I love Star Wars Battlefront I and II. I should qualify that; by SWBI and SWBII I mean the original games, created by Pandemic Studios in 2004 and 2005 respectively.
They were my introduction to large-scale warfare games and the fact it was also Star Wars themed was a bonus (and so many prequel levels!). What made it even better was the splitscreen capabilities, allowing for endless co-op and counter-op matches with friends and siblings. I loved the series so much that I rebought both games for the original Xbox, as they were backwards compatible with the 360.
I didn’t play the original Battlefront when I was younger, skipping straight to Battlefront II. I had wanted to see the difference between the two games (as well as the “new” maps) so picked up a copy. As soon as I booted up the game, it instantly came back to me; that rush at the start of a map, trying to score a tactical position, aggressively pushing for the vacant capture points or maybe taking to the skies to knock out support vehicles. No other game I’ve played feels just like it.
Each level and each match has its own stories, the little differences that you talk with friends about. And after having so much fun going back to SWBI, I thought I would share three recent stories of my time playing. These stories are all from a co-op perspective with my friend, Alex, being the other player.
I hope you enjoy reading this little experiment in content. I’ve been wanting to stretch my creative writing muscles since graduating from university and this seemed like an excellent opportunity to do so. The three stories are below, just click on either name or the accompanying picture to read the story.
Alex and I spawn in late, with only one X-Wing left for the taking.
“Mine!” we both shout as we race towards the cockpit. I reach the ship a millisecond before Alex and engage the engine, taking to the skies as he fires angry blaster shots towards the craft.
“Even all the Y-Wings are taken!” he moans over the commlink.
“You could always take the center command post,” I suggest. I look towards my wrist-mounted computer and tap the screen, bringing up the map, just to see the previously white icon turn green. “Ah, scratch that, we’ve already taken it.”
“I’m hopping in an Ion Cannon,” Alex says, “Maybe I’ll shoot you out of the sky!”
I’m about the reply when I hear the unmistakable SKREEE! of a TIE Fighter’s engines. I swing around the X-Wing and realise that the sky is full of Imperial ships. I pass a Rebel platform and look on, pained, as a X-Wing tries to take to the skies but is immediately blown apart by a TIE bombing run.
I pull the joystick as far back as possible and put the thrusters on full, flying high into the atmosphere. As I reach the edge of the combat area, I dampen the engines and pull the ship around. I can now see the entire map below me, locking on to the closest TIE Fighter and fire three shots, hitting the craft right in the cockpit, blowing the ship apart.
I continue to descend at a snail’s pace, firing shots and missiles at any TIE craft that comes close. As I enter the high orbit of the platforms, I see a fellow X-Wing get blown apart by an enemy Ion Cannon, which promptly sets its sights on me. I try to swing around, but the cannon hits me square in the body, cutting my fighter’s health in half.
I can’t wait for the cannon to cool down; I’ve got to destroy it before it has a chance for another shot. I push the thrusters forward, flying straight at the cannon before reversing them completely and firing a missile. It was a tactic of “pressing”, getting as close to an enemy as I could get, so that there is a 99.9% chance of a hit. The missile streaks forward and hits the cannon at the base, completely destroying the machine.
I turn the X-Wing around and fly high again, but my computer starts to beep.
“Missile Lock, Missile Lock”.
A missile strikes me in the back, cutting my health down even further. I engage the thrusters to get away from my attacker, but they’ve seen I have low health and come in for the easy kill. I’m trying to do a quick repair and regenerate my ship’s health, but the TIE Fighter who hit me keeps firing blaster shots, and each third one hits my craft, diminishing any work I do.
“Alex, can I get some help?” I ask.
“What can I do? I’m just sitting here waiting for a craft to spawn in. I’d take a Cloud Car if I had to.” Alex replies.
‘You can have my X-Wing, if I don’t crash it.”
“Fine, where are you coming from?”
“South-west, coming straight for you.”
Alex turns the cannon and see me, full thrusters, flying straight at him.
“Watch your descent, you’re coming in too fast!”
“That’s the point, when I cut the engines, shoot.”
I fly closer and closer to the cannon, counting down the distance.
I cut the engine fully, dropping the X-Wing vertically, lining up the pursuing TIE Fighter with Alex’s cannon.
“Fire!” I shout.
