Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Five Video Games That Should Never Be Turned Into Movies

I've got a couple of semi-big posts brewing, but I probably won't get to them until the weekend. In the meantime, here's a bit of overthought nonsense that's kind of tangentially related to one of them. It could be argued (certainly the preponderance of evidence is for the notion) that NO video game should ever be turned into a movie. But these five represent what I think are particularly bad ideas. And I'm going with games that have an actual pretense to plots and characters here, not cheap shots like "Tetris" or "Frogger."

1. Any Fantasy Role-Playing Game

Seriously, I could fill about ten of these lists just by going "Final Fantasy. Dragon Warrior. Earthbound. Secret of Mana. Etc." Now, if you know me, you know I love these games. Flat-out love 'em. Always have, always will. But I love them as games, not movies. Hell, I don't even love them as stories, really. Yeah, OK, Celes and Terra are at the top of my list for girls' names, I'll cop to that, but the "stories" in most of these games are boilerplate epic fantasy (with occasional magepunk thrown in for flavoring). Nothing wrong with that (again, fits right into my tastes), but epic fantasy, in general, does not translate well to film. Yeah, there's Jackson's LotR trilogy, but there's my point: One guy has been able to do it successfully, and that was after several failed attempts. (The Narnia and His Dark Materials movies really have been disappointingly tepid, haven't they? And there's only been one good Harry Potter movie to date.) And, just like the stories in the games don't improve on Tolkein's work, I'm skeptical about the ability of movies of those games to improve on Jackson's. Really, I think the way to go with epic fantasy adaptations is either TV or comics; serialized forms just seem to capture the sprawling nature of it so much better. And HBO's already picked up A Song of Ice and Fire, so again, strong competiton already. I'd watch an hour-long animated drama series with chocobos in, though, if only to see if they could actually pull it off.

2. Contra

On the face of it, this doesn't look so bad. True, muscled guys shooting aliens in the jungle has been done, but it's one of those timeless concepts you can never really overdo, like two women in the American South forging a friendship that gives them the strength to stand up to a hostile patriarchy. The problem here is that no one outside the video game world is going to find a movie called Contra that features muscled guys shooting aliens in the jungle anything but offensive. History lesson: "Contra" is a shortening of the Spanish world "contra-revolutcion." or "counter-revolucion." The real-life Contras were the guys Ollie North funneled money to that he got from selling weapons to Iran. They were also a bunch of fascist bastards who raped and burned the shit out of the countryside, the women, and pretty much anything else in Central America that caught their eyes. Oh, and they were drug warlords. So, while the games are classics of the 8-bit era (show of hands: who here has the Konami Code memorized but still can't remember their Social Security Number?), they're also a dirty little secret that's best kept hidden.

3. Ninja Gaiden.

Okay, yeah, part of the reason I'm doing this is to be ironic, since the original Ninja Gaiden was one of the first games to use cinematic cut scenes to advance the plot. But I'm also serious. Think about this one: You have a Japanese ninja, who goes to America in search of the people who killed his father, runs afoul of the CIA, and ends up in South America fighting a terrorist warlord who plans to resurrect an ancient demon. This hasn't just been done, it's been done in piecemeal, across about a hundred different movies. Which is the problem with adapting video games wholesale, really; they mostly crib their material from other media, and rather haphazardly at that. At least comic books invented the superhero genre; have video games given us anything new in storytelling at all? The answer is no, because video games do not exist to tell stories. (This is its own entry, one that will surely lead to my crucifixion once I actually get around to writing it. Tough. I'm right.) Again, the inherent weaknesses of video games are something we want to conceal, not draw attention to. Then again, you bastards keep buying tickets to crap like Max Payne and Dungeon Siege, so maybe we don't.

4. Super Smash Bros.

This would make a great reality show. Get some cosplayers, throw them in a ring, add in moving hazards, dynamic environments, and foreign objects, and I'd skip work to watch that sonofabitch. As a movie, however, it would start to seem cruel somewhere around the seventieth minute. (Jackass faced similar problems; there's only so much nihilistic self-abuse an audience can watch in one sitting.) The alternative is to go the plot route and have some kind of animated movie with all these characters teaming up. It would probably work, but really, haven't we subjected the parents of America to enough bewildering sensory overload as it is? I still apologize to my dad for Super Mario Bros., and I'm sure there's a support group out there for adults who've had to sit through all umpty-twelve Pokemon movies. It's time to break the cycle.

5. Call of Duty

It goes like this. My grandfather fought in World War II. He ate Christmas dinner in a ditch in 1944, on account of of a little event called The Battle of the Bulge. He gave his hearing defending his country (a loss for which his country has yet to accept responsibility, sixty fucking years later), and a lot of his friends gave their lives. If just one bullet had found a different target, I wouldn't have my mommy. So I really, really, really don't want to see a movie about him and his brothers-in-arms running around like idiots, writing obscene graffiti on walls, and calling each other fags. If I do, I promise I'll come to every one of your fucking houses and throw your consoles in the goddamn microwave.

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