In 2001, Remedy made its mark on the gaming world with Max Payne, a gritty, noir-style third person shooter and detective story. Its gimmick was the seemingly groundbreaking "bullet time," cribbed heavily from The Matrix and John Woo films. Though a fun distraction, its central gameplay feature also prevented it from attaining any sort of broader appeal (can't really manipulate time in a multiplayer match). With a grand total of 5.5 hours of playtime between the two games, Max Payne gained some popularity among noir neophytes and amateur vigilantes whose fanboy aspirations quickly moved on to the Halo and Chris Nolan Batman franchises.
Cut to 2008 as director John Moore releases the game's film adaptation. Rather than appease fanboys with a direct retelling of an already overwhelmingly cinematic video game, Moore takes its mishmash of influences and adds a few dozen more for good measure. What results is a capably executed but dully trite visual cacophony of cinematographic excess that left fans of the franchise fuming. Why were they so upset, you ask? Because some things were slightly different.
|Forget it, Max. It's Vikingtown.|
Even without this tragic past, Max would probably retain the same grouchy demeanor, as the film's dark, Gotham-esque vision of New York would render anyone living there with a permanent and debilitating case of Seasonal Affective Disorder. When it isn't snowing, it's raining. When it isn't raining or snowing, it's raining AND snowing. Such weather is only appropriate for grim missions of vengeance, or pondering weak and weary over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.
|It even rains inside.|
|Either he's addicted to smack or he has the flu.|
|"Would you like making sex tonight?"|
By the 23rd minute Max Payne shows all its cards. A mysterious drug on the street? A large pharmaceutical company? An old friend who works at the company who seems to have Max's best interests at heart? Max gets another tip when he visits a friendly tattoo artist who knows an inordinate amount about ancient Norse mythology. So much so that he keeps an old leather bound book on his counter dealing with this very subject.
|For more information visit your local library.|
|Aesir Pharmaceuticals: We're not evil (please ignore the giant eyeball).|
|IS THIS REAL LIFE?|
Furthermore, the uses and implementations of the drug are a little unclear. Are the effects physical, mental, or both? Are the Valkyries hallucinations of the user or manifestations of some deeper sorcery? I doubt someone with no prior knowledge of Viking history could just hallucinate its mythical creatures.
|This isn't happening! I got a D in World History!|
Fanboys are terrified of any sort of change. And even though Max Payne isn't a great movie by any stretch of the imagination, at least Moore tried something a little different from the source material, even if it is a cliche-ridden episode of Law & Order with supernatural influences. Despite this, the film is visually stunning, the special effects are expertly utilized, and the acting is surprisingly competent.
Critics continued their predictable and irrational hatred of video game movies by universally panning Max Payne. What's amazing is how critics respond to a bland, predictable film with bland, predictable criticism. "There's plenty of Payne to be found here - in more ways than one." I see what you did there, James. Truly you are a modern day Wordsworth.
I'm not sure where their vitriol toward video game adaptations comes from; it's like they see video games as a threat to their chosen profession and will do everything in their power to prevent their encroachment into film. They also seem set on completely dismissing video games as a source material.
It's not that a good video game adaptation can never exist, but that its audience has yet to insist upon it. There is no flaw in the medium itself, just in the way it's been implemented up to this point. Filmmakers need to decide whether they're adapting video games, or merely buying the rights to sell tickets. Until they can commit to the former (or stop half-assing the latter), video games and video game adaptations will continue to be dismissed by critics who know little about either.
108 rotten reviews out of 129