Why Video Game Movies Are Often Bad and How to Fix Them, According to Hollywood Vets
"I happen to think they're going to be the next comic book movies."
Video game movies have a pretty lousy track record when it comes to quality, but it may not be that way forever. Speaking today at the DICE Summit, two veteran movie producers, Roy Lee (The Departed, The Lego Movie) and Adrian Askarieh (Hitman, Agent 47), talked about what it will take for video game movies to come out better in the future.
For his part, Lee stressed that working with the development team is important. Some changes will probably need to be made to adapt a game for the big-screen, but if the filmmaking process is a collaborative effort between the film producers and game-makers, the end result stands to benefit.
"It takes a balance to make sure that you appeal to a wide audience that has never played the game," Lee said. "The way I've done it is to include the original IP holders in the creation of the movie itself, so that you make sure that you have everything you can that appeals to the core gamer [while also helping them] accept the changes that are required to make it into a movie."
Askarieh added that he believes the number one problem with video game movies today is that in some cases, the original game developers are not involved. He cited Marvel as an example for how much better a production can be when the right minds come together.
"I would say that is the number one problem with video game based movies. The biggest problem is not having the creators involved," he explained. "Marvel became Marvel once they started creating their own movies. I think the way to do video game movies is, number one, have filmmakers that are passionate about them and know them; they're fans, they're not just looking at it as a job. And also have developers and publishers involved."
Askarieh produced last summer's Hitman movie Agent 47, which was one of the worst-reviewed video game movies of all time. It is unclear if the team at IO Interactive was involved in the production, but it doesn't sound like it from what Askarieh said today.
"I happen to think [video game movies are] going to be the next comic book movies" -- Askarieh
He went on to say that for his upcoming movie based on Deus Ex, which he's working on with Lee, "the developers are going to be involved "from A to Z."
"And we're talking about doing a lot of different stuff with that which I can't get into, but it's not going to be made in a vacuum," he explained. "It's not going to be made by a bunch of people who just license the rights and go off and make the movie. They're going to be very involved. I truly believe that is the only way for video game films to become the next whatever they're going to be.
"I happen to think they're going to be the next comic book movies. I haven't been proven right yet. But I feel if you have more fillmmakers who are passionate and have a lot of producers/directors/writers that 'get' them in conjunction with the video game people working on them, I think you're gonna see that."
The Deus Ex movie has been in the works for many years now. At one time, The Exorcism of Emily Rose director Scott Derrickson was attached to direct it for CBS Films. However, Askarieh said today that CBS Films is no longer working on the film; a new partner will be named soon, he said.
As is the case when books are adapted for movies and some elements are lost or changed, the same is often true for video games. Askarieh said he caught a lot of flak from fans for Agent 47 because the main character Agent 47 was not completely bald as he's shown in the game series. He said he understands and appreciates this criticism.
"The more you can be respectful to the DNA of the property and have the group of people around you who understand it, who share your vision for it, not just trying to make a movie and get a fee, I think you're going to do OK," he said.
Askarieh added that he's hopeful the upcoming Assassin's Creed movie, which is being produced by New Regency in collaboration with Ubisoft's own film division, can be the first video game movie to really catch on with a wide audience and also appeal to veteran fans of the series.
Assassin's Creed opens in December of this year, while Warcraft, based on the Blizzard Entertainment game franchise, will come before it this summer.
For more on movie adaptations of video games, check out GameSpot's gallery of 18 video game films currently in production.
Disclosure: CBS Films' parent company, CBS Corp., also owns GameSpot.