OP-ED: Hollywood Clearly Doesn’t Want Video Game Films to Succeed

Okay, remember how I said I’d post tomorrow? Well, I’m posting today. You’ll get a post tomorrow. This news I just received … Well, it set me off, and a post had to be made.

I saw Sonic the Hedgehog over the weekend. And you know what? It was actually pretty dang good! But you know why? Only because Paramount reacted to the massive and rightly earned horror the public recoiled with upon seeing their “improved” version of the iconic character.

Sonic Redesign

Seriously. Remember this abomination of terror? The redesign of a classic character that Paramount did only because they apparently wanted to “prove” they could do it better?

Here’s what Sonic actually looks like in the games, by the way, so you can see how badly they screwed it up:


Only after being absolutely flattened by angry and horrified responses from the general public did Paramount push the film back and decide to change the final film into something actually resembling the the character whose name they were using, giving us this:

Sonic Redesign 2

Which, you’ll agree is a lot closer to the actual design of the character whose film again, they claimed they were making. You know, they just wanted to improve it.

So why am I talking about this (and exposing you to the horrors of Paramount’s “improvement”)? I mean, I didn’t even get into the absolutely awful choice of music for the first trailer, but I digress.

So why talk about this? Because I firmly believe at this point that Hollywood is doing its best to damage every video game property they can get their hands on. Why?

To damage the competition.

This post comes to you on the heels of the newly leaked script synopsis for the Borderlands film. That’s right, after over a decade of being a colossally successful game series that pioneered an entire new subgenre, Borderlands is getting a film!

In a short blurb? This sounds great. Borderlands has a wonderfully wild and wacky universe and cast, with all sorts of crazy settings and lore. The first thing most would expect, then, is for Hollywood to actually use it.

But of course they’re not.

For the uninitiated, here’s a quick rundown of the first game’s plot: In the distant future four strangers, Lillith, Mordecai, Roland, and Brick, end up on a dustbowl of a planet known as Pandora, each in search of a legendary alien “vault” supposedly full of technological alien riches. Guided by a mysterious voice known only as “Angel,” the four vault hunters team up to hunt down the last piece of a missing vault key that can guide one to both the vault and open it, battling hordes of crazed bandit warlords and the army of a megacorporation intent on seizing the vault for its own ends to be the first to reach the alien treasure.

Sure, there’s more details to it, but that’s it. And does that sound like a good film to you? Ripe with opportunities for action and mayhem? Well, yes, and the more you know about the games, the easier it gets. Car chases? Got it. Alien robots? Got ’em. Dark sense of humor? Cherry on top. Set this on a cool, alien local and scrapworld, and there’s a lot of space for something that’s like Mad Max meets Indiana Jones.

So, what has Hollywood given us? Well, according to Full Circle Cinema:

“A legendary thief named Lilith will be the protagonist in a new story that will include instantly recognizable faces, like the fan-favorite Claptrap. The movie will find Lilith in the Atlas Corporation space prison when the CEO gives her the chance to earn her freedom by rescuing his daughter, the foul-mouthed Tiny Tina, on the planet Pandora. The mission takes an unexpected turn when it becomes clear that the little girl is the key to unlocking a valuable alien vault that Atlas wants all for itself.”

What? Way to take Hollywood Generic Action Script #4 and slap names from Borderlands over it! Lillith isn’t a vault hunter or a siren (a key part of the series mythos) but a thief? Tiny Tina (an explosives expert from Pandora whose family was killed by Hyperion between BL1 and BL2) is the daughter of Atlas’s CEO? Oh, and the key to open the vault? When the keys are alien devices, not people, charged by sirens.

You couldn’t possibly do worse, and frankly, you’d have to be trying to get this far.

But I think they did. Hollywood doesn’t want game movies to succeed. That’s why they cut their budgets, make their scripts dreck (usually), and insist on “reinventing” each property to make it “better” (as they’re currently doing with the Gears of War script, another instance I complained about).

But you know what? I’m convinced it’s on purpose. Why? Because Hollywood’s ego can’t handle being outperformed.

The video game industry’s profits eclipsed Hollywood’s over a decade ago, and haven’t showed signs of slowing. Hollywood—once the biggest entertainment medium around—is now second fiddle. And then along comes a game studio saying “Hey, we’d like you to make a movie based on our stuff!”

