Movies and Games - Successful Combination? [10/17/01]

Let's be honest. Even though there has been a long history between videogames and movies, currently trends have been less than favorable. When you approach most gamers or moviegoers, the mention of either a movie based on a game or a game based on a movie immediately brings up a sense of dread and apprehension. This has not always been the case (and even currently is sometimes not the standard).

Long before consoles and arcade units, pinball machines were billboards for popular movies. Considering that most pinball machines were fairly similar in design with variations in the placement of flippers and bumpers, having pictures from a popular movie or television series (like Smokey and the Bandit or Charlie's Angels) helped draw gamers to that specific machine. Fortunately, at this time, no movies were based on pinball machines (even though The Who did write a song involving one).

Tron was probably one of the first movies to incorporate the concept of games and virtual reality in a movie. Subsequently, an arcade game for Tron came out. Also around that time was the Star Wars game, which allowed players to relive the Death Star attack. Unfortunately, this would be one of the few Star Wars games that would be worth playing for some time. Once the home consoles (Atari, Colecovision) starting becoming popular, movie-based games slowly filtered into the market. E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Raiders of the Lost Ark both made their marks on the early consoles. From this point, there were a series of semi-successful games based on movies for the NES and SNES consoles. In the theaters, though, the role of games were just plot devices rather than totally based on a game or series in total. This was until Mortal Kombat.

Mortal Kombat, the ultra violent arcade came that became equally popular on the home consoles (SNES, Sega Genesis) all the while outraging conservative parents, made the first successful foray into the movie department. While no Oscar-winning script or performances were available, the film managed to capture the style of the game in a decent martial art film slopping over with special effects. After the success of this movie, production studios started to look for other videogames to bring to the big screen. Unfortunately, these following attempts failed miserably. Both Street Fighter the Movie and the Mario Brothers movie were lackluster and failed to do anything but give future projects fair warning. To make the Street Fighter movie situation even worse, an arcade game based on the movie was released, where the actors were motion captured (a la Mortal Kombat, Pit Fighter) and forced to perform lame attacks in one of the weakest arcade fighters in history. Of course, Mortal Kombat's movie sequel fell into this same lackluster category.

Once the next generation of consoles came about (Saturn, Playstation, N64) a new onslaught of movie-based games were churned out. Any movie that had a small bit of action and special effects were in consideration for being a game. Everything from Crow: City of Angels to A Bug's Life was made, most, if not all were not worth the money or time to play. Even worse was the fact that one of the greatest movie series, Star Wars, had not put out a quality title since the original arcade machine.

After some time, movie producers began to head back to videogames for movie concepts. Seeing as how videogame consoles have become such a staple in our lives, this is not too much of a surprise. With Tomb Raider already through the theaters (with some fair success) and future films based on Resident Evil and Doom, don't be surprised to see more games translated into films. I can't promise that they'll be good, just that they'll be there.

Current and next-gen consoles (PS2, X-Box, Gamecube) have been a mixed bunch. While games like Star Wars: Starfighter have really shone, other games, like The Mummy Returns and Star Wars: Super Bombad Racing (or most of the other Star Wars games in general), have really just milked it for all it's worth. With more on the horizon (Shrek, Matrix), we can only hope for the best.

With all of this said, I can only hope that videogame and movie executives will learn from past mistakes. Here is my plea to all of those people who make these decisions: STOP MAKING GARBAGE MOVIES AND VIDEOGAMES JUST TO MAKE A BUCK! Sorry, I just had to get that off of my chest.

- - Kinderfeld

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