Apr 05

My View on Game to Film Adaptations

I’m of the opinion that reimagining a video game as a movie is a double-edged sword. I’ve seen this work in some cases, resulting in a nicely fleshed-out film that tells a good story. In other cases, the adaptation is a directionless, over-the-top mess and not worth the money. Granted, I prefer not to pass judgment until I’ve seen a film for myself, but I’ve found video game adaptions to be either hit or miss.

I believe part of the problem is that it’s hard to condense a game that contains hours upon hours of content down to a two to three hour movie. Or Hollywood will try unsuccessfully to build a story from a game that doesn’t really have one, as is the case with Angry Birds.

Below is my list of the video game adaptations that I’ve seen and my opinion of them.

1) Resident Evil live action films – I am a huge fan of the Resident Evil video games, and I was excited when I first heard there would be an adaptation back in the early 2000s. Unfortunately, I have been disappointed with the live action movie series as a whole. Too many liberties were taken with the franchise, such as the films revolving around a character named Alice and her struggles against the villainous Dr. Isaacs, neither of whom were present in the games. Of the dozens of iconic monsters in the video games, only five or six actually made it into the film adaptations. Even more frustrating, especially to me as a writer, is the lack of consistency in the movie series even though all six films were directed by the same person – the story in the sixth movie even directly contradicts the plot presented in the second. If you wish to discover what the game series is about, the live action films with Milla Jovovich are not the way to go.

2) DoomDoom is a film that worked because the game had a simplistic plot that translated well to the silver screen. It’s hard to go wrong with the basic premise of combating creatures coming from a portal to hell that was inadvertently opened at a Mars colony. The film adaptation added an extra layer to this concept by introducing a pair of estranged siblings – a marine and a scientist – who must band together if they hope to survive. Granted, I know the film bombed at the box office, but it is one movie that I thoroughly enjoy and find worthy of a spot in my DVD library.

3) Mortal KombatMortal Kombat is perhaps the best game-to-film adaptation I’ve seen. It is the one and only movie on this list that is the most faithful to its video game counterpart. The first Mortal Kombat film did a fantastic job fleshing out the characters and conflicts in addition to telling a good story. I wish the same were true of the sequel, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation. But I’ve yet to see another video game adaptation that’s on the same level.

4) Assassin’s Creed – Assassin’s Creed had potential to be a really great film since it had an excellent premise to draw from. Granted, I’ve never played any one of the games as of this point, but I would say that the film suffers from poor direction and lackluster storytelling. While Assassin’s Creed has some good elements, the pacing is too slow and it fails to delve into what motivates each of the central characters. In the hands of a production team with more vision, this movie could easily have been much more compelling.

5) Super Mario Brothers Super Mario Brothers is a film that I initially liked in spite of its childish plot and over-the-top acting. The movie had some interesting concepts, such as a world where dinosaurs evolved to a human state. And I still get a kick out of hearing Dennis Hopper as the evil King Koopa, to get his men to hunt down the title characters, issue a “Plumber alert” like it’s an everyday occurrence. Super Mario Brothers isn’t necessarily a bad film. It is simply one that would appeal more to kids than adults.

6) House of the Dead – I’ve never played any of the House of the Dead games, but I do know they generally have you fighting zombie-esque creatures created by a mad scientist named Dr. Curien. The film took a step back to serve as a prequel to the first game and explain where Dr. Curien acquired the formula to manufacture these monsters. The House of the Dead movie presented an interesting plot in the trailers, which is what drew me to watch it. The ending, however, was anti-climactic and left a lot to be desired. That’s not to say I dislike this film. In my opinion, the fight choreography and some aspects of the cinematography balance out the flaws in the movie.

7) Silent Hill Silent Hill is another film adaptation that is quite good. It does a fantastic job of matching the spooky atmosphere and nightmarish world presented in the first game. Not so much with the story – some liberties were taken there. The most notable difference between the movie and the first game is the inclusion of the iconic monster, Pyramid-Head, in the film – this particular character features only in the second game in the series and is not quite as threatening as he’s made out to be on the big screen. I would say the biggest failings of Silent Hill and it’s sequel is that there’s too much of an emphasis on acts of violence instead of quiet subtlety.

8) Prince of Persia: Sands of Time – I’ve never played the Prince of Persia games and I honestly don’t know how the movie compares to them as a whole. But I really like the film for its fantasy premise and use of a mystical dagger that can allow the holder to go back in time a few minutes to undo life-threatening situations. There are enough twists and turns in the movie to keep it interesting until the end. The only downside I encountered with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was watching it with a drunk older brother who kept making me pause it so he could rant about the historical inaccuracies.

