Is There Any Hope For Video Game Movies?

All Of This Has Happened Before, And All Of It Will Happen Again

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Superhero films haven’t always been movie industry darlings. Just like video game adaptations, superhero films also went through creative dark ages. In 1989, Tim Burton’s Batman exploded onto the movie scene. It achieved unprecedented mainstream success and redefined how the public viewed superheroes. An entire decade passed though before superhero movies consistently met the high standards set by Burton’s Batman film. They only increased in quality once a wave of talented and respected directors took a crack at the genre. Bryan Singer, Sam Raimi and Christopher Nolan each proved comic book movies could be entertaining, profitable and critically respected.

Right now, Marvel’s Cinematic Universe (the MCU) is the “Soul Gem” in Hollywood’s money-clutching Infinity Gauntlet. Marvel’s recipe for adapting comic books is so on point that even non-superhero movie series are aping their strategy — the Ghostbusters, Men in Black and Transformers franchises are each looking to incorporate shared universe models. Studios are jumping on the shared universe bandwagon so fast that it’s easy to forget all the second guessing that went into Marvel’s initial plan.

Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from Iron Man director Jon Favreau as he shares his early thoughts on the MCU strategy.

“It’s going to be hard, because I was so involved in creating the world of Iron Man and Iron Man is very much a tech-based hero, and then with ’Avengers’ you’re going to be introducing some supernatural aspects because of Thor. How you mix the two of those works very well in the comic books, but it’s going to take a lot of thoughtfulness to make that all work and not blow the reality that we’ve created.”

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In 2008, even Favreau, the vanguard of Marvel’s multi-billion dollar franchise, couldn’t envision the money making alchemy the MCU was tapping into. He was worried that Hulk or Thor may not mesh with his version of Tony Stark. In hindsight, that all seems silly. The same goes for studios put off by the stink associated with video game movies. Sure, video game movies haven’t caught on like the X-Men or Harry Potter series, but that doesn’t mean success is impossible; it only means they haven’t found success yet.

There are those who argue that video game movies fail because games provide inadequate source material. Many believe that they lack the artistic merits to warrant 90-minute feature films. Sadly, a video game movie hasn’t come along to Hadouken this theory into oblivion, so let’s address it. Even if video games were bland, mind-numbing bits of entertainment, that doesn’t stop them from sparking some talented screenwriter’s imagination.

Disney based their hit film, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, on a theme park ride… A THEME PARK RIDE! Disney’s confidence in their pirates concept paid off, too, as the project attracted a talented director (Gore Verbinski), an A-list cast (Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Keira Knightly), and launched a billion-dollar franchise. 2014’s The LEGO Movie offers further proof that even titles based on bland source material can foster massive critical and commercial success. If theme park rides and plastic bricks can inspire colossal hits, why can’t narratively complex and thematically rich video games?