Why film adaptations of video games don’t work

With the release of “Price of Persia: the Sands of Time,” we were left with the question: Why in God’s name would you make a movie about a Middle Eastern guy with an enchanted knife that can climb walls?

The games are cool, but this was not a game that left us yearning for anything more than a sequel to the game, which they did. And this was by far the biggest film production adapted from a video game with a $200 million budget, name recognition from Jake Gyllenhaal, and production by Jerry Bruckheimer. They’re either going to lose their shirt on this movie or a lot of respect, but they wouldn’t be the first.

Video games work in and of themselves because you can stretch the imagination and dumb down story lines a bit because it’s a game. It’s is not a transcendent medium that will work in books or film because we expect more from them — or at least some of us do. The dialogue in games is cornball at best, and the story lines are a means of getting us through a game, but don’t challenge us with a narrative the same way film and books do.

But for whatever reason, there is a host of directors and studio executives who want to cash in on the popularity of a video game without considering that audiences won’t pay to see a bad movie. Sure, there will be some die-hard fans of the game that will pay to see it, but the rest of us need a reason — like good plot, direction and acting.

We’ve been given a laundry list of video game movies that don’t work, and many have had big names but became even bigger flops, like “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” ” Super Mario Bros.” “Resident Evil,” “House of the Dead,” and “Bloodrayne,” just to name a few. Please, please, please stop making these movies! Give the money to a charity, like scholarships for acting schools or the Please Assassinate Michael Bay Fund. Don’t give us any more movies like “Wing Commander” starring Freddie Prinze Jr. or “Street Fighter” starring Kylie Minogue and Jean-Claude Van Damme.

The following clips pay tribute to the fine filmmakers that brought us classics like “Mortal Kombat” and “Postal”:

Mortal Kombat: Epic fail. Here’s a tasty clip with awesome dialogue and a monster that grunts for several minutes at a time.

Super Mario Bros. Movie… sigh. Can’t believe they got Bob Hoskins, John Leguizamo and Dennis Hopper.

Postal…. ugh. I think of all the hungry people that could have been fed with the budget of this movie.

Here’s a nice Top 10 Worst list of video games from GameTrailers.com

14 responses to “Why film adaptations of video games don’t work

  1. Agreed. I would say that there’s very few video games that could make the transition into movies, and those tend to be the ones where the plot is the major focus. Something like Assassin’s Creed II could, I think, work as a film in the right hands. But even the “best” of the adaptations, like Tomb Raider and Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children still fail on many levels.

    • Thanks for reading, Chris!

      There isn’t one video game movie that truly stands out as an excellent, or even good movie.

      I appreciate the comments and hope you keep reading us.


  2. Totaly agree.
    Michael Bay should be ashamed of Transformers 3. I was embarrassed for him after watching that wreck of a film.

  3. This is more astute an observation that I’m used to reading in the overwhelmingly teenaged ‘blogosphere, and it’s rather refreshing.

    There seems to be this filmmaking philosophy in both Hollywood and in the current teenage ethos that if something CAN be a film, than it SHOULD be. I think I disagree with that.

    Although I will defend “Super Mario Bros.” Although mostly for nostalgic reasons.

    • Hey Witneyman. Thanks for reading! We added you to our blog roll. I enjoyed your site.

      I think you may be the only person you liked Super Mario Bros. I remember as a kid wanting to see it, but it was out of the theaters before I got a chance. It lives on today in DVD. I can’t see a Blu-ray release, though.

  4. On the plus side “Super Mario Brothers” (which I haven’t seen) did have a few good songs on the soundtrack, and the most recent Resident Evil flick (which was a disaster even by Resident Evil flick standards) introduced me to the band Collide, which I really like.

    • Good point. I guess even the worst of movies has something redeaming. The Resident Evil flicks were so-so. Nothing to write home about. I still think I can make the argument that there has never been a good video game movie.

  5. “Why in God’s name would you make a movie about a Middle Eastern guy with an enchanted knife that can climb walls?”

    Wow! They remade Thief of Baghdad!?!

  6. Pingback: ‘Poo poo, pee pee,’ and other unintelligent things my brother says that, apparently, our readers want « The Movie Brothers

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  9. We liked the first Mortal Combat. It had its own unique style, and was made for about $300.

    Street Fighter The Movie is so over the top it is fun. Van Damme may have the wrong accent, but you could believe his kicks. We thought Ken and Ryu were more poorly cast. (Chun Li and Zangief were well realized. And come on, Kylie had the Cammy look.)

    Wing Commander is like a guilty pleasure to us. Is it a good movie? No. But being less involved with the game franchise does let us enjoy it (at least the less silly parts.) It was like the opposite of what you said: The intelligent game story was dumbed down for the big screen (amongst other things.)

    Here is our take with lots of pics and perhaps a little wit if you are interested:


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