I think that everyone and their mother knows as this point that video game based movies are known to include some of the worst films to be ever produced (I'm looking at you Alone on the Dark II and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li), rendering this part of the introductory paragraph entirely pointless. But instead of pointing out the best or worst examples of this, I'm going to try and point out a few of the reasons where these movies might have gone wrong and give some well needed constructive criticism for those who have trouble with creating these films (especially for our good old friends Paul W.S. Anderson and Uwe Boll).
1. Lack of understanding as to what can be translated and how it can be translated to the silver screen.
Lets face it, a lot of your, my and our favourite games will never make it to the big screen because they are either untranslatable or because they will never work in that format. Tetris, Asteroids and Pac-Man are prime examples of games that would never make any sense in movie form (despite what Hollywood is trying to do these franchises as you read this) because they're designed to be games and only games. We don't need to know why those Tetris pieces are falling, or the back story for the tiny triangle shaped ship is destroying those asteroids and what Pac-Man is doing in a maze chasing and devouring those ghosts. Any and all thought and reasoning for any back story to these games belong only in those funny pictures you find on the internet drawn by someone with a creative imagination or spent some time in a food coma and pumped it out.
On the flip side, there are a lot of games that could be turned into films. The Metal Gear Solid series is known for it's lengthy cinematic cutscenes that are already films into themselves. Hideo Kojima, famously known for his work on the series, is infamously know for want to cinema. Let this man work with a serious film company and you'd have yourself a film. The Legend of Zelda would also make a great film, having both a decent story that could be translated to screen and has enough of a mythology for the movie to be fleshed out in a sequel. Although, a few of the renditions of Ganon throughout the years have been a little out there, so maybe keep it to the basics. They could always copy some of that IGN April Fools trailer that was released a couple of years ago.
2. No respect for source material.
Video games, as is, are not respected by the mainstream. Still seen as things that make children feel stab happy, no one is really going out of their way to get their hands on the licence to your favourite games. Also considering that the films that have come before getting low ratings and being bashed by critics and fans alike, no one is really going to take it seriously when developing their own video game based movies, since they know that they are making crap. Comic adaptations were also not taken seriously once, as seen by Steel with Shaquille O'Neal (seriously, how was this guy taken seriously at all), 1997's Batman & Robin with it's Bat Nipples and Bat Credit Card and 1994's Fantastic 4, which was never released on it's intended date and was filmed in ONE MONTH and was created for $2 million dollars, making it the worst comic book movie of all time. But then this little director came along called Sam Raimi and he directed a film based on a little comic book character called Spider-Man, shocking everyone when it was released by actually being good. In the years that followed, we got Spider-Man 2, Iron Man and The Dark Knight, all fantastic.
This can be applied to pretty much any adaptation, from books to Shakespeare to board games (Everyone, go watch Clue with Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd and Lesley Ann Warren. It is now required watching for anyone who wants to read anything that I've written), and even in reverse, with movies being translated to video games, books and board games (not the Twilight board game, everything Twilight sucks balls). All it takes is someone who knows how to make a film.
3. Lack of understanding as to how it can be translated to the silver screen
I know this might seem like a retread of the first point, but this only applies to the games that could get a translation. There's no doubt that video games could get a decent translation to celluloid, there have been decent translations of how a movie is supposed to feel in the game world. Heavy Rain, Metal Gear Solid 4 and Uncharted all have that cinematic feel of a Hollywood blockbuster, so why can't the reverse be the same? Lack of understanding of how it can be translated. Changing too much can makes it pointless. Remember the Super Mario Bros. movie. Remember how the two Italian characters were replaced with a British and a Latino dude, the colourful world of the Mushroom Kingdom became a rip off of Blade Runner but with more mould and big black women and the Goomba's because these things with suits and were dumber than rocks. Yeah, I'm pretty sure you don't since you've forced them out of your memory, but I can assure that this exists in the movie form of the Super Mario Bros. This could have been easily been improved by making it a 70-minute cartoon for the kids with short attention spans. This might not have made it a movie for the theatres, but it would have made a whole lot mode sense.
