Why Are Game-Based Movies So Bad?

I enjoy gaming. I also enjoy movies. If you’re anything like me, the prospect of movies fashioned after games gets you hastily excited. But more often than not, when you sit down to one of these so-called game-movies, you become just as hastily disgusted. Most if not all video games possess deep narrative backgrounds and fully realized ambiences, charm, nuances, lore and cultures. So, why then, when the source material is so rich and detailed are the majority of game based movies complete and utter nonsense? Let’s have a look shall we?

How many of us saw 2005’s DoomBloodRayne from the same year? How about 93’s Super Mario Bros.? I have seen them all multiple times and do you know why? It was because I was a fan of the games. All of those movies left much to be desired in terms of appeal, consistency with the source material and general quality. Poor acting, poor scripting, and poor decisions, one after another. It almost seems as if the directors of the films don’t consider the source material as being strong enough to sustain a point by point adaptation while remaining generally appealing. Here’s an example of this.

2006’s DOA: Dead Or Alive was a significant disappointment to me and many others. The movie is based on a series of fighting games, headed by developer Tomonobu Itagaki. I’ve poured countless hours into multiple installments in the series and therefore have a relatively strong understanding of its characters, its various events and its canon. That’s why when I saw the movies I was thoroughly disgusted, in a very dramatic way. My points may be fairly hard to understand if you aren’t an avid fan of the series.

First and foremost, all the female characters are treated and presented like sluts. Having seen the game, you’ll have to read on to fully grasp my point. While Itagaki may have designed his girls like sluts, not in one game I’ve ever played are they actually treated like sluts. Sleeping and flirting with men was just too much. It tainted one’s image of the characters and while they are often seen scantily clad and very suggestive, they spend the majority of their time performing flashy reversals and extended combos. Or at least in the games they did.

Using this movie as an example, it kind of seems like the creators of the movie don’t have very much respect for the characters or the IP.  If they had felt strongly about the series, they would have reevaluated the waves of untruths and compromises they created with the film. Christie being presented as a thief instead of an assassin, the powerful Helena being flaunted like an ignorant bimbo and the mildly suggestive relationship instigated between Kasumi and Hayabusa. They are inaccurate and a sheer nuisance to fans.

Another movie I saw more recently about a fighting game series that I feel passionately about is Tekken. This movie really, really displeased me. After watching it, I felt a little upset that other Tekken fans would watch the movie and also feel disgraced and slightly embarrassed because of it. It makes missteps and errors with nearly every line spoken. First of all, the relationship between Heihachi Mishima, his son Kazuya Mishima, and his son Jin Kazama is very particular and uniquely done. They all hate each other. This is one of the biggest story elements upon which the story of Tekken is centered.

Yet somehow, the creators of this movie seemed to interpret this relationship differently from the game’s millions of fans. Since when have Kazuya and Heihachi even pretended to be family? Heihachi dropped his son into a volcano while he was just a child for God’s sake. But noooooo, in the movie Kazuya acted beneath Heihachi to eventually overthrow him all coup de tat. Not only that, but you have Christie as a love interest for Jin which is all kinds of wrong. As a matter of fact, Christie’s part in the Tekken movie is completely ridiculous.

She stars in this huge supporting role which is so far from actual Tekken canon its unreal. She was only a palette swap for Eddie! They also pretended she had some other fighting style besides capoera, which is even more inaccurate. Also, did you see Nina? I used to main Nina and they’ve got her on the movie getting trumped by Eddie’s palette swap. Not only that but they treat her like she’s some kind of whore, having her say how attractive she thinks Jin is. Nina is a cold blooded assassin who has spent the majority of her life in cryogenetic sleep. You’d think this is something the filmmakers would be at least remotely interested in.

I know that many things are lost in the translation from a video game to the big screen. I truly do realize this, but there just seems to be a general lack of passion for games in their movie adaptations. There are some obvious exceptions however. Tomb Raider was decent, and so was Resident Evil, despite the fact that the latter was very loosely based on the source material. All in all, I think the best game-movie I’ve ever seen is Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. If you ask me, the creators clearly felt passionately for the series, and although it was not perfect, the characters and locations were conveyed in remotely believable fashions.

The odd thing is that Mortal Kombat: Annihilation came out in 1997 and is older than most of the movies I’ve referred to. Yet despite having better technology available, recent game based movies have been disgraceful at best. The animated movies often do a much better job, such as Final Fantasy VII: Advent ChildrenTekken and Halo Legends. Maybe the big budget movie adaptations need more animators?

This old and persistent trend is bound to come to a close though. Game creators will eventually become more involved in the movie adaptations, and will not allow their children to be butchered and diluted so harshly. Certain movies, like DOA, clearly had no input from the creators of the games because if they had, the characters would never have been so drastically misrepresented.

Another thing that is bound to change the future of game-based movies is the increase in quality of the video games. Allegedly, movies are in production for such epic gaming franchises as Bioshock, Devil May Cry, and God of War. With the kinds of budgets and technology available today, you’d have to deliberately try to make a bad God of War movie.

In closing, directors of movie games need to try harder. Better yet, develop stronger feelings for the source material. Lock yourself in a mountain monastery and play nothing but Bioshock every day for a year before even attempting to fashion a movie after it. Yes many things will be omitted and misconstrued as it’s to be expected when compacting nine or ten hour features into short, ninety minute affairs, but the passion and fan service just aren’t coming through in the final result. It irritates both fans of the games and fans of good movies. Because there is simply no way the creator of the Tekken live action feature ever played the game one day of his or her life.

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Kenneth Richardson

Kenneth is a Graphics and Game Design student who's worked as an author for DualShockers.com since June of 2010. His favorite gaming genres are Fighting, Role Playing and Sadistic Action games like Ninja Gaiden and Bayonetta. In addition to gaming, he is also strongly interested in music, fashion, art, culture, literature, education, religion, cuisine, photography, architecture, philosophy, film, dance, and most forms of creative expression.

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