With YSM's first themed month in the bag, Dobson and I decided to offer our thoughts on video game movies as a whole. See us discuss, among other things, fanboys' dismissal of all things different, critics' dismissal of that which they don't understand, and Pixar's hit film Cars!
Nick: So I went on a little rant at the end of my Max Payne review, and while it doesn't have to do with the film directly, I think it's worth discussing.
Dobson: Yeah, I went on a similar tangent at the end of my Mario review.
Nick: I thought mine was the spiritual successor to that.
Nick: You were getting to a point and I was trying to finish it.
Nick: But of course I didn't really get there either.
Dobson: The video game director is getting hit from both sides.
Dobson: On the one hand the fanboys want an exact recreation of their experience,
Dobson: and on the other the critics are going to shit on pretty much anything you do no matter what.
Nick: It's because video games reward obsessive nitpicky behavior.
Nick: I dare not say the A-Word.
Dobson: Good because that would make you a BAD PERSON!
Dobson: A worse person, anyway.
Nick: But a world of IMDb anachronisms and minor editing mistakes cater to the crowd required to memorize long strings of alphanumeric codes and the layouts of multiple levels of increasing difficulty.
Dobson: I'm more of a gamer than you but I still feel like the fundamental goals are completely different.
Nick: The more narrative games become, the less interpretation there is.
Nick: So those goals stay the same but they cram in all these 10 minute cut sequences voiced by Steve Buscemi.
Nick: For YEARS there have been rumors about a Metal Gear Solid movie.
Nick: And eventually it is going to happen and will be terrible.
Nick: But the question is WHY is this an inevitability?
Nick: When those games are already 90% film?
Dobson: Well until Metal Gear Solid 5 is just a 10 hour movie of David Hayter saying "Metal Gear?!" it's still a game. The fun is in problem solving, controlling a little man who can do lots of stuff.
Nick: I feel like a lot of gamers view video game movies as some long cut scene,
Nick: and after the movie is over they expect to be treated to the most BLISTERING gameplay experience the world has ever known,
Nick: and it just never happens,
Nick: and they go home angry.
Dobson: Hahaha you're probably right.
Dobson: But even games praised for their narrative have an ungodly amount of repetition,
Dobson: and you just can't do something like that in a movie.
Dobson: It can't just be Mario hopping on Goombas for 20 minutes.
Dobson: Alan Wake was praised for having a great story, but it featured literally hours of pointing a flashlight at shadow monsters.
Nick: That is a game with an identity crisis.
Dobson: Can you imagine any other media where 75% of your time could be spent doing repetitive tasks and is hailed as original?
Nick: I guess that depends on if you consider the Drinking Bird a work of art.
Dobson: Don't get me started on the "can video games be art?"
Nick: That's a completely different discussion,
Nick: and those who choose to participate usually know little about video games or art.
Dobson: Yeah let's move on.
Dobson: Can there be a successful video game adaptation?
Dobson: Or, has there been one already?
Nick: Prince of Persia was a perfectly fun, competent movie.
Nick: The only thing separating it from Pirates of the Caribbean is $200 million in box office gross and about 45 minutes of superfluous footage.
Dobson: "Yet 'Prince of Persia,' a movie born of a video game, is at war with itself, and the bad guys win. They're the ones responsible for the plot, which is a junkyard of Arabian Nights clichés; for the numbing action sequences that feel like identical segments of an endless loop; and for a climax of boundless absurdity."-Joe Morgenstern
Dobson: "As in a video game, each obstacle or level of challenge they encounter is progressively more difficult. But this is a movie we're watching here. Although 'Prince of Persia' stimulates the circulatory and nervous systems, it engages none of the higher faculties of game play. Like, say, hand-eye coordination and map-reading skills." -Michael O'Sullivan
Dobson: I guess I don't see how these things being pointed out are endemic to video games and not summer blockbusters.
Dobson: Like you said, a plot full of cliches, progressive difficulty.
Dobson: All we're missing is a giant Krakken.
Nick: Because someone told them it was a video game adaptation,
Nick: and is therefore endemic of that.
Nick: There have been a flurry of vampire movies.
Nick: I don't see any critics ripping into Bram Stoker.
Nick: Maybe if Jake Gyllenhaal wore more eyeliner they would have enjoyed it more.
