FEATURE: Reel Gaming
How videogames are invading the big screen, again, including a comprehensive run-down of all the major titles making their way to Tinseltown.
Even before Hollywood’s screenwriters went on strike, Tinseltown was desperate for new ideas. Having translated most popular comic book characters, and even niche superheroes, to the big screen multiple times through reboots and sequels, videogames have become the ‘new comics’ in Los Angeles.
Despite the majority of videogame translations tanking at the box office, including high-profile $70 million potential blockbusters like Doom and everything controversial independent filmmaker Uwe Boll has done (most recently the $60 million star-studded fantasy film In The Name Of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale), Hollywood continues to license videogames in the hopes of capturing a global audience of gamers.
What Hollywood has been oblivious to over the years, perhaps focusing more on the few box office hits like Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Resident Evil, Hitman and Silent Hill than the dozens of financial failures, is that gamers can be particularly demanding consumers. While it’s relatively easy to market even a bomb into an interesting premise through a 30-second trailer, gamers comb the web for every piece of information on new game releases. That’s the reason bad games don’t become blockbusters, but horrible movies do break $100 million at the box office.
moscallout“The competition for intellectual properties that have any sort of market recognition is clearly fierce.”/moscalloutThese same gamers who are so wary of spending their £40 on a new game aren’t about to throw away £7 on another shoddy videogame translation. “You need these kids to come in on a film’s opening Friday, because they’re texting their friends right after the movie and you no longer have until Sunday,” says Michael Cerenzie of CP Productions, which is producing the Joust and Area 51 videogame-inspired movies. But things are changing in Hollywood, at least according to the producers involved in some of the upcoming videogame adaptations – and there are dozens of them coming soon to a cinema near you (assuming the writers’ strike is resolved and that Hollywood’s actors and directors don’t strike in June when their contracts are up).
“The competition for intellectual properties that have any sort of market recognition is clearly fierce,” says Scott Faye, producer of the Max Payne and Alice videogame adaptations. “If a game’s relatively successful, you know you can get the attention of that fanbase, and if you broaden the film you stand the chance of at least not failing relative to expectations and budget and many other things. Videogames have matured, and it’s an incredibly viable medium now for films. As games become more narrative and character-centric, there are fewer people in Hollywood studios that can look at a game and say: ‘Great, but where’s the movie?’”
Just as gaming has become a global business, topping $17.9 billion (£9 billion) in the US in 2007 and nearing $40 billion (£20 billion) worldwide, more Hollywood writers, directors, producers and studio executives who have grown up gaming have assumed positions of power. In addition to finding Hollywood more receptive to games as source material for film franchises, the belief goes that these producers are more endeared to these gaming properties and less likely to butcher them into plotless action fodder.
“There is nothing more boring than seeing a movie that is a straight adaptation of a videogame,” says Paul W S Anderson, who has had box-office success with Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil films. “A lot of hardcore gamers complain that videogame movies don’t stick exactly to the games, but frankly that would not be an enjoyable experience because if you’ve already played the game you know what’s going to happen.”
It also helps that Hollywood has a short memory when it comes to box-office duds like DOA, Doom and BloodRayne. “No disrespect to DOA, but for me DOA was not really a movie and it was only released on 500 theatres,” says Adrian Askerieh, producer of Hitman and the upcoming Spy Hunter and Kane & Lynch movies. “Doom had a damaging effect for a limited time two years ago, but movies like Hitman and Resident Evil Extinction are really helping more games head to the big screen. When you look at Prince Of Persia being made at Disney with Jerry Bruckheimer, I think we are absolutely in a new era for videogame movies. We’re entering that period of time like comic book movies did following the success of X-Men and Spider-Man, where AAA videogame movies are now being made.”