Why video games don't work as movies
Turning video games into movies is something that has been going on since the early 90s. You would think this would be a great concept. The game is successful, with developed characters, a deep story, and rich environment. All of that should be able to translate to the silver screen and make the franchise even more money. Unfortunately, 90 percent of the adaptations haven't worked and there are a lot of reasons why.
According to Wikipedia, the first video game-turned-movie was Super Mario Bros. You can read about the movie here. On a budget of $48 million, the film earned just shy of $21 million. The movie was a disappointment among critics, too, 15 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. But, why?
Super Mario Bros. is a 2D (at the time) platform game. There is a single goal: reach and defeat Bowser in order to rescue the princess. There are no side missions, no storylines, no non-playable characters to have conversations with. To be honest, I didn't see the full movie, but you can if you want. The only thing the movie borrowed were the character names, but it failed on many levels.
Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat were also adapted into movies, and they earned $99 million and $122 million, respectively. However, they were still not hits among the critics. I don't even know how they thought about making these games into movies. The majority of gameplay comes from 1 vs 1 fighting between two characters. Again, the only thing borrowed were character names.
The first successful video game adaptation was Pokemon: The First Movie but I don't even count that as the first.
The Pokemon movie was more of taking the anime and turning it into a movie. Besides the characters from the game, there were no video game elements in the movie. We had Ash, Brock, Misty, Pikachu and the rest of the 150 Pokemon (plus Mew), but there was no transferring Pokemon from box to box, finding HMs in the Safari Zone or spinning around on the tiles in the Rocket Hideout.
No, this movie was more of a continuation of the TV show, and it worked. Released in 1999, the height of PokeMania, it grossed $163 million. However, the sequels earned less and less as they went on. The most recent earned just under $21 million.
The true successful video game movie(s) is Tomb Raider. With Angelina Jolie as the star, the first earned about $275 million. This is the type of game that could work as a movie. There is a central story around the character and great visuals to boot. Yet, it was still not a favorite among critics, with only a 20 percent score.
Looking at the list of movies based on video games, here, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score at 44 percent. The Angry Birds Movie is next at 43 percent.
This didn't seem like a problem in the early 2000s. Some of the titles made sense to make into movies (like a Tomb Raider or Resident Evil) but were poorly executed. The more recent choices are just cringeworthy.
Warcraft, a massive, multiplayer online game; Assassin's Creed, an open-world third-person adventure, and others. Assassin's Creed takes about 15 hours to beat just the main story. Producers can cut out most of it, but they will be left with an outline and incomplete story.
Minecraft, a sandbox game with no story or objective, is set to release in 2019. I'm not even going to think about how this is a movie.
There are even rumors of an Uncharted movie. Comparisons have been made between Uncharted and the National Treasure series. The difference is that the Uncharted games take about eight hours to beat. If you want to fully beat the game, plan to spend about 17 hours.
There's no way a producer can take the eight hours of the main story (gameplay, cutscenes, interactions, and the scenery) and cut that down to 120 minutes. The games are just too long (in a good way) to make into a movie.
I'm not against taking video game characters and making a separate movie (like Tomb Raider). But, if a producer is going to adapt a game (gameplay, script, scenery), then expect to be disappointed. Do I even have to mention Doom?
Video games in this day and age are adventures with characters we get invested in and spend countless hours with them. Movies are quick, 2-3 hour stories that hit on major points to get from beginning to end. If the only thing a producer is going to borrow are the character names and locations, then why bother making the movie at all? Attaching the video game title to a movie gives the viewers an idea that they will be similar when they couldn't be further apart.