Ok, let’s talk about this for a second. It’s a little different from my normal fare but let’s just look at it. Why is it that EVERY videogame adaptaion is mediocre at best and Uwe Boll at worst. Warning, this entry will probably include at least one imaginary conversation.
Ok, so, here’s the thing. There are a lot of videogame to movie adaptations. Some of which you might not even know exist, and some of which you have probably tried to block from your memory. The thing is, when you stop and give it some consideration, it’s really inexplicable. Ok, let me rephrase. Some game to movie adaptations get a pass. The first Mortal Kombat, for example, was actually a decent adaptation and had some potential, and the main reason it’s remembered more fondly than most other adaptations is because it stayed somewhat true to the story (Only really changing things to give Liu Kang some much needed personality). All of the one’s that are remembered poorly? They changed things, and I don’t mean just a little, I mean they changed a lot. That or they made really, really bad casting decisions.
So where should we start? Super Mario Bros. Maybe? I’ll give it a pass, not because the movie was good but because making a live action Super Mario Bros. Movie would’ve been a budgetary nightmare back in the early ’90s. When CG was limited, the directors had to ask themselves “How do I represent this with the resources I have available?” And let’s all be honest, none of us would ever take a live action goomba seriously. Never in a million years. I’m willing to say that Mario should just never be made into a live action film.
So where am I going to start? I’m going to start with Double Dragon, which I feel may actually be the worst offender. Why the worst? Because not only did they make a bunch of stupid changes, they ALSO made a horrible casting choice. So, let’s play fly on the wall and imagine how this pitch happened:
Afternoon. The setting is a board room where several film executives sit, ready to listen to the film pitch of a young, bright eyed intern.
Intern: Thank you all for letting me speak. As you know, Nintendo has been making bank with the Nintendo Entertainment System. However, one of their recent film attempts, The Super Mario Bros. Movie, was kind of a bomb. I believe this is because they made a bunch of huge changes to the plot, probably out of necessity. However, we could get the rights make a videogame to film adaptation that could be easily made on a limited budget with no changes at all. It would be a simple project that could easily pull in huge amounts of cash.
Executive 1: I like it!
Executive 2: Tell us more!
Executive 3: Harumph!
Intern: Ok, so the gameis about two brother’s named Billy and Jimmy. They’re both like, karate badasses who live in a run-down post apocalyptic city. Think a cleaner New York from Escape from New York, or a slightly more destroyed New York from The Warriors. So, their girlfriend gets kidnapped by this gang called the Shadow Warriors and they basically kick ass across the city until they get her back.
Executive 1: Two brothers who know karate huh? But how will we bring something like that over to film?
Intern: I don’t… um… I don’t understand the question sir. We just get two actors who look kind of similar that are trained in martial arts. Or not, I mean, Ralph Macchio learned karate FOR Karate Kid. And hell, Van Damme played his own twin not too long ago…
Executive 2: I get that son, but what about the gangs? I mean, how are we going to bring gangs to the big screen?
Intern: If you mean how do we keep a 2 hour long film interesting, I guess we could include themed gangs kind of like The Warriors did…
Executive 3: Harumph!
Intern: I don’t know what that means.
Executive 1: Well, tell us about the characters in this gamemovie you’re pitching son?
Intern: Well there’s the brothers who do karate of course. Um… I think besides the brothers the one fans are most going to want to see is this guy named Abobo. He’s this super big bodybuilder guy. We could try to get Bolo Yeung or, hell, maybe like Hulk Hogan? Then there’s Machine Gun Willie, he’s the leader of the gang and he’s got a machine gun.
Executive 1: A machine gun? No, no, the gang is called the Shadow Warriors, we should make them magical ninjas. Hell, the movie is called Double Dragon, let’s throw some mysticism into it too. Give their leader magical powers.
Intern: I think that might alienate your fan base. I mean this is a pretty gritty action game and I think if we-
Executive 2: KIDS LIKE VIDEOGAMES! We should make everything really cartoony. Maybe the brother’s magic dragon powers can come from an amulet or something.
Intern: They don’t HAVE magical dragon powers. They just do martial arts, it’s like how people used to call Bruce Lee “The Dragon.”
Executive 3: Harumph!
Executive 1: We could cast that kid from Party of Five!
Intern: He doesn’t even know martial arts?
Executive 2: So? Neither did David Carradine! I can see it now. We can make this Bolo Bobo guy like a drugged out steroid freak or something.
Intern: But that’s not what this game is about and the fans will hate it and…
Executive 1: NOW HOLD ON! Are you saying that we should take this game about two brothers who know karate and, when their girlfriend gets kidnapped by a gang they karate their way across a post-apocalyptic city to rescue her from gang members, one of which is huge and another of which has a machine gun… and when we turn it into a movie about two brothers who know karate and, when their girlfriend gets kidnapped by a gang they karate their way across a post-apocalyptic city to rescue her from gang members, one of which is huge and another of which has a machine gun?
Intern: YES! That’s exactly what I’m saying!
Executive 2: You’re fired!
Executive 3: Harumph!
Intern: How is it that the guy who has ONLY said harumph suddenly seems like the most sane of you three?
Executive 2: Get Andy Dick on the phone!
The intern leaves, his soul thoroughly crushed. Scene end.
And that’s what I imagine happening. I’ll avoid going into too much of a rant on how the final product sucked because the Spoony One and the Nostalgia Critic have both done it. Instead I’m opting to try and demonstrate how ridiculous the logic train must have been to get from one point to the next.
See, adaptations always stray a little bit. With books you usually have to take stuff out. With plays, sometimes you have to add stuff. With videogames, especially classic ones, sometimes you do have to flesh elements out. They gave Liu Kang a little brother to avenge and a shaky relationship with his Shaolin temple and with his faith. That’s an acceptable change, especially considering that at that point I don’t think we had any real reason to think it couldn’t be the case because Liu Kang was a pretty flat character in the first few video games. Comparably, Doom changed demons into some sort of weird genome stuff and King of Fighters made Terry Bogart as CIA agent. If it were just one or two movies, you could chalk it up to bad film makers but it’s a vast majority of video game adaptations across a wide range of directors. It’s like a tradition and I don’t get it.
So next time I’ll get productive. I’ll talk about my desires for a video game to film adaptation and how I would craft such a thing to be somewhat successful, or at least well received.