The Manic Maniac: Why Do Video Game Movies Inherently Suck? - Mania.com



The Manic Maniac: Why Do Video Game Movies Inherently Suck?

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The Manic Maniac: Why Do Video Game Movies Inherently Suck?

Mark Wahlberg Gives Up the Dirt

By Joe Crosby     October 17, 2008


Mark Wahlberg and Mila Kunis star in MAX PAYNE(2008).
© 20th Century Fox

 

If you've been tinkering around with Mania this week, you might have seen the interview with Max Payne star Mark Wahlberg and director John Moore. Standard pre-release publicity stuff, where people involved with the film talk about what a great project it was, how effing awesome the script was, how easy it is to work with so and so, until you get the feeling Beverly Hills Chihuahua is going to be someone's defining work. Sometimes, maybe that is the case, sometimes, maybe it's not. But all the time actors, directors, writers and so on like to veil a project in exclamation points and synonyms for “great,” wrapping it in a neat little bow for a big weekend box office debut. Until now.
 
Wahlberg started out fawning, proclaiming, "When I read the script I thought, wow this is awesome." “Awesome,” shocking. But in his next breath, he admits that he asked, "where did it come from?" So, no big deal, he's not a gamer. Those of us who aren't particularly big on the gaming scene might, at best, know of Max Payne by name and maybe brief synopsis. And after all, you don't have to have read, say, The Road, for the idea of starring in it to pique your interest. But you figure, at some point, you'd probably read the book before you started filming. You know, bring yourself up to speed, understand who the character is and try to offer a nod to the work in question. So, that's probably how Wahlberg approached Max Payne, which is also probably why Mania asked him, "Did you play the game?"
 
"No. My assistant is a gamer. He played the game for me from the start of production till we wrapped. I didn't want to play because I have an addictive personality."
 
Well, that's reassuring. In an adaptation format--video game to film--that already struggles to translate, we have Marky Mark going in blind. That’s like cooking Indian food without curry because your eyes water easily.
 
There's one school of thought that says once you create something in a new medium, it then stand alone as an independent thing. In other words, Lord of the Rings may have been adapted from the book trilogy, but the piece that was created stands alone as a work, is approached differently by an audience and resonates differently with an audience. Plenty of time, there's merit to that. But even though Aragorn and Frodo exhibited some freedom of character in the films, do you think Viggo Mortensen and Elijah Wood thought, "Eh, I'm not a big reader, but my assistant is. I'll have him read it, and tell me how it should inform my character."
 
I'd bet dollars to a gamer's donuts that they did read the trilogy. It's really long, some parts are dense and there's an entirely different language being spoken, but I'd bet they read it because it's necessary. Oh, wait, we'll just ask Viggo (or the official LOR movie guide):
 
"So there I am on the plane for New Zealand [to shoot], reading that enormous, telephone directory-sized book [Lord of the Rings] and then the scripts, and a couple of days later I'm filming."
 
You might say the Mortensen is a different tier of actor than Wahlberg, and while I certainly wouldn't argue with you, keep in mind that Wahlberg was nominated for a statue in The Departed. And you might say that adapting a book is different than adapting a video game. Yeah, kinda. But even if you don't regularly play video games--and I don't--you understand how convoluted the storylines are, how real the relationships can ultimately be. These people are creating whole new worlds in a game console, like an author in a book. So what, as an actor, makes you think you can recreate that world without knowing what the hell it was to begin with?
 
Methinks that's the problem with this genre altogether. The idea of turning a video game into a movie could, at first, seem ridiculous--just a fun three-month vacation, with a good catering van and a great paycheck. Phoning it in for half-assed entertainment. But it takes two to tango. Maybe the audience needs to take these films a little more seriously, and then the creators will, as well. After all, Marky Mark used to produce shitty rhymes and gratuitously drop trow on a basketball court, and now Mark Wahlberg shows up on Oscar night.

COMMENTS AND RESPONSES

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karas1 10/17/2008 4:00:20 AM

I don't game.  I'm not interested in playing a video game any more complicated than Space Invaders. I'd never heard of Max Payne and didn't know this movie was based on a video game until you just told me.

You liken playing a video game to reading a book.  I'm not a movie star but if I was cast in a movie that was based on a book I'd probably read the book.  But what if the book was in French?  Am I supposed to learn French so I can read the book?

I've seen other people play video games and I think it encompasses a whole different set of skills than reading a book.  If Whalberg doesn't have those skills and isn't interested in developing them I can see where he'd elect to pass on playing the game.  If the script and the director are any good he should be able to do a good portrayal of the character without playing the game.

tombaker 10/17/2008 4:19:40 AM

I was addicted to Max Payne 2 a few years ago, my boss and I would waste hours everyday at work playing it and we would see cleaners everywhere we went, those that played the game know what I am talking about. Heck, we would even "slow motion" enter the office Max Payne style... I miss that job...

