As a new wave of video game adaptation films are being produced and released, I offer my opinions on them and a peek into why Hollywood has trouble producing them.
Let’s face it, Hollywood has had a troubling time finding success with live action video game adaptations. Although their recent attempts have proven to be better than past adaptations, such as recent fan favorites “Detective Pikachu” and “Sonic the Hedgehog,” the film industry still struggles to find a firm foundation on creating successful, enjoyable video game movies.Recently it seems that Hollywood is once again trying their luck at another round of video game adaptations. Notable mentions include the announcement of a Super Mario Bros. film and Sonic the Hedgehog 2, as well as the upcoming release of the heavily promoted “Uncharted” film. Although it appears film studios are beginning to feel more confident taking on video game adaptations due to recent success, the release of these films comes just after recent box-office flops such as “Monster Hunter” and “Resident Evil: Welcome to Racoon City.”
While Hollywood’s increasing enthusiasm about producing video game movies inspires hopeful gamers for a new wave of video game movies, past failures keep fans skeptical and reluctant from buying tickets. As a long time gamer, and a passionate journalist, I’ll be giving my thoughts on some of the upcoming film adaptations and provide explanation into Hollywood’s rocky relationship with video game movies.
Out of all the mentioned upcoming adaptations, “Sonic the Hedgehog 2” has me the most hopeful for a path towards better video game movies. Arguably one of the best adaptation films of them all, the “Sonic the Hedgehog” franchise managed to remedy one of genre’s hardest obstacles: balancing source material with a solid script.
“One of the hardest parts of adapting video games is choosing the right story balance. Ideally, one wants a game with a rich but still compact narrative,” stated in an article by the Washington Post. As the article points out, Trying to create a good script from video games essentially lies in seeking a balance between two extremes: adapting a game without a strong narrative or one with an overabundance of narrative. This dichotomy leaves script writers either crafting a story from little source material or curing out a significant portion of material so it properly fits into a single film.
The Sonic games find themselves in an awkward inbetween. While the Sonic games offer more than enough source material, there’s simply too much to put into a single movie for general audiences. However, the narrative of the Sonic games hardly matters, as story takes a backseat to gameplay in the majority of the games. Scriptwriters for “Sonic the Hedgehog” managed to find the sweet spot by loosely sticking to the source material but also creating a simple, yet enjoyable, narrative for families and fans alike.
While “Sonic” handled its challenges relatively well, the upcoming Uncharted film runs into another significant roadblock.
Narrative video games are “so similar to movies already… that adapting them into movies seems almost unnecessary, and like it would actually make the stories worse,” one writer at Forbes suggested.
The “Uncharted” series is one of video game’s best examples of the pinnacle of gameplay and narrative perfectly meshing together.
Upon viewing the trailers for “Uncharted,” fans immediately recognized scenes pulled straight from the game. They’re almost shot for shot remakes. Forbes explains why this can be a problem by stating that, “we got to know Joel and Ellie in ‘The Last of Us’ through excellent performance capture work, but seeing them recast as different actors, going through roughly the same story onscreen, that doesn’t really seem like a net benefit, not like adapting say, a book or a comic.”
While Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg are both well-recognized and talented actors, I argue that they hardly fit the bill to be playing the “Uncharted” main characters Nathan Drake and Victor Sullivan.
After all, for six years we’ve watched Tom Holland portray himself as a nervous and inexperienced teenager as the MCU’s Spider-Man. Added to the fact that he bears little resemblance to the main character of the “Uncharted” series, it may be difficult for audiences to view him as the rugged, plucky but confident treasure hunter that Drake is. Meanwhile, comedy type-cast Mark Wahlberg doesn’t seem the appropriate pick to be playing the wise and charming elder that Victor Sullivan is.
Unfortunately, Hollywood has not managed to strike the balance between using original source material and being unique in its story-telling. In the areas the film attempts to be different, the divergence results in creating something almost unrecognizable from the source material.
Although video game adaptations have delightfully surprised fans and audiences before, I wouldn’t expect too much from the upcoming films. Stay tuned for whether this new wave of adaptations serve as surprise successes, or valuable lessons which might lead towards the formula of creating successful and enjoyable video game adaptations.