easiest way for a flick to earn some more money at the box office is to slap a recognizable name on it and lure innocent movie goers in. One way this happens is by making film adaptations of some of our favorite videogames. At risk of starting a fistfight with Uwe Boll, I dare say the true problem with this is they’re almost all terrible. But even with such a bad history, a lot of gamers still want movies to be made out of their favorite videogames and try to make their pleading voices heard. Film adaptations of games always have some kind of potential to be good movies and so we at TVGB bought and assembled a water cooler to discuss the matter.

Which film adaptation of a videogame would you be most excited for?

Chris Barraclough: After being subjected at a tender age to Bob Hoskins in a poncy red cap and moustache, my relationship with videogame films has been filled with disappointment and frustration. Things got even worse when Hollywood got their talons on the likes of Resident Evil and Silent Hill, because I’m a huge survival horror fan. Those films were pretty awful, although thankfully not quite as vomit-inducing as Alone in the Dark, which had king-of-crap Uwe Boll at the helm.

End of Reel 1. To load Reel 2 onto your projector, hit the button.

Dead Space was one of my favourite games of last year, because it did away with ridiculous boss fights and huge action set pieces, and concentrated on what makes survival horror so special: pace, atmosphere, and some goddamn awful tension. The anime prologue, Downfall, had sadly very little of all three. Sure, it crammed in some pretty cool gore and the odd cheeky cleavage shot, but the scares were almost completely absent.

Now we’re being promised a live-action movie, and I’m praying to the Baby Jesus that we get a formidable director and some actors who’ll put in a believable performance as they’re torn to bloody shreds. Considering the game itself seemed to take influence from various horror films, such as Event Horizon and Alien, there’s still some hope that it’ll translate into a fantastic scary movie. Removing the audience interaction obviously eliminates some of the emotional impact, but a film guru such as Ridley Scott could produce something wondrous with the material on offer. I’d even like to see Danny Boyle have a crack, after the atmospheric weirdness of Sunshine.

Nick Coffman: The obvious answer for the movie-based-on-a-game I am most looking forward to is BioShock. My favorite game of 2007, it’s the game so close to my heart that it will one day have to be surgically removed so as not to interfere with my eventually necessary pacemaker. Unfortunately for movie buffs, the beauty and point of BioShock is that it works so well as a game and only as a game. If you haven’t played BioShock to its conclusion then you don’t know what I’m talking about but the game is here in this form for a reason. It has a message for gamers using a cleaver trick and our own preconceptions that wouldn’t work as a novel or play. It can’t be made a movie, not one that’d ever be considered worthwhile, even with the dreamboat from Prison Break as the lead character. So I guess my second choice is Duke Nukem played by Bruce Campbell. Both the character and the actor don’t have any credibility left and have been playing the same one-note persona since literally before I was born. It’s a match made in box-office heaven.

Matthew Razak: The issue for me is that it’s almost impossible to look forward to a videogame movie. Given the current track record of such things, I think the only possible thing I can muster up is less fear for one movie than another. So which movie do I fear the least? Well, I can’t agree with Nick because BioShock’s story and themes are too good not to be butchered by Hollywood and while a Dead Space movie could be amazing I have absolutely no faith it would get the attention it needed so I’m far too afraid for that too.

That reasoning also scratches out most of the games with a semblance of plot or that I really care for, thus the movie I’m most looking forward to is Gears of War. They seem to have a competent enough director on board to handle it and according to him he’s going to get “real actors” and all that jazz. I think that Gears is all about running, gunning, shooting and action, and I know that Hollywood can do that well and thus I think they can deliver on the over the top machismo and chainsaws through the sternum. So while Gears of War might not be the movie I’d most want to watch if all of them came out good, it is the movie I’m most looking forward to.

Eric Wigdahl: Everyone else so far has been leaning on this notion: the reason most videogame films don’t knock our socks off is because they just plain don’t feel like their respective games did. So if a filmmaker is going to try to make a good videogame movie, he or she would have to know exactly what makes that game fun to play and translate it onto the big screen.

One golden opportunity for this would be the movie of Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. Jerry Bruckheimer producing, Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince, and Ben freakin’ Kingsley as Nizam. A big budget for sets and stars is a great start, but they ought to consider the source closely. So what made the game stand out aside from well-done combat and platforming? Time reversal – It was what made the game excellent instead of just great, making you lurch forward in your seat each time you squeezed the trigger button. And there is an obvious film equivalent to the game mechanic: editing. Imagine the desert film epic this could be and then add the temporal weirdness of a film like Memento. A huge fight scene would become the editor’s playground, with badass combat flying at you, then you get to watch it backwards, then see something different replace it. If the game experience is allowed to flow through the film this well, the Prince of Persia movie has the potential to be not only a great videogame film but an awesome stand-alone cinematic feat.

Raphael Cua: Film adaptations of videogames have been downright awful and I’m very weary of any future projects since there has yet to be any adaptation that has respected the source material. Like Nick, I’m curious about BioShock on the big screen, but the themes and the big twist only works in the game medium. If the filmmakers are clever enough to relate those themes to the film medium, there might be a good chance that BioShock will be a decent flick. But Hollywood and clever rarely go hand in hand.

The one film adaptation I’m hoping doesn’t suck is Metal Gear Solid. Not because the material is particularly engaging or the characters compelling, but if there’s any videogame story that could benefit from a shorter medium it’s the bloated and convoluted Metal Gear saga. If the film is successful enough to warrant a full franchise, I’m most looking forward to (and dreading) the adaptation of Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. With its style borrowing heavily from the James Bond franchise and a relatively more grounded storyline, Snake Eater is a game Hollywood would have a hard time screwing up royally. Its themes of loyalty, trust and motherhood are universal enough to translate into the film medium as well. And I’d like to see a big-screen version of The Boss that isn’t voiced by Pearl from Spongebob Squarepants.