Why do movies based on games suck? Ask Roger Ebert

GamesFirst has a post up about movies based on video games and comics — why those movies are too often crappy, and what filmmakers should do to make them better. (Hat tip: Kotaku.) The post is long and rambly and basically just says that unless the source material is respected, these movies will be bad.

Fair enough, for comics at least. While you’re pretty much stuck when adapting superhero comics (fight scenes! surface-level pop psychology! faux “darkness” and “edge!”), other works offer plenty of depth and richness for a filmmaker respectful enough to recognize this.

But movies based on games are going to be bad — or at least cliched, shallow, and derivative — as long as games remain cliched, shallow, and derivative. As long as they remain inferior examples of narrative art, in other words.

Also while superhero movies are confined by the source material, even they have a built-in advantage that helps them seem deeper for a little while: the origin story. The first movie (or first two, or first revamp) in a video game franchise inevitably is an origin story, which adds a veneer of psychological depth. Never mind that origin stories are also a primary reason for video games’ adolescent worldviews (real, dynamic adults don’t base their entire lives on a single event, no matter how harrowing it was) — at least it makes for more drama than guys in costumes tossing out one-liners and hitting each other.

But video games don’t even have this fallback. So the way to make a good video game movie isn’t to respect the source. It’s to make the source worthy of respectful film adaptation in the first place.

— April 13, 2006

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