From my cockpit view I see the TIE Fighter pilot finally realise what is going on. The pilot tries to veer to the side, out of the range of the cannon. But Alex’s shot rings straight and true, hitting the craft in the front of the cockpit, splitting the craft in two.
I clamber out of the cockpit and head up to the platform.
“Nice shot,” I say, “The X-Wing is yours.” We both look at the craft, balanced awkwardly off the edge of the landing platform.
“You could of landed it a bit better,” Alex says, climbing in, “but I’ll take it.” He boots up the machine, putting the engines on their lowest setting and slowly turning it so that it drops off the platform and engages flight.
“Hey, this X-Wing is nearly dead!” he shouts.
“I said I’d bring an X-Wing Alex, not a brand new one!”
“We need to get the center command post,” I say to Alex. “The CIS charge at the start of the battle. If we wait, the AATs and Droidekas will claim the position and cut us down in droves. I say we ride in on Kaadus and get the drop on them. They are fastest mounts we have.”
“Good plan. Lets go with it.”
A flash of blinding white light washes over my eyes and the next moment I’m on the green rolling hills of the Naboo countryside. I start to run towards the Kaadus, seizing one and hoisting myself into the saddle. I turn back to see Alex running away from the battle.
“Where are you going?!!” I call out to him.
“Get moving. I’ll be there in a second.”
I turn around and whip my Kaadu. I’ve lost precious seconds figuring out why Alex is deviating from the plan. I can see the AATs already moving towards the center command post. The light Kaadu is twice as fast as the slow-moving AAT and within a few seconds I’m at the center, but the rolling Droidekas have already beaten me to the post. I leap off the Kaadu, landing behind one of the fallen structures, as a hail of gunfire flies towards me,
“Alex, where the hell are you?!!” I shout into my comm link.
“Right here,” he replies, as a Jedi Starfighter streaks overhead, laying down pinpoint fire onto the Droidekas, obliterating them in seconds. I watch him engage his thrusters for a second, flying high into the air, before spinning round and firing homing rockets into the incoming AAT, disabling it.
I whoop in celebration, watching in awe as he lays down more covering fire, destroying all incoming enemies before I can even draw a bead on them. Suddenly, an enemy rocket flies across the sky, hitting the starfighter in the back; the weakest point.
With my heart in my mouth I watch as high above, Alex ejects. He’s planned for this moment; instead of the Engineer class that can repair the fighter while piloting it, Alex has chosen a Jet Trooper. As he throws himself out of the cockpit, he engages his shoulder-mounted jet boosters, gently gliding himself down and landing with a gentle thud a few feet from me.
“Quite an entrance!” I say, as we crash forearms together in celebration. A Gungan rushes in on his own Kaadu, dismounting to help take the center command post, giving Alex a Kaadu to commandeer.
I clamber aboard my own mount that has been patiently awaiting my return and I call a general round up of all available troops to follow us. Alex and I whip our Kaadus and race off across the green pastures, as a stream of Clone troopers and mighty Gungans follow in our wake.
Ten seconds later we disembark at the final CIS command post, on an outcrop overlooking the entire battlefield. But we’ve misjudged the timing. The Kaadus have deposited us far ahead of the pack, and we are heavily outnumbered.
“Spin!” we both shout at each other, a tactic born out several hours spent playing co-op Timesplitters 2 Siberian zombie horde mode. We face opposite sides and start to spin counterclockwise, firing at the closest enemies to us.
We spin three or four times, taking down nearly every enemy with lock on to. I draw a bead on an incoming Engineer droid and fire off the last few rounds from my blaster rifle. The shots flying wide of their intended target. Damn! I had forgotten that continual fire makes the blaster rifle overheat and lose accuracy, and I’m about to pay for my mistake.
“Roll!” I shout to Alex as I switch to my sidearm and drop to prone. Alex doesn’t think about the command, rolling to the side and continuing to shoot down enemies facing him. The droid fires a cluster over my head, right where Alex had just been standing. I fire one shot into the droid’s chest plate before twitching a centimeter up and fire another shot. I miss by a hair and now am in range to be obliterated.
A blue bolt of energy flies over my prone form and hits the droid squarely between the photoreceptors, bursting the metal hunk into flames. I push myself up onto my knees and Alex grabs my arm, hoisting me onto my feet.
“That’s twice I’ve saved your skin today!” he says with a devilish smile, as the rest of the Clone/Gungan battalion finally reaches the peak of the hill. We secure the hill in a record time and the twenty-second victory counter starts to tick down.