Dobson: I'd say that the critics don't matter (and they don't), but Prince of Persia wasn't exactly a big hit, either.
Nick: Insufficient marketing?
Dobson: It had a budget of $200 million and made half of that back domestically (although it was well received internationally).
Nick: Disney seems to do this from time to time.
Nick: Throw $200 million at a movie and then just kind of hang it out to dry.
Nick: THEY CAN'T ALL BE CARS!
Nick: Oh wait Cars had a massive marketing campaign behind it
Nick: and did incredibly well!
Dobson: Yeah I think it was a poor marketing campaign in part.
Nick: Maybe they just don't care and assume it will make a profit internationally.
Nick: As if there's some 3,000 screen theater in Russia somewhere that will take anything they make
Nick: EXCEPT CARS!
Dobson: Well they wouldn't understand Cars.
Dobson: Nobody outside of the US gets our bizarre nostalgia for tasteless and ugly automobiles.
Nick: I think we're getting off topic.
Nick: This is all your fault.
Nick: Stop bringing up Cars.
Nick: Nobody cares about Cars.
Dobson: But I think it's telling that maybe the best video game adaptation ever is seen as a box office bust and labeled under "brainless summer action."
Dobson: I mean yes, it's not deep
Dobson: Also one more quote regarding Prince of Persia.
Dobson: "If I were the Prince of Persia, I'd push the button, go back in time and plant a wet one on Tamina's luscious lips." -Roger Ebert
Nick: Aww Ebert has a crush.
Dobson: That would make my stomach turn even if I didn't picture it.
Dobson: Also he says the special effects are sped up and unbelievable.
Dobson: Maybe he hasn't heard of parkour?
Nick: I do like how Ebert essentially limits his criticism of video games to one sentence.
Nick: "It's based on a video game, but don't make me play it, let me guess: The push-button magic dagger is used in the game to let you rewind and try something again, right?"
Nick: I mean at the very least he reviews it on its own merits
Nick: and only takes a jab at a video game he never played because I guess it's expected of him.
Nick: My favorite thing critics do is go to a movie based on a video game they've never played,
Nick: say the movie's bad,
Nick: and then assume the game is therefore bad as well.
Dobson: Yeah I mean it lacks the narrative nuance of Rashomon,
Dobson: so therefore it sucks.
Nick: I wish it showed more from Ben Kingsley's perspective.
Nick: Maybe the dagger turns back time and then switches POV.
Dobson: Maybe it's just that movies are relieved to find a medium even younger and less respected.
Nick: Yes video games are the red-headed stepchild of the medium world.
Nick: The tiny, neglected, multi-billion dollar industry.
Dobson: It's always baffling to me though when gamers suggest turning something into a movie.
Dobson: I mean video game stories build on what critics call "cliche" because it's the simplest way to tell a story
Nick: Hit A to jump?
Nick: So banal!
Nick: I'm going to make a game that just utilizes the triggers.
Dobson: Well I mean from a story perspective.
Nick: Oh right.
Dobson: Half of Nintendo's games are about rescuing a princess.
Dobson: They're stories built on an accumulation of archetypes.
Dobson: They steal from EVERYTHING.
Nick: I mean cartoons do the same thing,
Nick: because they're for children.
Dobson: It's not original, but it ends up being a story you know intuitively.
Nick: You're ultimately tasked with mastering the controls.
Nick: If you're led through too much experimental storytelling it's kind of like patting your head and rubbing your stomach.
Dobson: Yeah I mean even stuff like Dragon Age and Mass Effect is very traditional storytelling.
Dobson: But it lets your character's actions lead directly to different outcomes.
Dobson: But we're getting off-topic again.
Dobson: Let's talk about CARS some more.
Nick: Can you believe they sell that movie at WAL-MART?
Dobson: Should we get some final thoughts?
Dobson: Let's do it.
Nick: Most video game movies are bad but they're getting better,
Nick: and video games are not incapable of being the inspiration for a great movie.
Dobson: Film critics may not accept them as a genre, but that's more about personal prejudice.
Dobson: Movie adaptations are always going to upset fans because you absolutely have to make changes.
Nick: I mean video game movies don't need to feel like video games,
Nick: but some movies not based on video games do.
Nick: Like CRANK!
Dobson: Or AVATAR!
Nick: Or CARS!