Please, Film These Games!

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Last week, you got my list of video games that should not wind up on the Big Screen. This week, just so you don’t think I’m a relentless pessimist, here’s a set of interactive-entertainments I’d be greatly pleased to see as (proper) movies.

Red Dead Redemption: “Rule #1” last week was that games that only exist to let you “play” an unofficial, interactive version of a movie or set of movies shouldn’t get made back into movies (see: 90% of all military, FPS or zombie games.) Here is the exception to Rule #1: It doesn’t count if the movie(s) in question are something that hasn’t been done all that much lately. The Prince of Persia games, for example, are basically retreads of old Middle Eastern-set fantasy/action movies like Thief of Baghdad or Sinbad … but since that genre hadn’t been “done” as a major movie in forever, the translation worked out okay.

I love a good Cowboy Movie. When necessary, I’ll even take a BAD Cowboy Movie. And the Red Dead game seems to be clueing a new generation into just how awesome a place the Wild West is to set an action story. If putting what amounts to “GTA with horses” on the big screen is what it takes to make saddles and six-shooters trendy again, I’m all for it.

Dragon Quest: Something you’ll probably see a lot of on this list: JRPGs. Last week’s “Don’t” list included Final Fantasy, mostly because the series has vanished so far up it’s own ass as to be untranslatable at this point. Dragon Quest, on the other hand, hasn’t. At least I don’t think so.

The obvious advantage to any filmmaker here is that the DQ franchise is about a world and a design-scheme, so pretty-much any solid “hero’s journey” fantasy story can be slipped into its context so long as you nail that signature dreamy/epic adventure vibe and have the Slimes etc. turn out in force – though my personal wish would be to see an adaptation of DQIV (Brendan Gleeson for Torneko Taloon!)

Castlevania: Something else you’ll probably see a lot of here: Pre-Playstation era franchises. Hey, don’t shoot the messenger. The industry’s general unwillingness to create new dynamic characters and settings over the last few cycles isn’t my fault.

In any case, Castlevania strikes me as a can’t miss: You’ve got a setting and premise that affords you the opportunity to build action/suspense sequences around any famous monster or mythological creature you can think of, a signature tool (re: magic whip) to craft unique, eye-catching combat and the non-gamer name recognition of Dracula. Just one personal request on my part, though: Simon Belmont. I know the series has “grown” and whatnot, but at least the first go-round it really ought to be Simon. Not Alucard. In fact, Alucard shouldn’t even show up – or, if he does, he should be teased-out and built-up like he’s going to be the “Darth Maul” ultimate-henchman guy… and then Simon takes him down with one casual whip-strike en-route to Dracula. Gotta love a fake-out – I’d be grinning ear-to-ear.

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Gears of War: I’m not a big GoW fan. They’re alright, and I’m glad they aren’t in first-person. That’s about it. But, it’s got a somewhat-nifty look and it’s probably something you can wrench 90 minutes of action out of. Its hyperbolic macho routine is a bit grating, though – that’s an issue. Maybe it would benefit from a “this is essentially parody” approach, like Paul Verhoeven used with great effect in Robocop and Starship Troopers. And Mickey Rourke would likely make an above-average Marcus … I can’t imagine any other actor of that type who’d be likely to get the joke and make it work.

Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat: No, I don’t mean as one movie. I mean these two franchises plus all the hundreds upon hundreds of “tournament fighter” games they spawned.

There’s no excuse whatsoever for games centered around fighting tournaments to have all sucked – the history of the martial arts genre has been a history of refining tournament stories to a can’t-miss formula. Enter the Dragon, Master of the Flying Guillotine, Duel to the Death … and those are just the famous ones.

The tournament premise gives you everything you need, right up front. You don’t need to explain why all these colorful fighters are in one place: “They’re here for the tournament.” You can spend as much or as little time setting up characterization, because you don’t need to bend the plot into knots when you need an action sequence: Just bang-the-gong and “okay, now you two fight!” It’s like setting a musical on Broadway – half the work is already done.

Bayonetta: Actually, this one I can compromise on: If a casting agency finds a woman that actually looks like this, I don’t need the movie …

Chrono Trigger: What is, for my money, the best “traditional” JRPG I’ve ever played deserves at least consideration in these matters. It’s a fantasy story, and a time-travel story. It’s got dinosaurs, robots, frogs with swords, flying cities, The Apocalypse and a switch-hitting cavegirl. Yes, it’d probably cost something like the gross domestic product of Cuba to actually film … but a boy can dream, can’t he?

