Video game flicks fizzle on screen : Adaptations of some of gaming’s hottest titles have historically failed to succeed at the box office

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Video game flicks fizzle on screen : Adaptations of some of gaming’s hottest titles have historically failed to succeed at the box office


“Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” left, and “Assassin’s Creed” are two of the latest movies to have been adapted from popular video games. [UPI KOREA, 20TH CENTURY FOX]

Thinking of successful movies based on books, cartoons or true stories is not a difficult task. When it comes to game-adaptations, however, it may take a little longer to conjure up an example. Though films translated from games have been around for a few decades, there have not been many that have resulted in commercial success, which is surprising considering that both film and video games are on the cutting-edge of video technology.

Last year’s “Warcraft: The Beginning” (2016), which at its peak had 12 million players playing the game online, “Silent Hill” (2006), “The House of the Dead” (2003) and “Street Fighter” (1994) are just a few of the game-adapted films that have either underperformed or fallen short with critics (though not always with fans).

Most recently, “Assassin’s Creed,” which hit local theaters two weeks ago, has added its name to the list of poorly performing movies adapted from video games. Neither the adaptation from the popular Ubisoft video game that goes by the same title nor the star power of Michael Fassbender (“X-Men: First Class”) and Marion Cotillard (“Two Days One Night”) could save the movie. It has only sold 354,000 tickets in Korea as of Wednesday, which is a shabby box office result considering its $125 million budget. Its performance in North America was not much better, with critics panning its illogical plot.

Though some hope that “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” ends up being a huge commercial success, history is not on its side, as the “Resident Evil” franchise, has consistently flopped since the second film, “Resident Evil: Apocalypse” was released in 2004. The sixth and the final film of the “Resident Evil” franchise, which just hit theaters on Wednesday, sold 71,000 tickets on its opening day.


The majority of game-based movies have failed to achieve box office success. From left to right: “The House of the Dead” (2003), “Street Fighter” (1994), “Silent Hill” (2006), and “Warcraft: The Beginning” (2016). [EACH DISTRIBUTOR]

Translating popular video game franchise onto the big screen surely has its advantages with its pre-built fanbase of gamers. However, when the film finally opens, fully satisfying players is difficult, according to movie critic Kim Young-jin.

“The way the two [games and movies] work are different,” said Kim, who teaches in the Department of Film and Musical in Myongji University. Games can result in a lot of variables depending on how players control a number of cases. In short, players are the ones to create their own world. Movies, in contrast, are a one-way delivery [that draws viewers into the world already established by others], losing the attraction of its original content. Because of this difference, it is not easy to bring a large number of gamers to theaters [even if a game is a best-seller].”

This difficulty, however, is not much of a concern for filmmakers since success at the box office is not the core reason for producing game-adapted films, according to cultural critic Lee Taek-gwang, a professor of American studies at Kyung-hee University.

“The concept of game-adapted film originated from the Japanese animation ‘The Transformers: The Movie’ (1986), which was made to advertise its line of toys. In many cases, the purpose of movies based on games is not to score a commercial success but to serve the [game] industry’s purpose: advertising the game. Those movies function to provide gamers a chance to enjoy an extension of their imagination with a sense of reality.”

“Those movies can also appeal to a more diverse audience by branding the game as a film,” added Lee. “Take ‘Lord of the Rings’ for example. If the franchise’s novels were not translated into screens, non-readers would not have known about the books. But the movie’s’ popularity led more people [to the books.] The same rule applies to game-adapted films.”

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