Traditionally, games and movies have gone together like fat stomachs and tight jeans-- people combine them all the time, but they probably shouldn't. Judging from an early review of the screenplay for the God of War movie, Sony's big-budget tale may buck the trend of bad movie adaptations of video games... if your idea of a good movie is one that stays close to the source material.
Blogger Big Ross claims to have read a draft of the God of War screenplay, and he says the movie version of the Kratos story sticks to the game's plot and characters like denim sticks to a fat chick's thighs. Like anything on the internet, of course, Big Ross could be full of crap and have invented the "leaked" screenplay in order to tell other fans what he'd like to see in the movie, but if this is the actual script, I think God of War fans will be very happy.
Of course, when the actual movie comes out, everyone could be singing a different tune: Gamers tend to believe that the reason movies based on games fail is that the scripts don't remain true enough to the game. But I seriously wonder whether this is true. Video game movies fail for a lot of reasons, and there are a lot of perfectly valid reasons film-makers deviate from the source material when making movies.
Below are some of the real reasons I think games based on movies fail:
- Most games are already based on movies: Even if it's not a specific film, almost all video games take their artistic cues from movies already -- what is Grand Theft Auto: Vice City if not a game version of Scarface? Basing a movie on a game then is really basing a movie on an older, better movie or movie genre.
- Video Games aren't really about stories: Sure, you may like the story in a video game, but you and I both know that's not why you play a game. Imagine if the gameplay in God of War sucked. You wouldn't have finished it, in spite of the plot, I'll bet. Where you will finish a shooter with awesome action and a terrible plot. Like, say Doom.
- Video Game Stories Usually Make Terrible Movies: Speaking of Doom, it was one of the best video games ever made, but had a really stupid, nearly non-existent story. I think the plot of that game consisted of half a screen of text. Many people imagine the reason Doom sucked as a film was because it didn't stick to the "Scientists open a gate to Hell" plot of the original game. But that wasn't it. Doom sucked as a film because it didn't translate the feeling of the game to the screen. There was none of the feeling of claustrophobic dread mixed with adrenaline that playing the game gave you.
- Video games are incredibly repetitive: How close can you stick to the source material of a game when it's essentially the same thing repeated again? A "real" God of War script would read something like, "Kratos swings sword. Bad dude is cut in half. Kratos collects orbs. Kratos swings sword. Bad dude is cut in half. Kratos collects orbs." For 100 pages. Fun to play. Boring to watch.
- Video Game Characters Usually Won't Work on Film: Game characters are generally non-existent beyond "Guy who shoots a lot of things." I don't mean the character in cut-scenes. I mean the person whose role you inhabit in-game. In GTA IV's cut-scenes, Nico Bellic bemoaned being forced into killing people, but then, five seconds later, when you're controlling him on a mission, Nico joyfully kills a million dudes. That's not a coherent character. But, of course, it doesn't matter. We accept the dichotomy in games because it's part of the medium. But it's not part of the film medium.
- Making movies is very hard: Making any movie (let alone a good one) is an incredibly complicated endeavor, and the number of things that can go wrong is all-but infinite. Casting problems, budget problems, political issues, good ideas that don't "work" on screen, and countless other things can go wrong. For everyone who says, "I could make a better movie than that!" I urge you to try. I guarantee you will fail to make any movie, let alone a good one. When you add heightened expectations to the inherent difficulty of film-making, it's not surprising that video game movies stink. It's actually surprising that any movie is ever good.
Overall, I'm going to go out on a limb here and predict that, for all the reasons listed above, the God of War movie will disappoint hardcore gamers. Not that I have any reason for this prediction, beyond the fact that every movie based on a game until has been sucky, to a greater or lesser extent. So, what do you think? Is a good video-to-movie translation possible? Anyway, for a spoiler-laden look at what is purported to be an early draft of the God of War screenplay, click the link below.