Why do video game movies fail?o

What are your thoughts?

They don’t all fail; just most of them. For example, Pitch Black and the Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay - then again, I suppose that’s debatable, since the movie came 1st…


Wow, nice off-topic post.

I think video game movies fail because we enjoy video games and movies for completely different reasons. Video games are interactive endeavors, and only a few have truly compelling plots that can stand alone without that interactive element. SF (or MK or KI for that matter) is an awesome game. But the plot is pathetic when viewed as a stand alone story. Movie attempts to try to cram all the characters, keep their designs somehow true to the game (even though the designs were not made with movies in mind), throw in a dragon punch or fireball and then paste together something resembling the absurd plot just can’t work. It CAN work as an anime or cartoon because you expect different things from those media. Other efforts that try to make good movies without being overly referential to the source game end up being pretty lame too. Tomb Raider did pretty well, but is it a great movie? No. Does it have anything to do with the game? No, not really. The Resident Evil movies have been a success, but again, they haven’t really satisfied gamers because they seriously deviate from the whacked out RE plot from the games.

Looking at games that do have a compelling narrative like The Last of Us, just as one example, these are compelling stories but they aren’t really uniquely interesting as a movie plot. Zombie apocalypse horror is being done to death. TLoU is emotionally impactful because of all the time you spend with the characters, getting to know them through small bits of (occasionally cheesy) dialogue. The impact of these moments is greatly magnified by the immersion that you ARE these characters rather than just watching them. You can’t recreate this level of attachment in 90 minutes.


Well primarily I think because sometimes a game plot is a bit difficult to transition into a movie, since the game standards and movie standards of universes and plots are rather different.

Another problem is that when things have potential to be done properly it tends to fail because the director will often either misunderstand the source game settings or will try to create their own version, which ruins it for the gamer audience (often both at the same time). Often another issue is mantaining the game’s lore the gamers will know but at the same time make it understandable for the audience new to itl

There are games that could be translated into a movie if a good writer and director are used however, it’s just that the potential has so far been limited to fan and promo works.


Alien Isolation is one of the best movie IP -> Games I’ve ever played.
Mad Max is excellent at capturing that world and feel.
Batman Arkham Asylum was amazing at making you feel like Batman. Not a fan of the last two however.
Several of the Lord of the Rings games nailed the world and feel.

But there’s a lot that aren’t good.

Really when they fail is when the movie studio throws money at a developer to make a quick tie-in game to go with the film’s set release date. No matter how much money I threw around if I gave a team 9 months to make a movie tie-in game, likely it’s going to be bad, especially as there’s no room for slippage because it must hit the film’s launch date window in order to benefit from marketing cross-promotion.

Also keep in mind that there’s a lot of hoops for permissions and approval that movie games may need to go through with the IP holders and the studios, so that can slow down the process and tie the developers’ hands in terms of what they want to do in the game. That’s not always the case though – some film companies are great to work with.

I’ve worked on three movie IPs during my career so far (Star Wars, James Bond, Lord of the Rings), and they’ve been fascinating experiences indeed. Some great… some not so much.

If anything, you may be more cognizant of failed film games because there’s a big media push for the film that heightens awareness of the entire IP, meaning the game gets more exposure (as intended)… for good, or bad.

Add: LOL I went completely the opposite way of the conversation here (I went movies to games, not games to movies). Apologies. Reading comprehension FTL today.


Yeah, without knowing the ins and outs personally, I’d have to assume that there are a lot of factors at work, many of which TC mentioned above.

Game Informer did a piece on the making of the Super Mario Bros movie not that long ago and I thought it was fascinating. I mean, talk about a cluster****! That movie was a veritable tornado of bad decisions, timing, etc.

The two people that made the movie, if I recall correctly from the article, had zero interest in the source material, and were basically trying to make it in to their own thing. I don’t believe they even played it, though I could be wrong. They actually replaced the original director in mid-filming. Nintendo had minimal oversight, for whatever reason, and the actors had to suffer through endless re-writes, delays, and who knows what else. The whole thing seemed like a recipe for how a bad movie gets made.

Then you look at the Uwe Boll movies, which I think most people tend to reference when talking about video games not making good movies. Hopefully he won’t want to box me for saying this (lol), but his game movies are complete cash ins.

They take the title, and they do the bare minimum to get to market, and none of them really consider how viable the source material is in terms of a 90 minute movie. It’s House of the Dead? Just have a bunch of zombies and blood and people running and stuff… Done.

I think that there has to be a streamlining that takes place in terms of how much of the game should be in the movie, determining what that “soul” is that has to make the transition, and I’d have to think that maintaining that balance, especially in the case of some of the weirder franchises out there, would have to be a bit of a struggle.

Resident Evil has solid cinematography, it has some characters here and there like Jill Valentine and the Tyrant and what not, but having it center on a character that’s not in the games is an odd choice. Having them ignore a vast majority of the game lore, especially the locations and the overall eerie atmosphere of the earlier games was also an odd choice. They’re not Uwe Boll terrible by any means, but there are other movies, like Silent Hill for example, that I think do a better job of maintaining the balance between game content and what’ll work in a movie.

