Note to Hollywood : Please Stop.

7 06 2010

To say that “blockbuster season” has been slightly disappointing is an understatement.

Even IronMan 2 has failed to get me excited, despite having a kick-ass soundtrack. And I haven’t got around to actually watching that piece of celluloid joy.

So when I decided to write a post for Bostinnovation.com on movie adaptations of video-games, the realization that I would have to watch Prince of Persia hit me like a badly aimed roundhouse kick. Finding a space in my day, I headed for the Loews Cinema on Boston Common and armed with a huge portion of Nachos and requisite soft drink, I settled into my seat.

As the previews of future attractions came to an end, I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. With the exception of Tron: Legacy (being released in December 2010), the cinematic future looked bleak. As the half-empty darkened cinema rustled snacks in anticipation, the latest video-game adaptation began to play.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a multi-million dollar movie directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) and backed by Jerry Bruckheimer, the man who adapted a cheesy ride at Disneyworld into a cinematic franchise that has grossed $2.7 billion worldwide. It has a good cast, exciting stunts, a requisite amount of CGI and is expected to be the first in a series of action adventures starring the bloke from Brokeback Mountain.

Spoiler Alert: the best thing about this movie is the dodgy Persian entrepreneur running illegal ostrich races.

As a movie, it is an adequate way to spend 2 hours if you have nothing more pressing in your life. As an adaptation of a successful video-game, Prince of Persia is another wasted opportunity to successfully merge the genres. It is not overly bad; it’s just not very good.

As a gamer and a film fan, it seems that Hollywood is determined to ensure that my trips to the cinema are destined to be bitter disappointments. It is no coincidence that many of the worst movies of all time are video-game adaptations.

In 1993, Super Mario Brothers arrived in cinemas, riding on the Yoshi of success that the game had been generating for many years. It starred Bob Hoskins and the late Dennis Hopper and was set in a parallel dimension based in New York. The film is very surreal and almost unwatchable. A year later we were blessed with Street Fighter, a film that managed to loosely adapt the classic game into a story involving a martial arts tournament, genetic manipulation and the quest for world domination. It had Jean Claude Van Damme in it, which should have been enough of a warning.

Stunningly, it has actually got worse.

Mortal Kombat (beyond dreadful), Double Dragon, Resident Evil (of which there have been 3), Bloodrayne & Bloodrayne: Deliverance, Doom – with The Rock and Keith Urban, Hitman, Max Payne, Dead or Alive (which managed to fuse the fighting with an inexplicable beach volleyball tournament), House of the Dead, Silent Hill, Alone In The Dark and Far Cry. Even Angelina Jolie failed to make Tomb Raider interesting beyond the first ten minutes, although the appearance of the future James Bond as a rival archeologist was as unexpected as it was pointless.

Later this year, we will be treated to the third Bloodrayne film (for those who didn’t realise there was a second), the fourth installment of Resident Evil, a straight to DVD version of Tekken and in 2011 a cinematic version of Kane & Lynch pairs up Bruce Willis with Jamie Foxx. Lost Planet is in development and there are strong rumors that Bioware’s sci-fi odyssey Mass Effect is in the early stages of pre-production.

Too many questions come to mind;

  • So why do movie studios continue to release films that are based on games?
  • How many more attempts are we going to have to endure before Hollywood waves the white flag of surrender?
  • Why, when so many media corporations own film studios and game developers, can the synergy be so wrong?

If both are intended to be immersive consumer experiences, then why are we so short-changed?

Go onto Wikipedia and the list of films is quite lengthy, although the amount of straight-to-video and Japanese anime versions makes up a significant proportion of studio output. For some unknown reason there are eleven Pokeman movies and even Sonic the Hedgehog has managed to gain his own piece of cinema franchise.

I haven’t seen all of them, even my own brand of sadomasochism won’t force me to sit through Kirby : Fright to the Finish.

But I do want there to be something cinematic for me to enjoy. I had high hopes of Prince of Persia, I thought it might the one that broke the unspoken rule of Hollywood failing to appreciate what gamers actually want. No, the record of the creatives in LaLa land has remained unblemished,  even the locations and cinematography can’t disguise the joyless experience that this film is.

On the plus side, the film that used cutting edge computer graphics to introduce us to Flynn, Sark and the world created by the Master Control Programme is getting a well-deserved sequel.

That’s right. Tron is being re-booted.

Jeff Bridges may be The Dude, but in the world of vide0-games he is the man who invented light-cycle racing and who can de-rezz an enemy with just his touch.

Tron : Legacy may not be based on a video-game, may not require enemies to be vanquished in a series of ever- increasing-parkour moves but it should be a worthy successor to the original and will be a movie that I actually want to watch.

That may be the problem with why I hate video-game adaptations so much.

Two elements of life that I love. Two immersive experiences that add value to my life.

But put them together and the experience becomes one of pain and irritation, so much so that I would rather the powers-that-be in the movie industry just put their hands up and proclaim loudly “WE GIVE UP”.

Now if the same criteria could be applied to the adaptation of graphic novels, I might actually start going to the movies again. Otherwise I am just turning up for previews and nachos.

And that is as much of a waste of money as Street Fighter : The Legend of Chun Li was.

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One response

9 06 2010
Anthony C

Hey Dave,

The only point I can see in making these movies is the notoriety of the video game itself. It is nothing but Hollywood exploitation of one profitable revenue stream that they are betting on to feed another. With the significant decline in movie house attendance, the shysters in LA are looking to find any means for getting people in the seats.

As such, I stopped going to movies years ago and only find myself in a theater when something meaningful arrives. I thought this would be the case with The Road and found disappointment. In giving one more heave-ho I ventured off to Avatar in 3D and actually had a great time. It will take a lot more movies like this on to get me back in the saddle.

Later.

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