Editor’s Note: So rumor-mill has revealed that Kim Kardashian may be the next Lady Lara Croft on the big screen and that led me to think of this old article I wrote for 3GodKings.com (our sister site). Without ripping Kim for her acting (for which I haven’t seen), I can anticipate garbage just off the premise that video game movies are bad and to place a new “actress” in the role of a very familiar heroine just sounds like a recipe for disaster.
It is a common reaction by Gamers and movie-goers alike to groan and sigh when the announcement of a video game movie is made. How can you expect otherwise when we have experienced the failures of Street Fighter, Double Dragon and Doom? There aren’t many movies that have been acceptable to Gamers outside of the rendered CGI ones like Final Fantasy: Advent Children and a few other animes like the Street Fighter V series. So does it only work in CGI or anime? Well the first Mortal Kombat is one that broke past the norm, arguably (some people nerd rage over it being a good or bad movie) it worked for Gamers and spawned an awful sequel.
So why did Silent Hill, Mortal Kombat and Tomb Raider work? The answer is FAMILIARITY. When Gamers go to the theater to see a movie based off of something they have played, they want to see how their looks and moves are reworked for live action. When I heard that a Chun-Li movie was being made, I grew concerned when the trailers neglected to show a lightning kick, a bird kick or a kikoken fireball. What I saw was a cute but skinny female doing rope stunts and striking poses. This is why writers fail, had that movie substituted the bad casting and corniness for some familiarity and a special move or two from the game, gamers would see it 2-3 times over.
I recall being concerned when Tomb Raider was first announced. The actress chosen for Lara was Angelina Jolie and at the time I was picturing her the way she looked in Gia and Girl Interrupted, it made me go “wtf” and I began to have doubts. When I walked into the theater and saw the brand new ripped Angelina, a smile crossed my face and I immediately saw her as Lara Croft. The movie showed the Angie Lara doing stunts, spelunking and shooting dual pistols the way she did in the game. When the movie finished, I walked out of the theater, did a U-Turn and watched it again. I was happy due to guess what? Familiarity.
Seems simple enough right? Yet when other games get a movie they suddenly want to change the ingredients and add things in that are unfamiliar to the Gamers. The stories of most games (especially fighting games) are normally short and not too detailed. This lends a lot of freedom for a writer to make a good script from it but they should not sacrifice the familiarity of the characters at all. Why would you call someone Nash in Street Fighter but have him look nothing like the character and do none of the his trademark moves. Its a wonder why the game companies allow this to occur (I know, money) but why not go the right route and capitalize on a few sequels? For all of Mortal Kombat’s flaws at least Sub-Zero froze people, Scorpion burnt people and Johnny Cage was an actor (They get bonus points for including Goro also).
So let’s review the formula that works: Keep the look/feel of our character and his/her goal in the game then expand on the story to make it compelling. Not so difficult now is it?Check out The Dragon's Lexicon.