One almost feels sorry for directors trying to adapt video games for films. “What luck,” thinks our imaginary aspiring director, “I’ll have a huge audience guaranteed to watch my film; we’ve already got the merchandising worked out, and it’s all plotted too. What could be easier?” The answer is; almost anything you can imagine.
Initial viewings of the latest game-to-film offering, Paragon Lost (from the Mass Effect franchise), have provoked a mixed reception at best, which should hardly come as a surprise; there’s never been a film made out of a video game which has been met with universal acclaim, although there have been countless books and TV shows which have been popularly received on the big screen.
Nonetheless, as it seems Hollywood is determined to keep churning out video game adaptations, perhaps we should consider what needs to be done to improve the overall quality of the genre.
In a nutshell: directors need to accept their budget, and then design the film around it. It’s all very well setting out to make a Legend of Zelda film, but if you don’t have the money to stage and populate Hyrule (which would require something along the lines of the $300 million that The Hobbit reputedly cost to make), then you’re going to end up making a shoddy product.
Obviously this applies to all films, but it’s especially relevant to adaptations, as video games are so often epic in their scope. The special effects are often amongst the most criticised elements of these films, so why not just dance around the problem entirely and make something lower key and more character-driven, unless you have the finances to pull it off.
Precisely for this reason, an animated film might be the better choice in many cases.
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