Why Do Video Game Movies Fail?

Video games are becoming more profitable than movies.  Let’s compare some blockbusters in the two industries.  Call of Duty: Black Ops earned $360 million in it’s opening weekend.  This is twice as much as Harry Potter’s: Deathly Hallows Part 1.  Avatar is recorded by IMDB as making gross sales of $2 billion.  As of December, 2010, Black Ops has made over $1 billion.  I have not found a reliable source for current sales, but it has had 3 DLC map packs released since that date which undoubtedly contribute to it’s sales.  Hence, the two most top selling block busters of both industries easily butt-heads.  While video games may not translate their success well over into movies, perhaps it is because they are better off on their own.

The history of game movies is daunting.  Not a single game movie resides in IMDB.com’s top 250 rated movies or top grossing movies of all time!  The cream of the crop so far has been Tomb Raider: Lara Croft, Prince of Persia, and Pokemon.  It seems that the chedder is to be found in comic books, where even Elektra and Catwoman contend with game movies top grossing films.  Did I mention I’m still weeping from Final Fantasy: Spirits Within?

The one thing all us gamer’s think when watching those epic cutscenes in the greatest games is, “This should be a movie”.  However, we are almost always disappointed with these “game movies”.  From Bloodrayne all the way back to Super Mario Bros it seems that video games have always looked good in theory, but fall apart in theater.  Then, some amateurs sneak by with teasers of fantastic looking cinema but it never seems to go anywhere.  Or, we have a game with a very large market but too much conflict to actually bring it to fruition.  Why must it be this way?  Why can we not get an “epic” game movie?

Hollywood can learn a lot from those small studio teasers.  Recent teasers of “FindMakarov” for Call of Duty, “Landfall” for Halo, or “Rebirth” for Mortal Kombat are amazing samples that all went viral.  In addition, each of these has a large market for expected success!  These samples don’t have any follow up because there are simply too many varying parties associated with each idea.  Then the lawyers crawl in the door and our dreams of seeing these fizzle out.  

One can only keep dreaming of the day Master Chief or Snake hits the screen.  It seems that they simply could not fail with such a market.  Games like Call of Duty, Halo, and Metal Gear Solid have a solid market that they could appeal to – and they even make dozens of fan made movies!  These games alone contend with the top grossing movies of all time, but the success of game movies has yet to be transcribed onto the screen.  Perhaps there is hope.  For example, Drake’s Uncharted has a promising future with promising words from David O. Russell along with Mark Wahlberg and Robert De Niro.  I expected mediocrity, but can’t be any worse than another Mortal Kombat sequel.All is not lost!  It is interesting to note that Mortal Kombat has had a successful web series, hosted by Machinima on YouTube.  You can find the first part by clicking Here.  Here is a trailer for the series:

Perhaps the reason video games have not been making good movies is because the video games are so emergent on their own that how can a movie compare?  There is nothing like slowly edging your character down the halls of a creepy hotel in Silent Hill when compared to a movie.  In the game, you are the one that has direct control on when you are scared.  In the movies, you’re just an observer.  There is talk of a Mass Effect movie, which could be amazing.  However, how can it compare to the game?  The game has so much reliance on the players moral decisions in the game that impact so many other variables.  The game inevitably gives so much character depth and sentimentality with the player that a 2 hour screening could just not offer.  While I love the idea of the movie, I just feel like it’s got to be miraculous or we have to have our expectations lower.

Here’s hoping for Shepard to save us from more than Reapers…

+ Mass Effect Pic Created by Bebbe88: http://bebbe88.deviantart.com/



One thought on “Why Do Video Game Movies Fail?

  1. I think a big part of why video game movies fail because they are almost always a money grab by producers who don’t know or care about video games. They see a lucrative franchise yet to be exploited in the film genre and that’s as far as they think it through. Then of course everybody wants to leave their “mark” and take “artistic license” with a plot already loved by millions just the way it is. In short, the nature of the Hollywood beast.

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