The Wide Angle: Game over for video game movies?

Published 7:01 am Sunday, June 19, 2016

There is a huge problem when your movie costs reportedly $160 million to make and only brings in $24.4 million the opening weekend in American movie theaters.

That’s especially true when “The Conjuring 2,” a limited-scope horror movie that doesn’t do anything different and based supposedly on real-life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren, beats you.

Alas, such is the fate of “Warcraft,” a broad and sweeping epic based on the video game series.

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Some would say, given the track record of video game movie adaptions, that this was inevitable. Movies like the “Resident Evil” series and “Silent Hill” movies, based on the immensely popular survival horror classics are examples of movies that did better than most, but still suffered from plot inconsistencies, shoddy writing and off-the-rails plot deviations that lose all connections to the series.

Earlier this year several stories earmarked “Warcraft,” and December’s “Assassin’s Creed” adaption, as movies that could break the awful string of poorly-made mirrors of their games.

But the problem remains — and this is a big one from a guy gnashing at the bit for “Assassin’s Creed” — video games are not good platforms to base movies on.

The first issue, and maybe the most glaring problem, is the lack of usable plots. A lot of games require, obviously, the active participation of the player to advance the script, which turns into anywhere between 12 to 60 hours of game play on average.

Somewhere, directors, writers and companies who wish to go down this path need to look at a game and decide, “Yes there is a usable plot in here.” This quest (pun, get it? Quest) becomes a massive dig through not only the actual storyline but the numerous side quests included in each game.

This is a minefield of elements — what do you include? What do you leave out? This leads to the next major hurdle.

Will the fans enjoy it?

Here’s the thing about video games. Each game has its hardcore fan base. “Halo” fans will most likely see a “Halo” movie if for no other reason than see how spectacularly the movie will fail compared to their expectations.

The other side of this, is fans have a preconceived notion of how “their” movie should look. Again, what should be included and what should be left out?

I count myself a huge fan of the “Assassin’s Creed” game series, even harboring a place in my heart for the poorer games of “Assassin’s Creed III” and “Assassin’s Creed Unity.”

But even I’m a little bit unnerved by December’s movie. The cast itself is encouraging, including Michael Fassbender, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Marion Cotillard. This is a cast that has a very good track record in movies but still there is the notable about-face in familiar stories.

Fans of the games will not see Ezio Auditore, Edward Kenway or Altair Ibn-La-Ahad, though rumor is some of these may be referenced. We are introduced to an entirely new band of characters and storyline. Fassbender plays may character Callum Lynch and his Spanish Inquisition ancestor Aguilar in this story.

People have already begun scratching at the itch that this is not a story from the games.

Now if you are an optimistic fan, like myself, you see a ray of light. The games have always been story-driven and the movie shouldn’t be hurt by this deviation in plot. If anything, the games and the “Assassin’s Creed” universe welcome that kind of story deviation.

Still, change. *Shivers*

Lastly, and still going along the fandom path, your movie has got to appeal to people who don’t play video games.

No matter how many fans a game or series has, movies will struggle to make back half their budget in the first weekend. “Warcraft,” which is largely computer generated, was one such victim, at least here in the states.

The games are massively multiplayer online role-playing games with just enough story to tie it together. They are not something a casual player will pick up so then why should it be expected that your average movie fan will want to see it?

Sure, you will get some cross over from the same people who liked “Lord of the Rings,” but not nearly enough to make it successful.

I would suggest that at some point it might creep up to $160 million and to be fair, China ate it up with $156 million over five days going on to set box office records. But that’s in China.

There is a hope for better movies and just enough money has been made that video game movies will continue. If “Assassin’s Creed” is successful, then perhaps a new age of video game movies can be made.

But that’s a big “If,” and there will need to be quality sequels to that big “If.”