I thought Mortal Kombat did well back in the 90’s because it had a sort of low-budget, Enter the Dragon feel to it. It had some special move, supernatural parts, but it also did a good job of making characters that people knew, but could also sit and watch in that world for 90 minutes.

MK: Annihilation in contrast, was terribly written, took far too much from the source material (way too many characters, too many weird characters, that awful animality battle at the end, etc), and had little in terms of acting chops behind it. It’s almost as if fans said that the first one didn’t feel enough like MK, so they went overboard and put too much MK in to it. That lack of balance, plus the acting and a terrible script, made it a terrible movie.

Meanwhile, you have the recent MK Legacy, which while not phenomenal, still managed to feel like MK while keeping it a bit more serious and not nearly as hokey as it could’ve been. Certainly not as hokey as MK Annihilation was by any stretch of the imagination. It tried to make these characters in to real, believable people, and I thought it was better for it. It’s easier to take superheroes and crazy stuff seriously when it’s well done and well filmed and those making it actually commit to it and take the world you enjoy seriously. You could tell that Kevin Tanchereon was a fan of the source material even without knowing it already.

So in looking at all of that, I think it takes people that not only understand the IP, but have the ability to create a vision for how that IP would look, sound and ultimately function in the movie world. Who should play each character? How should the dialog sound? What kind of camera work would look right? What kind of set pieces or events need to be there? How can all of this be done with a budget of X?

I can’t imagine it’s easy, especially when the IPs go from stuff like Uncharted, where you have normal looking people with defined personalities in an Indiana Jones-esque world to something like Double Dragon that revolves around two dudes roaming around beating the crap out of increasingly weirder looking people in order to save a woman and that’s basically it.

I’d kinda like to see some of the headier games either made in to movie trilogies (Mass Effect and Dragon Age immediately jump to mind) or even TV shows. Last of Us could be a good TV show. Metal Gear Solid could be a crazy, cool show if done right, but I couldn’t imagine them trying to fit that much story, even ignoring the weirder parts, in to a movie or even several movies. It’d be too bare bones.

(looks at whole post after posting it…) Yikes. Sorry! I over worded. :flushed:


LOL. We’re all human. Actually, it was still an interesting post. Can you tell us which games you worked on for those IPs?

One of the things you mention that’s important for success going either way is that the game and the movie are able to successfully occupy the same world (“look and feel”). About the only exception I can think of are the excellent SNES Star Wars games, that had a lot of just plain weirdness that made no sense in the context of the movie world - but were still fun. That was a much simpler time when we are all just amazed that they could render blaster bolts that were a good approximations of the ones from the movies.

The games you mention that work are all different, but they have in common that they took a single aspect of the movie or IP and made that their focus. They made a good game out of that ONE thing, rather than trying to recreate the whole move. Alien isolation is all about creeping horror. Isolation is in the title. The LOTR games that are good are about hack and slash combat. Not complex story telling. Not platforming. Hack and slash combat. It works in Middle Earth and they knew what game they wanted to make. It was a real genre where significant game design experience could be brought to bare.

Of course, all those Lego games are brilliant in terms of recreating a movie but doing it in a way that makes a fun game rather than being slavish to the source material. But again, they make the game they want to and the IP is almost like a fun little detail.

That movie was good. No doubt about it. It was cheesy and fun, and you didn’t go in expecting to see Shakespeare, but it has to be in the running for best game-movie adaptations ever.


Yeah, the movie was good - at the time it released. I can’t even watch it anymore, seeing just how bad the CG is for Reptile… :crocodile:

Believe me, in most cases, that would probably be impossible and in a lot of ways, even impractical (not to mention, and boring to boot).

Low budgets, directors that don’t care, the few directors that do care fall victim to overzealous fans, and or some absurd whims of the game’s IP holders. Also there is the crowd of people who regard video games to be for children and lone no life geekies.

Video games are a little more respected now days, and studios are taking notice. I think the new incoming batch of video game movies will be a lot better.

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Up until last decade, the budget to do the effects properly just weren’t there for the perceived potential audience. So the “ideas” to work around those issues lend to scripts that completely miss the source material’s soul.

And then there’s the claim of how the mediums are so different that the tales must be different… Which rarely explains why the deviation from the source material occurs.

But of course… Why does Star Wars have both good and bad examples of every medium?

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I personally feel that there was one video game movie that did the actual series justice. Although it might not be fair considering it’s not an American movie.


Silent Hill was good. Seen it multiple times. I could only stomach the sequel once though.

