Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Closest Chances for Game Movies

sorry for the late paper. I had severe trouble finding a game for my original topic and had to switch gears at the last second. Since it's not appropriate for the paper, I would also like to just point out that with the new Speed Racer movie, we were 20 dollars and a paint job away from a serious F-zero movie.

My full intention for this paper was to write out a summary for a live-action game movie that would be successful enough to reach critical acclaim and hopefully lift the stigma on game movies. For this, I set three simple criteria.

  1. The game has to be obscure so as to not immediately be recognized as a game movie

  2. The game has to have a rich background and history with at least some maturity to it

  3. The movie has to be a side-story of the game's plot and not an immediate rehashing

However, as I spent a whole week searching, I came to realize that no game has actually met all of these criteria. Even if one did exist, it's likely said game wasn't very good, and would not reflect well on it's movie successor once it was revealed it was a game movie. So, I decided to present four candidates that fill most of the criteria, but fall short in some way and present my argument for them.

Psychonauts- Unfortunately, this one fails to have any known backstories worth exploring that weren't fairly well fleshed out in the game. Do we really want to know Dr. Demento's life as a dentist before the game? Also, this game is not as obscure as it would need to be to keep from being immeditately recognized as a game movie. However, the game has three major things going for it. First, the writer of the game is alive and would want to see his character brought to a mass audience again. Second, the game, while not Oscar winning, is definitely an interesting and wonderful world to epxlore. Third, the game ended on a cliffhanger that'll probably never be resolved due to poor sales of the original game. A movie could be an excellent chance to tie up this loose plot end. If anyone could write a movie script for a game, it's Tim Schaffer. Mind you, it'd come off as a bit like Kevin Smith, but is that a bad thing?

Skies of Arcadia- Here's a game with a really interesting world. Technology is steam-punk, everyone lives on islands floating in the sky, and the whole place is littered with bad ass Air Pirates and an evil empire. This isn't exactly a Shakespearian tragedy, but the game does have a solid plot and a very well fleshed out world. On top of that, if we're talking about selling seats, nothing is hotter in the movie industry right now than pirates and fantasy. Like Psychonauts, the fans got a cliffhanger ending that will likely never be resolved, and we're too assume that the main characters had many adventures after this. So, a side story movie after the game isn't unheard of. The game's obscure enough, the world's rich enough, and we have the grounds for an after story. The problem with this adaptation would be the casting. Even with only 6 main characters in the actual game (and only 3 of them actual members of your crew), the movie might have too many characters. Fans would insist on a nod to some of the members of the previous game, and it might bog down the plot a lot. There's only so many cameos you can do in 2 hours. On top of that, casting Vyse, the main MAIN character, would be extraordinarily difficult. Vyse is portrayed in the game as one of the most charismatic characters ever. For some reason, this was accepted in the game. People like Vyse. However, in a movie, without careful casting, Vyse would be a smug James Bond/Indiana Jones wannabe. Finally, even if it does come out, this isn't going to win any Oscars without Peter Jackson directing it

Breath of Fire IV: Dragon Quarter- This one's very interesting. Despite being from a famous series of games, the game itself is an obscure cult classic due to a weird combat system. The world is rich and interesting. It's set in a post-apocalyptic future wherein the people polluted the world so bad that the people can no longer live above ground. Instead, they live underground where monsters roam free and rangers have to keep everyone living from day to day. One of the characters is created for the sole purpose of filtering the air in the underground mine shafts that everyone lives in, and it turns out that she's defective and that living down here for much longer will kill her. From a serious plot stand-point, this game has everything. In a game that's only about 10 hours long, we touch on issues such as class gaps and elitism, the needs of one versus many, the environment, the harshness of dark side of science, government conspiracy and surveillance, terrorism versus freedom fighting, and sacrifice. The game even has an almost tragic ending. The game fleshes out its story extremely well with unlockable side cutscenes extending the story on multiple playthroughs. The best part is, if you cut out the fluff and dungeon crawling, the game could actually be truncated into an actual 2 hour movie without sacrificing anything of particular value. However, this volates the rule of doing a side story. You could discuss the events prior to the game a bit more, but ultimately, this would be a rehash of the game itself.

Phantom Brave- This one has much the same idea to it as Dragon Quarter. Fairly simple plot that covers some deeper issues at its core. The story of a girl that can see ghosts and her ghostly sidekick covers issues of honor, people's inability to accept things that are different, personal sacrifice for the good of others and society, not judging people by appearances, and even that the most insignificant of people can have a major impact on the world. It's a deceptively deep plot with few enough main characters that you could reasonably cover most of them in 2 hours without sacrificing anything. The plot is a bit longer than dragon quarter, but it is still possible to get the whole thing down due to the simplicity of some of the chapters and the fluff nature of others. It even has a bit of a tragic twist at the end of the game. Once again, we're getting mostly the same plot. Unlike Dragon Quarter though, this one has the potential of telling the story from a different character's point of view. The tragic Anti-hero of the game, Walnut, is interesting enough to warrant a main character role in a movie, and a story about him would be one about the redemption of the flawed hero. All in all, it would make for an interesting and very serious film that doesn't have the typical happy video game ending.

In the end, I'm not entirely sure the industry is ready for good video game movies. No one has made a game that fully fits the criteria needed to break that barrier. How long were movies out before we had a good movie based on a book? How long after that before we stopped constantly focusing on the fact that said movie was a book first? If anything, this research has proved that the industry isn't ready yet. A game hasn't come out that's good for movies, but this research does show that there is a good possibility that we will get there in the future.

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