So, before I start I wanted to clarify that when I talk about bad game to movie adaptations I’m pretty much limiting my statements to the live action variety. A friend reminded me that Advent Children was enjoyable, which is true even if looking back on it I have a lot of negative stuff to say about the movie. I definitely enjoyed it on my first watch though. Similarly, I haven’t seen every game-to-movie adaptation so if there’s a few good ones out there please let me know.
Now, let’s talk about what I’d like to see in a movie. Since I talked so much about Double Dragon, let’s assume we’re trying to make a good film adaptation of Double Dragon. So, let’s start with stuff from the first game that we will definitely want to include:
*Two brothers. Billy and Jimmy Lee. If we want to draw from the NES game, we can have Jimmy as the villain, but I think we can make a better movie with the brothers not being opposed.
*Marion, their girlfriend, being kidnapped. I guess for purposes of a unique narrative she should only be romantically involved with one of them, we’ll say Billy. He’s player one after all.
*Abobo getting kicked into a pit from a conveyor belt. Then later bursting through a mountain wall because that’s awesome.
*The post apocalyptic burnt-out city setting.
*Machine Gun Willie as the final boss, with there being some significance in the fact that he brings a damn machine gun to a fistfight.
These are things that we must include in order to be a faithful adaptation. We’re also going to keep as much of the background information we can get from the first and second video game, although that still leaves us with some background building to do. So, let’s start with the setting:
We know that we’re going to have the post-apocalyptic bombed out crime city thing going. A world where, cut off from any real government or sense of order, things have fallen into anarchy with gangs running different parts of the city. Most people end up falling under one of these gang’s protections, but occasionally people refuse to get actively involved. We can say this is usually overlooked unless there are tensions in the area already, such as a gang war, at which point people may find themselves pressed to support one or the other gang whether they like it or not. We can use this to justify why the Lee’s haven’t had much in the way of trouble up until this point. We can also use the post-apocalyptic world to justify why nobody has guns. Making a working, reliable firearm is difficult and there’s not a huge supply of them so the fact that Willy has one is enough to make people scared of him.
That should be enough setting for a solid action movie, especially since we don’t even have to have it all discussed it just needs to guide the script and the direction. Now we need to develop the characters a little bit for the sake of being able to tell a story. I get that the emphasis will be on the action, but we want to make a good movie. So, let’s talk about the characters:
Billy Lee: Alright, first I think it is important that we not make the Lee brothers twins in the movie because that severely limits casting choices. That and they don’t look much alike anyway. We’ll play Billy as the somewhat wiser, calmer of the two brothers which will fit with his blue color scheme. It should give them some good back and forth, with Billy being objective oriented and Jimmy enjoying the brawls they get into a bit too much. We can also have him fight in a calmer, more technique oriented manner.
Jimmy Lee: The younger Lee brother. Being younger makes him more impulsive and impetuous and probably more aggressive. If the Lees had parents, who we can assume are now dead, he probably spent less time with them. Having grown up being primarily raised by his older brother who would have probably been going through his own aggressive violent stage, Jimmy is probably much more brutal than his brother. His style could emphasize physicality, and he could be stronger and faster than his brother but less refined.
Marian Kelly: Ok, this is going to be a difficult one to do for a few reasons. The entire plot of the game is set off by Marian getting punched in the face, hefted over someone’s shoulder, and carried off. However, she’s ALSO supposed to be an instructor at the sou-setsu-ken dojo so she should have some action girl capabilities. I figure we’ll present her as a martial artist, but perhaps one who doesn’t keep up with her training. She can still defend herself, and probably will at a few points, but she doesn’t have the same passion for the martial arts that the brothers have.
*Alright, now we’re at the villains, and that’s where it gets dicey. Most of them were pretty much just, well, sprites for you to beat up. This means we pretty much have to craft any personality we’re going to get from scratch. This means creating some backstory so that they’ll have chemistry with the protagonists. Let’s start with…
Machine Gun Willy: Alright, so based on his sprite and character art, Willy is an older guy who has been in charge of the Shadow Warriors for a while. Still, up until this point his gang has left the Lee brothers more or less alone. So we’ll go with his primary motivation being to maintain or expand his gang’s power. Rather than having a personal vendetta with the Lees, perhaps he wants them to spread their martial arts skills to his soldiers. When they refuse, he kidnaps Marian to try to force their hand. Obviously he didn’t expect their reaction. Outside of using a gun, we can give him a military-esque hand to hand style.
Abobo: The big guy, the bruiser. We can take a page from the existing movie and have him be a ‘roided up muscle man capable of inhuman feats of strength, but we want him to be human. In a world where guns are scarce, he made a point to be the strongest and it’s worked, making him the single most dangerous soldier in the Black Warriors besides Willy himself, who only really outdoes him because he has a gun. His fighting style can be reminiscent of western boxing with some pro-wrestling or judo style throws. We could also subvert the “big dumb guy” cliché by having him actually be smart and a quick thinker, especially when it comes to fighting.
Chin Taimei: Ok, we really have no information on this guy except that, according to the third game which many people choose to forget, he has a brother. He was the boss for one level and even the instruction manual of the game just calls him a karate master. Since he was only added for the NES game, we don’t have to expand on him that much but his character design is pretty rad so we should include him. He can appear as an enemy who is strong enough to tie one of the brothers, we’ll say Jimmy, up while Billy is in pursuit of Marian and her captors.
Jeff: Ok, we can do some awesome stuff with this guy. He’s not only a head swap of the brothers in the arcade and NES games, but he also uses their fighting style. We could have him be a former student of theirs who fell in with the Shadow Warriors. Maybe he’s even the one who turns Willy on to the idea of getting the Lees to train the rest of his gang members. That could give us some real chemistry between him and the Lee Brothers. He can be a sympathetic, semi-reluctant villain throughout most of the movie. We could consider a face-heel turn as well.
Alright, so that’s enough for fleshing out the characters I think. Also, this is getting rather long. So we have all of the building blocks for a faithful and excellent video game adaptation, and in my next post I’ll give a plot outline for our hypothetical adaptation and see what people think.