“Same again?” Alex asks.
“Always,” I reply.
With two seconds to go until the round ends, we throw grenades ahead of us, before rolling towards them. The explosion goes off at zero, giving us our victory poses; a squashed character model, twisted like a pretzel, a millimeter from being vaporized by fire.
The ice beneath me is cold and hard, not at all like the training simulations. I’m prone, trying to make my body as flat as possible, cradling my sniper rifle, looking out over the frozen harbour of Rhen Var.
As I perform last minute checks, my radio comm crackles into life. I shift my weight onto one side and hit the transmit button.
“Hey Alex, you nearly set?”
“Yep, just linking up with a few other fighters and we’ll be entering the caves. Whereabouts are you?”
“On the ice lake, ready to catch a few skinnies accompanying the AT-AT. Once I’m done I’ll make a dash and meet you on the other side.”
“Okay, good luck. Out.”
I switch off the comm link before pressing my shoulder against the butt stock of my rifle and looking through the optics. There is no movement in front of me. I hear a rumble from the heavens as heavy fog starts to develop and roll towards me. It always happens in the early morning, it gives the Empire an edge. Not to worry though.
I zoom in a bit further and immediately a silhouette pops out, darker than the surrounding vapor. I nudge the rifle a little higher to compensate for drop off before squeezing the trigger. It takes around a second for the light beam to travel across the whole ice lake and hit the grunt squarely in the temple, taking him down.
I start to swivel my rifle from side to side, picking out darkened outlines here and there, each one being brought down by at most two shots. I want to try and get as many at this range, before I am in any mortal danger. I move away from the optics to reload and out of the corner of my eye I start to see the first waves of soldiers break out of the mist and into the daylight.
Their all white uniforms make them easily identifiable against the grey background they emerge from. I pick off a few of the forward troops, before scanning for the big hitters; jet pack troopers and rocketeers.
I set my scope on a lovely Dark Trooper, but a giant metal boot obscures my line of sight. I back out of aiming to see what it is.
The AT-AT? Already? How did it sneak up this far without me realising? I’m a sitting duck if I stay here. I jump to my feet, grabbing my rifle and slinging it over my shoulder, before dashing across the harbor towards the walker. The AT-AT has a powerful set of cannons on its front side, but can’t aim straight down. If I get close enough, it won’t be able to focus its weapons on me, making it useless in terms of combat.
As I pelt across the ice and snow, I draw my pistol. Even though I’ve thinned the ranks, the majority of the Empire’s forces are charging across the bay. I serpentine towards the legs of AT-AT, rolling behind one to dodge incoming fire. I peek out and fire off a few non-committal shots, keeping any nearby soldier at arms length. I need to keep moving; staying under the AT-AT isn’t the safest option, even less with Snowtroopers surrounding me.
I roll away from the AT-AT’s back legs and sprint away. The Snowtroopers fire a few shots my way, but I am soon out of range, and they turn back towards the main battle. I make my way up a small snowy mound, switching back to my long-range rifle and do a quick scan of the horizon. There are only a few stragglers entering the party late. I quickly dispatch them, leaving the coast clear.
I throw my sniper onto my back and draw my pistol again, before setting off towards the Imperial command post. As I get close, I see the faint red glow of the capture point, reflected on the cold-grey stone walls of a bombed-out ruin that the Empire have commandeered as their forward base.
I switch from a slight jog to walking; taking pot shots at any late-coming Snowtroopers that gets close. My radio beeps again.
“Alex, how is it going?”
“We’re a bit stuck mate. They’ve got a turret on the entrance to the ice caverns; any time we try and push it cuts us in half. You got a sight on them?”
I stop, equip my rifle and look through the sight. The enemy is easy to spot; they are sat in a revolving turret atop the ruin, firing round after round at the small opening that leads to the caverns.
“Yep, I see ’em, top deck.”
I kneel for support, before tapping the trigger, hitting the Snowtrooper’s exposed head and silencing the turret fire.
“They are down, go!”
I rush forward, catching up with Alex as he exits the caves. We stop just before the stairs leading up to the ruin.
“Any news on the rest of the battle?” I ask. Alex gives me a grimace.
“That AT-AT is destroying all of our carriers. We need to get back pronto.”
I tap the screen on my wrist-bound computer, bringing up the map. I see the AT-AT; it is almost at the entrance to the marina, destroying every speeder that manages to spawn in.
