Why video games make bad films

George Street Odeon this week should be thick with leather jackets, cult t-shirts and weedy teenagers; Mark Wahlberg’s Max Payne is coming to town. We already know it’ll probably be the worst film you will see this winter: avoid it.

However, this is just one of many game-to-film casualties. Others include the shocking Resident Evil trilogy, the even worse House of the Dead, Alone in the dark and Hitman. Quite why the film industry continues to allow such rubbish to be made is beyond me, but pre-pubescent teenage boys will pay top dollar to see meaningless violence and female nudity.

This trend is inexplicably consistent. Most films have had more than respectable budgets behind them. What’s more, they’ve had the support of some solid talent; Angelina Jolie found success with her turn as Lara; Milla Jovovich nailed the lead role in Resident Evil. Olga Kurylenko came to Quantum of Solace after roles in Hitman and Max Payne. Doom carried that mindless genre of space-horror to its natural conclusion. So why the scepticism?

Films of games are a new challenge compared to adapting books, or even comics, because narrative is not the main principle of a game. It’s not strictly accurate to describe games as interactive movies: the movies they might have been rarely would be good ones. Indeed, Max Payne was effectively a satirical montage of action movie clichés; it’s right there in the title!

The reason we loved it as teenagers was that the experience was fresh and exciting, not because it read like a novel. Max Payne is a movie, based on a game, which was a game based on bad movies. It’s going to get messy.

Resident Evil is the only game adaptation so far to succeed, partially because of its decision to completely trash anything that remained of the original plotline. A couple of telling references were all that was needed to keep the fans happy.

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The rest was all about making a damn entertaining zombie movie. Of course, Milla Jovovich completely naked may have boosted sales somewhat. Whereas, a fully clad Mark Wahlberg fighting demons as well as crackheads isn’t going to cut it.

So why will the next video game movie be terrible? I quote Uwe Boll, vilified director of House of the Dead: ‘Let’s be realistic, House of the Dead is a brainless shooter, where you shoot zombies into pieces. So what are you expecting from the movie, Schindler’s List?’. A little extreme?

Probably. But the point stands. Games are good story-telling, not good stories. So save your £6. Buy a book or something.