Why Aren't There Any Quality Videogame Film Adaptations?

by Paul Deeter

When I write articles involving retrospective takes on semi-recent films or film genres I usually tend to do some research prior. While it can be distracting to listen to music in the background, or have something playing on the TV, sometimes, on certain exceptions, I'll put a movie on that helps inspire me to write. For this article tonight I thought it would be appropriate to put on the movie Silent Hill from 2006, a film I had rented from Blockbuster (God I'm old) and watched with a young friend of mine. Back in the teenage years I had a penchant for watching movies based on videogames, mostly because I was something of a gamer then, and even now. The blur between the virtual reality of videogames and the use of film narrative to fictionalize a story seemed like the appropriate media to blend. What's wrong with taking a franchise like the games Silent Hill, and using the horror and dystopic elements that seem so eerily inspired by Twin Peaks to make a movie in the same style? It is with this movie that I give the second chance of impressing me post 2006: watching it in 2021 with the eyes of an experienced film fan. Silent Hill is not a good movie. But at the same time its not a bad film either. My parents had a close film-buff friend who would recommend classic and international films that flew under the radar to most viewers. And given his film expertise it felt validating to have his recommendation given for a film that was mostly considered a flop financially and was poorly received by critics. He (at least at the time) vouched for Silent Hill.

All that being said, I've chosen not to use his name in the article for either of our sakes. Film opinion can be sacred, personal and even private. I wouldn't want the world to know about all of my guilty television and film pleasures, and I'm sure my readers are in the same boat. So flash-forward to 2021, and even now the question begs to be asked: Why are there no good videogame adaptations?

Maybe the exception that proves the rule.

I know what you're thinking, or want to say, so I'll jump ahead and throw out some films that have been honestly considered quality or even high-caliber to some degree. I'll point towards probably the most successful and franchise ready film of 2020, Sonic the Hedgehog which not only catered to younger audiences but even brought in grizzled fans of the series to boot. With the combination of talents from Jim Carrey and Ben Schwartz, two comedy pros at different apexes of their careers, the film glides by on a brisk 90-minute run (pun intended) due mostly to their phenomenal performances. The movie was a successful film despite only a 60% favorability on Rotten Tomatoes, and even led to a confirmed 2022 sequel. So. Do I think Sonic the Hedgehog is a good movie? Yes. Do I think its a video-game movie. Well, no. Sonic and the fictional entities of the characters created by Sega are characters that exist in and around the franchise of the videogames they're featured in. So it could be said, that Sonic the Hedgehog is a successful franchise film, or a fresh re-introduction to a character seen on TV and commercials as well as in games. I may be stretching the rule here, but let's just say, even if Sonic is a successful and overall positively received videogame adaptation, why then did it take so long for us to see one?

Let's bring it back to the golden age of gaming, or at least the decade that changed the landscape so rapidly after the popularity boom in the 80s. I briefly referenced the transition to gaming arcades to home use consoles in my previous article, but let me elaborate on that. The Super NES came out in 1990, which would make 1993 a very popular year for at home gaming. This year had Secret of Mana, Star Fox and Kirby's Adventure and more relevantly Super Mario All-Stars. So when the famous financial flop that was Super Mario Bros hit the theatres, a film that wasted Dennis Hopper in his goofiest role along with other respectable actors, people were pissed. There are countless exposes on this film and what it did to the 90s and how it is still considered probably the worst film ever made. I'll sum it up with a line from this article by Keith Stuart:

A little while into the planned 10-week shoot, the LA Times sent journalist Richard Stayton to write a set report. He found a cast and crew simmering with resentment over rewrites and production changes. . Hoskins was cruelly dismissive. “All these rewrites get frustrating so I don’t do too much research,” the article said. “My seven-year-old son is quite depressed about my playing Mario. He knows I can’t even program a VCR, let alone play the game. How do I prepare for the role? I’m the right shape. I’ve got a moustache.” Keith Stuart

This doesn't look like any Goomba I grew up with.

If Bob Hoskins' own son is suspicious of the casting choice of his old man as Mario, well, need I say more? This film sent echoes ahead. With the exception of the success of the Paul W.S. Anderson feature Mortal Kombat in 1995 (wh