If 2016 hasn’t proven a cinematic disappointment already, let Assassin’s Creed hit the last nail into the coffin. While I have not yet seen this film, I’m going to be using the information I have gathered from watching the reviews of the film from Jeremy Jahns, Collider Video, and the Schmoes, as well as the IMDb Score and Metascore; what do these terrible reviews, or more accurately, this failure mean for video game movies? If you don’t know, video game movies are absolutely notorious for being terrible films. Actually, people say that there hasn’t been one single good movie that has ever been based off of a video game, which is surprising and sad considering how many great video games with incredible stories there are, but here’s a list of these films, and the highest rated one is a 44% on rotten tomatoes. The “biggest” of these films are: Mortal Kombat, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Doom, Hitman, Max Payne, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, Need for Speed, and Hitman: Agent 47, amongst many others. Even just this year, we’ve had Ratchet & Clank, The Angry Birds Movie, WarCraft, and of course Assassin’s Creed. Did this film kill any or all hope for the future of video game movies?
One thing that I have always loved about video games is the immersive world and the action; being able to become a character is the draw to many video games, and is what separates the fans of games from the fans of movies. While watching movies is a lot of fun, it’s a little like watching somebody else play a game… being able to play the game yourself is where all of the magic happens. Growing up, my parents listened to that BS stigma against video games, thinking that it’s purely unhealthy and that it’s just staring at a screen for hours on end. What that ignorant perception kept them from understanding is just how stimulating the games are, how much creativity and focus they build, and the hand-eye coordination that it trains players to have. Even to persuade them otherwise, I made an 8 minute powerpoint presentation about the potential greatness that video games can be for players. Of course, there comes a point when playing certain games for 8 hours a day stops helping people, and leads to an unhealthy and sedentary lifestyle, but this conversation is for a different post. Let’s get back on track.
The immersive world that almost all sandbox games offer is what attracts many of the gamers. For me, this open world game is my favorite kind because it allows me to be whatever I want to be, and play the game at my own pace and in my own style; I’m not restricted to a linear story, and can choose to complete side-quests instead of proceed with the main campaign. Obviously, movies don’t offer this, but linear games can be just as, or even more, impressive – especially in story and visuals because you are given very spefici objectives and cannot do anything else besides what you’re supposed to do. I recently played and reviewed Uncharted and it’s sequel, which were linear games, and some of the best I’ve played recently. Like I said, with linear games, there is more of an emphasis on story and the character is more defined since you can’t really do much to change him/her, and these films should be easy to adapt to the big screen, but what isn’t working? It seems as though until this year, studios didn’t put much care into the production team or cast that they hired, but this year, the movies didn’t seem to work for other reasons.
With every video game movie that came out this year, they were all relatively faithful to the games, and that doesn’t mean that the games were bad too, but simply that some things don’t translate very well to the big screen. For example, I’ve played Assassin’s Creed, and I was always bored by the parts of the game that were in the present day, and I loved running around in the open world of the past in the Animus. I would play for days and days without doing anything for the mission, which would keep me from going back into the real world. In the movie, I hear that we’re only in the past for a few scenes, and they are brief because the characters can’t really run around and explore for hours and hours without doing anything for the story. The fun thing about video games is that you’re on your own pace to tell the story; in a movie, there is a run time and a budget and expectations that need to be met that simply, and frankly, kill part of the fun of video game movies. Let’s put this into perspective really quickly: would you watch a Grand Theft Auto movie? You have, it’s every bland gangster movie ever. The thing that makes the games fun is that you can hijack cars, shoot down helicopters, and do crazy shit via your own free will; a character in a movie doing that would just be evil and it would not be fun to watch.
I’m going to say what I’ve said before…twice, that film adaptations of things need not be exactly like their source material. The closer they are to the source material, I think the less need we have for it to exist. If it’s exactly like the source material, then one could throw the other one out without ever needing to have it; the more unique they each are, the better. I’m not saying be unfaithful, but I’m saying that it’s good to be different, while still being a successful story on it’s own. The problem with the Hobbit movies wasn’t that they were different from the book, but that they just weren’t good in general, but they made a good effort to be their own thing. The same goes for all of the things this year: exactly alike is not best. Assassin’s Creed, I think, is the best example of this because it’s apparent that a lot of hard work from a stellar cast and an amazing director went into making this film, and the problem with it was that it was convoluted and boring… the two biggest traits that a video game movie would have if you compacted all of the story, as well as the slow moments in between the action, into a 2-hour film. There needs to be passion as well as creativity to create something that the gamers as well as the viewers have not yet seen from a movie, or the game.
I’d love to see a Halo movie, or a Red Dead movie, but only if it respected the games enough to be different. Playing the games are already an experience on their own, and watching the movie should be a different but equally amazing time. With Tomb Raider coming out early 2018 with an Oscar winning actress hopefully that will save the future of video game movies, because studios are losing faith in them. To that I say “look at comic book movies,” they went from zero to hero real quick, and that same event can happen with video game movies if they’re given the care they deserve, with a studio like Marvel helming them and turning them all into the works of art that they can definitely be. What do you think about this? Do you think Video Game movies are doomed, or can there be a good future with them? As always, thanks for reading, share if you liked this, and I’ll see you soon!