Movie Adaptations Of Video Games: Fixations And Failures

You’d have to look long and hard to find a movie based on videogames that went on to become a huge hit with critics. Sure, most of them make just about enough money in theatres to turn in profits for the studios but they are rarely impressive. Why is this so? Most importantly, why have the studios simply refused to give up on trying?

Struggle to Get Things Right

Hollywood analysts simply don’t know how to stem the tide of negative reviews for video game adaptations.  They are left wondering how movies based on video games with millions of followers and fans, simply can’t resonate soundly with the viewing public.  Two movies that capture this perfectly are The Angry Birds Movie, which is based on the hugely popular mobile game, and the Warcraft movie, based on the game with over 12 million players around the globe.

The Angry Bird Movie has a $73 million production budget and earned $39 million in its opening weekend in the US.  The movie has grossed nearly $151 million worldwide.  However, the movie was only awarded 43% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Warcraft performed poorly in the box office but has since gone on to pull in over $400 million worldwide.  In the process, it overtook Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time as the highest grossing video game adaptation of all time. However, at 30% rating, it failed to better Prince of Persia’s critic numbers on Rotten Tomatoes.

Past History

The video game adaption journey didn’t begin this year, however.  The popularity of arcade video games in the 80s, with themes that can still be found on new casinos online and other refreshing gaming websites led to the first Hollywood forays.

They started off with classics like Tron, WarGames and The Last StarFighter.  The following decade saw some fairly successful adaptations like Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and the Resident Evil franchise. However, there were others that failed both commercially and critically.  Super Mario Brothers for instance earned $20.9 million on a $48 million production budget. Other such failures include Double Dragon and Street Fighter which were Mortal Kombat adaptations, and Wing Commander.

Why are more adaptations lined up?

Firstly, some of the producers are still holding out on the possibility of hitting a sweet spot with their stories hence breaking new grounds. A good example of this is Warcraft. The movie makers tried to bring together a chaotic universe under a simply understood story. Critics say they failed in this attempt because they were unable to tell the story in a manner that appealed to neutrals that may not have played the games.

Secondly, even when poorly rated, most of the adaptations go on to cover the production budget and turn a profit. Silent Hill: Revelation 3D and Hitman: Agent 47 were rated 5% and 8% on Rotten Tomatoes but still pulled in $52.3m on a $20m budget and  $82.3m on a $35m budget respectively.

Will adaptations ever be gotten right?

It remains to be seen. For this to work though, adaption creators have to borrow a leaf from the Comic and Super Hero genres by ensuring only those that truly understand the games (with real experience in the game) play the roles in movies.  Secondly, there has to be a conscious effort to tell the stories in a way that will appeal to both fans of the games and neutrals alike. The excitement that comes from being hands-on with a game (or watching a video game competition) is different from the excitement that comes with watching a movie. Movie adaptations will only become successful when this is understood by all parties involved.


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