Why are video game movies usually so bad?

Warcraft movie producer Thomas Tull says it's because they are often made for the wrong reasons.


Movies based on video games do not have a great critical track record because too often they are made with aspirations for money instead of quality, according to Legendary Pictures' Thomas Tull, producer of the upcoming Warcraft movie based on Blizzard Entertainment's beloved fantasy franchise.

"Doing a video game movie has not really been done well, and I think part of the reason for that is it's been done for the wrong reasons," Tull told IGN. "If you simply say 'How many people have played the game? How much money can we make?' You're doomed. You're doomed right off the start."

Tull, of course, says Warcraft will be different, thanks in part to director Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code), and the cast he's been able to assemble.

"We hope that when you see the first trailer for it, you're going to say 'OK, this is not what I was expecting.' He's an incredibly exciting filmmaker," Tull said.

Tull is in business to sell you on the idea that the Warcraft movie will be great, but fans will get to decide for themselves when the first trailer is released. Asked when it would arrive, Tull said, "We show up every summer at Comic-Con--we really enjoy it, and the fans seem to enjoy taking a look at things, so I wouldn't be surprised."

Last summer at Comic-Con, Jones showed off a mood piece for the Warcraft movie, though this video has never been published publicly. We've seen an image from the movie's set, but that's it so far. Finally, Tull offered a tease about the plot for Warcraft, suggesting it will closely follow two tribes.

"With a great cast, there's a lot of folks to follow, so I'd look more in that direction because there's so many talented people working on it," he said. "We're very aware of the fact that in the mythology of Warcraft, there are two tribes--two big things to follow. We think you're going to get a chance to look at both."

Tull didn't say more, though it's possible the two groups he's referring to are Orcs and Humans. Jones previously said that the movie would focus on the origin story of the battle between Orcs and Humans.

Warcraft hits theaters in March 2016.

Though movies based on video games don't have a great critical track record, the same can't be said for the commercial opportunity of such films. For instance, the recent Need for Speed movie bombed with critics, but it became profitable in under two weeks.

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and you can follow him on Twitter @EddieMakuch
Got a news tip or want to contact us directly? Email news@gamespot.com


Written By

Eddie Makuch is a news editor at GameSpot, and would like to see the Whalers return to Hartford.

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Discussion

84 comments
sidzero
sidzero

"Why are video game movies usually so bad?" - The real answer: The same reason why movies based on books are never as good as the book. Translating something made for one medium into another medium simply does not work, especially when it comes to film. Film is such a limited medium... you get 2 or 3 hours to tell a story and that's it. Even putting aside the lack of interactivity in film, a video game can take several times that amount of time to tell it's story. Of course, that's even assuming the game has a story to begin with. Imagine trying to make a movie out of Minecraft. Or Pong. Basically, video games are about interaction, while movies are about observation, and those are two completely opposite approaches to entertainment.

JRLennis
JRLennis

It would help if the right games were translated into films.  Prince of Persia was a step in the right direction, but we are all still waiting for that one RPG that can make the transition to an excellent film series.  Chrono Trigger has all of the pieces for it: a great story, memorable characters, an epic musical score, and, perhaps most importantly, room to grow.

sirchick
sirchick

Batman games were decent how ever so thankfully there is an exception to the rule.

liquidbutter
liquidbutter

I'd like the know the opposite. Why are video games movie tie-ins so bad? Every Hollywood blockbuster has a video game to accompany its release and they are always terrible. What are these studios making these shitty movie tie-ins games and why can't a high budget film hire good studio to make them a game?

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

I want to see a good movie. Doesn't matter the source material. Problem is that many game-based movies try too hard to inject elements from the game into the movie that don't really work well for a movie. This has lead to movies that gamers and non-gamers can't get excited about and come out of the theater with the reaction of "meh."

I envision Warcraft as a LotR style movie that utilizes some of the plots, locales and themes from the games. Hopefully it can stand on its own as a good movie without having to get the throwbacks to the games.

It's hard to get very excited about a game-based movie any more. Only approach with cautious optimism.

StammBladecastr
StammBladecastr

No, the reason video game movies are usually bad is because everything is usually bad.

Gue1
Gue1

I bet it's because nobody from writer, director, actors actually plays the games, so they don't understand the story or characters. Just look at what David O. Russell wanted to do to Uncharted... And his explanation for doing it were so all over the place it was clear the guy didn't know what an Uncharted even was.

