Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ending the Menace of Video Game Movies

The state of the industry
I hear that Ubisoft is starting its own movie studio to develop its games (such as Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell) into films and TV shows.

Nope, nope, nope. Do not do this, Ubisoft.

I declare a moratorium on movies based on video games until Hollywood pulls its collective head out of its ass.

I can do that, right?

It’s not that video game movies are bad per se, it’s that they often choose to ignore the parts of the game’s story that made them compelling in the first place. Doom isn’t the only franchise guilty of this.

I’ve long ago accepted that movies made from books are not the books. They are different works of art. But usually they have the decency to use the same characters and the same plot, if simplified or modified somewhat to fit the new format. (Except I, Robot, of course, which took the title and nothing else.)

Ubisoft's Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is a good case study. That game was not only a terrific platformer, but it had a top-notch story. One that complemented the gameplay and turned in on itself neatly. The narrative actually caught up with the framing story and overtook it. It was inventive and engaging.

The film chucked all of that and kept the title and the dagger that can turn back time. Why? I'm betting the screenwriter had never even played the game. It's a shame, because the story lent itself to film, in my opinion. It even stands up to scrutiny as a fantasy adventure.

Who knows, maybe the new Ubisoft studio was formed to prevent more atrocities like this. But given that Prince of Persia snagged $335 million at the box office despite lukewarm reviews, I doubt they'll want to change that model.

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By the way, Assassin's Creed doesn't need to be a movie! It's a fun story, but it's long and complicated and does not lend itself to the screen. Besides, it's already been told quite well in the games. I foresee either a lot of confused moviegoers or a story that bears virtually no resemblance to the game.

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