Joss Whedon  Tagged Articles RSS Feed | Joss Whedon  RSS Feed on en Launch Media Network 5 Reasons Why Movies Based on Video Games Fail Mon, 16 Feb 2015 09:27:51 -0500 Stan Rezaee

Looks like Mr. 47 is returning to theaters as fans got a chance to see the first trailer for Hitman: Agent 47 which premiered online on Friday. Like its predecessor, it's going to be an action thriller and another forgettable flop.

While video games have made efforts to recreate or continue some of the greatest works of the cinematic arts, Hollywood has failed to show the same kind of professional curtsy. 

It's not that making an adaptation of a video game is difficult - the process requires the same guidelines used to adapt popular books and comics. Yet, Hollywood has failed to learn these lessons in trying to bring an iconic video game story to the big screen.

Here are the five reasons why movies based on video games are always a disappointment. 

5. Hollywood doesn't respect video games

This is not a blanket statement because it’s obvious that Steven Spielberg respects video games as an art (having created the military shooter genre with Medal of Honor). The same could not be said about a studio executive who see gaming as a fad to tap into.

To be fair, most studio executives operate in a shell while only focused on the studio's bottom line. It's understandable that they need to focus on profits to stay in business, but it also gives them a warped perception. In the end, it's all about what sells and if they can’t understand it then it must not sell (this also is why Community has had a turbulent run). 

4. Hollywood also doesn't understand video games

Since many in Hollywood have failed to respect video games as an art, they have also failed to understand it as a medium. For example: people who don’t understand gaming will look at Grand Theft Auto V as a cop and hooker killer simulator rather than a story of three friends seeking the American Dream in a post-2008 Crash society.

It's easy to overlook that video games didn’t become a storytelling medium until the late '80s while also having to break from the traditional standards set by cinema and theater.

The issue is that a lot of screenwriters and directors will look at a video game as if it was an action movie. The action is a gameplay mechanic that allows the player to function in the context of the environment, not drive the story. In doing so, they have overlooked the story and robbed it of any content that fans enjoy.

Case in point would be how the John Moore adaptation of Max Payne failed to properly recreate one of the greatest works of neo-noir since Pulp Fiction. The key word being “neo-noir,” as in a gritty crime drama within the context of a modern society and not an action/supernatural film.

3. Failure to bring the character to life

One of the biggest issues with these adaptations is that the acting is going to be mediocre at best. Most actors who have been in a video game movie are not that memorable or were just the poor choice for the role. Case in point would be Timothy Olyphant's portrayal of Mr. 47 in the first Hitman movie.

Full disclosure: Justified is one of my favorite shows to the point that I go out of my way to watch it every Tuesday while owning the entire series on DVD. While he has played several memorable roles, Timothy Olyphant has cemented his legacy with the character of Deputy U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens.

With all that said, Olyphant was not the best choice to play Mr. 47. His portrayal lacked the sophistication and shallow charm that has been associated with the character. It's not that he is a bad actor, he was just not the right actor to bring the character to life.

Yet that pales compared to the so many poor performances that have earned infamy. Tara Reid earned herself a Razzie award for her performance in Alone in the Dark while Mark Wahlberg earned a nominee for his role in Max Payne. Meanwhile the late Bob Hoskins and Dennis Hopper wish everyone forgot about their performance in Super Mario Bros

2. Lack of respect for the source material 

If the creative team doesn’t understand the medium then they are likely to break away from the source material.

Too often when such a film is announced, fans get excited in the hopes of seeing a cinematic adoption of their favorite video game. A few months later they are shocked to discover that the story and characters are not based on the source material.

The film adaptations of DoomHitman, and House of the Dead are just a few examples to note. The most well-known example to look at would be the turbulent production that Resident Evil had to undergo.

When a Resident Evil movie was first being developed, Capcom and Sony originally tapped horror iconic George A. Romero. Unfamiliar with video games; he attempted to understand the source material by having his secretary play the game over eight times while being recorded.

Romero would study the videos and take notes so that he may create a screenplay that was faithful to the story. However, Sony rejected his vision and put the project on hold until Paul W. S. Anderson submitted his screenplay.

That is correct, Resident Evil was originally supposed to be directed by one of the most influential horror film directors and Sony rejected him in favor of some hack.

This brings up the final point…

1. Unqualified directors

Finally, when it comes down to it, the majority of movies based on a video game have been created by directors who obviously lack any kind of creative talent. A lot of directors who have made movies based on video games are either inexperienced or just notoriously terrible.

Taking lessons learned from the success of comic book films, there could only be a good film based on a video game if the director understands and respects the medium. Not too long ago comic book movies were seen as box office poison until Bryan Singer and Christopher Nolan redefined the genre.

