Fan Feats: Fantastic Films and Series

Every now and then you hear about some big name director attempting to take on a film based on a video game. As of now, there still haven’t been any that have received universal praise. This isn’t helped by the fact that one director keeps on making them without any effort.

One of the major reasons as to why films of this kind fail like this is because of the nature of the game. Putting aside the visual novels, which are in a category of their own, most games fall into two categories. One set of games tend to have little to no plot such as a lot of platformers or first person shooters. So in order for the writers to fit everything into a blockbuster film, they have to improvise and make things up. The other set, such as role playing games and adventure games tend to have way too much story to tell within the confines of a blockbuster. And to top it off, a lot of times the film makers don’t get why a game appeals to its fans, and end up just using the characters and scenarios, and possibly mechanics, but the adaptation loses the appeal that made the fans fall for the games in the first place.

But funny enough, the devoted fans of video games steps in. While lacking in funds to make big budget hour and a half feature films, they devote a whole lot of effort and care into their work. Let’s just get to examples. Minesweeper: The Movie is a from CollegeHumor, and blends elements of war films into a comically serious trailer. It mocks the game mechanics and even the basic premise, all the while in the tone of a military flick. For example the commander asks the main character why he is there. At first he says he’s there to make the place safe, but when pressed further he gives the reason why we play the game, because we are bored.

Sometimes I wish these actually happened.

There are a couple of more of the same kind, but let’s move on to more serious efforts. Portal: No Escape takes the already fleshed out story of Valve’s Portal and adds its own interpretation. This one sucessfully represents the bleak nature of being a test subject within Aperture Science, maybe even showing a more darker side. A hope spot is given where it looks like she does successfully escape, but it turns out for naught.

Another possible explanation for the lack of good films featuring games is that videogames is an emerging art, and the gaming generations has yet to bring forth filmmakers, and those already in the industry tend to not have high opinions of the medium. However, I believe we are getting there. Series are a good way to start. They get to tell stories in chunks, without being restricted by time.

For exhibit A, I present the series There Will be Brawl which is dark intepretation of the characters featured in the Smash Bros series of Nintendo. It combines dark tones of stories such as Watchmen and Silence of the Lambs with references to the Nintendo games through plots and mechanics. Very impressive, but it seems to be a one time thing from this creator.

Yes, this happened.

Now machinima is a great way for people to tell a story without needing to spend countless hours drawing or rendering animation or film. The biggest one out there currently is the Red vs Blue series by RoosterTeeth, which pretty much has been officially endorsed by Microsoft. They take the game feature of being able to record replays in the Halo series, and record their own stories. Then throw in amazing choreography by one Monty Oum, who is known for his own fan videos Haloid and the Dead Fantasy series, and you get some really impressive scenes and animation outside of the game.

Monty made this, and it is awesome.

Finally, a pair of YouTubers Sam and Niko of CorridorDigital have been making several videos related to video games, with the most recent one being an immensely impressive video on DayZ of all things, neatly titled After DayZ. With no story to start with, and a limited budget, they manage to captivate viewers into caring about the protagonist and his attempt to survive in Chernarus through a combination of awesome writing and a lot of willing volunteers. It successfully showcases the tension in meeting others in this wasteland by showing several different reactions players have with others already in the alpha build of the mod.

No budget? No problem.

I believe that eventually, this generation will be able to make films that represent the elements in a game that appeal to us, and will become respectable as a film genre, as well as video games themselves becoming a respectable art form. There are a whole lot more examples that I could show, but I think that its enough.

  5 comments for “Fan Feats: Fantastic Films and Series

  1. Steve
    February 14, 2013 at 2:55 pm

    I agree that video game adaptations could be handled millions of times better if worked on by someone knowledgeable with the game industry and who considers themselves true fans. It’s an inane concept to me that each and every video game film adaptation to this point has been absolutely horrid and mostly or entirely without any sort of ties with the original work. This fact essentially proves that whoever the hell was working on those things didn’t care about much more than making their money. There is a huge audience for these sorts of films, why hasn’t a talented director with passion and creativity been tasked with adapting one of these films yet? Look at the quality of artist on any video game adaptation. I don’t have give examples, just find one. Any one of them. They are all losers who have failed to make anything decent. Why are they given millions to handle these beloved franchises that fall flat time and time again?

  2. 302writing
    February 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    I think you chose a lot of really good examples here. Your blog illustrates why a lot of big budget adaptations don’t do well. The movie makers don’t understand they material they’re working with. They’re trying to make a movie that will be commercially successful, but they neglect the source material. I think that’s why many fanmade films are truer to the source and are more successful, despite having much smaller budgets to utilize.

  3. V
    February 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm

    Sadly one of those instances where a big named director was attempting to take on a video game film adaption you described was the case for the BioShock film. The big name director, Gore Verbinski, seemed to be particularly enthused about the project but wouldn’t do the project if it only had a PG-13 rating – understandable. This is where money enters the picture. Trying to recreate the world of Rapture on the big screen, if done right, would be immensely expensive and I don’t think it would generate enough revenue to be a financial success with an R rating. Perhaps loyal fans ought to start pooling money so we can self-produce a film adaption that would make everyone proud.

  4. aallen13
    February 25, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    I understand what you mean that it can be hard to make a video game into a film. While I was reading your blog I thought of the game Doom my brother used to play back in the day, and I remembered I saw the movie on the SyFy channel. I had no clue there was a 2005 film version. I personally didn’t like the movie because everything was so cheesy, even if Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson starred in it. I did enjoy the last scene because the film turned to a first-person shooter prospective making you feel as though you were playing the game. If a director wants to make a game into a film then they need to make sure they have all the right tools.

  5. anthonyseippel
    February 27, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    I too think that there is a tendency for what makes a game feel a certain way is lost among the film makers, explaining why game to movie adaptations have more or less sucked. However, I do not think that it is impossible for a big budget work to pull it off. I think it lies within the idea that the film doesn’t try and emulate the mythos, but builds off of them. Take Halo: Forward Unto Dawn, the 6 part youtube film that is now available on dvd and blu-ray like any other legit film, with “making of” featurets, commentaries, cast bios and the whole shebang. Though having a much higher budget than any of your red vs. blues or machinimas, it was no where near a Hollywood budget and yet it was still, speaking freely here, really fucking good. But it is important to note that it didn’t try and condense ideas regarding Master Chief or the Covenant. It didn’t rewrite or go off canon. In fact, one could say it wasn’t even about any of the established Halo characters at all. It introduced a completely new character, well, new until he returned in Halo 4 as a veteran fighter, but it didn’t try and continue anything. In fact, Master Chief shows up at the last minute, just barely after the Covenant. The film focused more on the rest of the universe, the tangible human side. It built something that even people who had no idea about anything Halo could pick up, understand, and enjoy, and once MC and the Covenant showed up it felt more like you weren’t supposed to know who they were, enticing you to play the games to find out, instead of trying to condense and synthesize the games, it nearly ignored them completely and merely showed a spectacle where once the recognizable showed up, it didn’t detract from the main story, but merely served to make the viewer go “HOLY SHIT IT’S THE CHIEF!”. To me, this is how a film based on a game should be, because the main idea about the game is that you ARE this character, so a film, that makes you watch the character and relate to them, but not BE them, takes away all that is a game.

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