But on the other side of the fence, game to movie adaptations have been too much like the games, taking bits and pieces of it's source material. Silent Hill is a good example of this, with using fan favourite Pyramid Head in scene in the middle of the movie. He was essentially represent's several aspects of Silent Hill 2's main character James Sunderland's suffering and/or guilt and the embodiment of James' sexual frustration with his dead wife. But who needs a reason for his appearance? Tomb Raider is another example of this, with Lara Croft exploring parts of the world for artefacts. Oh wait, that video game movie was ACTUALLY great. Bad example... or good example? Maybe I should have used Street Fighter and it's poor excuses for getting the characters into their costumes. But video game adaptations neither need to be completely different of exactly the same.
The Clue movie (Didn't I already mention that?) is a great example of this. It takes the concept of the board game, in which up to 9 characters were in a house before one of them gets killed and the people playing have to guess who did it, and develops a story that fits the world (I use that term here loosely) of the board game but takes the time to develop something out of it. Or you could ignore video game based films for the moment and watch the awesome Metroid: Other M live action trailer, it's pretty awesome.
4. In video games, the main character is just yourself.
Sometimes in video games, the character is what you think the character is supposed to be. Mostly this is with the RPG and FPS genres. Give me any details on the character's you plain Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Doom or Far Cry 2 outside of some minor details like name, appearance or some basic reason your doing anything? What about Mass Effect or Dragon's Age: Origins? Those are essentially games with a custom character that you've designed. Sure you have your Mario's, Master Chief's and Solid Snake's, but most of them are under developed (I don't think anyone can call Mario developed). They're just there for you to project yourself or what you think he/she should be onto the character. Can you tell my anything about Lara Croft other than she's a hot archaeologist with a mansion and is a female version of Indiana Jones (Nathan Drake suffers from this. Not the female thing, just the Indiana Jones thing), or what Gordon Freeman is besides a kick ass theoretical physicist. You can't, because they don't have much in the way of character development.
Sure, Master Chief has some back story, but it's all presented in those books and comics. Not a whole lot you could fit into a film so you could connect with your character. He's even faceless so you make up your own version of what he looks like. Let's face it, most game characters are blanks, containing the bare essentials of what a character is supposed to be. If any character for the big screen was written like this, you'd complain about how the character is shallow and boring. Although, that's pretty much standard in action and horror movies, and we still love a lot of those movies.
5. Sometimes, video game stories are just plain shit.
Let's face it, some of your and my favourite games have stories that are just plain shit. There a few video game genre's that have terrible plots. Fighting games like Dead or Alive or Tekken are right up there (Seriously, Kangaroo's, men made out of wood and Panda's?). And I'm pretty sure open world games also have their fair share of stories that have to be spread over 40-hours of gameplay. Now, I know now spraying hookers with shit in Saint's Row 2 and blowing shit up in Crackdown after collecting all of those orbs is entertaining, but your never going to remember any plot because there is almost none, it's all about the gameplay. It also doesn't help that a lot of video game plots go to the default plot points such as you playing as the chosen one or end of the world situations or having temporary amnesia. These are so abundant in video games, they're the stock go to plots for most games. They're like Slasher films with a guy who doesn't speak and is in disguise going around killing teenagers who like to get naked, have sex, smoke dope and decided to go into the woods in the middle of the night. It's the bare minimum of what you can work with and is essentially there just to get you from Location A to Location B.
Plot isn't exactly a strong point for games, and the games that include plots that well include games like Half-Life 2, Portal and Silent Hill 2, where the plot plays out around the character instead of being a reason to break up the action. And when a plot is tied to the gameplay and atmosphere of a game, that's going to be incredibly difficult to translate into a movie. At that point, you might as well watch a longplay or let's play of your favourite game (links below). Or you could just play the game.
--- --- --- ---
In the end, there's very little hope that video game movies will become good any time soon, with a mix of people in Hollywood not giving a shit and not know what to make a film about and how to do it and games not having the ability to be translated. Now, Here's some link's to some awesome things, like the ScrewAttack Mega Man fan film, a site for Let's Play's and Longplay's.
http://www.longplays.org/ - For all of your Longplay needs.
http://lparchive.org/LetsPlay/ - For all of your Let's Play needs.
http://www.megamanfilm.com/ - Mega Man fan film.