Movies based off of video games almost always fail in notoriously bad ways; but it doesn't have to be that way.
Super Mario Bros. Doom. Street Fighter. Hitman.
Name a movie based on a game and you are guaranteed that it will be horrible. The highest rated according to Rotten Tomatoes, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, has only a 44%. But even with the many opportunities for pacing, voice acting that can easily become acting and graphics that would not need that much work for a jump from video games to full on CGI, there has never really been a “great” movie based on a video game.
But there can be. There are many video games that already have a movie like feel to them that would easily make the transition. Video games like:
1. Left 4 Dead
It's easy to write off Left 4 Dead as just another zombie game, but its more than that. Unlike other shooters where its just an easy play through with unlimited ammo and instant healings, Left 4 Dead and its sequel makes you rely on your teammates and makes you conserve dwindling amounts of ammo and supplies. For a film or even a mini series, this would work well. It would be like the Walking Dead, except with way more gunfights.
In both games there is a strong and equal female member, an equal representation of people you would find in the South, and instead of everyone being cops or marines, there is a mix of businessmen, coaches, mechanics and, well ok, one ex-military dude. In this world you have to become a bad-ass quick and keep fighting. And with the story of traveling across the South to the last hope of New Orleans, it would not only be a survival/zombie film, but with have the On-the-road style as well, going from landmark to landmark in the Deep South.
The pacing would also work. The series is episodic and only shows the action – but from dialogue, we can tell what the dramatic scenes that happen off camera are. Choosing to kill a helicopter pilot mid-flight for becoming a zombie. Hint of sexual tension. The group becoming closer together slowly – which in movie form would give the right amount of drama to serve as a breather before another tense action scene. Like the Godfather, but with rivals as horribly disfigured zombies. Now THATS a movie.
2. Far Cry 3
In 2008, Uwe Boll made a film version of Far Cry with genetically modified soldiers with Hugo Stiglitz as the lead. A noble effort, but it did not do well in the box office. But you know what Far Cry did have a good story? Far Cry 3. Being marooned on an island with a mysterious past, getting away from the mohawked killer after you and teaming up with a tribe to rescue your friends and avenge your brothers. THAT'S a film. It's like the second half of Die Hard, but with an island filled with tigers and murderous birds instead of an office building with murderous.....desks?
There is impressive characterization, but not too many characters, so there is a lot of time for development of them. The main character, Jason, would be on his own, going from scared college kid to badass, and possibly having the best “building up” montages ever filled with sneaky kills, liberating taken over pirate villages and even using nature against all the bad guys out there.
Plus there are a LOT of drugs around as well as plenty of sex, spying, and high stakes games of poker. Forget Die Hard – this could be more like Casino Royale. With interesting characters, a possible two parter hook midway through the game with a change up of the villain, plenty of sex, drugs and gunfights against pirates and mercenaries and a good plot to boot, Far Cry 3 could totally go Vas on Hollywood.
3. Spec Ops: The Line
Spec Ops: The Line is known for being one of the deepest games to have come out in recent years. Set in a Dubai that was been reclaimed by the desert, the game has you and two other American soldiers go after a trapped Battalion gone rogue inside the city. Playing a soldier in debt to the rogue leader, Konrad, you go deeper and deeper into the city, but cross more and more lines of morality as you do – only to find out at the end what exactly was going on and explaining how not only your teammates acted towards you, but everyone else as well.
Ever since Apocalypse Now, the “Heart of Darkness” style has never really been redone in such a way. A moving game (and also a bit depressing), it also made the player gone into the psyche of the protagonist Walker, such as doubting decisions and questioning their own sanity. The Line as a movie would bring that Colonial/Vietnam movie way of thinking (“Fighting, but what for”?) into a 21st century location (Dubai, but with soldiers on their way back from Afghanistan).
Dramatic performances abound, anyone who would play Walker well would seriously be considered for an Oscar nomination, as pulling off him on screen (being crazy and sane at the same time) would definitely deserve one. In addition, it would have a good balance of fighting and drama (Think Saving Private Ryan), and with a stellar cast, could pull off both. If it stuck close to the source material and kept the “Heart of Darkness” theme, it can be our generations Apocalypse Now.
Of course, there are many other series that are deserving with some, like Assassin's Creed, in the works as films. But these three have the best shot of not only what Hollywood is looking for, but what viewers are looking for as well. Drama, characterization and story.