After years of delays, Uncharted has finally made its way into theaters. However, to the surprise of very few, the video adaptation is entering the weekend with a weak rotten tomatoes score. The website has all 48 video game adaptations ranked and out of that number, there are only four movies that have a good rotten tomatoes score: Werewolves Within (86%), The Angry Birds Movie 2 (73%), Detective Pikachu (68%), and Sonic The Hedgehog (63%). Hollywood has been trying to make video game adaptations work for decades now, and yet, the executives for some odd reason can’t seem to pull off a great movie based on the amazing source material that video games have. Now, I have yet to see Uncharted so I’m not going to bash the film despite its low score. The overall consensus seems to be that the movie is just average and nothing special, which is a far cry for the incredible video games that they come from. Is it time for Hollywood to throw up their hands and just give up on video adaptations? Is it even possible to make a classic video game adaptation?
Here’s the thing, a great movie can be made out of anything. Ang Lee’s Life of Pi was deemed impossible to make since it was a CGI Heavy movie that needed to be mainly shot on the water. Oh, and with a Tiger and teenager at the forefront of the film. The 2012 feature ended up being a fantastic spectacle that managed to balance its weighty themes and story together nicely. Life of Pi garnered amazing reviews and won four Academy Awards: Best Achievement in Visual Effects, Best Achievement in Music Written for Motion Pictures, Best Achievement in Cinematography, and Best Achievement in Directing. The Lego Movie is based on a bunch of toys that have no storylines or characters attached to them. Yet, it’s one of the best animated features to come out in the last decade thanks to the inventive story by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, along with crisp and strong visuals that make great use of the Lego product that never feels like a cheap product placement for the popular toys. There are dozens of other examples of why a select movie shouldn’t have worked, but with the combination of the right filmmakers and talent, somehow, they managed to pull off a huge feat.
Yet, it feels as if video game adaptations are a different beast. Notably, none of the 48 video game adaptations have an Oscar winner attached to the project as a director. However, that doesn’t mean that talented writers or directors who haven’t won the prestigious award don’t exist. By this notion, Christopher Nolan, David Fincher, Ridley Scott, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch, or Paul Thomas Anderson aren’t talented directors. Still, the purpose is to highlight that video adaptations tend to lean towards newcomers or in the case of Uwe Boll, bad filmmakers. But that’s not exactly the root of the problem; Just because a filmmaker is inexperienced or makes a couple of bad movies doesn’t mean he/she won’t be able to produce an excellent film. The issue lies with the fact that filmmakers don’t seem to either understand or care for the source material itself or get too steeped into the making a faithful adaptation that they forget about making a coherent and simple film. Video game adaptation shouldn’t be this hard. As a writer myself, I understand that the craft of storytelling isn’t as simple as it seems, but the fact that there’s some many duds when it comes to video game adaptations remains baffling. However, it not just the fact that video game adaptations tend to come out poorly when it transferred over to film, it’s more so the fact that there doesn’t seem to be a need for them these days.
Again, I can’t speak on the quality of Uncharted as I haven’t seen the film. However, an Uncharted movie wasn’t necessary to begin with. For anyone who’s played the games themselves, you’ll understand that those PlayStation exclusives are virtually movies in their own right. The video games are lured with compelling characters, grand locations, and strong storytelling. The same thing can be said about The Last of Us, Halo, Resident Evil, Assassin’s Creed, or Silent Hill; These are pretty interactive movies that don’t particularly need to be adapted to film or television. Obviously, whether Uncharted turns out to be a box office success or not doesn’t matter because more adaptations are on the horizon. In truth, video games don’t need television or movie adaptations. It’s not for the simple factor that most of them are bad, but because we already have a visual medium that allows us to see these games as movies in virtual form. Novels or comic books don’t have a visual medium; thus, it’s understood why fans want to see adaptations of those source materials. It’s okay if Hollywood opted to stop making video game adaptations going forward. While it would be cool to see what certain games would be like in live-action format, we’ve surpassed the point as video games are virtually movies themselves.