A few weeks ago, coming from Chris Compedio DualShocker I got attention to a long forgotten view on video game movies. My favorite scene of Resident Evil: Afterlife, the fourth one in the franchise with Milla Jovovich, Wentworth Miller, Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter going against Shawn Roberts.

This is my very favorite screen in the entire six Resident Evil movies. Even though, it is true that they are bad movies however they are not the first nor the worst. Which raises the question: why no one can make a good video game movie?

Too Simple Stories

Sure they are some exceptions, but comparing on the general scale stories of video games are just not on the same level as films or books. Of course, we have Red Dead Redemption 2 or The Last of Us but they couldn't match the power of storytelling in Whiplash and Dune. It is hard to make an adaptation if the story isn't very great.

And when we look at something like Super Mario Bros, oh boy was the story stays consistent- you have to save the princess from Browser. And that's it. This amazing tale was adapted in 1993 film of  Super Mario Bros. This adaptation gave me a definition of what is an awful movie. Left aside the visual design choices now we talk about the story, they turned the story into a tale about two plumbers in NYC getting chased by the mafia and then enter an inter-dimensional portal with a long lost princess... in this new dimension King Koopa rules it all... in short, it is very bad.

I realized that the main problem here is that the games that got adapted into movies are the ones with too simple stories. And while games rely on gameplay, movies rely on the plot to attract an audience. The plot has to be at least there from the begin to end. Action scenes are great but they need plot and twists to lead them.

But What About The Ones with Good Story?

I mentioned Red Dead Redemption 2 and The Last of Us as an example of games with great game stories. But they are just that: stories that good for video games. Eventhough, they might be influenced by books and films, adapt them to movies is still not a good idea. Because most of the emotions that we feel while playing the game are thank the first-hand experience as the character - one thing that only game can deliver.

In the setting of a video game, we put on the shoes and control the character whether its created or we have to create them ourselves. With a movie set, we have a third person look in perspective; we experience what the characters experience but we are not controlling them. Agency of us, the player is the main factor in making us feel for the character in a video game.

It's the gameplay that gives us the connection to the characters, the story is good but then it is the interaction between you and your character that makes game memorable.

Limits and restrictions  of the medium

There is, of course, a chance to have a quality video game movie. Like I have said, there are great video game stories. However, all the limits and restrictions of the medium hinder that chance.

First, we have to look at the length. These days, a movie usually has two or two and a half hours of screen time. Video games last be from one to 200 hours or even to the indefinite. Squeeze all of that into around 2 hours screen time is just not enough.

Video Game Is Getting Better Why Movies About Them
Warcaft - The movie

I would take Warcraft as an example of this lack of length. In two hours, we were introduced to a handful of characters, while the others are also as important in the game lore, in Warcraft they were trying to tell a small narrative of a very big and diver universe.

While on the other hand, Warcraft actually has the means to be a good movie franchise. They could just focus on the conflict between Humans and Orc then they the story naturally envelops. And they could copy the Avengers by introducing one new character at a time.

Lost in Adaptation

Back to the visual design choice of the film like Super Mario Bros, the visual design in video games could ever slightly presented in their movie adaptation.

The colorful and bright pallet and playful design in Super Mario Bros. were replaced in the film by a dark, dingy, ugly tone.  Absolutely no playful or fun in that movie.

The two versions are the polar opposite. Goombas in the game are just walking mushrooms, they are means but still cute in a way. While in the movie they are reptilian heads on big human bodies. That's weird. Nothing great about that.

The same case with the new Sonic the Hedgehog movie, I think that film will suffer the same fate. Look:

Video Game Is Getting Better Why Movies About Them
Sonic the Hedgehog

Any hope for Video Game Movie?

It is possible, of course. Just look at The Avengers, a comic book series. One day, we can do the same for video game movies.