Video games and Hollywood: Who's adapting who?
When those who comment on film talk about the film adaptations of video games they always do so with a little bit of negativity, in fact most will claim that all video game adaptations are rubbish, forgetting that they deserve to be rated against film, not lumped into one unique category which is already marked down heavily.
However the truth is very different, there are good video game adaptations out there, but there's a bit of jealousy and bias out there, for while video games have successfully merged Hollywood into their business, Hollywood is struggling to do the same.
Video game adaptations are, for the most part, middle of the road films and yes there are some complete stinkers, some really terrible films, however there have been good ones. Tomb Raider is a good film, I say it a lot, the story is good and it's a good action/adventure film.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a ground breaking film and when you watch it again with all the fuss about it passed behind, it's a good one.
Silent Hill and Resident Evil aren't bad films, they're pretty good. Of course they aren't blockbusters, but when the video game stigma is put to the side and they are compared with other films in the horror and action genres they're doing pretty well.
Nowadays though the pickings for Hollywood are much richer, there are huge games like Halo, Half Life, Bioshock, Grand Theft Auto, Brothers in Arms, Rainbow Six – there are games out there with positively huge stories to them just dying to be adapted for film, and yet Hollywood is struggling to make them. Why is that?
Films are struggling with budgets and hard times and have to try and bring the huge scope of the video game to the big screen while video games aren't suffering the same problems.
Let's look at it the other way around. Video games have successfully merged Hollywood into them and instead of adapting films they've taken the rules and essence of big budget successful films and applied them to their products.
Video games are way more cinematic than they ever used to be, and they can be so easily compared to film. They can have epic plots with sweeping stories that arc across generations, universes. Their effects can be as big as the huge Hollywood blockbusters, and indeed much bigger. They don't have to worry about locations, moving productions across countries, building physical sets, etc.
Basically video games are limited by the imagination of the developers and computer artists, as well as the technology and the budgets, but their budgets are much more focused on the film and less on so many other things that are required just to get one scene set up.
Video games don't have to be photo realistic, the audience are already used to that level of realism and each new development is a step forward, in film there's a constant struggle to make any CGI work look as good as the real life image that sits beside it, no matter how good CGI is these days, it's still a step down from realism.
While Hollywood is still talking about adapting video games and struggling to do so, the video game industry is making new video games that are hugely cinematic and incorporate all the elements of the big blockbusters.
Now there are more and more rumblings within Hollywood that they're going to drop their attempts at adapting the big name video games. Halo has moved back into development hell and Bioshock looks like it's dropping down the list in terms of development, meanwhile film studios are beginning to look to develop original ideas direct to video game.
Is this the last we're going to see of the Hollywood attempts are adapting video games? Perhaps, but they've never really tried to do it right and embrace the way that the video game industry have, instead they've taken the idea and pushed it in the opening of the Hollywood conveyor belt waiting to see what comes out the other end.
Perhaps Hollywood needed to take a little from the model that Square used to create Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within film, and a little from the studios that make these huge video games in the first place, as they should have done with Halo.
It's clear that the video game industry is managing to create cinematic content much more than Hollywood is managing to create great films based on video games, and it doesn't look like that's changing any time soon. Perhaps that's the way it should stay and Hollywood should either change, as the video game developers have, or give up.
Just think what Halo could have been, what Bioshock could be, and what is still on offer from a lot of these other hugely cinematic rich video games that are being played right now and are yet to come.