This might actually appear hard to believe but apparently of those polled, a lot of adults would rather see the more cartoonish games that have come along as big screen movies than anything else. There’s definitely a basis to work from there considering that video game movies such as Assassin’s Creed and Need for Speed were absolute duds at the box office, as Kristy M. Wright of Screenrant reminds us. Plus, Sonic the Hedgehog, despite being the highest-grossing video game movie of all time, could have been much different if the designers had gone for more realism and not changed up the blue hero’s look when fans went berserk over his appearance. But realism appears to be the sticking point for a lot of people when it comes to video game movies since if anyone’s played the more recent movies of the past decade or so, and it’s likely that many of us have, it’s almost like playing an interactive movie all on its own. Unless the game has a great deal of hidden content that has yet to be realized by players or has somehow left itself open for interpretation there’s not a lot that can be done on the big screen since it’s already been told during the game. That might sound as though it’s minimizing the experience in a way but in reality it means just what it says, most of what makes the game so great is left on the table by the time a person reaches the long list of credits at the end.
One big advantage that cartoon-like video game movies have is that they can pull off of a lot of different angles that can expand and better explain the story in a lot of different ways. It’s easy to think that any video game can do this but the main gist of the story is usually told in that one big arc that the characters go through and by the time it’s over and done with people are pretty much done with it. Mark Humphery-Jenner of The Conversation has more to add to this. There are still arguments that movies like Assassin’s Creed could be redone since it has a long history to pull from and many different characters that could drive the story in different directions while keeping the core ideas of the game in mind. The movie we were given sent the Creed off in a different direction than a lot of people were likely hoping since it would have made more sense to focus on a character that people that had played the game could recognize such as Altair, Ezio, Edward, or even Dante. Instead they picked another assassin that a lot of people knew nothing about and went off a story line that was similar to the gameplay by at the same time so different that it was hard to get behind it.
In general, video game movies are a lot of fun when they’re done in a way that mirrors the game in some crucial way and doesn’t deviate too much from the overall theme. Sonic the Hedgehog definitely took the game beyond the normal borders, but thankfully after the character redesign it was finally accepted since it featured a great cast and apparently a convincing story that kept it’s cartoon-like quality. Other movies based on video games, such as Super Mario Bros., have flopped since they went so far off script and made it a little too real instead of keeping to the cartoon-like quality of the whole thing. Apparently adults would rather see the old classics represented in a way that makes a little more sense based on the games they came from. If anyone wants to remember, Pixels with Adam Sandler and Kevin James attempted a huge mashup of old video games and used Pac Man, Centipede, and Donkey Kong as three of their biggest challenges. Unfortunately the movie didn’t really strike the right note with a lot of viewers and was less of a success than a blunder. Video game movies walk a very fine line between acceptance and outright rejection since by following the script too closely they can appear cheesy and not at all realistic, but by injecting too much realism into their story and not following the driving narrative at all they suffer a huge disconnect that makes people wonder what they’re watching and why they bothered. In a way, video game movies suffer a lot more scrutiny than any other type of movie since their margin for error is so small that making one is taking a risk no matter how popular the franchise it’s pulling from is. Meghan Cook of Insider can give another explanation of this.
It’s kind of a hope that Sonic will be the benchmark moving forward since there are other games that are being looked at for a live action adaptation. But whether they’ll make us believe that video game movies can be worth the effort or not remains to be seen.