Video Game movies suck.
I’m choosing not to preface that statement with a “most” or a “usually” because at this point the track record is so terrible that I think a blanket statement of “video game movies suck” is appropriate. The scope in quality of movies based on gaming properties has ranged from the completely awful (Super Mario Bros., Street Fighter, Far Cry) to those that are somewhat watchable (Silent Hill, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil), but none have even managed to rise to the level of being “good” much less “great”. But last weekend the Angry Birds movie opened to both better than expected critical and box office success, and a crop of current projects might be reason to be cautiously optimistic about the future of gaming movies.
It wasn’t very long ago that comic book movies were in the same position that gaming movies are in now. Most of them were crap and didn’t respect either the source material or the fans, but now due in large part to what Marvel Studios has done, comic book movies have become both huge commercial and critical successes. With the wealth of amazing stories and worlds that exist in some the best video games, it would seem to be a no brainer that they could be translated into some amazing films if they are put in the right hands.
One of the most promising films hoping to turn things around is Assassin’s Creed, which arrives in theaters this December. Directed by Justin Kurzel (Macbeth) and starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, this adaption of the hugely popular Ubisoft series takes the core story elements from the games but introduces a new protagonist in Fassbender’s Callum Lynch. By not using the Desmond character from the games, the movie has an opportunity to feel unique while still giving us all of the sneaking, stabbing and jumping into bales of hay that fans expect. As a long time fan of the series I think this film has huge potential and I’m happy with what I’ve seen so far in the first trailer.
Warcraft is based on the mega popular MMO and will also hit theaters this year. It’s directed by Duncan Jones who helmed the critically acclaimed sci-fi film Moon and stars Travis Fimmel (Vikings), Ben Foster (Lone Survivor) and Dominic Cooper (Preacher). The trailers so far show off some big action and impressive CG effects. Developer Blizzard is famous for taking a great amount of care with their properties and if the same holds true for their film adaptations it should be pretty good, especially for fans of fantasy movies like The Hobbit.
We’ve already seen two Tomb Raider films, but both were…. underwhelming. Not too much is known about the upcoming reboot of the franchise, but with director Roar Uthaug (The Wave) and Oscar winner Alicia Vikander (The Danish Girl, Ex Machina) on board, they definitely have gathered some impressive talent. Hopefully they follow the lead of the recent (and fantastic) game reboot and make Lara a more human and relatable character.
Several others projects that are still early in development hold plenty of promise as well. Nintendo recently announced that they’ll be producing new feature films based on some of their more popular games and they indicated that these will not be live action and will be handled in house to keep the projects as true to the source material and high quality as possible. Also, Tom Hardy is still expected to play Sam Fisher in the Splinter Cell film and JJ Abrams’ Bad Robot production company is developing adaptions for Portal and Half-Life. All of these projects sound very promising but it remains to be seen if the final products will be good. And even if they do turn out great, there are still movie adaptions of Tetris and Fruit Ninja in the works, so the reputation of video game movies isn’t out of the woods yet. But the landscape has never seemed more promising.