He said Uncharted had no story, the characters were shallow and so on. So he wanted to turn the Uncharted  movie into a cheapass Italian Job/Ocean Eleven rip-off that had nothing to do with the game's story rooted on Indiana Jones.

bobbo888
bobbo888

Asked when it would arrive, Tull said, "We show up every summer at Comic-Con--we really enjoy it, and the fans seem to enjoy taking a look at things, so I wouldn't be surprised." makes sense

Rennik_Repotsir
Rennik_Repotsir

The problems with movies adapted from video games (and others) are usually the director not knowing about it until the project gets presented and they feel the need to finger-f*ck it with their detached ideals...

daikkenaurora12
daikkenaurora12

Because Hollywood doesnt know how to convey a video game story properly.

Hiraishin
Hiraishin

I feel like the prince of persia movie was the only decent video game movie i've ever seen.

PrpleTrtleBuBum
PrpleTrtleBuBum

I get totally immersed in a 5-60 hour game


vs


I passively watch a 2 hour movie


Bah. The only thing movie can do is give those little references, but even then I'm just gonna think "That's cool, now can I finally get back to playing the game myself?" The same way you can't turn romantic comedy into a game I really don't think a dozen hour action horror can turn into a movie. To me Mass Effect or Halo is much more than what Star Wars or Matrix could do.

arqe
arqe

Yeah "TRAILER" gonna make us all excited. NOT !

Start checking some countries to ask for protection from now on. You'll eat your words after the 1st day of release.

zizo490
zizo490

i think if they want to make new story for warcraft 4 they should make the lich king rise and begin a new era :)

godzilla_hiper
godzilla_hiper

Well, I must say - answering to the tagline question - that movies and video games are different medias. We expect different set of experiences with each format. Simply transforming what could be a great story in a media to another could destroy the experience.

I have hope that someday mankind will be able to port sucessfully movies from games and vice-versa, we've already done great job with books.

Drkr_Zen
Drkr_Zen

Its probably already been touched upon, but I feel videogame movies and, likewise, movie based videogames are terrible because of a number of things... namely each tries to do what it shouldn't and, more than likely, can't. Then of course, there's the cash grabs (lookin' at you Marvel), over-saturation of a series (lookin' at you AssCreed) as wrong reasons, too. 


There's certain things a movie does that a videogame just can't and that's a two way street. Videogames should do what they do best, and movies should do what they do best. When you try to base one off the other, more often than not, bad things happen to good people.


Not all the time, though. Off the top of my head, Spider-Man 2, the movie game, wasn't half bad at all. In fact, its one of the best superhero sandbox games to this day, I feel. The Amazing Spider-Man wasn't half bad either, as it didn't restrict itself to the movie's script, but was more of an epilogue, which I thought was cool. Sadly, it was mediocre because Beenox. 

cyberwookie72
cyberwookie72


I think the question should be...why are games based on movies so bad?  

pyro1245
pyro1245

There are two types of people: Those who do things for money, and those who do things for the love of it. You should find what you love, and then find a way to make money doing it; rather than just try to cash in on what is popular. That's why a lot of things end up being 'so bad'.

deadpen
deadpen

Maybe it is because they cast the flavor of the month instead of who fits the role famous or not


Bob Hoskins made Mario British

John Leguizamo was British Mario's Puerto Rican/Lebanese/Colombian brother!?

Dennis Hopper made Bowser human..OH I'm sorry King Koopa, which I thought was the same

Christopher Lambert is not Rayden the Chinese/Japanese god of thunder

Robin Shou was a sorry Liu Kang

Scott Wolf really isn't bad ass Billy Lee

Mark Dacascos is some how Billy's Filipino/Irish/Japanese brother?!

And don't even get me started on the cast of Street Fighter


Spartan_418
Spartan_418

Generally the video game movies which have the potential to be really good (Halo, Mass Effect, Uncharted, Bioshock) get bogged down by budget concerns, get stuck in development hell and never get made

Fartman7998
Fartman7998

There is one movie and one movie only that I thought properly adapted the video game: Mortal Kombat.  Just the first one.  That movie had a great cast, a decent story, and an awesome soundtrack.  

Wej_accept_it
Wej_accept_it

"If you simply say 'How many people have played the game? How much money can we make?' You're doomed. You're doomed right off the start."
Wow, this guy gets the basic principals that have confused game-to-film makers for years. I suddenly feel really good about the WoW film

paulallen813
paulallen813

The same reason games of movies are bad.....they are a cash grab. Only once in a while you have someone that cares about that property.

robertcain
robertcain

Video game movies can be bad for many reasons; whether it's butchering the main character and series themes in Hitman and Max Payne or ditching standards in favor of pandering to the lowest denominator of gamers worldwide. Or maybe it's because of the sheer lack of proper directors willing to take up the mantle? So instead we're left with the likes of Uwe Boll and Paul W.S Anderson to mess up our favorite franchises on the big screen. In most cases though the seperate mediums of films and games just don't go well together.