And what do you do? Do you take that property and make a faithful adaptation, thus admitting that games have now eclipsed you completely? Or do you take it and “improve” it to show that “Hollywood did it’s best?” And when the inevitable result is a failure … Hollywood just shrugs and says ‘Well, we did our best with what we were given, but clearly games just don’t have what it takes for a good story/world/audience yet.” Thereby telling the public that even Hollywood can’t “improve” those “poor games'” stories.

I mean, look at Tomb Raider. The most recent one. Tomb Raider‘s story and characters are fantastic. The script is full of poignant lines, great setpieces, characters charming and chilling, all about the beginning of Lara’s journey to being the Tomb Raider the audience is familiar with as she winds up shipwrecked on an island swarming with strange ruins and a cult of shipwrecked madmen.

Literally all they needed to do was just adapt it 1:1 for the screen. Great characters, great plot, great story.

But no, Hollywood had to “improve” it. Characters? Gone. Replaced with one token character. Cult? Well, that’s creepy, but how about an evil paramilitary group! Audiences haven’t seen that before! Oh, and the whole crux being Lara’s growth as she tries to escape the island with her crew? Better have it be her fighting for a sample of an ancient virus that’ll wipe out all life on earth the paramilitary group wants so they can kill everyone and kick off their fascist regime! It’s a wrap! Print it!

Tomb Raider bombed, by the way. Hard. My own mother was actually excited to see it, based on three of her children praising the game, and ended up being so dumbfounded that she turned it off halfway through and later told me that she felt insulted by it. And she hadn’t even played the game. The film was just that far off.

And yet Hollywood continues its crusade of “improving” these films, and then sadly shaking its head when predictably, a film that shares nothing but token names with the thing it’s supposed to be based on flops.

And yeah, I think they do it on purpose. To assuage their own wounded egos at being second fiddle to the vastly more profitable games industry. Borderlands, Gears of War, Tomb Raider, even Halo … these are all scripts that practically come pre-written, requiring trimming and some adjustment to bring to life on the big screen.

Instead, though, Hollywood seems determined to do things the hard way.

Ah well, I guess I can always play through Borderlands 2 rather than go see a movie with superficial resemblance to it.

Or hope for a Netflix special. Somehow (by which I mean “by virtue of not being part of Hollywood”) Netflix’s game adaptations have all been pretty solid so far. In fact, they’re downright respectful of the franchise and seem to be made with an eye to bringing it as people love it to the big screen.

Imagine that. What a strange concept.

3 thoughts on “OP-ED: Hollywood Clearly Doesn’t Want Video Game Films to Succeed

  1. I don’t think that they are trying to ruin them on purpose. It’s just that the director or producer or whoever are ego maniacs and want to say that it’s “their” movie. When you get a pre-written story with all the high and low points spelled out there’s not much to hang your hat on for it being your creative work. So they change it to fit their vision.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Another trend with video games movie adaptations that need to be thrown out the window in my opinion is the this video game movie must be set on modern earth so presumably they think that we can connect with them more for some reason or to have a better reason for there to be more human characters. The sonic movie, the mario bros movie (even though that has more problems) and the upcoming monster hunter movie. I strangely thought there was more but looking it up those are the only ones that I can find with a little bit of research but there might be more.

      Keep in mind, I have not seen the sonic movie yet so there might be elements that contradict somethings that I say.

      But with these movies there is no reason to set them in the modern world. With sonic at least there was series where he was in modernish time (sonic x) but for the majority of his series and assorted media he was on his own world and that is what fans want to see. And it is not like there are not humans in sonics world with maria and her colony being one group and there are the overworlders from the archie comics (not sure about these since there was licencing issues about that prevents use of a ton of characters) and mobius is actually a future earth in some continuities. I know you have talked about having an character that does not know about the world to explain it but that really doesn’t apply in my opinion here. The concepts of the games world are super simple to understand and explain without an audience insert to explain (blue hedgehog fights an oppressive dictator that uses robots to try to stop him and how they are doing it is the reverse of how it should be since they are throwing away the world and the need to explain how it works.

      Then with the upcoming monster hunter movie they are taking a story that can be simplified to the concept humans go and explore new lands where they hunt and research giant monsters. Then they are adding the fact that now there is a portal to modern day earth and an united states military team comes through (presumably with guns since obviously a series that is about giant swords and bows needs guns). It almost seems like they forget that an alien fantasy world can stand on its own without a modern human to experience it.

      Liked by 1 person

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