Video games and movies are two of my favourite things – when kept separate. Unfortunately, the two mediums rarely seem to get along. Games adapted from a movie license often suffer due to rushed development and greedy cash-in practises, and movie adaptations of video game franchises are notoriously renowned for being terrible. One thing I have noticed this year, however, is that the latter issue seems to be changing.
By far the greatest movie in general of 2012 for me has to be Ace Attorney (or Gyakuten Saiban as it’s known in Japan). Given the source material of the eccentric adventures of an attorney facing off against shady prosecutors in court, the film could have gone two ways: a dull, serious courtroom drama, or a wacky and insane Japanese pantomime. The movie thankfully avoids both directions, becoming its own, unique blend of funny, dark, and exciting. Every detail is taken from the games, from the plot-line to the costumes and hairstyles, and it’s incredibly refreshing to see my favourite characters on the big screen.
The feature-length anime adaptations of Animal Crossing (Dōbutsu no Mori) and Professor Layton (Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva) were also fairly recent treats, by again staying true to the respective source material. This year’s Resident Evil: Damnation was also an impressive action/horror romp, with all the Resi beasties terrifyingly captured in tense CGI action. These films have simply continued the story of each franchise’s characters (or lack thereof in Animal Crossing‘s case), and done so by faithfully following each respective universe.
Wreck-It Ralph, too, is a fantastic contribution to a more truthful representation of video games, despite not being a direct adaptation of anything. The movie could have easily driven the usual stereotypical gaming tropes that society is accustomed to (high scores, violence, and “game over” screens) but instead goes the extra mile by not only including video game characters such as Sonic, Bowser and Zangief, but being chockful of subtle references, with awesome nods to franchises from Metal Gear Solid to Final Fantasy VII.
I respect the artistic approach of deviating from a game’s narrative in order to provide your one’s own spin on a franchise. What I don’t appreciate is Paul W. S. Anderson digressing the Resident Evil movie series into a Milla Jovovich superwoman fantasy. I wish that statement was an exaggeration, but I think I’ve seen more of Milla’s telekinetic powers than I have zombies. Well, there’s a fifth movie out, so I guess someone enjoys them.
And this is the problem with every failed gaming movie. Most have tried to implement something new, but this has lead each film to its critical demise. After all, why do directors think we’d watch these films, if the characters or story have nothing to do with those in the franchises we love? The lack of research, poor acting, and lack of passion just shows Hollywood’s greed in cashing in on successful licenses – upsetting fans, alienating outsiders and giving video games a bad reputation.
You’ll notice that none of the movies I’ve praised so far have been Hollywood flicks, and this proves what the key to a successful video game movie really is: pure passion for the games themselves that non-gamer directors lack. Even the upcoming independent, Internet-release highlights Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie and Pure Pwnage: Teh Movie will easily surpass anything that has hit the big screen, just because of the sheer love for both gaming and fans that both web-series have evidenced in the past.
Its certainly been a pleasure to see this horrible cycle finally break, and I sincerely hope that this trend continues. There is now undeniable proof that video game movies can be done right, and there is no longer an excuse. With the Metal Gear movie now official and CEO of Marvel Studios Avi Arad (director of The Amazing Spider-Man) on board, and Ubisoft themselves handling the direction of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed motion picture, hope are high – no pressure, gentlemen!