Grand Theft Adaptation

Hollywood Tragic


As the line between movies and games continues to blur, we must step back and ask ourselves: Do we really want some of these crossovers? We’ve spent years loyal to our favorite franchises, but when they finally get a chance to “shine,” more often than not, the only thing these game movies illuminate is the complete lack of understanding the movie makers had about the game they’ve just butchered. Gamers of every walk of life struggle with a mainstream society that neither understands nor identifies with them. We all accept it as a given that the only thing an average citizen knows about video games is whatever he picks up from angry politicians, soap-boxing on the airwaves.

But movies represent the potential for a crossover into our world. It’s a chance for non-gamers to see the settings in which we invest so much of our time and interest. A chance to at least understand our interest in the game world, if not become entranced themselves.

And this is, of course, one of the reasons that a poorly-done adaptation drives all gamers mad. It seems inevitable that as soon as that mysterious creature known as “Hollywood” gets its hooks into our favored realms, it manages to completely mangle and befoul a beautiful thing, leaving only a desiccated husk behind.

The most frustrating thing about all this is that these movies could be good. If you’re making a movie based on Tomb Raider, we’re not going to go into the theater expecting Citizen Kane. However, we’re also not going to expect a movie experience so painful that watching it conjures up memories of Malcolm McDowell receiving the Ludivicio Technique in Clockwork Orange. If you had taken Tomb Raider and made it a simple story of an attractive, tough, intelligent woman searching for a lost artifact, maybe even throwing in some clever dialogue, it could have worked. Lara hunts down the four pieces of the scion, travels the world, has some great action scenes in exotic locations, kicks Natla’s butt and we’re all happy. No time travel, no planetary alignment – and especially no wacky fathers building supernatural timepieces!

How To Get Your Heart Broken In Three Easy Steps
I like to think of myself as a mature, experienced person. I’ve been around the block, traveled the world, loved, suffered rejection – the whole nine yards. I know better. Yet every time Hollywood rings their bell, I can’t help but start drooling more than any Pavlovian mutt ever drooled. No matter how hard I struggle against my nature, I can only stand idly by, audience to my inevitable heartbreak, as my hopes are dashed time and time again. If I figured out a way to detach my willpower, bombard it with gamma radiation until it became green and super-powered, I still couldn’t help myself. As soon as I catch the slightest hint of an adaptation coming, the vicious cycle begins and I’m swept along in its wake.

First comes excitement. Of course I try to fight against it. I’d like to think I put up a decent struggle, but that’s a complete lie: the first time I heard they were making a movie based on The House Of The Dead, I spent the night dreaming of chainsaw-wielding zombies, shoot-outs with the wicked Magician, and a final, bloody confrontation with Dr. Curien! Ah, you zombie-making little rascal, you. Good thing I brought my shotgun!

But as I learn more and more about the upcoming film, the smile slowly starts to melt from my face and my heart hardens. This is my self-defense mechanism, skepticism, kicking in. It’s trying to shelter my poor heart from yet another disappointment. I wrap my cynicism around me and insist that this time, Hollywood’s not going to hurt me! I’ve seen what they did to Street Fighter. I wept for weeks after that! If I hadn’t run out of Ben & Jerrys, it’s entirely possible I would still be sobbing into my pillow. No, the only chance I stand now is to just not get excited. Write the movie off before I do something foolish like pre-order tickets to the premier or some equally embarrassing act the gang at the local game store will never let me forget. Something like – gasp – even buying a movie poster. Oh, the humanity!

Finally, of course, is the acceptance. I know this movie is going to suck. I can feel it in the very depths of my being. There is no way to deny it; the movie has passed the event horizon of suckdom, and the irresistible pull of suckdom has it in its grasp. And just as I know this, I know one other, horrible truth: I’m still going to go see it. I will go in there, hoping to see some impressive action sequences, beautiful locations, and clever dialogue. Instead, I’ll suffer through Angelina Jolie fighting statues. In a push-up. The only comfort I’ll have will come afterward, when I spot my fellow gamers trying to sneak out of the theater without being noticed. We’ll run into each other in the lobby and pretend we came for some other movie. And we’ll ignore the tears some of us might be shedding as we leave…

A Peaceful Resolution
Making a successful movie out of a good game isn’t hard. In fact, it should be downright easy – the hard part is already done! A good game is usually built on a solid storyline, with plenty of dialogue and action already filled in. The problem arises when Hollywood assumes that because gamers have played the game for months on end, they know every iota of the existing storyline, and thus they have to “stretch the boundaries.” That’s Hollywood-speak for “turn all the gratuitous violence into friendly, PG-13 allowable explosions with nobody really getting hurt.” Look, I understand that there is a need to make game movies approachable (not to mention acceptable) to Mr. and Mrs. John Q (and even little Timmy). But can you meet us halfway? Let’s sit down, gamers and moviemakers, and come to some sort of an agreement before you do irreparable harm to all we hold dear.

Let’s start off by a major concession from both sides: Moviemakers, promise us you will never, ever touch Zelda. No Link, no Zelda, no Triforce, nothing. Yes, we understand that the entire Legend of Zelda series has sold millions of units. But please don’t take offense when I tell you that you will screw it up. Don’t take it personally; it’s just something that has to be understood and agreed upon for us to proceed. It’s the sort of good-will gesture that would definitely put you on solid ground with us. In return, we’ll completely overlook Super Mario Bros. That’s right, it never existed.

Next, let’s talk a bit about casting. We understand that big names sell tickets. Honestly, we do. We just want you to understand that sometimes a well-done movie can make a big name. Just ask Orlando Bloom. You give us talent over a pretty (talent-less) face and we’ll all be happy. And just think of the money you can save! If you believe us when we say we really do want people that can act in these lead roles, we’ll believe you when you tell us that Silent Hill is going to be spooky (despite set photos that look like they were taken from Trainspotting).

Oh, and one minor footnote on this section: Pamela Anderson. It’s only a matter of time before someone gets it in their head to employ her in the role of Tina for the big-screen adaptation of DoA: Xtreme Beach Volleyball, so I’m giving you fair warning: we will riot. Just because a lot of excitable teens convinced their parents that the game was a “good volleyball sim” doesn’t mean it’s screen worthy. Likewise, Outlaw Golf – just … don’t.

Lastly, and this is a big one, but hear us out: Take any potential script you’ve been handed. Give it to a group of six-year olds to read. If they start pointing out glaring plot errors, listen to them.

Do this for us, and we promise not to post angry tirades to message boards about the “Bio-Force Gun.” Well, at least not a lot of angry tirades…

Shawn “Kwip” Williams is the founder of N3 (NeenerNeener.Net), where he toils away documenting his adventures as the worst MMO and pen-and-paper RPG player in recorded history.

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