A Monday article of great importance.

Metroid. It’s a cool video game, followed by cool sequels. And supposedly a movie is in the works. Now, this article isn’t specifically about Metroid per se. No, this article is really about the delicate art of adaptation. More and more these days we’re seeing films based on works from other mediums. Novels are, of course, nothing new, comic books have been gaining a lot more respect in recent years, but video games?

Film adaptations of video games are unique in that there has never been a truly *Great* one. As far as I can tell, every other medium has had a truly great film adaptation. I know there are talented writers out there. Someone must be capable of producing a truly great film based on a video game. So many video games are so filmic now anyways. It seems baffling to me that video game movies are almost universally awful.

So why does it happen? Why are video game movies like kryptonite to the common screenwriter? I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. What I do have are what I like to consider educated guesses:

First: The nature of most video games stipulates that there be 1 main character. Aside from RPGs, most games don’t have a lot in the way of character interaction, and without that it’s difficult to write a story.

Second: Running around. So many games are just running around looking for and collecting “things” and getting to specific places. Fun to do, boring to watch.

Third: Ridiculous abilities. As fun as some conceits in particular games are, they just don’t translate to film. This would be fine if the screen writer just had the balls to say “No, that won’t work, it’s gone.” but it seems to me that they’re all afraid of pissing off the fans. Probably because they fear the fans are the only people who will watch the movie.

So, what can be done? To my mind, there’s a reasonably simple solution. Basically, a screenwriter who takes on the task of adapting a video game needs to lay down the law. They need to go through the game, and be brutal about what will work on film, and what has no place in their adaptation. They need to be very clear about what genre they’re working in, and they need to condense story and combine details in order to keep the pace flowing. It’s fine if the game takes hours to win, but a movie has 90 to 120 minutes to get it done.

I want to see a great video game movie, I really do. I want Metroid to be that movie, because I love Metroid. I just hope they find a gifted screenwriter who is willing to make the tough choices to make a substantial and thoughtful film out of that game, and not a 90 minute run-and-gun like so many other video game films have been.

~ by Pagz on March 31, 2008.

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