The article is a short reflection on how game (specifically, First Person Shooters) to film adapations have, generally speaking, yielded poor results. To be honest, I don't find this surprising at all.
Adaptations are hard. Damn hard. In order to make a good game to film adaptation, the writer/director needs to know what makes a good game, what makes a good movie, and perhaps most importantly, the difference between them. My point here is that what works well in a game does not necessarily work well in film, and vice versa. Most directors who have made game to film adapations demonstrate a lack of knowledge and understanding in this area.
Most of them are experienced film directors/producers who don't really know anything about video games. Sometimes it's the other way around; game designers/developers who aren't familiar with the intricacies of film. Or in the case of Uwe Boll, you have a man who quite clearly doesn't know anything about either format.
Building on the example in the GoN article, Doom is an excellent demonstration of what happens when you mix game and film elements in an inappropriate way.
The most obvious instance of this is the lengthy sequence that is shot in first person which apparently seemed like a great idea when the film was in production. Executive producer John Wells said that not including a first person sequence in Doom would be a "miscarriage of justice". Karl Urban (Reaper) said of the seqeunce, "the audience is doing the rampage, the audience is doing the work and that is so cool. It’s insane!".
That's absolute nonsense.
The reason why first person perspective is naturally immersive in videogames is that you're working with an interactive medium. In the film, the audience isn't doing anything. They're observing. The whole scene feels very mechanical and gimmicky and it gets boring pretty fast.
Roger Ebert (Chicago Sun-Times) wrote:Doom is like some kid came over and is using your computer and won't let you play.
Joshua Tyler (cinemablend.com) wrote:A lot like sitting next to your buddy, looking over his shoulder while he plays an old first person shooter on his computer. Watching isn't as fun as playing.
In my opinion, there's actually a much bigger disconnect between film and videogames than there is between film and literature. That sounds counterintuitive at first, because unlike books, movies and games seem like they have more in common as they are both audio-visual in nature. But while movies and books are primarily a storytelling medium, games can survive without much (or any) story because it's the interactivity that is most important.
Of course, that's not to say that videogames can't deliver a compelling narrative (actually, I'm of the opinion that games are much better at this than movies are), but the interactivity comes first. If there's no interactivity, it isn't a game. I can think of many great games that have absolutely no story at all but I can't say the same for film.
If you really want to translate a game to a film, you have to make changes to suit the medium. Usually, lots of changes. What would Half-Life, for example, look like if you presented it as a film without making any changes to the story? Apart from being 6-8 hours long with only half an hour of dialogue, the bulk of the film would consist of Gordon crawling through air ducts and breaking open crates with his crowbar. If you wanted to make it work as a film, a lot of stuff would have to be cut and the story (while adequate for a game) would have to be fleshed out significantly, which is extremely difficult.
Gabe Newell (Valve Software) wrote:There was a whole bunch of meetings with people from Hollywood. Directors down there wanted to make a Half-Life movie and stuff, so they’d bring in a writer or some talent agency would bring in writers, and they would pitch us on their story. And their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst. Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of.
Very similar issues exist when bringing books to film as well. When Peter Jackson's the Lord of the Rings was released, I remember hearing a lot of Tolkien fans voicing their distaste after noticing some of the significant dramatic changes that Jackson made when writing the screenplay. Not only do I think that those changes work, but I also think the bulk of them were absolutely necessary for the story to flow properly as a film. It's totally unsurprising to me that earlier attempts which were much more faithful to the original story were not as well received by the moviegoing public.
Suddenly I've come to think of Ender's Game, which is one of my favourite books (and one I assume many people here would have read). The film adaptation of Ender's Game recently finished principal photography and should be out some time next year. As a fan, I'm both concerned and fascinated with how the movie is going to turn out because as far as I can see, there is absolutely no way you can tell a story like Ender's Game on screen exactly the way it was written as a book.
Let's take my favourite character, Bean, as an example. When bean is first introduced in Ender's Shadow (for those of you that haven't read it, it's the same story as Ender's Game but told from Bean's perspective), he is about four years old but looks like a two year old. Combined with his incredible intelligence, I declare that there is no child actor in the world that could pull off such a character in both appearance and performance; I don't care how talented they are. The only way I could think of doing this is CGI, but in many ways, that would be even more difficult to pull off.
It's obvious that there has been a ton of changes to the story for the film adapatation and I can't help but feel extremely conflicted about this. The fan in me is upset that they would make such changes with what seems like willful disregard of the original story's themes but the more open and objective me admits that telling Ender's Game as-is in film would just not be feasible. I really don't know what to expect.
So what about you? What adaptations have you seen that you thought were very good or just didn't work at all? What game/book would you love/hate to see adapted? Discuss!