Saturday, August 26, 2006

Your basic video game movie rant

It's kind of ironic that the same week The Wizard finally finds its way onto DVD, is the same week I happened to see Doom. The irony lies in the fact that 'The Wizard' was the first movie genuinely based on a video game (this excludes such titles as The Last Starfighter or War Games, which were about fictional video games), while 'Doom' represents the worst possible nose dive of potential that video games hold for movie adaptations.

Before I get to the shit that is 'Doom,' first let me look back at 'The Wizard.' Not only was it the perfect movie for kids of the Nintendo generation who were repeatedly told it would rot our brains (or even worse, that we would misinterpret the ethics of vitality contained in Mario Bros. and actually believed we had three 'lives') and rob our youth of any physical interaction -- but I believe that its first-run showing contained the first trailer for another epic movie for said generation:
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. 'The Wizard' is a cut-and-paste youth road quest story, with two interesting plot points: their destination was 'Video Game Armageddon' and the movie gave the masses its first taste of the ultra-hyped (and deservedly so) Super Mario Bros. 3 ('Nobody said anything about a new game!').

So as 'The Wizard' is the alpha, 'Doom' may as well be the omega of video game movies. You may recall that well before even seeing 'Doom,' I wrote about how I
would have done the movie, and how do those thoughts stand after seeing it? Exactly the same, 'Doom' completely missed the boat on the few elements of the Doom game that would have translated to a successful movie. The idea of fighting an army of monsters from Hell? Nope, we get one (1) human/alien species and your usual scientists-turned-zombies as the enemies. One solitary soldier mowing down said baddies? Sorry, for all but the last 10 minutes, our 'heroes' are just that -- a team of marines, leading to sequences sometimes lifted directly from 'Aliens.' And the ending -- THE ending which in my version would make the whole movie? Not even close, when we get to what passes as an exciting climax, there is no reason to care any more.

The most frustrating part of 'Doom' for a once-gamer like myself (the demise of my button-mashing persona is detailed
here) is that it is devoid of any creativity or apparent effort. It could have easily been titled 'Quake' or 'Half-Life' and no one would have really noticed. The only aspect directly linking the movie to the game (besides the semi-amusing BFG 9000 scene) is an extended sequence shot in first-person, as if it's the game come to life -- or something. It held my interest initially but was way too long and came off as a desperate ploy to please the unlucky souls who paid to see the movie expecting it to actually be based on the game.

So is it possible to still make a successful video game movie? To answer this, let me steer you toward my pick as the best game movie:
Mortal Kombat. Yes, 'Mortal Kombat,' the Paul W.S. Anderson-directed adaptation which amazingly was No. 1 at the box office for four weeks in 1995. What did 'Mortal Kombat' do it? Well for one, it came out at exactly the right time -- when the game was still popular (MK3 had just hit arcades and a few other incarnations were on the way), in the case of 'Doom,' interest in the game probably peaked shortly after a minimally-improved Doom II was released in 1994. 'Mortal Kombat' was also willing to have its tongue slightly in cheek (much like the game it adapted) -- a good example of this is the choice to cast Christopher Lambert as the informative demi-god Rayden (!). The budget was of course modest, but the effects were perfect, giving the movie the look of a video game. While it was no masterpiece, you could say that 'Mortal Kombat' was as good as it could have possibly been, and probably shattered any expectations fans of the game had.

My fear is that the complete failure of 'Doom,' will dampen any future excitement for movies of this genre, which won't be a tragedy by any means, but it will deal a defeat to persons like myself who hold out hope that video game films low on budget but high on creativity can be a pleasant affair. The upcoming Halo project could renew my optimism, since it fits into the 'Mortal Kombat' model, but it will take more than another 'Aliens' remake.


Rick said...

You should watch Silent Hill if you want a good video game to movie experience. It perfectly captures the games sounds, feel, and even the parinoia you get durring long drawn out exploring scenes. The music, camera work and environment are amazing. It's the only video game movie that's captured the feel of the game well. Although the writing is bad and the ending, well horrid. Tomb Raider was enjoyable but had a life and feel of it's own.
But Silent Hill is worth a watch for the disturbing beauty and ambiance alone.

Dylan said...

Of course, the writer is completely fair.
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