I sigh in exasperation.
“Bloody amateurs,” Alex says. “Let’s capture this post and get back!”
I turn the map off, and check my weapons.
“Well, you’ve got the rapid-fire blaster Alex, after you!”
“The Rebel Hare” Photo Source: battlefront.wikia.com
After sitting through the awful Assassin’s Creed movie three months ago, I wrote a blog post titled, “How To Make A Good Video Game Film“. It’s probably one of the highest-viewed posts on this site and I had fun writing it and it led to some good conversations with people who disagreed with my points.
I was playing some Minecraft with some friends and I mentioned that there was a Minecraft movie in the works. My friend sighed loudly and said there was no point to making a Minecraft movie because, “…it would take out the entire reason for playing Minecraft, the gameplay.” I understood where he was coming from, (it’s one of the main reasons given for stopping game-to-movie adaptations), some games are inexorably tied to their gameplay.
(SPOILERS AHEAD for Bioshock and Spec Ops: The Line) Bioshock is a key example. While it might be fun to see Rapture on the big screen, “Would You Kindly” (the phrase that controls the main character) would lose pretty much all of its awesomeness, since we are not playing. Spec Ops: The Line is another. We decide to enter Dubai, we decide to use the white phosphorous and game chastises us for how we play the game. Those choices wouldn’t be there in a non-interactive medium.
To take away the thing that separates games from all other media makes sense, so we should stop game-movies, right?
Before we decide that, let me show you a few things.
The Defence of Video Games – The Last Question
Books have been a main source of adaptation since the inception of filmmaking. The Bible, Shakespeare, Dickens, Christie; several key books and authors have been successfully transposed from page to screen. Heck, Chuck Palahniuk is on record as saying the film version of Fight Club is better than his book.
So, we can all agree that book to movie’s work. And believe it or not, there are some books to games. A non-interactive media working in an interactive one. Let’s look at some examples.
I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream
One of the best science-fiction stories ever written, Harlan Ellison’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi story is a slim tome, I think it’s around ten pages. And they managed to make it into a sprawling hours-long adventure game. Reading it again and again, I’m surprised they managed to make this short story, one with not a lot of character backstory or traditional narrative, into a game, but they did and they managed to create what is regarded as an actual mature game, when mature meant dealing with themes such as sexual assault and the Holocaust (see the link below), rather than mature meaning an 18 Rating and lots of blood.
Harlan Ellison worked on the script with the creators (showing that getting people who care about the property makes it better) and it while it is technical ‘sequel’ and throws out a couple of the themes, it’s thought to be one of the best point-and-click games ever created.
I got to read Metro 2033 before I played the game, surprising how it came out in the United Kingdom the same year as the game did. The Metro series, written by Russian author Dmitry Glukhovsky tells the story of people living in the Moscow Metro system (partly designed as the Soviet Union’s nuclear bomb shelter) twenty years after a nuclear war.
The game follows the same story of the book fairly closely. Players/readers follow Artyom as he travels from one side to the other trying to save his station while encountering hostile humans and supernatural enemies. In the game we get all the main characters from the book, like Bourbon and Khan as well as some of the minute details such as staring down the Librarians or the mummified lady in the ticket booth. I guess this is what happens when the writer of the book helps write the game.
Much like Metro, I read Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six before I played the original game (which sold 25m copies when it was released). There has only been one R6 novel, and while the newer games have made their own stories, the first game stuck extremely close to the novel, with missions directly lifted from the novel. It’s not even a run-and-gun shooter. Violence is to be feared in Rainbow Six, where one stray bullet can kill you, something which the book emphasised heavily. And again, just like the two cases before, Tom Clancy not only helped develop the game but was one of the founders of the company that made it, Red Storm.
So what’s my point? Well, if a book can be turned into a film and be successful (LOTR, Harry Potter etc.) and a book can be turned into a game and be successful (the three above, as well as The Witcher and Parasite Eve) why can’t a game into movie work? A book into game shows a non-interactive media working in interactive, so that dispels the usual video-game-to-film argument that the film would just be gameplay footage.