Video game movies could also have the same kind of success if only the right talent is leading the project. One needs to realize that there is a big difference between the works of Paul W. S. Anderson and Uwe Boll compared to Joss Whedon and Sam Raimi.


Directors like Whedon, Raimi along with Peter Jackson are the kind of directors who have the utmost appreciation for the source material. These artists were raised within the source culture and they have made their vision a mission to properly recreate or retell these stories through the cinematic arts.

Also important to note is that they all had previous experience in filmmaking that helped build the needed credibility among the studios to greenlight their dream projects. Raimi had established himself with the Evil Dead-trilogy, Sir Kenneth Branagh was already recognized for his cinematic adaptations of William Shakespeare before directing Thor, and the successful re-make of Dawn of the Dead helped launch Snyder’s career.

Meanwhile the majority of movies based on video games have been directed by individuals who are either inexperienced or are known for making bad films. The best film John Moore (Max Payne) directed, Flight of the Phoenix, has a 37% on Rotten Tomato while Andrzej Bartkowiak (Doom and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li) sorry excuse of a filmography is no different and Uwe Boll (House of the Dead and Bloodrayne) can’t direct a film for s***.

The difference could be obviously seen with Halo: Nightfall, a successful adaptation that was produced by Sir Ridley Scott. Meanwhile another highly anticipated Halo adaptation is being developed by Steven Spielberg. 

The only way a movie based on a video game will ever be successful if it's directed by a gamer with experience while the screenplay is a faithful adaptation of the source material.

So in other words... Sony, please dump Jordan Vogt-Roberts in favor of Joss Whedon for the Metal Gear Solid movie. 

What's Wrong With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And How to Fix It Thu, 05 Dec 2013 05:33:47 -0500 Ste Grainer

I started the fall television season excited about Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. As each week's episode plods on, my excitement has dulled and my interest has waned. I get more excited about new episodes of almost every other show I watch (I haven't even bothered to check if this week's episode was new yet). Agents has a metric ton of potential, and so far it has lived up to almost none of it. Here are some of the problems I see and a few suggestions to fix them.

What's the Mission?

Maybe I missed a plot point somewhere, but what's the reason behind this special team? They're flown all over the place, seemingly on Coulson's whim. Are they investigating powerful objects? Check! Are they searching for missing people? Check! Are they playing detective on bizarre circumstances? Check! What's their mission, though? The X-Men are champions of mutantkind, working to further mutants while attempting to maintain a peaceful relationship between mutants and humans. The Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense (think Hellboy) investigates and protects the world from the occult, paranormal, and supernatural. Why does S.H.I.E.L.D. exist?

How to fix it:
  • Give S.H.I.E.L.D. a mission statement. Make it clear and repeat it (paraphrasing) from time to time.
  • Tie the missions together with a theme. Look at Warehouse 13 or Eureka. Look at Arrow. Those characters and teams have clear motivation for *why* they're doing what they do. And that motivation helps me to care about it, too.

I Don't Care About the Characters

Aside from Agent Coulson (who comes into the show with history and character already developed), I honestly couldn't care less about the other characters. I can't even remember their names half the time. There's Agent Handsome, Cute Hacker, The Ninja, and FitzSimmons (oh good, I remember their names, but not which is which). There have been a couple minor dalliances with these characters' past lives, but not nearly enough to make them less two-dimensional.

How to fix it:
  • Explore their individual pasts. Flashbacks are an established trope now - use them and abuse them to give us reasons to care about these characters. Why did Cute Hacker start/join/whatever the Rising Tide? Why leave it so easily for S.H.I.E.L.D.? Why did The Ninja want a desk job? (This was touched on recently, but more as a running joke in the episode than as a real insight into her character. If you want to build the character, show, don't tell.)
  • Let a character take the helm for a full episode. What happens when Agent Handsome has to outwit an opponent? How would Cute Hacker get out of a physically dangerous situation? I love Agent Coulson, but let the guy take a break.
  • Put them in real danger. Want an idea of real danger? Watch Out of Gas or War Stories from Firefly.
  • Mix up some chemistry. There's almost no emotional connection between characters - oh sure, there was a hint of something between Agent Handsome and The Ninja. But it lacked a real spark. And drama? Forget about it ...
  • Most of all, say their names and give me a reason to remember them.

Where's the Mystery?

Joss Whedon is usually a master of mystery. Much of the disappointment around the cancellation of Firefly is that so many mysteries remain unsolved (unless you read some of the comics). Agents is ostensibly a show all about mysteries - they're supposed to track down and contain powerful objects and beings, right? Is that their mission? Ugh, maybe the mystery is their mission ...

