What makes a bad video game movie? Some, or rather a lot, of people would say as soon as a studio decides to make movie out of a video game, that’s when things go bad but the Resident Evil flicks are seemingly immune to public disinterest. Four live-action films have been produced so far with a fifth coming next year and Paul W.S Anderson has been involved since the get go, writing and directing his way into RE history.
When interviewed by MCV, Anderson was asked why he thinks his movies have been successful when so many other video game adaptations have not. The answer is a simple case of love and passion for the franchise:
“Despite what a lot of haters on the internet might say, I love the Resident Evil games. And these movies are made with a huge knowledge of the games and a real passion for the games. I think that translates into the movies we make and that’s why they deliver. A lot of video game movies are made by directors who don’t know the video games they are based on from a hole in the head. They don’t do justice to the games, they don’t immerse themselves in the games, they don’t understand what people liked from the games. And that is the wrong approach and clearly those movies don’t work.”
I’m not so sure that the Resident Evil films are all that reflective of the games but appreciate a director wanting to stay true to the fiction, whether he does so or not. A big problem for movies based on games is the kinds of people they’re targeted to. Hardcore fans of a game may want to see a live-action version of their beloved franchise but in reality, the types of games with the strongest narrative worthy of a transition to film work so well already as games. Take the Portal series. Its brilliance comes from being a part of the fiction and not just a voyeur to Chell’s escapades. That leaves the regular film-goer who may not have any interest in video games or worse, considers it an inferior market. The sometimes goofy plot lines and characters can be a little low-brow for these kinds of people so changes are made to a game’s story which ironically makes them low-brow and goofy to the hardcore fans.
But whether Mr. Anderson makes movies respectful of an existing property or not, his point is sound. The first step in creating a good movie is knowledge of the subject. Lifting pieces directly from a game won’t work and equally change too many things and the whole thing becomes a joke. Remember the mess Sony got in with David. O Russell’s plans for an Uncharted movie? He was trying to turn a great story into a Indiana Jones knock off which suggested he hadn’t even seen the games let alone play them. But as video games creep closer and closer to the film industry with the mature and admirably handled concepts in L.A. Noire and the incredibly deep fiction of Portal (to name but a two examples), maybe publishers should work harder on encouraging movie fans to experience these kinds of games rather than producing watered down adaptations.