Historically, Hollywood has a pretty terrible losing record when it comes to turning video games into films. No one knows how film makers have made such a mess of turning (mostly) good stories into complete garbage that is so far removed from their source material. From Super Mario Brothers to Street Fighter, Bloodrayne to Max Payne, the majority have been just plain bad and nothing more than cheap, cash tie-ins. The level of writing within games has long rivalled that of film standards, the character development and plot has become as important as visuals and how realistic explosions are. So with good writing in place, characters already visually realised, and pretty much most of the hard work done, why is it so hard to translate a game to a film?
The fundamental problem that can ruin any project is laziness. If a director or anyone involved doesn’t have a good knowledge of the source material then it will never work. Now, not all films that have come from games have been bad. There has been quite a few that have done the source material proud, So what games have yet to make it to the big screen, and which ones would work well if handled correctly.
Half Life 2
The original Half Life was released back in 1998 to critical acclaim, a first person shooter than no doubt forever changed the shape of the genre. The follow up Half Life 2 was released in 2004 to yet more universal acclaim, winning even further game of the year awards. With such an undeniably great game with an immersive story, it is only right for a film to come from it.
But as with all game to film conversions, can an intense and immersive game experience translate into a 2 hour motion picture? First problem, and a crucial one, is that the protagonist Gordon Freeman doesn’t actually utter a single word throughout the entire game series. Quite difficult to convey in a film. Drive handled the silent type well in Ryan Gosling, but he at least had a few lines. After rumours about JJ Abrams possibly taking the reigns of the adaptation, there hasn’t been any further word. Not to mention he picked up the reigns of a franchise far bigger than Half Life; Star Wars. Maybe in the near future, Abrams could dedicate himself to making a Half Life movie a reality.
For the role of Gordon Freeman, three actors instantly spring to mind. Bryan Cranston, who already has the scientist persona down, Edward Norton or even House MD Hugh Laurie would make a great main character. The film itself would be pretty action-packed, and trying to cram over several hours of gameplay into a film would be tough to do, but surely a game series that is so critically acclaimed like Half Life deserves a well made film.
Something needs to be done to erase the terrible Mark Wahlberg film from existence. When the trailer first hit the internet back in 2008, it showed relative promise, it looked the part, the tone was spot on and of course the bullet time was on display. But when Max Payne was released, it turned out to just be another lazy film makeover, with very little relevance to the source material. Mark Wahlberg even admitted that he didn’t play the game himself, and by the looks of things, no one else did either.
Max Payne has everything needed for a genuinely good modern film noir; the pessimistic protagonist, the bleak world, revenge and femme fatales. Out of all the games on this list, Max Payne should have been the easiest to replicate on the big screen. The game has the look and feel of a movie, down to the noir-esque monologue from Max throughout the game, and has enough engaging characters and moving plot line that the film can work without the need of constant action.
A big part of all Max Payne games is the bullet time heavily borrowed from The Matrix, which came out just before the first Max Payne game. Since then, the slow motion, bullet trailing sequence has been replicated so many times that it will be difficult to pull it off without looking a cheap imitation. But if Max Payne can be done right, it would be a modern film noir masterpiece.
Metal Gear Solid
The definitive stealth game, probably one of the greatest games of the Playstation era, Metal Gear Solid. Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece debuted on the original Playstation back in 1998, and is still held as one of the greatest games of all time. What was even more groundbreaking than the tactical gameplay was the engaging cinematic storyline, score and voice acting. The stage seems to be set for a film version, but as with all great things in the video game world, such a film would have to overcome numerous obstacles.
Kojima even admitted back in 2006 that a film version was in development, but without the original voice actor of Solid Snake, David Hayter onboard. Then in August 2012, Konami announced that Columbia Pictures will be producing a live-action film, but no further news has surfaced since then.
Since the first game in 1998, numerous sequels have been released, all covering the immense back story and multi-layered world of Metal Gear, there is almost too much choice in making a film. It isn’t hard to imagine that a series of films could cover a large number of storylines and easily be as successful as the Bourne trilogy. With Metal Gear Solid, most of the important elements are in place, as Hideo Kojima not only created Metal Gear Solid, but also directed, produced and co-wrote the game. All that is missing is the studio to back it correctly and involving the right people, those who care deeply for the franchise.