Video game movies barely escape decades of crushing stigma that marked them for death the instant they were announced. The cultural imagination hasn’t quite come full circle, however, and a savvy viewer may find the key element in video games that makes making movies about them a bad idea.
Ghost of Tsushima is heading for a big-screen adaptation with John Wick director Chad Stahelski at the helm. This might sound like a good idea, as the game has a great story, but the long history of failed adaptations tells a story that hurts the perception of potential adaptation.
Ghost of Tsushima made absolutely no secret of the fact that its presentation, storytelling, and overall vibe were heavily inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s legendary filmography. Kurosawa’s Jidaigeki films, including Seven Samurai, Throne of Blood, and The hidden fortress, among others, are fundamental elements of how the world views samurai. Almost any samurai story told for the benefit of a modern audience would take notes from Kurosawa, but Ghost of Tsushima’The hints of s are more than superficial.
The narrative follows many of the director’s favorite themes, such as the era’s culture of honor and the cyclical nature of violence. The game world features a dynamic weather system, which delicately recreates many of Kurosawa’s beloved natural scenes. Obviously the game has a mode in the menu called “Kurosawa Mode”, which applies a black and white filter to make the action look like a playable version of Yojimbo. That’s great, people love playable versions of their favorite movies, but when the gameplay aspect is taken out, what’s left?
Ghost of Tsushima without the gameplay is nothing but a poor imitation of movies that have already been done better elsewhere. Sure, tons of movies are inspired by other movies, but the added novelty to spice up games like Ghost of Tsushima is the element removed by bringing it back to the big screen. While Jin Sakai’s story is a great example of this problem, it’s miles away from the only one. This year saw the disappointing release of the film adaptation of Unexploredwho learned the same lesson the hard way. Unexplored was obviously inspired by the adventures of Indiana Jones or The Mummy trilogy, so when the studio took the intense shooting, driving, and climbing out of the players’ hands, all they were left with was a cheap imitation. Each reviewer took time out of their review to compare Unexplored unfavorably to Raiders or last crusadeand for good reason.
There are tons of video games that sell the idea of being playable versions of fan-favorite movies, some more obvious than others. No one tried to make a movie about Outputbecause they would have just made a lesser Shawshank takeover. The Adventures of Lara Croft is inspired by Indiana Jones or the classic adventure series that inspired it, so the film comes across as a lesser cursed temple.
the resident Evil The series borrows a ton from George A. Romero’s zombie films, but all the changes in the film adaptations only make it worse. It can even work in reverse. the Need of speed franchise started seven years before The fast and the furious franchise, but when the movie came out, it had been so tainted by the Vin Diesel vehicle that it became a lesser version. This problem is both very common and extremely predictable. The translation does not work both ways. The creators have proven a hundred times that attaching controllers to a movie makes something special, but removing them from a game ruins all the fun.
There are a few video game movies that completely escape this problem, largely by being interesting enough concepts on their own that filmmakers can’t just fall back on established films. sonic the hedgehog is basically a video game story, which means adapting it into a movie takes some extra thought. There’s no classic movie about an alien mammal that runs extremely fast to rip off, Jeff Fowler and company had to improvise. Detective Pikachu draws on classic detective noir features, but has done so in a beautiful, vivid world based on the beloved franchise. The games being adapted are unique and interesting enough to require a weird and interesting vision to take the plunge. This should serve as a lesson for studios to choose what will be adapted to the big screen next.
Ghost of Tsushima might turn out to be an amazing movie, but it won’t really be an adaptation or it won’t be very original. The movie could be a great modern answer to Kurosawa’s classics, Star Wars has been drawing inspiration from the director for over fifty years now. But, even if the films are sometimes good, they will not beat the films that inspire them. The film adaptation of a game based on a movie isn’t worth doing, but that won’t stop them from coming out.
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