Why The Video Game Movie Curse Doesn't Really Exist
In spite of the genre's critical reputation – fun fact, Castlevania is the only adaptation certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes – that hasn't stood in the way of its continued success. The Resident Evil series became gradually more profitable with each entry despite the reviews; a reboot is currently in the works. Warcraft proved even a talented filmmaker like Duncan Jones can struggle with a video game movie, but it’s currently the highest grossing live-action adaptation at over $430 million worldwide.
The inbuilt fanbase for these properties almost guarantees they’ll turn a profit, with even indifferently received efforts like 2014’s Need For Speed cruising to a tidy $200 million and a possible sequel. Rampage will likely prove a success based on The Rock’s star power alone, while Tomb Raider may as well book Alicia Vikander for a sequel now. Like most blockbusters, there are many elements studios rank in importance – brand recognition, star power and international appeal – before the quality of the script, which has proved a regular failing for game adaptations. Video game movies rarely top Best of the Year lists because that's not the goal.
Movies and games also entirely different mediums; one is passive and the other immersive. Gaming is about how the player impacts the world around them, so naturally finding a happy balancing act between the two has proven tricky. And that's where the many, many misfires come from. But there are already encouraging signs the overall quality of these movies is about to shoot up.
Video Game-Style Movies Are Successes
There are already a number of well-reviewed, financially successful video game adaptations – they just aren’t based on existing games. Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle has been a surprise mega-hit for Sony – it's set to pass Wonder Woman at the global box-office soon – and it wallows in gaming tropes. The story finds a group of teenagers entering a Jumanji game world where they have mission objectives, limited lives, puzzles to solve, character-based weaknesses and even a boss to defeat.
Edge Of Tomorrow was another movie that borrowed narrative elements from video games, where Tom Cruise’s soldier is granted unlimited lives, allowing him to learn from previous mistakes in combat. It also features Call Of Duty-style action sequences, training and gun turret sections, and Cruise’s character gradually upgrading his abilities. Director Doug Liman even acknowledged the heavy video game inspiration prior to release.
In the way video games used to feed off movies for cinematic inspiration, the filmmakers who grew up on those titles are now integrating game logic into their own movies. There are dozens of other movies that have successfully integrated game tropes, including Scott Pilgrim, Crank, Dredd, Hardcore Henry and even Inception. Spielberg’s Ready Player One is based on a book positively drowning in video game references and merges current tropes (virtual reality) with a hefty dose of nostalgia (Battletoads, Tomb Raider, Overwatch etc).
One day, there will be a video game adaptation that ticks all the boxes; it pleases the fans, welcomes the newbies, honors the game and, most important of all, proves to be a great movie on its own terms. It could that long-gestating Metal Gear Solid, Tom Holland’s Uncharted or even John Cena’s Duke Nukem movie (that last one feels like a long shot though). Until that day arrives, it’s first necessary to acknowledge game adaptations haven’t suffered much from a supposed "curse" in terms of box-office and, for now, stop touting the next film as the one to finally overcome the critical scorn.
- Tomb Raider (2018) release date: Mar 16, 2018
- Rampage (2018) release date: Apr 13, 2018