Heck, most games have equivalent films. Tomb Raider is Indiana Jones, Assassin’s Creed is both The Matrix and The Mask Of Zorro, Rainbow Six is Sicario (not to mention the five other Tom Clancy films, showing that his action can work in all three mediums). This is what I meant in my original article about choosing a correct property, something that would work as a film, not Angry Birds or bloody Tetris. A follow up argument might be, “well why do we need video-game films if other films do it the exact same?” That’s a non-argument. Every slasher film has pretty much the same story, but we watch it to see the new things added to it.
And if we want to look at it the other way, we can. Several games have been turned into books, and not just concept art books or behind-the-scenes. Max Payne 3 had a three-comic series written by Sam Lake and Dan Houser which fits right into the series. Halo, Splinter Cell (a Tom Clancy property) and Assassin’s Creed (which was also based off a novel, Alamut) have all jumped from games into book form and are well-received by their fan-bases. The new Tomb Raider comics had Rhianna Pratchett and Gail Simone (the latter being comic writer of Deadpool, Wonder Woman and Batgirl). That’s an interactive media moving into non-interactive.
And to finish, there is a long-running game series known as S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which is set around the nuclear site at Chernobyl. And before it was made into a game, it was a book before being turned into a play, another book and even a tabletop role-playing game. The creators managed to move between all those types of media, both interactive and non-interactive. But the main thread I want to bring up was the film that was based on the same text. The film is called Stalker (that’s where the game got the name from). And do you know who made that film? Andrei flippin’ Tarkovsky, one of the premier filmmakers to ever come out of the Soviet Union. That film is ranked 29th at the BFI’s ’50 Greatest Films Of All Time’.
While the game is much more bang-bang-shooty than the film, which is a 163-minute philosophical breakdown, the New York Review of Booksstill said that, “…much of the players activity is oddly in-keeping with Stalker‘s spirit, sometimes even managing to expand upon it.” And while NYRoB says, “…on the face of it, the games don’t have much that in common with the film,” S.T.A.L.K.E.R. isn’t just defined by it’s shooting. Again, it’s one of those games that it’s gameplay might be boring if it were beamed straight into a theatre, but moving away from that might create a great film. I never said that game-films had to stick to their gameplay, but it’s knowing which gameplay can translate into movie action well.
So, let me put that question to you again. If a book can be turned into a critically and commercially successful film and a book can be turned into a critically and commercially successful game, why can’t a game be turned into a critically and commercially successful film?
Argue with me in comments if you have a reason why it wouldn’t work.
I think we can all agree that La La Land was pretty good, right? While I am only comfortable only saying that three of its record-equalling fourteen Academy Award nominations were justified (best director, musical score, and cinematography), it is still going to be remembered for years as not just the movie that nearly stole Moonlight‘s Best Picture win, but also on its own merits of being a stupendously good film.
Most of the pre-Oscar buzz was that it didn’t deserve most of its nominations because it was just pandering to Hollywood. I can see where that line of thought comes from; Hollywood has shown time and time again that making films about Hollywood will net you a good couple of nominations and wins if you play it right. Remember The Artist from 2012? It did the exact same thing, but going back to the Silent Era rather than the Golden Age of musicals like La La Land did. However, I disagree that La La Land got its Oscars by just being a throwback to when Hollywood was the only market in the world.
The nominations idea would only make sense if everyone outside of Hollywood did not enjoy it. I can safely say that’s not the case. Personally, I gave it 10/10 and went to go see it twice, something which I never did in my stint as a film critic. I have a different theory for why it became so popular and not just that it has been so long since we’ve seen an truly dyed-in-the-wool musical. Heck, Disney has been reliably been doing that since the early 1990s. No, my theory entails going back to 1971 and the Dragon himself, Bruce Lee.
What Bruce Lee can teach us about La La Land
Why do we go see films? Sorry to throw such a philosophical question right at the start of a new section, but it does warrant thinking about for my analogy. I’ve thought up a few ideas; narrative, escapism, favourite actor, favourite director, great marketing or its been lauded as a classic by your friends, family, and critics. Those have been some I reasons I have gone to see films. But all of that can be boiled down into one word; spectacle.
Spectacle as been at the forefront of cinema since the conception of the film industry. People went mad when they saw a train pulling into a station on screen and started fleeing the cinema because they thought it was going to burst through the screen and flatten them all. Imagine when Al Jonson first started speaking in The Jazz Singer, people probably went mental over hearing sound and screen in sync with one another. For a more modern example, why do we pride ourselves on watching the most sick and depraved films we can find? Why do films like The Human Centipede Trilogy, A Serbian Film or Martyrs have an odd cultural capital around them? Why do we go and watch horror films, even though a lot of us hate the loud noises and flashing spooky faces? Spectacle. We love seeing things of screen that would be hard to replicate on stage, on television, or even in real life. Now onto Bruce Lee.
