Video Game Movies are basically films that are inspired or adapted from a video game source material (ie. Assassin’s Creed, World of Warcraft, Doom, etc). For almost three (3) decades, ever since the release of the first ever films based on this kind of intellectual property, Super Mario Brothers (1993), there have been a significant number of video game films to hit the big screen. Most of these video game films, for lack of a better term, have not been critically-acclaimed. Leaving audiences to a conclusion that there is this phenomenon called: The Video Game Movie Curse.
The Video Game Movie Curse
Over the past thirty (30) years, a huge number of video game movies have already been released. From downright bad to just okay. The video game movie curse, in Hollywood, is said to prevent the production companies from providing audiences with satisfying content that are based on these kinds of intellectual properties.
For reference, here are some examples of universally disliked video game movies:
Super Mario Bros. (1993)
This film had it wrong in so many places. The connection to the Super Mario Bros. arcade are almost just the names of the characters. The real world adaptation is as far from the source material as possible. There are “adult” elements added to the movie, which sounds so wrong for an adaptation of a children’s media. And lastly, President Koopa is a human.
A Mario movie is set to be released in 2022. Let’s hope that film is not even remotely close to its 1993 counterpart.
This film is based on Warcraft, a media franchise created by Blizzard Entertainment. The best-selling title of the franchise is World of Warcraft, which is an MMORPG which has built a cult following that made it famous with the general public meriting it to have an entry to the big screen.
Although Warcraft (2016) is one of the highest-grossing adventure arcade adaptations of all-time. Probably only because it was a hit in China, however the film was not well-received by western audiences. The Warcraft film tried its best with all the lore it had from the source material, but the vastness of the source material, an adventure you can play for years without end, putting it in a two-hour piece of cinema would be immensely challenging.
Assassin’s Creed (2016)
This film was also released at the same time as Warcraft. The Assassin’s Creed film is based on the open-world action-adventure stealth video game franchise published by Ubisoft with the same name. The source material was mainly set in the past, in contrast, the movie is mainly set in present-day. The story is set in the present day and in 15th-century Spain, which has a lot of great visuals and atmosphere like this article from the Slingo, Which needed a lot of exposition to justify, and the film was not able to make the switch worth-while. Although there were genuinely good action scenes in the film, the lack of comprehensive story-telling and character development could have been existent as well.
Talking about these kinds of intellectual properties that really missed the mark, there is no denying that the TEKKEN 2009 film is way up in the list. It probably isn’t just on the list of worst video game movies of all-time, but on the list of the worst films in general. This ambitious content looked like a cheap cosplay event, it ditched the main story why the Tekken franchise was so iconic, it made Jin and Christie a couple, the supernatural elements were non-existent, some characters were white-washed, and there is no logic on how they chose the character that would appear in the film.
Tekken is one of the largest and most famous fighting arcades in recent history, and the reason why it was so great was the lore and the backstory of each character that participated in the King of Iron Fist tournament. In this film, it looked like they picked the least interesting characters, and ditched the lore entirely, even went so far as to adding weapons to the fights.The only connection of the film to is the title, and TEKKEN isn’t even the name of the tournament in the games. This film can be stripped of the title TEKKEN, change the name of the characters, and it would still be unwatchable. One more thing, if the whole movie can be watched on Youtube for free, the movie is bad.
Judging from these examples, what and where do you think they went wrong?
In the long list of video game movie adaptations, why are 90% of these films panned by the general audience?
I would argue that the video game curse isn’t true at all.
Gaming fans may be generally viewed as rabid and toxic, but there’s more to it. Players are not stupid. They know the source material, they know the lore, they know what they are playing. Film studios can’t trick them into watching a piece of content that has a few similarities with the material and the IP franchise’s name on the title. Players can see through these big companies that are trying to make a quick cash grab for a famous intellectual property. A film that doesn’t honor the source material is doomed to fail from the get-go.
Another factor is that the studios who produce these video game movies either copy-paste the game to live-action or do something entirely different. A significant number of video game franchises were able to honor the source material but still totally missed the mark. Why? Not just because video games and movies are entirely different entertainment mediums entirely, but it’s because the people who made the films aren’t even fans of these media.
It takes enthusiastic filmmakers who are also passionate about the source material to make a great video game movie. There are a couple of good video game movies out there, like Detective Pikachu and the SONIC franchise, however the pairing of a great source material and filmmakers that are also passionate about the source material is a hard pairing to come by.