Although there are some which have nailed this balance. Metal Gear Solid boasts both a deep story and excellent gameplay, Wreak-It Ralph and Tron both tapped into gamer's love for the arcades. If newer media followed these examples then things would so much better.

SphinxDemon
SphinxDemon

I hate the game because to me its trash, but ill definitely watch the movie

valleyevs
valleyevs

usually they just stray to far away from the original story or try to condense too much into 90+ minutes. Some game franchises would probably be better as a 13 episode TV series than a movie. If they ever get round to putting the mass effect series onto the big screen, a 12/13 episode HBO series for each game would be best.

TheLazyClown
TheLazyClown

Because they weren't made by fans. A video game movie would be good if a fan is the one writing the screen and direct the movie. Why else do fan made films on the internet turn out so good?????

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

I feel evil, but I can't wait to make him eat his words.

tmorri603
tmorri603

There a number of factors as to why video game movies do so bad. The first thing you have to look at is video game the movies is going to be based on is weak or it barely has one. If it has a good story, then the movie goes too far away from the source material. The people who make the movies don't like or don't care anything about the video game. The movie maker won't take any advice that the maker of the game can have about the character. There are more but I am burned out; it has been a ruff week. 

Darth_Aloysius
Darth_Aloysius

Because this movie totally isn't being done to make money off the massive WoW fanbase, lol.

Pupchu
Pupchu

"Doing a video game movie has not really been done well, and I think part of the reason for that is it's been done for the wrong reasons"

I'm so happy to hear that this man is doing it for the right reasons.

GONtheSKYLORD
GONtheSKYLORD

Most movies in general are not very good so it's no surprise that videogame movies tend to fail, especially since they don't hire good directors and writers due to budget or low expectations.

hobotech64
hobotech64

For the exact same reasons movie-based video games are usually bad.

s_h_a_d_o
s_h_a_d_o

"Movies based on video games do not have a great critical track record because too often they are made with aspirations for money instead of quality..."

Well, duh.

And oftentimes, [AAA] video games fail for the very same reason.

NikIvRu
NikIvRu

I thought Prince of Persia was good. Instead of cutting from the game story, adding pointless action sequences and etc. they made their own thing - different story, different characters and yet similar enough to the Prince of Persia franchise.

darkrayne
darkrayne

I was surprised how deep and involving the Warcraft novels were.. so while I can understand people thinking this will be a crappy game knock off.. I just know that's what I thought about the books until I read them. The novels made the 'game' better, not the other way around. Hopefully the movie will help those who haven't read the novels get a good insight into the overall story and lore because it's actually pretty good. I'm hopeful.

onixevil
onixevil

It depends on the story richness and it's characters deepness    

tightwad34
tightwad34

@sirchick Batman has been around for over a half century. He's got tons of storylines to pick from so they don't have to base a movie off any of the games and vice versa.

Hvac0120
Hvac0120

I'll chime in to say it's probably a timeline thing. The game usually has to be completed to be released alongside the movie. The game has to wait for resources from the the movie to begin development. There are challenges with working with the studios to get assets and approvals on content for the game.

You get rare gems like Spiderman 2 and the Lego tie-ins, but typically we end up with some fairly crappy games.

Either the developers need 2+ years to work on the game or the games need to start being made similar to indie titles. If the scope wasn't so big for some of these movie tie-ins, they could have been much better games. Then they could make sequels to those games with improvements towards a grander vision and that could be released with or without a sequel to the movie to tie it to.

It's something the two industries have been struggling with and I hope that it improves over time.

arqe
arqe

@zizo490  there is no warcraft anymore. its only wow.

Trev9421
Trev9421

Agree with your general comment, but disagree with your mention of over saturation and cash grab by those franchises specifically.

spikepigeo
spikepigeo

@pyro1245  Duncan Jones strikes me as a director that is not only very good at what he does, but loves doing it. That's why I have high hopes for this one.


He was very humble when I saw him at Comic-Con and the mood-piece looked great.

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

@valleyevs  This is what I was going to say.  A long video game experience cannot be condensed into 90-120 minutes without substantial loss of what made the experience great.

ThePowerOfHAT
ThePowerOfHAT

@hobotech64 True that.  The Chronicles Of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay is probably a great example of how to make a game based on a movie.  Tell an original story that works within the established canon instead of trying to retell a story people have already seen.  The same could probably work well for movies; stop trying to remake the game and instead use those characters and that setting and build your own thing with it.  It gives you the opportunity to stay true to a given IP without having to adhere to a specific set of plot points, and that allows a lot more freedom to tell a story that fits the medium.

amdreallyfast
amdreallyfast

@NikIvRu  That one surprisingly (to me) worked.  It was set in the same universe, but like you said it had its own story.

I also add that, like the Goldeneye game, the movie had to stand on its own and could not ride the coattails of the source material.