The great game-movie divide

I don’t know if it was out of morbid curiosity, or if it was simply because the trailer makes it look so cheesy, but I went to see Assault on Precinct 13 over the weekend. At one point during the show, my companion turned to me and said “It’s like a cop Counter-Strike!”. Which was pretty much spot-on. Games had been feeding off movies for so long that they’ve gotten pretty good at copying the look and style of exactly this kind of film - the big, raucous, no-brainer, filled-with-explosions kind of film.

When I got home, I came across an article claiming that Uwe Boll was working on a film of Counter-Strike (which later turned out to be false). My brief flash of panic prompted me to check the IMDB to see what movies based on videogames we have to look forward to in the foreseeable future.

The list isn’t pretty.

Alone in the Dark (2005)
Bloodrayne (2005)
Crazy Taxi (2005)
Deus Ex (2006)
Doom (2005)
Driver (2006)
Far Cry (2006)
Metroid (2006)
Mortal Kombat: Devastation (2005)
Silent Hill (2006)
Spy Hunter (2005)
Tekken (2006)

As well as this, we have already had the mediocre Resident Evil: Apocapyse and the truly abysmal Alien Versus Predator.

As I said before, games have been copying off Hollywood for years. Some of the first games were based on themes that were very popular around that time. The interstellar dogfighting of Star Wars came to life in Space Invaders. As games got more sophisticated, they began using other, slightly different films for their inspiration. Games such as Rolling Thunder imitated the spy movies of James Bond. Chase HQ came along roughly around the time cop “buddy” action-thrillers came into vogue. For a while, the videogame tie-in – invariably a platform/shooter-by-the-numbers – was an inevitable part of every movie’s marketing strategy.

But now things are different. It seems that now games are getting their movie tie-in. If we compare the business done by both the film and videogame versions of “Chronicles of Riddick”, it’s hard to see which was the main feature and which was the tie-in (although, if were to use ‘critical acclaim’ as our metric, there would be a clear winner).

Some of these are absolutely dreadful ideas for movies, and really make me worry. Crazy Taxi? Doom? Driver? Tekken? But Deus Ex and Silent Hill on that list give me hope. And this Hope is further strengthened by the fact that Rogery Avery is set to direct Silent Hill. I’ve been saying for the longest time that I’ve been waiting for a movie to deliver the same kind of visceral scares provided by Silent Hill.

For the most part, there’s a hidden ‘sophistication ratio’ when we look at games to movies. It goes like this: sophistication of the movie: sophistication of game = a constant This used to say that the more sophisticated a movie is, the more unsophisticated the game would be. Take, for example, the Mario Brothers movie - an extremely unsophisticated idea which the filmmakers ruined by trying to make it something it’s not: sophisticated. But with this shift toward games being the dominant media, we’re seeing that these very sophisticated games (Alone in the Dark, Resident Evil) are given extremely crude and unsophisticated movies.

Having said all this, things are looking up, at least in the short term. I could probably sleep a whole lot better if I knew that Paul W. S. Anderson and Ube Boll had given up directing altogether, but until that day comes, I’ll take a lot of comfort in knowing that games have become so sophisticated and compelling that they’re beginning to surpass movies in the stories that they tell and the way in which they tell them.