Mass Effect: On the plus side: richly-detailed science fiction world, unique alien races and a pre-justified reason to cast ANY actor or actress as Shephard you want without worrying if he/she “looks like the game.” On the minus side: might be redundant if you don’t get it made before somebody reboots Babylon 5.

Final Fight:: Objectively, even without the “based on a game” angle to back it up, this is a sale-able pitch on it’s own merits: A former pro-wrestler becomes mayor of a crime-ridden city, local gangs kidnap his daughter, the guy teams up with her boyfriend and his conveniently black-belted best buddy to go get her. There, that’s a movie. Also, onetime MMA star Don Frye is an actor now, and he’s a dead ringer for Mike Haggar.

Kingdom Hearts: Evidently, the reason this isn’t already a movie is that Disney and Squaresoft both decided they finally had exactly enough money.

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Ninja Gaiden: Everybody loves Ninjas, but they don’t tend to make great leads. Ryu Hayabusa, at least, is one of the only “black pajama” type ninjas anyone knows by name. That’s got to be worth something right there, though you run into the problem of the modern NG games storylines and techno/feudal setting to be a bit … daunting to adaptation.

One possible solution: Go oldschool. The NES incarnation’s “Indiana Jones meets James Bond with Ninjas” was classic cheese, but it’s a workable place to start. Magic statues, CIA, evil cult, there are worse premises out there.

Legend of Zelda: Yeah, like this wasn’t gonna be on here. With it’s precise mix of just-the-basics story and wholly-unique iconography, few noteworthy franchises would seem to lend themselves to film as well as Zelda in terms of what kind of fanbase one can start with and what can actually be done with the property.

So long as the base elements are in place (Link, Zelda, Ganon, Triforce, Master Sword) and everyone looks more-or-less right, there’s ample room for creative interpretation. Plus, the wholly unique mix of Western and Eastern fantasy influences – Link (and also Mario, for that matter) is much more “ronin” than he is “knight errant.”

Metroid: Oh the one hand, it’s basically Aliens but with powered armor, space-jellyfish and morph-balls.

On the other hand … it’s basically “Aliens” but with powered armor, space-jellyfish and morph-balls!

Mega Man: As some anime, manga and ambitious fan films have already shown, the Mega Man universe is certainly ripe for adaptation – at once a “boy robot” yarn and a Superhero actioner. Still, given what can happen to such things when the wrong hands are stirring the brew, this is a series I’d prefer to see get test-fired in its native Japan (maybe as a mid-budget tokusatsu series?) before Hollywood takes a swing. Might actually work best as a 3D animated feature … Studio Imagi’s Western-made Astro Boy reworking was actually pretty solid (and they’re on Gatchaman next, supposedly!)

Earthbound: A classical “mixed party on epic quest” fantasy story … but set in the present, with psychically-gifted children and a sprawling scifi foundation; like a wish-dream mashup of Stand By Me and Lord of The Rings with a dollop of E.T. and Lovecraftian weirdness for good measure. If this had been released in the states as a book instead of a video game, this movie would already be in your DVD collection.

Super Mario Bros.: The mathematics here are pretty basic, folks: The greatest of all video game heroes deserves a good movie to his name, does he not?

Granted, the almost entirely incidental storyline to the Mario universe will need some fleshing out – probably have to go back to the ever-recurring non-canonical Brooklyn origin, unless there’s a better way to explain what a pair of obvious Italian-Americans in their work clothes are doing in the middle of a fairytale kingdom – and some balance will need to be struck between fidelity and, well, physics … but objectively I see very little reason why this isn’t every bit as filmable as the recent Alice in Wonderland feature.

Even strictly in terms of cynical marketing-speak, it’s a solid buddy action story ripe for a family adventure franchise, a great bad guy, a ridiculously vast menageries of characters begging to be merchandised (plus not one but at least two princesses for the doll set) and a pet dinosaur. There’s no reason not to make this, save perhaps lingering memories of what happened last time …

But c’mon! Fortune favors the bold, Nintendo, etc.! It’s been long enough, let someone take another shot at this. Please 😉

Bob Chipman is a film critic and independent filmmaker. If you’ve heard of him before, you have officially been spending way too much time on the internet.


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Image of Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman
Bob Chipman is a critic and author.