In a fascinating interview in 1971 with Pierre Berton, Bruce Lee discussed his blossoming acting career, his history with martial arts, and his personal philosophies. Even for non-martial artists, it is still an interesting watch to see one of the most clued-in men who ever lived give his wisdom on certain aspects of life. At the beginning of the interview Berton and Lee talk about the latter’s movie career and how most of it is translated for the wider Chinese audience (Lee spoke Cantonese while most of mainland China speaks Mandarin). Staring at 2:14 the conversation goes like this;
Berton: I gather in the movies made here, the dialogue is rather stilted anyway…
Lee: Yeah, I agree with you. I mean, see to me, a motion picture is motion…
Lee: I mean, you gotta keep the dialogue down to a minimum.
Obviously Lee was talking about his own films. His films were to showcase his extraordinary abilities at martial arts, any story that was there was to just set up the next protracted hand-to-hand sequence. But I like his theory, the film is about motion and so should be reflected in the film.
Don’t get me wrong, I love a good talkie movie. I think Casablanca is objectively the best film ever made and that is mostly people talking to one another in a bar or on an airstrip. But it is that something, that spectacle of seeing an incredible dance performed on screen, in La La Land‘s case in one take. Remember this tap dancing sequence? (For those who do not wish to be spoiled, don’t watch the clip)
This is exactly what Lee was talking about. It is the motion of Gosling and Stone, how in sync they are with their moves that makes it inherently watchable and enjoyable. That’s why if you YouTube that clip, you’ll find so many remakes or news clips about how influential it is. People love to see that spectacle and wish to recreate it. For another, look at any dance number Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers performed. Or if you want to go to the extreme, the fights scenes from The Raid or The Raid 2.
The two latter films are another great example of what Lee said, dialogue kept to a minimum so that we can see some gloriously choreographed fights. Fighting and dance are incredibly close; both require full body motion nearly at all times which is why they are so amazing to watch on screen. Edit: In an interview on BBC 5 Live, Gareth Evans, director of The Raid discussed how he would work out choreography to his fight scenes to music,
Kermode: …for me, the best of those [martial arts] movies…are closer to musicals, to dance numbers than anything else and that’s how they should be understood.
Evans: It is interesting you say that because when we are actually doing the choreography we clap along, we figure out what the rhythm is to the fight. So the idea between how long blocks before a punch is kind of like percussion…it takes on a certain musical form. (9:11).
Another famous martial artist, Jackie Chan, also follows this principle when he choreographs fight scenes. In commentary for the film Project A, film executive Bey Logan comments,
“…and there is a rhythm also, to the way shots are performed, and also the way they are edited. And Jackie said something very interesting, that the audience don’t know the rhythm there until it is NOT there.” (4:18).
Following on from that, the YouTube channel Every Frame A Painting mentions, “Jackie’s fight scenes have a distinct musical rhythm, a timing he sets out with the performers.” (4:29).
We get spectacle, either from seeing an excellent spring ball-change or a man getting hit in the face with a claw hammer. Both require a rhythm and endless practice, but once they are done filming they are some of the most electric scenes ever put to screen.
But anyway that’s my theory for why La La Land became such a big hit. It wasn’t just that it made a musical that could have stood up there with Singin’ In The Rain, but that fact that it played up to the motion part of the motion picture, with a performance that was more than just your average dance or action scene.
So, 16% on Rotten Tomatoes for Assassin’s Creed eh? And after seeing it myself, I can whole heartedly agree. Seeing as we are all disappointed after Warcraft,Ratchet And Clank (remember Ratchet And Clank came out in 2016? No you didn’t, because nobody went to see it) and now Assassin’s Creed, I’ve decided to help Hollywood and the rest of cinema out. As a film fanatic and a gamer, I have been hoping for a good video game adaptation for a LONG time. And while some have come close, none of them ever become worldwide smashes. So, I have devised the four major points of how to get a video game film going in the right direction. Directors and producers, when you approach a video game film, feel free to use this as a tick list to make sure you are on course.