9) Mass Effect: Paragon LostMass Effect: Paragon Lost is easily the poorest piece of cinema to make it onto this list. It seems to exist only as a way for the game creators to milk some more money for their franchise. Paragon Lost delves into the backstory of James Vega, a supporting character introduced in the third game in the Mass Effect trilogy. Overall, the film is a waste of money, doesn’t contribute anything meaningful to the games, and is poorly animated. My advice – find something better to watch.

10) Final Fantasy: Spirits Within – I know that the Final Fantasy game series started with medieval fantasy games before morphing into contemporary or futuristic adventures. But I don’t know if Spirits Within came before or after this transition. The first animated Final Fantasy film is set in the future and sees humanity struggling to survive against ghost-like monstrous entities set to wipe out the last dredges of mankind. Unfortunately, Spirits Within lacked a solid story and the ending didn’t make a lot of sense. While I got a bit of enjoyment out of it, I definitely would not recommend it.

Honorary mention: Wreck-It Ralph – The only film on the list that wasn’t adapted from a video game, Wreck-It Ralph is still one of the best movies out there for gaming enthusiasts. It is chock-full of characters from popular retro games, such as Q-Bert, Pac-Man, and Sonic the Hedgehog. And it tells a fantastic story centered around three separate fictional games – Fix-It Felix Jr., Sugar Rush, and Hero’s Duty – that exist together within the same arcade. I’m a lover of video games and stories with good plot twists, and Wreck-It Ralph has both. Two thumbs up.

I hope you enjoyed my critique of some of the video game adaptations out there. Do you agree or disagree with my views? Please let me know in the comments below.

Apr 04

The Cure

“To write something you have to risk making a fool of yourself.” – Anne Rice

“So, you can write. What are you going to do with that?” said my mother. As a practical woman, she wanted me to develop employable skills. I put my poems and short stories away. I learned to type business papers, file documents, and operate office machinery. Boring!

“You can’t write a story about slavery,” said friends of mine who saw the trend of slavery stories saturating the market. So, I put my story away.

“No one wants to read fiction based on your genealogy research. Most people just aren’t interested in that subject,” said a well-renowned critic. Again, I filed that story away with a stack of my unfinished manuscripts.

“It’s difficult to get into the publishing business,” the pundits often say. Yet debut novels and memoirs are published every year.

I’ve read that short stories, my skill set, are no longer marketable. Yet contests for short stories are run every month. I entered several of them and received an honorable mention in one. But, I was thrilled to receive one hundred dollars for a first-place finish in a now defunct contest.

Writing can be frustrating, lonely, and not financially satisfying for most people. I’ve tried other hobbies to satisfy my need to create. Crocheting, sewing, and cooking specialty dishes are fun hobbies, but nothing gives me the same satisfaction as completing a story.

New authors are discouraged, but I can’t heed the message. I have a need, a desire, an urge to put words on paper. I know the best cure for my itch to be creative – Writing!

 

Mar 21

Parlez-Vous Francais?

What do you do when every time you push a button on the control panel, the words on the screen are all in French?

This story began when I was cooking Christmas dinner last December. We were all ready to sit down and eat. The buffet was just missing one dish—the sweet potatoes. I’d left them for last because they just needed a few minutes to cook.

 

I put the package in the microwave, shut the door and punched in the time. Silence. Mmmmm! I tried again and then one more time. The microwave had quit. I didn’t know if it was tired since I’d been using it all morning or, because it was purchased in 1992, after 25 years it was finished.

 

After everyone went home, my husband and I talked about getting a new microwave. We needed something that was reliable. In the past year we’d also been having problems with the oven. Sometimes it would cook. Other times it might not be in the mood. It had been installed in 1992 also. Actually, they were a wall combo and you really couldn’t replace one without replacing the other.

 

The best time to buy appliances like these is after Christmas and during the first week in January. The reason is a number of stores in Ann Arbor have sales at this time.

 

We quickly found out that a microwave-oven combination that has to be installed in the wall is much more expensive than just buying a microwave and an oven separately. And, you can only replace a wall combo with a wall combo. Otherwise the kitchen will look pretty strange.

 

So, we bit the bullet and went shopping. We quickly found exactly what we wanted with the features we required at three different stores. The only difference was the price.