The only ongoing mystery is what really happened in Tahiti. And while that's ... something ... there's only so much that it leaves to the imagination.

How to fix it:
  • Introduce minor or side characters whose roles/pasts are cloaked. You screwed the pooch with the professor in the Thor tie-in episode. He could have been much more interesting if we didn't have his past and motivations almost completely wrapped up by the end of the episode.
  • While exploring the primary characters in more depth, leave intriguing clues and details unexplained for later teases.

There's Little to No Broader Narrative Arc

Buffy was one of the first shows that really nailed the season arc. Sure, not every episode focused on the Big Bad, but the beginning of a season set up some of the danger and mystery, then the Big Bad disappeared for a bit (making occasional appearances as both a reminder and threat), and the season culminated with a showdown. It's formulaic, but effective. The season arc stuff I've seen in Agents so far either isn't very compelling or it's too hidden. Yes, I've noticed the Centipede Extremis thread, but a) it doesn't feel particularly threatening and b) it's only lightly touched on at all.

How to fix it:
  • If Centipede is the broader arc, it should have gotten more screen time. The people in charge should feel like a bigger, looming threat (instead of barely getting away).
  • Don't let every episode feel like a completely wrapped up entity. Let threads dangle and pick them up again later.

Where's the Spectacle?

I understand that a television show has a very different budget from a movie. Really, I get it. But with the full weight of Marvel, Disney, and ABC behind this project, you should be able to spend a little more on special effects and location shoots. I understand that as they're primarily flying around the world, there will be *some* time spent in the plane. But that's also a cheap copout when the other locations are completely boring and could take place anywhere.

How to fix it:
  • Film scenes of Agents on-set with the rest of the upcoming Avengers movies. Get freakin' Iron Man, Cap, or Thor in the background of a scene. Hell, even showing some realistic damage from Thor 2 in the Thor tie-in episode would have been good. (No, a messy room is not the same.)
  • S.H.I.E.L.D. has a helicarrier! Surely you can find a few minutes to refuel on it sometime ...
  • While you're globetrotting, get off the goddamn plane and go to a place with real character that doesn't look like a set or a generic city.
  • Honestly, fix the lighting. Look at other shows in similar genres - the lighting in Agents feels more like a sitcom and less like an action movie. Lighting sets a mood, and in this case, it's flat.

There's Potential Without Focus

Like every nerd out there, I desperately want this show to be good. The Marvel universe, even the non-superpowered S.H.I.E.L.D. veneer, has so much backstory and potential. But at this point, that's still all it is: potential. Give the Agents a clear mission. Give them character and depth. Give me some mystery to gnaw on and some sense of continuing danger. Most of all, tie these small stories together and give them a broader scope outside of their narrow television world.

Oh, and if you could find some time to let Joss Whedon focus on this instead of his many other exciting projects, that might go a long way toward fixing these ...

A Firefly Game?! Don't be Excited; Be Disappointed [UPDATE] Thu, 18 Jul 2013 10:02:04 -0400 Max Jay

As seen on Kotaku, there is an upcoming Firefly game based on one of the greatest television shows of all time.

Can you just imagine flying through the universe, dodging reavers in your very own ship? Maybe it'll break down all the time just like the Serenity, or maybe we won't get any of that at all.

A collective gulp was heard around the entire world when all Firefly fans realized through Fox's press release that the game is going to be "a multi-user, social online role-playing game that will initially be available for smartphones and tablets, including those based on iOS and Android operating systems."

**Guys... This is ACTUALLY a thing. This is NOT Photoshopped.**

Firefly Online is being developed by QMx Interactive and Spark Plug games, of Dairy Queen Tycoon and Plight of the Zombie fame. So at least we have some assurance that the game will be mediocre and then almost immediately forgotten. *Sigh* Well here's to hoping that Firefly doesn't get ruined with this potentially stupid game.

Click here for the full story on Kotaku.

 **I seriously don't.**

What do you think about this game not being an MMO style space adventure? Does it break your heart, or only make you cry a little? Sound off in the comments down below and maybe I'll let you come over and watch Serenity with me because it's a million times better than all of the Star Wars prequels combined!

[UPDATE] I reached out to both Joss Whedon and Spark Plug games about Whedon's involvement in the game. A I had anticipated, Joss Whedon didn't tweet back to me AGAIN (I'm beginning the think we're not best friends) but Spark Plug got back to me and said:

We cannot comment on Joss Whedon's behalf.

I diplomatic and unencouraging answer at best, but an answer nonetheless. Hopefully Whedon will get back to me and then take me to lunch, but if not we'll just have to wait to find out more.