1.Know Your Source Material (And Whether It’s A Good Choice)
To truly understand a book you are adapting, it is widely accepted that you read it multiple times. Why are video games any different? Sure, some games range from four to forty hours, but you don’t even have to play the whole thing. Watch a Let’s Play, or if that’s still too hard, have someone in the crew play it and give you a highlight reel of moments.
You wouldn’t try and make a film adaptation of The Lord Of The Rings if you had only read the blurb and if you’re serious about adapting it, you should know the lore and story of your game. I’m not a huge fan of Halo, but I really enjoyed Halo: Legends because the creators knew the source material. They took the time to learn the lore of the galaxy and world and didn’t deviate from it, creating some exciting action anime fights.
Knowing your game also means knowing whether it is a good property to adapt. Usually this means having a game with a narrative, as you don’t have to faff about with devising a new script. Tomb Raider, good. Silent Hill, good. Warcraft, promising. Angry Birds, Fruit Ninja, Tetris, FNAF, terrible, terrible, terrible.
Understand Your Source Material (What Makes It Successful)
Now that you’ve invested time into learning about your video game, you now need to understand why that video game has fans and is widely celebrated. For example, I give you Hitman.
The appeal of Hitman is simple. A stylish man heads to exotic locales, kills usually the maximum of one person in an understated manner and then leaves without anyone knowing he was ever there. Understanding Hitman means that you know this is the gold standard for play, and that unnecessary killing, especially spectacular explosions where everyone in the surrounding area becomes aware of you is seen as the worst and wrong way to play Hitman. Yet both Hitman films have gone down the explosions and gun-battles route because it’s “easier”. To some the proper way to play Hitman may not seem cinematic enough. In response, I would offer up 2010’s The American of how to do a Hitman-esque film and it to still be entertaining.
For another example, Max Payne. The fun in Max Payne comes from the slow-motion action and the over-the-top hardboiled detective genre. The film didn’t include either of those, with terrible slow-motion effects and a dull script. They took the two things that separated Max Payne apart in the video game world and didn’t add an ounce of them into the film. A film that would be a good template is John Woo’s Hard Boiled.
And I obviously don’t need to talk about Super Mario Bros and why that failed.
Get People Who Are Enthusiastic About The Project (And Dismiss Those Who Aren’t)
I know films have a limited budget, but you can at least try and get people who are interested or have investment in the film. I’ve been critical of Warcraft, but at least Duncan Jones was passionate about his film. Another one would be Christophe Gans, the director of the first Silent Hill (which in my opinion is the best video game based film so far). Gans went out of his way to make sure it was as true to the game as possible, even recreating shots from memorable sections. Actors can also help the film, such as Angelina Jolie as Lara Croft. Jolie wanted to do the stunts for real and worked with the filmmakers to create some amazing action scenes (go back and watch Tomb Raider II before you dismiss me, some of those are great action sequences). And most of us will sit through the turgid Street Fighter for oodles of Raul Julia. Passion from the filmmakers makes things watchable.
Don’t get people who aren’t going to invest time or effort or think video games aren’t worth it. Mark Whalberg loved the original script for Max Payne but became wary after learning it was based on a game. Skip Woods looks like he hasn’t played any of the Hitman franchise before writing the scripts to BOTH Hitman films. And it seems Uwe Boll just uses the name of the games he adapts to generate interest, rather than create anything remotely connected to the games. This type of bounty-hunter approach to filmmaking needs to stop.
STICK AT IT
I’ve been hearing over and over again from many facets of both the film world and the geek world that video game movies should just stop. We got our hopes up that 2016 would be the year where video games films started achieving critical success from both fans AND critics, but we were once again left saddened at what could have been.
But we mustn’t shut video game films down. The only way to get good is to persevere. Let’s look at superheroes. Comic book/superhero films are dominating the box office nowadays, but they weren’t always a massive success, critically or commercially. Another geek touchstone, Star Wars. We had to get through two terrible Star Wars films to get back to good ones (yes, two. Phantom Menace is entertaining). Video games are a young medium. Superman was introduced nearly eighty years ago; the superhero genre has had a while to simmer before becoming the hottest property in Hollywood. Lord Of The Rings was almost a century old before that got the full cinematic approach. Games as a cultural phenomenon have had only a fraction of that time; they will have their moment any day now.
So, do you think they are any legitimately good video game films? Are you waiting for a singular property to get the silver screen treatment? Or should we all just drop them and never speak of video games and movies again?