Video Games and Hollywood: Match Made In Nerd Heaven? Or is Just a Desperate Attempt at Sucking in a Target Demographic?

By Joel Taveras

July 23, 2009

Video games and Hollywood have always had a pretty rocky relationship. I think we can all remember the disaster that was 1993’s Super Mario Bros movie. Bob Hoskins who portrayed the portly plumber in the game-to-film adaptation has even been quoted as calling it “a f**kin’ nightmare.” That, my friends, is an understatement. The film chewed up by critics and fans of the game alike, was campy at best. Being the first live action video game movie, Super Mario Bros was supposed to catapult video games into the mainstream. Instead, the movie helped to further reinforce what most people thought about video games at the time: just a form of brainless entertainment. When watching movies like Super Mario Bros or other classics such as Double Dragon and everyone’s favorite Street Fighter, a thought comes to mind. I wonder if the Hollywood execs that produced these monstrosities were even trying to make a half way decent movie because they felt strongly about the source material or was it just something to get kids off the couch, out of the arcades, and into the theaters? I’m going with the latter.

An Englishman and a Columbian portraying Italian plumbers...I love movie magic

Games and movies alike are a great form of storytelling and entertainment. Where they differ is that games are much more of an experience. There’s something about sitting on your couch or gaming seat of choice and jumping into a new world to explore, that a movie just can’t give you. When you play a game and really enjoy it you genuinely connect with all the characters in it. When you see those same characters on the big screen being portrayed by over paid non-gamer actors, it really takes away from the game. It’s something that Hollywood just doesn’t understand.

The problem I have with video game flicks, is that although these movies are entertaining, they’re actually quite dumb and shallow films. I love car chases, fight scenes and explosions as much as the next guy, but I also like to be moved by good acting, drama, and pacing every now and then. Hollywood, more often than not tends to take the source material from great games (and some not so great) and turn it into what plays out to be something like a 90-minute music video. When you really think about it, it seems more like a slap in the face, and an attack on the integrity and intelligence of your everyday gamer. It is as though what the movie companies are essentially saying is: “hey you, yeah you, you dumb 18-35 yr old male, give us 10 bucks and we’ll show you a guy in a Master Chief suit blow stuff up for an hour or so” and unfortunately gamers everywhere somehow manage to eat this stuff up.

Since 1993, there have been over 24 video game to film adaptations (only counting the ones with theater releases). With so many movies you would think that at least one has received a decent film rating. Yet out of 26 films, none have scored more than 2 stars. Not one. This doesn’t mean that some movies on that list weren’t entertaining, or at least descent popcorn flicks. It just means you probably won’t be seeing the upcoming “Bioshock” movie pick up any Oscars when it comes out. On the bright side though, as more and more video game movies get made, bigger crowds will be drawn. The movie studios will in turn cough up more money in order to provide a higher production value, which is always a plus.

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Currently there are over 35+ video game to film adaptations in the pipeline for the next couple of years. Sure some will never make it from pre-production to the theater, but many will. One that has received a lot of buzz as of late is the game to film adaptation of “Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune”. It will be produced by non other than the comic book movie golden boy Mr. Avi Arad (Spiderman Trilogy, X-Men, Iron Man). Now as much as I hate to say it but if anyone’s making a video game movie, I’m glad it’s him. I just want to see how he’s going to manage to fit in a 12-hour game into a 2-hour movie, while keeping the non-gaming movie watching public interested. Guess we’ll have to wait until 2011 to find out.

Games based on movies are a totally other demon. In this day an age, it’s hard to find a movie that isn’t released with a videogame counterpart, and understandably so. With Hollywood drawing in less and less viewers in the seats these days; movie studios probably rely more heavily on sales of officially licensed games and other products as a safety net in case box office sales don’t meet expectations. These games are created to allow the player to “experience” the film, but more often then not fall way short. Critics and hardcore gamers alike are quick to banish these “movie” games, yet they still manage to sell like hotcakes. So as much as I detest Hollywood for filling videogame stores with their propaganda, they still manage to bring in the big bucks. I guess either way you look at it Hollywood has managed to get a piece of the gamer money pie. I believe it was Jay-Z that had fitting song for this called “You can’t knock the hustle”.

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Joel Taveras

Joel Taveras is one of the founding members of DualShockers. He hails from New York City where he lives with his wife and two sons. During his tenure with the site, he's held every position from news writer to community manager to editor in chief. Currently he manages the behind the scenes and day-to-day operations at the publication.

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