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Video Game Movies – Why ignore the original plot and characters?

When Constantin Film announced its plans to reboot the Resident Evil franchise now that Paul W.S. Anderson’s six-movie run is over, there were mixed reactions. Some fans think they should just let the films die, while others believe that this might bring about much-needed change. As for the current cast, at least one major member threw some shade on the decision.

For me? I think it’s a good idea with one caveat: please follow the story as written in the games.

I’ve always wondered why, when given a perfectly good video game story, the writers, directors, or producers change it all into something watered down and barely related. I’m not saying every video game has a compelling story that can be easily translated onto the screen. Yet, far too many of the popular ones already had decent characters and plots that were completely ignored.

Take 1995’s Mortal Kombat, for example (coincidentally also directed by Anderson), which started on the wrong foot with its PG-13 rating. Although the core plot and characters are there, they changed one character’s motivations, added a character from the sequels, and then completely ignored one of the most famous rivalries in the franchise history. Why? Although the video game plots grow stranger throughout the series, Tobias and Boon had a compelling story that would have translated far better than New Line Cinema’s failure.

Mortal Kombat wasn’t the first, or last, adaptation of a favorite video game to suffer from a poor plot and character rewrites. Street Fighter (1994) was panned by critics and fans while Wing Commander (1999) was so far from the original in visual style and plot it might as well have been an independent movie. The 21st century hasn’t been much kinder: Tomb Raider (2001) threw out Atlantis and mutants for time travel and alternate dimensions, Doom (2005) was changed to alien DNA over its iconic forces of Hell, and Silent Hill (2006) had some major alterations to its villains and ending. And we won’t even go into any of the atrocities directed by Uwe Boll….

While I understand that adapting video games (or anything) to movies isn’t a 1:1 process, there’s something strange about ignoring perfectly decent characters and stories. When you consider that most people who know what the video game is (and thus are likely to attend) are coming precisely for those characters and story, this only adds to the importance. If I loved the Resident Evil games, I’m going in expecting Jill Valentine or Chris Redfield, and the rest of S.T.A.R.S., investigating a creepy mansion and stumbling on a mad scientist lab in the final act. Instead, we were presented with a made-up protagonist with a brand-new special ops team who spend most of the movie in a high-tech laboratory complex. Oh, and there’s a rogue AI for some reason too.

When translating a franchise from game to film, there’s bound to be artistic interpretation, need to fill in gaps or add depth, and other alterations to make the story more compelling. That doesn’t mean you should scrap everything but the shell and give the audience some random movie window-dressed like the video game. Some of the more (relatively) successful films were pretty close to the source material, including Hitman (2007) and Warcraft (2016).

While we appreciate when our favorite fandoms finally make it from the console to the big screen, I believe that Hollywood would do better to maintain the source material. After all, some of the best games have amazing writers and are movies (or mini-series) unto themselves. Why mess with those award-winning formulas?

Here’s hoping Constantin Films learns their lessons and decides to follow the original RE story a bit closer. Hopefully the first of the reboots takes place in Spencer mansion, with the S.T.A.R.S. team, and the familiar faces of Jill, Chris, Barry, and Rebecca. Please stop messing with the writing of video games, and instead just use the silver screen to enhance rather than replace.

About Brook H. (63 Articles)
Generalist, polymath, jack-of-all-trades... what hasn't Brook studied. Knowledge is power, which is probably why he ended up with degrees in Human Behavior and Psychology, not to mention majoring in everything from computers to business while working in theater, security, emergency communications, and human services. He currently resides outside Baltimore where he tries to balance his children, local politics, hobbies, and work. Brook is a major Deaf/Hard-of-Hearing advocate (he's HoH himself), lifelong gamer (from table-top to computer), loves everything paranormal, and is a Horror-movie buff.

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