The Problem With Videogame Movies!

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Last Thursday Wikileaks posted thousands of files that were originally uncovered last year when Sony Pictures was hacked. Many of these files were somehow tied to video games and a good number of them mentioned the Uncharted movie.

For some people that will be great news while others will claim this series shouldn’t get a movie deal. We can definitely see both sides, but regardless of which side you’re on, we noticed something about the emails talking about the movie. Some pretty odd claims are being made here.

Of course it’s strange enough that they’re making another video game movie. It seems like a good idea to both give the fans something a little new and squeeze some money from the franchise, but video game movies are almost never good. That’s bound to happen when you try to cram around 20 hours of story and character development in about two hours.

Before we begin, let it be clear that this will be a very opinion-based article. That’s not to say we won’t try to represent both sides of the argument, though. Our opinions on the franchise are already rather different in that one of us is not overly fond of the franchise, but willing to give it a pass, while the other feels it’s style over substance with no original thought in the story and a protagonist in serious need of having his teeth kicked in.

The Uncharted franchise has given us very pretty, very cinematic games with a heavy focus on beautiful set-pieces. You could argue, then, that this makes it a good candidate for a movie makeover. However, the stories have never been particularly original and go from drawing inspiration from other franchises to downright ripping them off. Because of that, you could also argue that it’s not worth pretending the plot of the games is more than it is and making a movie out of it is a waste of time.

That said, let’s look at some of the claims made.

“National Treasure is certainly a fun movie with an engaging historical mystery (and Uncharted can deliver on those elements), but the action sequences are softer, mostly wide shots and very little physical mano-a-mano fights, gunfire, or up close intensity,”

“They aren’t inspired. They don’t feel real.”

Both of these quotes are from an email sent by Columbia pictures senior vice-president Jonathan Kadin to a number of Sony executives. First and foremost, maybe don’t compare your new movie to one that was already ripping off others. Especially not with Uncharted. The series has already ‘taken a lot of inspiration’ from things like Indiana Jones movies and the Tomb Raider franchise.

Furthermore, nobody is going to hold National Treasure up as one of the great examples of American cinema, but somehow it just feels like they completely missed the point. Uncharted is very much in the action genre, National treasure…just isn’t. Sure, it has action scenes, but it’s not the main focus of the movie.

Complaining that it doesn’t have gunfights and insinuating your movie will be better because it does just seems immature. Guys, a story isn’t instantly made better if you add a gunfight. Besides, those don’t do much for making things feel real either. Granted, gunfights are a staple for the Uncharted series, so we’re not saying that they shouldn’t be the in the movie.

They certainly would have livened up Pride and Prejudice, though.

They certainly would have livened up Pride and Prejudice, though.

It’s hardly the last strange comparison though. For example, Sony Pictures creative executive Adam North described the movie in an email from 2013 as a “really fun summer adventure film like the Lara Croft movies (with a little bit of Dan Brown thrown in).”

The second part of that sentence is fine, a bit of Dan Brown probably can’t hurt. It would be fitting for the uncharted movies. The first part…Well…Look, we’re very sorry, but the Tomb Raider movies sucked. Thankfully we’re clearly not the only ones who think so, considering neither have managed to score over a 6 on imdb.

They were boring, creatively bankrupt movies with no understanding of the franchise that turned one of gaming’s badass, intelligent women into a dull, emotionless twit. And they hoped that the fact that Angelina Jolie is really hot would distract you from how terrible the movie was.

No! Focus! This movie was crap!

No! Focus! This movie was crap!

And that’s where we encounter the main problem. Video games movies are generally made by people with little to no understanding of the franchise and the fanbase. If you want an example of that, look up Uwe Boll’s work. The man has made not giving a shit about the source material into an art form.

In case you think that Sony might be more protective of what’s quickly become one of their bestselling franchises, allow us to show you another email from Mr. Adam North.

“Drake needs to have more aching questions about his past and where his family comes from so that this discovery that he’s related to Francis Drake has personal meaning for him. Right now it’s a surprise, but it doesn’t feel emotional.”

And he’s not the only one. Mr. Kadin weighed in on this as well.

“…Drake’s relationships with Elena and Sully are deeper and much more involving,”

If you like the characters as presented in the games, those statements probably made you worried. In fact, you probably should be. Not a single video game movie represents the main character properly from start to finish and, going by these statements, it certainly doesn’t seem as if any lessons have been learned since then.

The last thing fans of the Uncharted franchise were crying out for was a broodier Drake. That’s not the kind of character he is, whether you like that about him or not. Saying that you’re going to improve the relationships between the characters is also kind of a slap in the face to the fans.

Guys, they’ve bought three games with these characters in them. I think we can assume that they like the relationships fine as they are.

Of course the very first argument you’ll hear to defend any potential changes is “It’s an adaption, of course it’s different.” That is such an incredibly childish and lazy argument. Yes an adaption can and should change certain things. That doesn’t mean the adaption can’t get things totally wrong. If we made an Uncharted movie and a pink elephant came by every 5 minutes, that argument wouldn’t hold up either.

This is the case with pretty much every video game movie. The movie industry desperately tries to change the adaption in the hopes of appealing to a wider audience, when anyone who’s played the games can tell them that it’s not going to work and that it will only serve to alienate the fans. The moment most people hear that the story was adapted from a video game they haven’t played, they’ll lose any interest in going.

People are still likely to go to a movie about a book they haven’t read, but video games haven’t reached that level of general acceptance and probably won’t for quite some time. We’re not saying a video game movie can never have wider appeal. What we’re saying is that when you make a movie based on a video game, your main target audience is the fans of the game and they should be your first, second and even third concern before you worry about general appeal.

Again, feel free to change certain things, but always consider if the thing you want to change was there for a reason. Shave off imperfections, but don’t try to fit everything in the same box. Most importantly of all, get someone who actually understands the material you’re working with and what the fans consider important.

Of course the quotes used here are all from executives in the industry who undoubtedly have a far better understanding of how these things work…but damned if their statements didn’t make us doubt that for a moment.

What do you think? Is there still a chance that the movie can be good? Are there any videogame movies you feel actually do represent the franchise? Let us know in the comments below!

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