News

Lost in translation

By: CHRISTINE AIKEN
Columnist
aikenc@umail.iu.edu

It all started with Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo as Mario and Luigi in a live-action movie that probably shouldn’t have been made.
Yes, I am talking about the difficult task of translating a video game into a film that works.
Some video games simply don’t translate well to film and other attempts were simply made poorly or done before better computer graphics and filming options that would have improved many aspects of the movie.
“Super Mario Bros” is an example of a game that doesn’t translate well to film. Other movies in the planning stage such as “Portal” and “Pac-Man” also fit into this category—but why?
For games like “Super Mario” and “Pac-Man,” the reason has more to do with the fact that, if you were being true to the game, most of the movie would have to be digitally created. In addition, it would be difficult to create a dynamic plot out of a game where there isn’t much of a dynamic plot to begin with.
In the case of games like Portal, the reason is very different. This is a game that has a very interesting and dynamic plot. The problem is that part of the joy in playing that game is figuring out the puzzles within the levels and progressing through the game. It would be a huge challenge to capture that same experience in a movie in a way that truly celebrates the game.
There are other movies that have come out that were not done well, but they were done with ‘90s film technology and could be done much better today.
We won’t talk about “Double Dragon,” even though I think anything could be an improvement on the 1994 original. The reboots I would really like to see are “Street Fighter” and, even more so, “Mortal Kombat.”
A lackluster plot, a mostly otherwise talentless cast, and some horrible special effects wasted an amazing performance by Raul Julia as M. Bison in the original “Street Fighter.” Similar comments could be made about “Mortal Kombat,” though I have to say the first time I saw Sub-Zero and Scorpion appear in that movie it was pretty exciting. There is no excuse, however, for the horrible CGI that they called Goro.
The games that have historically translated best to screen have been those that have a decent storyline already, such as the “Resident Evil” and “Tomb Raider” movies. For that reason, there is an awful lot of excitement about the “Assassin’s Creed” movie set to release late next year—as there should be.
The most interesting thing is the best movies related to video games are those that have celebrated gaming rather than any individual game itself. While animated, the best movie for me without a doubt is “Wreck-It-Ralph.” The creators of the “Mario Brothers” film could take a page from it and learn what a more appropriate translation of that type of game may be.

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