Open letter to filmmakers around the world:
So what you have millions of dollars at your fingertips to bring your creation to the silver screen. So what you have an all-star cast, filled with Oscar winners and nominees. So what you have what you think is a killer story, thought-provoking plot and nonstop action. That may be fine and dandy if you are making an action/adventure film without a history. However, when you look at the success of movies inspired by video games, they never achieve the stellar numbers that movies inspired by comic books achieve.
From the days of "Super Mario Bros." to the recent film, "Prince of Persia," filmmakers have tried their very, very best to capture the same kind of success that movies based off comic books have enjoyed. "The Hulk" was a hit TV series, "Superman" started as Action Comics No. 1 and will be forever tied to Christopher Reeve being the man of steel (Sorry, Shaq). And you can't leave out the Dark Knight, from the days of Adam West and the Batmobile - to Heath Ledger's award-winning performance as the Joker (who outshined Jack Nicholson, even) in "The Dark Knight."
Look at the list below and see a few movies based on video games do.
Here's a few - and tell me if anything is really memorable about them:
Super Mario Bros.
Street Fighter (Jean-Claude Van Damme and Raúl Juliá facing off in Julia's final performance)
Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Jolie's shower scenes)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Doom (the first-person shooting scene was intense and sick)
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time
And we won't even go there with Uwe Boll and his craptastic offerings.
However, here's the disconnect. For movies inspired by video games, the writers create a story. The directors and producers pitch it to the studios who sign off on it. Millions are spent, budgets blown and the movie hits theaters worldwide. It bombs. It amazes me that movies based on really cheesy video games get made in the first place!
Here's some wisdom from a vet gamer and journalist - snag 3-4 gamers who love the video game you are about to film and ask them what THEY think. I can't tell you how many quarters I wasted in arcades playing as Ken and Ryu in "Street Fighter II." However, if you watch the movie, Guile, played by Jean-Claude Van Damme, was clearly the star of the movie. Any die-hard gamer would tell you, without a doubt, that the strongest stars in the game are Ken & Ryu. Just look at the covers of the new Street Fighter games. Where's Guile? Star power trumped character power and it bombed.
The next exhibit? "The Legend of Chun Li." Yes, she has a cool story, but ask a fan of the Street Fighter series if they care about Chun Li. You don't have to believe me, just look at the box office receipts.
A gamer will be honest with you, filmmakers, and tell you what's good, bad and even essential in a movie about their favorite video game. Sure, it may take away from your grand vision for your motion picture, but what are you trying to do? You want to make a movie that will be true to form and stick to the original source material. If you are aiming for that, it won't come cheap.
If you are going to do a movie on a video game, make sure the video game is wildly popular and not based on a movie itself. As much as I enjoy the Halo series, when I heard Peter Jackson was going to bring it to the big screen, I laughed. Hard. Very Hard. Why? Anyone above the age of 30 will understand where I am coming from. You have a protagonist - Master Chief - you have space marines. You have a seemingly unstoppable alien taking folks out. You have pulse rifles, dropships and you wake up for a long nap and have to figure out what's going on every time. There was a movie that was painfully similar in the early 80s. Directed by Mr. "Avatar" himself, James Cameron, it was called "Aliens." Even the African-American sergeant is similar to the one in "Aliens." Of course, the wise cracks in "Aliens" are the stuff of legends ...
Please, filmmakers, don't despair. You can still make a way-cool movie that will entertain the crowd, but you need to go the route of the very popular Marvel Comic movies - from "Spiderman" to "Iron Man."
Here's what I have noticed about the Marvel Comic and DC Comic movies - you have to know your source matter. The directors were either big fans of the comics as children or read through them and talked to fans. And they listened to them. The directors quizzed fans and applied their feedback.
One instance of this - the portable Iron Man suit shown in "Iron Man 2."
According to mtv.com, the briefcase armor made its debut in a 1963 issue of "Tales of Suspense" (the series that launched Iron Man into the Marvel universe). Tony Stark's briefcase armor has long been a part of the character's arsenal of high-tech equipment.
Small details like that thrill fans to no-end. In video-game inspired movies, details are often left out. Directors seems to be content to offer their vision for the film, and sometimes, it doesn't line up with the video game at all. In the movie "Doom," most of the movie wasn't even in the video game! The back story was in need of a life preserver!
Filmmakers, sit down and listen to gamers before you even start your project. And please, PLAY the game for a few hours. Understand what the developers wanted to accomplish with their video game. Talk to gamers. When you do those actions, you will start to see and have a deeper understanding. In the end, you will bring forth a work of art that will make gamers think they are still in the game - and open up a new world to a slew of new fans.