With the trailer and promotional news for the new Tomb Raider movie finally dropping, many are wondering if the video game movie curse can finally be lifted. Sadly, I have to say after seeing the trailer several times it doesn’t look like it. It is just a trailer however, and only the finished product will reveal the true answer. I got to thinking though, why is there not a great video game film adaptation yet and what will it take for one to finally deliver?
And The Award Goes To… Disappointment
By now, every gamer knows that when a gaming franchise gets a movie announcement to always keep expectations low. A sad way to have to look at it, but unfortunately we have had our hearts broken just one too many times when it comes to Hollywood. In the research I did for this article I was able to find at least 40 live action film adaptations of video games and there is not a single one I would recommend. Sure there are the guilty pleasures like the original Mortal Kombat and even some might say the Tomb Raider films, but not many people would defend any of these as good movies.
So how is it that out of all these attempts there hasn’t been a single one to stand out and prove that games can make good films? I mean for myself being a fan of both film and games it is so disappointing to not be able to have my passions merge for an incredible theater experience. I long for the day when I can have all my friends who love games and all my friends who love film in one room celebrating both passions at the same time. And considering all of the amazing material ripe for the picking, it is an absolute shame that video game movies aren’t staples of the summer blockbuster season.
Quick Buck No Luck
The major problem with most video game films is that they substitute what makes the story great for over the top action. Take the Resident Evil films for example. Resident Evil is a franchise filled with great lore and back story and history. Sure the games are essentially about killing zombies, but there is a lot to explore in the quiet moments of exploration that are genuinely creepy and leave you interested in the characters themselves. The Resident Evil movies throw all that out the window along with a grenade, because why not. Every one of those films is a 90 minute explosion with no substance.
It is like Hollywood thinks that gamers don’t care about characterization or plot; instead it is all about mind numbing action. I wouldn’t be surprised if the only connection they have with gamers is watching over the top 90’s Sega Genesis commercials. All we really want is to be taken seriously. There are stories that need to be told in a medium that will present them to a wider audience. Think about the potential of a Metal Gear Solid movie. A world full of crazy over the top characters that gives you comedy, action, and suspense. That is the exact formula comic book movies are using right now to dominate the box office and meanwhile an untapped gold mine is sitting on the sidelines.
That’s exactly why I am so cautious when approaching this new Tomb Raider film. When I first heard about the casting of Alicia Vikander I was beyond excited. I love her work and she is an Academy Award winner. And with Crystal Dynamics fresh new take on Lara Croft, there is potential for something beyond what we have ever seen in a video game film. Then I saw the trailer.
Instead of seeing Crystal Dynamic’s Lara, a woman who is reluctant to kill and slowly evolves into a bad ass survivalist, I saw a Lara that immediately shoots everyone in sight and slow mo jumps everywhere. I mean seriously that scene where she slides under the spikes with the goofy look on her face gave me Resident Evil flashbacks. And yes, it is just a trailer and not a full movie, but the fact that the advertising is focused on the action and not the character has me very concerned. The star of a Tomb Raider shouldn’t be a giant tidal wave or a crumbling plane over a waterfall, it should be Lara Croft.
Weakened Box Office
I refuse to buy into the lie that maybe video games can just not be adapted into movies. After all, games like Uncharted, Until Dawn, Heavy Rain, and The Last of Us are practically movies and honestly tell better stories than a lot of movies I have seen. I am tired of one of my favorite mediums of story telling being treated like second-rate entertainment by the mainstream audience. It is time for everyone to experience these stories and be exposed to some of fiction’s greatest characters. Luckily, we have seen at least one step in the right direction with Netflix animated Castlevania series. And hopefully there will be more shows and movies to follow suit. But until I can be completely positive that Hollywood is taking a gaming franchise seriously, I refuse to buy tickets and support their half hearted efforts to take gamer’s seriously.