The future of video game adaptations

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Image: UbiSoft
Image: UbiSoft

In an era devoid of creativity, it is no surprise that Hollywood movie producers have turned to video-games as another source for inspiration. Spin-offs and sequels of comics already saturate the market. The unparalleled success of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe, a franchise whose films have grossed $7.1 Billion over the course of ten films, just goes to show the benefits gleaned by exploring other mediums. Yet, for every Avengers Assemble, there is also a Grand Theft Auto that makes $1 Billion in one day. Video-games in many respects are leading the way in world entertainment and it would make sense for said Hollywood producer to utilise their success as a platform for future productions.

As of 2015, rather than commanding the cinematic sphere, video-game adaptations still though remain a well of untapped potential. It is telling that ‘Rotten Tomatoes’, a website that compiles movie reviews, has never in its history designated a video-game adaptation ‘fresh’. Only 60% of acclaimed movie reviewers need to see a film in a positive light for such an accolade to be awarded, but high-profile adaptations like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Need for Speed have always fallen short of this irreverent indicator of critical success.

A film based on the popular Assassin’s Creed games seeks to break away from this forlorn ‘status quo’. Hiring established actors such as Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, one would think their presence would bring sense of gravitas to proceedings; a presence that also would dispel the sense of cynicism that has always lingered near video-game adaptations. It remains to be seen whether this feat can be achieved (the film is scheduled for release in 2016), however, this is unlikely. For as long as adaptions are focused on relatively ‘silly’ escapades in an alternate history, the genre is never going to be perceived seriously. Rather like what Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy did for comics, video-games need a trailblazer so that they do enter the ‘big league’. For all of the cast’s sublime performances, the films’ most crucial component was that its characters were immersed into a framework where pertinent themes, such as escalation and psychosis, were emphasised in a refined, sophisticated manner not seen previously in the ‘superhero’ genre. Such was the vociferous outcry when The Dark Knight was then considered for Best Picture at the 2009 Academy Awards, it has long been stipulated that the film’s snubbing directly resulted in the Best Picture category expanding itself to ten nominees.

Image: Sony
The Last of Us: The Movie? Image: Sony

Although a movie built on a zombie, survival scenario might not appear the best bet for yielding a similar ‘game-changing’ adaptation for video-games, 2013’s The Last of Us does bear all the hallmarks of a reworking that could garner some real commercial and critical approval. Garnering over 230 Game of Year Awards, this was by far the most celebrated game of time, with particular praise saved for its nuanced and moving storyline. Game of Thrones Maisie Williams has been long linked with one of the lead roles, but it is due to The Last of Us’ suitably serious tone that one can assert somewhat confidently that the film will denote a newfound highpoint for video-game adaptations.

Nonetheless, the terrifying prospect of Minecraft and Angry Birds movies means The Last of Us won’t totally break video-games adaption’s unfortunate tradition and herald an unbroken glut of high quality productions. The cacophonous cries of cartoon birds aren’t going to provide much emotional depth in anyone’s book, and it is unlikely the importance of a film’s atmosphere will alter whatever medium from which a film is derived.

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