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If you’re a gamer, then you’re fully aware that the top tier video games contain cutscenes, animatics, and even some game play that rivals, and sometimes bests what Hollywood blockbusters have to offer. And as more and more video games are being adapted into films and streaming series, the writers and directors taking on these beloved properties know they have to at least equal the ambition and execution of what’s created inside the game in order to be taken seriously by the players and even their cinematic peers.
With the Uncharted video game series finally coming to the big screen on Feb. 18 with Tom Holland as Nathan Drake, directors Ruben Fleischer and Seth Gordon have clearly taken to heart how cinematic the game series has always been in reproducing the breathtaking plane escape from Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception for their adaptation.
That sequence got SYFY WIRE thinking about other scenes and sequences that were lifted from well known video games and then translated well into their movie adaptation. As we know, the art of adapting video games well into worthwhile films still has miles to go, which means the filmmakers who get it right deserve some applause.
Werewolves Within's whodunnit scene
Some may not know that last year’s sleeper horror hit, Werewolves Within is actually an adaptation of Ubisoft's multiplayer virtual reality video game of the same name. The game itself is a murder mystery where the player’s avatar interacts with other avatars and computer AI to determine who the houndsman plaguing the village really is. There’s a fire pit meeting circle in the center of the village where questions and accusations are thrown to get to the truth. Screenwriter Mishna Wolff and director Josh Ruben carry through the humor, mystery, and tension of the game with aplomb, especially in the sequence where forest ranger Finn (Sam Richardson) collects the townspeople into the tiny village’s only B&B. Swapping a fireplace for the game’s fire pit, the characters all hysterically unload on one another because of their fear of what’s outside, killing them one by one. The bickering and yelling captures the spirit of the game, and functions as a proper whodunnit clearing house for theories and motives. Even better, the movie scene is a showcase for the outstanding cast of comedians who amp up and top even the best scenarios in the game.
Assassin’s Creed's "Leap of Faith"
It took nine years for Ubisoft's hit video game series to finally make it to the big screen in 2016 with Michael Fassbender taking on the dual role of "Cal" Lynch and Aguilar de Nerha. The movie itself was pretty disappointing, but at the very least director Justin Kurzel’s realization of the game’s “Leap of Faith” escape was on point. A signature move within all of the Assassin’s Creed video games, the “Leap of Faith” allows the player’s assassin to climb to the highest point in their immediate area and then dive to the ground to safety. It’s always cinematic and death-defying, and it becomes a practiced skill. Kurzel made it mostly a practical effect and that helped sell the translation into real life to trying to match the exhilaration of playing the game.
Tomb Raider's parachute escape
Eidos’ venerable video game franchise, Tomb Raider, has existed for a quarter century now, and there have been two major tries in Hollywood to adapt it into a bankable movie franchise. Angeline Jolie was the first big screen, live-action Lara Croft in 2001, and then in 2018 Alicia Vikander took on the tank top and guns for a reimagining from director Roar Uthaug. For a myriad of reasons, neither ignited audiences. But Uthaug was committed to recreating some of the most spectacular set pieces from the games including the parachute sequence where Croft escaped from a crashed plane in the 2013 Tomb Raider game. Almost shot for shot, Vikander’s Croft follows the same jaw-dropping experience in the cut scene from the game. In a quintessential case of “if it ain't broke, don't fix it," the game scene is a master work of physical tension as Croft tumbles inside the fuselage, tilting its precarious balance further as she tries to grab a necessary parachute. In the final moment that Croft falls from the plane, the movie tweaks the scenario for more thrills and retains the crazy stakes that the game constantly requires of her.
Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City's "Turn Around Zombie"
There have been a lot of Resident Evil video games and a lot of Resident Evil movie adaptations. The video game series is legend for its horror, suspense and serialized narratives that are entirely absorbing for the player. The movies, not so much. To be fair, Milla Jovovich’s Alice has always been a standout, but the films around her never seem to rise to the potential of the games. Attempting to purge the past, the most recent film, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City (2021) from director/writer Johannes Roberts, has no Alice and tells the narrative from the first two games, thus focusing on the siblings, Claire (Kaya Scodelario) and Chris Redfield (Robbie Amell). While this film also had its problems, Roberts shot many sequences to match scenes or gameplay from the first two video games. The best of these is the “Turn Around Zombie,” an iconic moment in the games where a feasting creature turns to face the player, revealing for the first time what horrors they're dealing with. It was a great introduction to the series’ zombie threats, and Welcome to Raccoon City makes sure that moviegoers get the same thrilling reveal, full of delicious tension and gore, as gamers did two decades ago.
Silent Hill's foggy opening
Another classic horror survival title, Konami’s Silent Hill franchise has had eight main gaming titles that have influenced scores of contemporary film directors, including Christophe Gans who went on to write and direct the first film adaptation in 2006. Both gamers and mainstream audiences had a lot to criticize about the film that was released, but just about everyone hailed the film’s opening that captured the look, vibe, and scares of the original game. It starred Radha Mitchell as Rose Da Silva, a mother trying to get her daughter out of the town of Silent Hill. In the opening sequence, Rose makes an eerie walk through falling ash in a seemingly deserted town which then escalates into a truly chilling prologue. Gans actually captures the mood of the gameplay here, which is all about the fear of something terrible lurking in a cloud of fog or slinking in the shadows. Recreating that sense of foreboding so accurately bridges the gap between game and cinematic adaptation because the experience of playing Silent Hill is 70 percent mood. If you aren’t able to get that right, then you might as well not bother.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time's time-traveling dagger
Still arguably one of the most fun video game-to-movie adaptations, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is based on Ubisoft’s 30-year, ongoing video game series. A sword and sandal epic that has evolved in look and complexity across many consoles, it took a whopping 20-years to get a film adaptation made, finally, in 2010 starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the hero, Prince Dastan. Directed by Mike Newell, the movie brings to life the first time Dastan wields the sacred dagger that allows him to time travel. While the game was limited in showing the scope of this miraculous moment due to the computing power and pixel rates of the times, the movie sequence gives us an epic, gold-glowing moment of power that is the definition of a glow up. What was just “cool” in the game is now made magical when brought to life with the much better bells and whistles of blockbuster VFX. It clearly lets audiences know that Dastan has something powerful in his hands in ways that the Prince of Persia games of that time couldn’t do.