5 Video Game Movies That Just Might Work
As awful as most video game movies are, some did achieve respectable success. A notable example is 2019’s Detective Pikachu.
Others pleased long-time fans of the games but bored general viewers to tears; or vice versa. Optimistically speaking, this suggests that those film adaptations could have worked had the producers found the correct balance between fan service and popular appeal. Another way of putting it would be that those producers failed to understand the two markets these movies target.
The short of it is, as skeptical as most viewers and gamers are toward video game movies today, I feel there is still potential in such adaptations. Here are 5 video game movie adaptations that I believe would work if produced by the right studio. In the hands of directors and actors who truly understand what the original games are celebrated for, I think such film adaptations would be wonderfully entertaining. Who knows? They might even earn the game franchises themselves millions of new fans, on top of welcoming back old ones.
1. The Legend of Zelda
There are many fan-made movies and mock trailers online for Nintendo’s most enduring RPG franchise. Every so often, there are also rumors about a movie adaptation in the works. To give an example, in 2015, Forbes reported a possible collaboration between Netflix and Nintendo for a live-action Legend of Zelda show.
In spite of these, and more than 30 years after the first Zelda game, no official Zelda movie adaptation exists. There’s none in the works too. Baffling as this is, some fans believe it’s due to Nintendo being highly resistant to film adaptations of her best titles. This is no thanks to the box office flop and embarrassment that was 1993’s Super Mario Bros.
Which is sheer tragedy, don’t you think so? The Legend of Zelda not only has the perfect medieval fantasy setting, but every game in the franchise also always involves the same characters. Thus making the story easy to adapt into a multi-part movie series.
In addition to this, there is also the beloved soundtrack—considered standard repertoire in-game music concerts worldwide.
In my opinion, what’s missing from the whole mix is the right person to assemble the best of Zelda into a movie with universal appeal. Such a person not only needs to love the Zelda games, but he or she must also appreciate the delicate balance of adventure, love, and faith behind Link’s many adventures too.
Needless to say, such a person must also be capable of assuaging Nintendo’s worries about video game movies, this possibly the most arduous task of all. At the moment, it’s obvious there’s still no such person around. But who knows, like the games themselves, an unexpected “hero” might suddenly appear. When that happens, viewers worldwide can finally be awed by the splendor of Hyrule in cinematic glory.
Another best-selling Nintendo franchise, rumors about a Metroid video game movie have been flying about for well over ten years. Like the case with The Legend of Zelda, none has amounted to anything too. This is especially tragic given that there are few other video game series arguably more suitable for film adaptations than the adventures of galactic bounty hunter Samus Aran.
Think about it. Metroid is most widely remembered as a game in which an armor-wearing female bounty hunter braves hostile environments to confront deadly alien lifeforms. Lifeforms that are parasitic. Does that not remind you of a certain movie from 1979? One directed by Ridley Scott?
Of note: a key villain in Metroid is named Ridley.
What I’m saying is, the premise of the Metroid games is long familiar to global audiences. This immediately removes one of the key challenges of video game movies; that being the need to find the common ground between video game stories and cinematic plots.
And as long as efforts are taken to inject freshness into the tale and characters, a Metroid adaptation wouldn’t be deemed as too derivative too. With rumors once again surfacing in 2020 about a potential movie, this time involving “Captain Marvel” Brie Larson, let’s hope something indeed comes to fruition. Like Lara Croft, Samus Aran deserves her time on the big screen too.
3. Space Quest
As simplistic as it might be to say, I think the underlying reason for video game movies consistently being unpopular is the fact that video game concepts are agonizingly hard to translate into cinematic stories.
Not only is there a loss in interactivity, many video game elements just do not appeal when depicted by actual people on the big screen. To give some examples of the latter: outrageous costumes and exaggerated mannerisms. “Quests” that would be a thrill to play but unbearable to watch for even five minutes. Or for even one minute.
On the other hand, what if an adaptation goes all-out to mock video game tropes? A cinematic adventure not so much about the end-boss or quest, but to mock/celebrate the absurdity of video game stories? The likes of Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle?
I think it just might work. As for the vessel i.e., the game to be adapted, I feel there are few choices better than Sierra On-Line’s legendary Space Quest series. Itself as nonsensical and as hilarious as it gets, the absurdity Space Quest thrives on provides the perfect platform for producers to go all out with humor and parody.
Best of all, the commercial success of movies like Guardians of the Universe and The Lego Movie has conditioned global audiences to be receptive to parodies and space operas with a lighter touch. Approached in the same way, don’t you think that a Space Quest adaptation would be just as entertaining, if not more? Ask yourself, wouldn’t you want to see a real-life Roger Wilco intrepidly explore The Spinal Frontier? I certainly would.
4. Ninja Gaiden
Ninja movies are a mixed bag. While some from the 80s are nowadays hailed as “cult classics,” it’s undeniable that even these are often campy and over-the-top. Worse, most ninja movies heavily rely on racial stereotypes. Such insensitive is today, a huge magnet for global condemnation.
As for Ninja Gaiden, a video game movie adaptation based on Koei Tecmo’s best-selling action series could easily fall prey to the same maladies. In fact, I’d say it’s tempting to go the retro route – the game did originate from the 80s, after all. On the bright side, the commercial success of movies like Joker has strongly indicated the preference of today’s audience for grittier, more realistic productions. Would this compel producers to adopt a darker approach if adapting Ninja Gaiden for cinematic release? Would a Ninja Gaiden movie produced under such a light secure the love of worldwide audiences too? For the latter question, I think the answer is a yes.
Arkane Studio’s Dishonored series is the newest game franchise on this list. In view of the criticism rained onto the 2016 Assassin’s Creed movie, I’m sure you’d be asking, do we really need another go at adapting a stealth game series for the big screen? Isn’t it clear that watching someone snoop about on a world-saving mission is quite a different business from being that hero yourself?
Well, I personally didn’t dislike Justin Kurzel’s adaptation that much. I also feel that the main problem with Kurzel’s adaptation was not the source material, but the director’s art direction and misguided belief that replicating iconic moves from the games is enough to please both gamers and non-gamers.
Coming back to Dishonored, the gritty steampunk setting of the series and the ambiguous morality of characters, are to me, winning ingredients for a gripping movie. In the hands of a director who doesn’t go all out to be philosophical or to pander to fans of the games, a Dishonored movie could be a character dissertation masterpiece. One with significant potential for Oscar recognition too.
As for the action, I think Dishonored stands apart from other stealth games with its curious blend of mysticism and brute force, and with its emphasis on moral choices. To be honest, I’m not sure how these elements ought to be depicted in video game movies. All I can say is, I’d be deeply inclined to watch all to find out.
In short, like all entries on this list, whether a Dishonored movie adaptation would work stands on whether the studio making it truly understands what made the two games in the series so absorbing. A lot of that fascination doesn’t only involve the action, it has to do with how every Dishonored character has a darker side too. Portrayed by the right actors, I believe we could have the next The Dark Knight in the making.
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