 

We needed white so it would fit in with the rest of our appliances. Well, white is no longer the “in” color. So not only did we have to pay more, we had to wait. So, it wasn’t until the end of February that the microwave-oven combo arrived at the store.

 

On Thursday, February 22, the installer came out and installed the new combo and took away the old one. Everything went smoothly. After he left, I got out the instructions with the intension of learning how to use the different features on both ovens.

 

This is where the fun began. No matter what I punched in, the words that appeared on the screen were all in French. The first few times I used the iTranslate app to try to figure out what the screen was telling me to do. Then I realized that this was taking too much time. How was I going to cook a meal or reheat something?

 

I decided the best thing was to call Kitchen Aid, register the combo, and ask how to get the screen to speak English.

 

I called the number on the registration card and waited and waited and… You get the idea. After about 20 minutes a woman came on the line. She told me this was the number to register a product in French Canada. French Canada? I was in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She gave me the number to call for the United States.

 

I called and after another twenty minutes, a different lady came on the line. After registering the product, I asked her how to get the oven and microwave to speak English. “Oh,” she said. “That’s easy. Just press Tools and choose option 9.”

 

I did and put my iTranslate app away for another time.

Mar 10

A Writer’s Confessional Part Two

Self-doubt is like a disease that goes undetected, sneaks in, and metastasizes when I’m not looking. It sits like a lump in my mind. It’s awful because it can lead to depression. Creative people deal with this every day. And inevitably, when it latches on to my psyche, it leads to fear and then procrastination. Because I can’t fail at something if I don’t start it, right? But then I think of my mantra, “Failure is a bridge to success.” So, I can only keep looking forward.

The start of 2018 is a good one, even if it has been a rocky road. There have been some bumps, okay a lot of bumps, which is self-doubt. I’m still confident that my plan is manageable, which means even the days that I’m down, my goal is still in my mind. It pushes me forward with my writing and art. And I’m still using the bullet journal to see my accomplishments.

The days I wrote and didn’t paint or draw, I used a couple of Donald Maass books on writing. The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stake, and his Writing 21st Century Fiction: High Impact Techniques for Exceptional Storytelling. February was a fun, productive month in character development. The exercises will lead to a better outline and scenes that are full and beautiful with story. Each book has great lessons at the end of each section. Questions are listed so I can express the people I create in a more meaningful way. Most questions ask, how would a character react or function to inner and outer conflicts? They help define characters in a way that is more in-depth and intense. The reader will latch onto them to encourage experiencing the emotions the hero and heroines elicit. That’s what I want. It’s what my writing is missing. I even created another character that I didn’t see coming to add more tension to the story arc, which could lead to another book in the series.

There have also been places where my scenes are flat. They have no meaning to the story, or they aren’t becoming a part of who the character is, or fails to show what the place means to a character. I recently finished a chapter and shared it with my writer’s group, Deadwood Writers, for specifically this goal. I wanted the chapter to feel as if the reader was stepping into the soul of the character. That the place I was creating was a living memory of what the character experienced throughout her life and to have the main heroine understand that it was something she could/would want, or as someone put it in the writer’s group, or not. In conclusion, I decided my character isn’t ready yet to deal with what she’s feeling. So, I had to create a space that was lived in and had a good history. But at this point she must have it on pause, like a still painting in the back of her mind, ready to bring it back to life when she’s ready. I was pleased with the result. But you’ll have to wait to read it since it’s in the sequel to Hot Blacktop.

I’ve also worked on some fun projects in my art life, which I also listed in my bullet journal. I was on a mission to see where my art could fit into retail locations, and online at an Etsy store that I’ve started to create. I asked myself questions regarding starting a business along with talking with small gift shop store owners where I frequent. How can I sell my art? Where is the best place to do that? How do you choose the art you sell? Do I need a lawyer to create a business? How do I price my art? I did research online looking up other artists. I found videos, and articles, and will continue to develop what I intend to do.

Even though I stumbled in February, not working as many days as I did in January, I still made good progress. I can’t let the days of idleness get to me. I’m still doing what I love. I’m still learning. That’s all that matters.

Mar 06

Popular Video Game Series I’ve Never Played

Though I am someone who has played hundreds of video games in my lifetime, I have rarely checked out a title that was trending.  I have been very selective on what I purchase and I typically only go for games that intrigue me in some way.