It was amazingly addictive, so I could understand in hindsight that maybe not starting to play it would be best for an addictive personality kind of guy.

Though having watched the trailer I don't remember any angels of death or whatever they are in Max Payne 2, were they in the first one?

irascible 10/17/2008 5:08:14 AM

From a review on rottentomatoes.com:  "Did Wahlberg read the script, or was it hidden under the pile of money that the producers dropped at his door step?"

"The Happening", now this.  Wahlberg better get a new agent before he's back to  " Yo! It's about that time To bring forth the rhythm and the rhyme I'm a get mine so get yours I wanna see sweat comin' out your pores"
 

Jarik05 10/17/2008 6:24:03 AM

I've never played the game and this movie looks pretty good to me.

Who cares if he never played the game?

If I did play the game and was a fan of it, I wouldn't really care if they took liberties with the property as long as the spirit of the character was there. Thats what is most important, IMHO

Calibur454 10/17/2008 11:59:39 AM

I just came from the theater watching this movie and compared to other video game bombs like house of the dead and DOOM this one ranks very well. Critics are not fond of Payne but they normally are not when movies are based on video games. This one did right uy the game from what i could tell. I never played the game but knew about it.

There were only 3 scenes dedicated to the bullet time that Payne became famous for in the game and thankfully it wasn't to comical and it was used in the right way. Thank god that none of  the actual video game was cut into the movie. This type of homage rarely ever works and the only way that I have seen that work is in the movie HITMAN. The story line line wasn't as strong but it will keep your interest going. (WATCH THE CREDITS ROLL!!!) theres a scene after the movie credits that lead to a possible sequel. Of course this depends on how well this movie does in theaters.

I give this movie a Strong B

Wiseguy 10/17/2008 12:48:19 PM
<P itxtvisited="1">This movie sucks big time, BIG TIME.  DOOM was a masterpiece compared to this although I must admit I think DOOM may be the best of the game based flicks. I'm not comparing to the games since I don't play, I'm just rating them on how good or entertaining  the movie itself was. And going by what I overheard the movie's story is completely different from the game aside from one or two things. The one bullet time scene wasn't enough to up the "cool" factor.</P><BR itxtvisited="1" /> <P itxtvisited="1"> </P><BR itxtvisited="1" /> <P itxtvisited="1">Somebody or bodies in Hollywood are under the impression that Whalberg is a star in the making or already made. Let's be honest, this guy sucks as an actor. If he doesn't have a grimace or frown then he isn't on camera, he can't emote anything, he is just terrible and keeps proving it time and time out.</P><BR itxtvisited="1" /> <P itxtvisited="1"> </P><BR itxtvisited="1" /> <P itxtvisited="1">DON'T WASTE YOUR MONEY AND TIME</P>
hanso 10/17/2008 3:01:47 PM

I told you fools it would suck, Wiseguy just confirmed it.  Wise please talk more about the vulture people.

Now on the video game movies;
 

Until Hollywood starts taking them seriously like they've started doing with comic book films we are set for shit coming out most of the time.  Shame.

celt_6@yahoo.com_home 10/18/2008 10:19:00 AM

I played both Max Payne games.  Loved every second of both of them.  There were NO vulture/winged/angel-of-death-type people in either plot.  The weirdest thing that happened in those games was when Max got drugged and started hallucinating.  There were a lot of references to Norse mythology in particular, but there wasn't any actual supernatural happenings in either game and the plots were basically drug-bust/revenge stories.

I know I should listen to Wiseguy, since he usually seems to be on point, but I'm still curious (possibly masochistically so) about this film.  I think I might still check it out at a matinee showing.

But, I'll say in advance, that I'm totally ready to confirm Wiseguy's review after seeing some of the ads and trailers for this.  It looks like they took the setting of Max Payne and tried to turn it into a bad Matrix-meets-Constantine fiasco.

sociopathos 10/18/2008 1:30:18 PM

Celt, from a coupole of reviews I read the ads totally misrepresent the movie, the vulture people are drug induced hallucinations., so's the talk about "Satan raising an army".  For what it's worth, the reviews also totally panned it.

Karas, if the book was in any way, shape or form popular you probably wouldn't have a problem finding a translation.  Example:  Had no problem getting a copy of "Babylon Babies", the book on which "Babylon AD" is based.  By odd coincidence "Babylon Babies" was written by a Frenchman.

darkheart00 10/18/2008 8:27:19 PM

I liked Wahlberg in "Four Brothers". He does have some degree of talent. Not Oscar worthy by any means but it is there. He just keeps choosing to star in crap for movies. He doesn't have a very wide range but neither does Keanu "whoa" Reeves......who just better not frak up "The Day The Earth Stood Still" d@mmmmnit !


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