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Monday, April 24, 2006

Games Blamed For Bad Movies

Found this via the always excellent Guardian Games Blog:

While popular movies were once dominated by ripe melodramas (All that Heaven Allows, Written on the Wind) and so-called 'women's pictures' (Now, Voyager, Stella Dallas, Mildred Pierce) which offered masterclasses in the art of storytelling, today's boy-friendly blockbusters often boast nothing more than a collection of spectacular interludes assembled in the manner of a catalogue rather than a chronicle. Even kids' movies have fallen foul of this decline. The biggest movie of the season is Ice Age: The Meltdown, a collection of slapstick animated episodes which not even the kindest critic could accuse of having anything vaguely resembling a story.

The decline of narrative has, of course, gone hand in hand with the rise of consumer test screenings, the grisly process through which Hollywood execs show a movie to a cross section of its imagined 'target audience' and then ask them what they would do to make it better. This is the one area in which audiences do actually get to 'play' movies like computer games, and the results are always terrible. It was dunderheaded audiences screaming 'kill the bitch!' at test screenings of Fatal Attraction who persuaded the film-makers to shoot a new ending in which Glenn Close's character became the victim of a shooting rather than a suicide, thus destroying whatever internal logic the film may have had. If it was left to the viewers, you can rest assured that Humphrey Bogart would have gotten on the plane with Ingrid Bergman at the end of Casablanca, or that Ali McGraw would have experienced a miraculous recovery in the closing moments of Love Story. Audiences cannot make movies - that's why they are audiences. Sadly, in the current marketplace, it seems that many film-makers can't make them either.
-- Why have so many movies lost the plot? I blame the video games

Man. Games are just the scapegoat for everything. I mean, one side says they aren't art and another says it's spoiling art. Sadly, Mark Kermode's op/ed rant in the Observer lacks the very thing he's looking for -- a cohesive narrative.

Video games are to blame for bad movies? Video games didn't create test screenings or focus groups, Marky boy. Focus groups are the toy of marketing agents, not the demand of a demographic that desperately wanted them or need to be able to "joystick" up their mvoies. Companies poured more money to reduce the risk of people not seeing their shows, which inevitably reduces the quality to the lowest common denominator as well. Simple math is to blame here, not a game console.

Sure, Doom was pretty bad and Resident Evil isn't going to win any Oscars ... but it's not like we didn't have B movies and bad narratives before the Age of the Atari. Has this guy honestly never seen Mystery Science Theater 3000? All the modern popcorn film has managed to do is cash in on all the fine special effects to make the bad movies prettier ... and hence even more entertaining.

Bad cinema is simply a staple of the culture, and just because video games have entered into the subgenre doesn't mean they created it. They couldn't, it is as old as movies themselves. Considering most companies are still waking up to the fact that your average gamer and your average thirtysomething is one and the same, this shouldn't surprise anyone.

Video game movies will go the same way comic movies have evolved. Once someone realizes that an older, more mature audience is into them ... someone will manage to make a decent movie to cash in on the deal. Hollywood isn't making a great video game movie because they can't ... because games have spoiled the industry somehow ... but because they can't be convinced it's worth the money just yet.

Look how long it took to get a decent Lord of the Rings produced. Trust me, it will be worth the wait.

In the meantime, the media needs to find a new bogeyman. This is getting beyond old now. It's getting ridiculous. Games cause people to kill, get fat, take drugs and make bad movies?

Get real.

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Corvus said...

People drive me a little crazy. Not only is he scapegoating games, he's referencing crap movies to prove his point. Let's hold up his thesis to movies like Me You and Everyone We Know, Stage Beauty, and Dead Man.

I'm tired of people making sweeping declarations of how crap everything is today. Perhaps they feel it makes them seem intelligent. I just think it makes them seem ignorant.

D said...

Bad Game to Movie adaptations (and the other way round, to boot) have been done to death in every publication ever.

I know for one I'm fed up of reading about it...