Lately, I have had many conversations with other avid gamers who are shocked to learn I’ve never played a certain game – or a certain franchise for that matter.  Below is my list of ten popular video game series I’ve never personally delved into.

1)  Legend of Zelda – Easily the longest-running series on this list, Legend of Zelda got its start alll the way back in the 1980s.  It is a franchise that should be right up my alley with its fantasy setting, intriguing storylines, and loads of monsters to fight.  But for whatever reason, I never delved into any one of the installments in the series.  Out of all the games that made the list, Legend of Zelda would definitely be my first choice for a franchise to check out.

2)  Halo – A sci-fi adventure series that focuses on an interstellar war between humans and aliens, Halo is a franchise that I could easily have gotten into.  Sadly, the closest I’ve gotten to playing the actual games is an animated fan-made series called Red vs. Blue made popular on YouTube.  Though Red vs. Blue has little connection to Halo’s storyline, the former series has made me curious to discover what the games are all about.

3) Assassin’s Creed – As far as video games go, Assassin’s Creed has one of the most unique premises.  The franchise generally centers around a modern-day protagonist who uses an advanced form of virtual reality to assume the identity of one of his ancestors in different periods of history.  Each of the games in the series allows you to step into the shoes of an assassin who accepts contracts to take out certain people, interacts with real-life historical figures, and must solve a mystery lost to the ravages of time.  I’ve played games that are somewhat similar to Assassin’s Creed, and it is a series that I can definitely see myself giving a try.

4)  Doom – A first-person shooter franchise that debuted in the 1990s, Doom is a series I give props to for an innovative concept.  The original game in the franchise essentially saw colonists on Mars inadvertently open a portal to hell.  It was left to an unnamed space marine – subsequently coined as Doomguy by fans – to combat the demonic creatures that overtook the colony.  The closest I’ve gotten to playing Doom was when I delved into a separate game called Spear of Destiny that utilized the same interface.  But maybe someday…

5)  Silent Hill – An eerie video game series with a heavy emphasis on psychological horror, Silent Hill is one of those games where the player must rely more on stealth or running away instead of combat.  I don’t know how eager I am to explore a nightmarish world populated by truly-original freakish monsters, but it is a franchise I may eventually give a shot.

6)  Street Fighter – A fighting game series that dates back to 1987, Street Fighter is perhaps the most surprising franchise that I never got into.  I’m no stranger to fighting games, and I’ve played my share of a similar series, Mortal Kombat.  I’ve also delved into many games or movies featuring characters from Street Fighter, such as Super Puzzle Fighter, Marvel vs. Capcom, and Wreck-It Ralph.  It may be time I stop skating along the edges and actually give the parent series a try.

7)  World of Warcraft – One of the most popular online multiplayer game series out there, World of Warcraft is a franchise that consistently keeps coming out with new content.  I’ve never been a big fan of online gameplay, though I have delved into it.  I’ve dabbled in Everquest, but could never get into it enough to keep at it long-term.  And I’ve had some bad experiences with a large group of gamers on a lesser known online multiplayer game called Batheo.  But that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind and check out the fantasy setting of World of Warcraft.

8)  PokemonPokemon is a video game series that I might not have gotten into because it was all the rage back when it first started.  It didn’t help that I used to work in a video rental store where I had kids asking for a Pokemon game or film on a daily basis.  I feel that hearing about something too much is a good way to make you detest that particular thing.  I’ve since had an ample amount of time to distance myself from the phenomenon, and I’ve started to look at the Pokemon games as something I might be interested in.

9)  Tomb Raider – An adventure series with a self-explanatory title, Tomb Raider chronicles the story of archaeologist Lara Croft as she explores ancient ruins in search of treasure.  I can’t say why I never gave any of the Tomb Raider games a chance, but I do feel it is a premise I could sink my teeth into.

10) Five Nights at Freddy’sFive Nights at Freddy’s is a survival horror franchise that debuted in 2014, but already has six games to its name.  Of all the series that made the list, the popularity of Five Nights at Freddy’s puzzles me the most.  I don’t see much variation between any of the installments of the series – no matter which one you start with, you’re basically playing all the games in one sitting.  Five Nights at Freddy’s may be an overrated series where you’re trying to elude living killer human-sized animatronics, but it is also one that I may check out just to say I tried it.

For someone who loves video games, it is surprising that I’ve never played some of the most popular or acclaimed franchises out there.  Each of the series on this list has such a big fanbase that it may be time for me to see what the hype is all about.   And who knows – I might just find a new favorite or two.