So…we have a lot of video game movies coming out this year. Detective Pikachu, Sonic the Hedgehog and the recently revealed, DOOM Annihilation. Of these 3 movies, only one has been even slightly well received, that being Detective Pikachu. Sonic has been memed into oblivion and as of writing this post, the DOOM Annihilation teaser has racked up a mere 1,200 likes against 20,000 dislikes on the channel I saw it on. So today I want to raise you a question, why don’t video game movies work? But first, let’s build a picture.
Why do they Exist? And Why do They Mostly Suck?
Video game movies have been around for a very long time. They have garnered a reputation for being mostly…mediocre at best and downright insultingly bad at worst. Here’s some examples for you to chew over. *inhales* Super Mario Bros.(1993), Assassins Creed (2016), Bloodrayne (2005), Warcraft (2016), DOOM (2005) and an entire Resident Evil movie franchise from 2002 to 2016. One trend with most of these movies is that…well…they aren’t that good. They certainly have their fans but these are typically a small amount of viewers. Another common trend with these types of movies is that no one necessarily asks for. I’m sure there are people who maybe want a Warcraft movie, or an Assassins Creed movie, but generally these aren’t exactly sought after movie products. These movies exist to cash in on diehard fans of their respective franchise and more often than not are pretty shill and not very well thought out. However there’s another reason why many of these movies aren’t that great, creative rights. My friends said to me that it has something to do with the fact that these studios don’t have access to the full creative scope of the franchise the movie is based on, and therefore are limited with what they can create. He explained to me that while the DOOM movie can bear the name DOOM, it cannot exactly use the additional properties that come with it, the studio paid for the name and nothing else. This is often the case with video game movies, where they simply own the name and have to try to skate around breaching copyright with the game companies. Now this isn’t always the case since some game companies actually oversee production, but this is typically the case for these types of movies. An example would once again the BFG in DOOM, they cannot call it the Big F*cking Gun since they didn’t get the rights to use the name.
The Wrong Media Format?
Of the video game movies I’ve seen, I have discovered a pretty common trend, and that is pacing. The pacing of these movies is typically incredibly rushed. (TV show works better). Video games have levels and a long extensive storyline. This often amounts to hours of gameplay for most big titles and when you try to condense all that into a 1 to 2 hour movie it just comes off as rushed and not fleshed out. These movies typically sprinkle hints of lore and story throughout the movie, like how in DOOM (2005) they include the BFG (although they rename if from Big F*cking Gun to Bio Force Gun). This is meant to serve as fanservice for fans of the game in hopes of tieing them over. But instead it just comes off as petty and shows a disconnect with the rest of the movie. The time spent in these worlds is so little that we barely get the chance to get to know it or it’s inhabitants in a meaningful way. With the right ammount of pacing it could work, but doing that means that you may have to take out some of the content, which sucks out the pull of being a video game movie. This creates a viscious cycle where either too much is shown or too little is shown, there’s rarely a balance between the two.
Can This be Fixed?
Yes, I think it can, with on simple change. Scrap the whole ‘movie adaptation’ part and instead make video game TV show adaptations. If we started to do TV adaptations instead, we’d have more opportunity to explore the worlds and ‘levels’ these game universes have as well as a chance to explore their lore in a unique way. A TV show would also allow us to spend more time with the characters in these universes which would make for a much more compelling story. An example I can think of that already exists is the Kirby show that was made. The show featured characters and elements from the games which made for a much better storytelling experience as opposed to shoving a handful of these things into a movie with no real thought. I’ll probably do a future post about video games that could be TV shows, I do have a few ideas of what could work. Until then, we sit and wait in anticipation for Detective Pikachu, fear for Sonic and terror for DOOM, but there may be hope for these movies yet.
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