Friday, May 13, 2016

Becuase branding, that's why.

Look, I'm a grown-ass man who enjoys video games, so please understand that when I say 'please stop trying to make movies out of video games,' I mean it as constructive criticism. Here, check this out. In a stroke of synergistic cross-marketing nostalgia-milking, Atari has teamed up with a production company to create movie versions of two of their classic, narrative-less video games, Centipede and Missile Command.
"The idea tests very well among late-middle-aged comic book store 
owners who restore classic arcade machines in their spare time."
-Film industry execs growing 
the shit out of their brands
It should be noted that this doesn't
work on actual turtles. Do not attempt. 
The obvious question here is 'holy shit, why?' And I'm not sure there's a great answer for this. First of all, video games don't have the best track record for being movie source material. Street Fighter, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and Super Mario Bros, were all varying degrees of terrible and those were based on really good games that at least have story elements to draw upon. Street Fighter has magic karate, Final Fantasy games have wizards and rideable chickens and Super Mario is, at its heart, a heart-warming tale of heroic turtle abuse.

Name recognition and cocaine.
Let's not forget about cocaine.
Sure, there have been some successful, if not necessarily good movies based on video games. There's been like 15 Resident Evils even though the world ended back in part 3. And the trailer for Assassin's Creed: The Game: The Movie came out this week and yeah it's probably two-hours of parkour and careful choreographed fights, but it's coming from a decent series with a solid premise so it might not be objective garbage. I guess my issue is more about how they're banking on name recognition alone.

There is nothing about these games to suggest a narrative arc. They, like most ancient Atari games weren't about story, they were just about getting buzzed bar patrons to feed quarters into the slots and then testing their reflexes and ability to keep a grip a joystick slick with pizza grease. Then they just increased the level of difficulty until players ran out of lives or money or patience and then went back to doing whatever people in the 1980's did.
"This sucks...hey, who wants to do some blow
and wait around for someone to invent MTV?"
Sorry, that's not fair. Video slots tell
a story about addiction and sadness.
If you look at the box-art on the home version of Centipede you might be able to piece together a rudimentary storyline based around a chubby gnome or a hobbit or something using a magic wand to murder insects but that's it. There's nothing in the game to imply a narrative. Games back then didn't need one anymore than pinball machines or video slots do, but I can't imagine that will stop Atari from churning out The Centipede Chronicles: Rise of the Triangle Elf. In fact, I don't think anything can stop that now.

How much do you want to bet the trailer
features 99 Luftballons? All the money?
I suppose Missile Command had a little more to go on. You're like at NORAD or something and trying to repel a Soviet nuclear strike and that's cool. Movies right now are big into scenes of mass destruction and explosions. The only problem here is that like all games back then it didn't really have an ending. You just faced faster and faster waves of missiles until you couldn't keep up anymore and had to watch helplessly as your cities burned one by one and then, game over. So, War Games if it ended in nuclear war instead of making out.

I get that the film industry is grasping desperately at ways to stay relevant in the face of competition from streaming services and their taut, well-written serial dramas with intricate plots and full frontal nudity, but I'm not sure thirty-six year old bar-diversion nostalgia is the best way to go about it. Sure, I'm not like a movie executive, but I think my prediction of disastrous box-office losses will be borne out here. Prove me wrong guys, prove me wrong.
It's like they heard the dull wet thud that Adam Sandler's
Pixels made last year and say, 'yes, let's ride that train. All the way.'

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