  • the mortal kombat movies has some cool fightscenes :slight_smile:
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i think these movies fail because they fail to stick to the source material, or they’ll add their own “creativity” thus ruining it. look at double dragon, they looked like they were in pajamas at the end of the movie and they were given some kind of power off a medallion.

why the ■■■■ would they add that in there? lol. there was nothing special about billy and jimmy lee in that regard, they were just a couple of motorheads in a slum type city living day to day until marion gets kidnapped.i understand the plot of DD isnt very astounding or in depth, its fairly simple. but look at john wick, they kill his dog and steal his car, then he goes and kills close to 80 gangsters. simple plot can work lol.

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While I completely agree on Double Dragon (at least the Mark Dacascos is martial artist… You so must see Brotherhood of the Wolf ), those of us that have seen DD will never forget Alyssa Milano and the short cut.

mark dacascos is always fun to watch when he fights, he was also there to finish up The Crow after Brandon Lee reached the clearing at the end of the path (R.I.P). alyssa milano, shes always been one of my actress crushes alongside jennifer connelly lol. shes gorgeous! but yeah, they really fucked up DD. all they had to do was just stick to the material, look at abobo. he was just right before they went and put him all monster’d out and looking retarded

I think the biggest issue with video game movies lies in the fact that a lot of games are in themselves based off of movie properties and that little is done to distinguish them from their sources of inspiration, let alone attempt at making them better. One also has to take into account budget, the filmmakers involved, the actors, etc and the type of game one is adapting, because let’s face it, not all games are the same, let alone of the same quality. Take “Doom” for example - the basic premise is essentially “Aliens” meets “Evil Dead”. Cool concept for a game…but how do you write that as a movie? In an ideal world, a Doom movie would have hundreds of millions of dollars attached and would have the best director and writers attached, but realistically that’s unlikely. The closest we’re ever going to get to a “Doom” movie is “Annihilation” (even as flawed as it is, generally speaking it is faithful to the first Doom game and to an extent Doom 3 at a budget). At least, not in our lifetime.
In terms of more recent games, some are so cinematic that it makes it near impossible to do a proper adaptation of them. I would LOVE a “Dead Space” movie adaptation, or even one for “Halo” or “Bioshock”. But, that said…what’s stopping people from replaying the games again, let alone from watching cutscenes on YouTube? What is a movie going to do that the games themselves cannot? Can a movie capture the same level of immersion of that same story?
There are several reasons for video game movies failing - it’s not just one simple single answer, although a big part of their failing has to do with Uwe Boll getting his grubby hands on them. Whatever gripes one has with Paul WS Anderson, comparatively speaking, Boll has done far more damage than Anderson ever could have with several different game series, although ironically his most faithful was “Postal” (but even that was garbage).

Yeah, a pity about “House of the Dead”. I actually knew a guy that had worked on the movie along with “Alone in the Dark” as a storyboard and concept artist. There’s some interesting stuff, especially in terms of the original script along with Mark Altman’s commentary on the HOTD DVD that gives some real insight into what went wrong. Initially, there was talk of the movie possibly getting its own video game by SEGA, so rather than pursue the storyline of the game and its focus on genetics, they opted to do a kind of prequel. That, plus at the time they wanted to avoid comparisons with “Resident Evil” with the whole genetic experiments aspect and the mansion. The original script was set in the San Juans and was supposed to feature different types of zombies with different movements and different types of creatures along with some of the boss characters such as Hangedman and the Hermit. The character of Casper was going to become the latter - in fact, you can see the concept art for her in the making of segment on the DVD. Boll got rid of the creatures, mainly because “he felt they were unrealistic”. It’s a shame really. I love the idea of James Bond meets Evil Dead. A “HOTD” movie could have been a fun B movie. What a waste of potential.

I think the first three RE movies were okay in that they generally represented an arc within the game series - before, during and after. It was when they started continuing after “Extinction” and tried integrating stuff from the more recent REs like 4 and 5 that it became problematic. The first movie was more of a prequel and its own separate story that kind of left the story of the first game intact, for better or for worse. “Extinction”…I like the idea of RE going down the postapocalyptic route someday. In fact, given the various outbreaks and bioterrorist events in the game, it just seemed like the logical route, especially if guys like Wesker keep doing stuff like Ouroboros. “Afterlife” was an awful movie - a self-indulgent piece of crap. “Retribution” and “Final Chapter” were okay, but I think they would have made as better video games than movies (although the editing in the latter was atrocious). In terms of the movie centering on a character that’s not in the games, generally speaking, none of the games ever centered on one specific character, but several characters. The first game was based around Jill and Chris, 2 Claire and Leon, 3 Jill and Carlos, 0 Rebecca and Billy etc. The idea of Alice was to have more of a centralized perspective rather than have all these divergent stories and characters that kind of muddle things up. It wasn’t entirely successful, but I like the idea behind it.

Well, I think I found a movie that is probably the best “Street Fighter” movie that’s not even a SF movie:

This was a Hong Kong movie from 1993 called “Future Cops” that’s a sort of parody that has a LOT of characters based off of SF and to a small extent DBZ. There’s also a pretty funny reference to Super Mario Bros as well.

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