Scott Pilgrim vs. the art of gaming movies

jheeter@macon.comFebruary 4, 2011 

I finally got around to watching the video-game-influenced film “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.”

For some reason, I passed on the film during its theatrical run this past summer, but I was eager to watch when it came through my Netflix queue.

Directed by the talented Edgar Wright -- the director of “Shaun of the Dead” and “Hot Fuzz” -- “Scott Pilgrim” is based on a series of graphic novels. In the film, the protagonist Pilgrim falls in love with a girl, but in order to be with her he must fight off her seven evil exes.

While both the idea for the film and its video-game motif came from the graphic novel, Wright was still tasked with bringing his vision to the big screen. He succeeded in nearly every aspect, creating a seamless integration of video game and film. Wright took care to fit every scene into the style of an old-school game, from the 8-bit opening containing the Universal title screen to the coins gained from vanquishing an enemy, to even earning 1-ups.

The best gaming films (and there aren’t many) follow the same path of “Scott Pilgrim.” They either have an outside influence like a graphic novel or they are original stories set in the gaming world.

“Tron” is one of the first films influenced by games. Influenced by the game “Pong,” “Tron” was set in the world of computer gaming. It was well ahead of its time and earned kudos for its technical achievements. “WarGames” and “The Wizard” were other enjoyable films influenced by gaming.

But not all films set in the world of video games turn out as well as “Scott Pilgrim” or the other aforementioned films.

For one reason or another, few if any films adapted straight from video games have earned critical praise.

The adaptations that make big box office profits, such as “Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time” and “Tomb Raider,” draw attention from consumers because of their name brand. Many others receive neither critical praise nor financial success.

Even the best of the adaptations -- “Resident Evil” and “Mortal Kombat” are watchable -- still aren’t very good.

Maybe that’s because many of the film adaptations from games come from franchises that aren’t very cinematic to start with. Some titles that could make strong films, such as “God of War” or “Metal Gear,” already have a film-like quality, so the need to adapt them into full-length features seems pointless.

The success of recent releases like “Prince of Persia” and “Resident Evil: Afterlife” guarantee future games based on video games. Maybe future directors can find a way to make these adaptations better, but I’d like to see more films that draw inspiration from games rather than just copy popular titles.

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