Video games have a distinct advantage over movies when it comes to capturing an audience. They’re longer and often more engaging than most films, thus movie adaptations are always going to have a hard time telling the same story.
The recently released Tomb Raider is proof of this. The film follows Lara Croft on her first adventure as she searches for her father on the long lost island of Yamatai, where she finds herself caught in a conflict with the Order of Trinity, who threatens to end the world. There’s a lot of clunky dialogue and an intense focus on action sequences rather than character development, which ultimately proves problematic since it effectively fails to include the essentials of the source material.
The film proves to be more entertaining than its predecessor, and there are some fans who are ready to declare it the best video game film ever made… but that’s really not saying much. Like every video game film, ever, it’s still largely inferior to the video game it’s based on.
So, why was it even made? Why does Hollywood still attempt to adapt video games to film? Considering what modern video games are like, it seems relatively pointless.
In past decades, films based on successful video games were warranted. The games drew players in, but they were highly unrealistic (just look at the polygons on 1996’s Lara Croft), and though they tried, they just weren’t able to offer the vivid action and intense thrills that a trip to the movie theater could provide. It made sense to make Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, because the film was able to add emotion and depth to the world around Lara Croft, who was essentially limited by technology to one facial expression. Angelina Jolie’s action sequences also looked better than anything video games were capable of producing at the time, but that’s simply not the case anymore.
Technology has advanced to the point where it’s now difficult to discern a digitally produced cinematic clip from actual gameplay. Game developers make use of motion capture and relatively elaborate set pieces to help them construct different scenes so their games can offer an epic, cinematic experience with which audiences can interact. Because of this, video games are being taken far more seriously as an industry.
It’s why we’re starting to see more prominent Hollywood figures lend both their voices and sometimes their likeness to mainstream games. Veteran actor Martin Sheen played a prominent role in the Mass Effect trilogy; Charles Dance lent his voice to CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, Kit Harrington starred in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, and Ellen Page and Willem Dafoe starred in Beyond: Two Souls. The list goes on and on. Award winning film score composer Hans Zimmer even had a hand in composing the soundtrack for Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. It’s clear that the development of video games have reached the point at which they can be compared to large budget films.
So, again — why continue to try to adapt them to film?
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