Hey, Hollywood! Get your hands off our games
17th Mar 2011 | 16:41
I'll always remember the ending to Batman Begins. More so the wave of excitement that rushed over me and stopped dangerously close to the crotch when Bale nailed a killer final line to Commissioner Gordon and dove off Police HQ.
It wasn't necessarily that the scene was packed full of comic book iconography - nor the fact that, "And you'll never have to" followed by a swan-dive is always the most badass way of responding to: "I never said thank-you."
No, the reason for my near tent-pitching glee, was that finally, after being knocked back by unnecessary nipples, one-liners and neon, Batman had been done justice on the silver screen. Finally I could leave that cinema as a Bat-ambassador, turn to my previously sceptical friends and say: "That's why this franchise is magical."
It seems that geekdom relies on Hollywood to send its heroes mainstream and to justify its obsession. Thanks to Christopher Nolan and co, it's now OK to admit you think Batman is cool; the image of Heath Ledger's grungy Joker has become a modern day pop icon every bit as famous as imagery from the likes of Pulp Fiction and The Godfather.
Superheroes are having a super time on the silver screen for the most part - but my other love, the humble video game, isn't having quite so much luck.
There was a time when I felt like Hollywood was the ultimate goal for some of my most beloved gaming heroes. As with the spandex army, I thought L.A would help drag the mainstream to me and help me justify my passion to the wider world.
Every time I entered the darkness of the auditorium though, full of wide-eyed hope for the latest game to film adaptation, I'd leave feeling anywhere from disappointed to plain hurt. Tomb Raider? Meh. Hitman? Eugh. Street Fighter? Please, Hadouken me now.
It wasn't long before I realised that Hollywood wasn't just flipping our greatest titles on a half-hearted flame until cooked just enough to sell on at a profit - if still a little too pink - it was taking our beautiful cash cows, grinding them down into nothing and spreading them across 90 percent connective tissue "beef" burgers.
Now more than ever I think the video game industry has earned the right to shun the Hollywood adaptation altogether. Why? Because it finally has the acting chops, the cinematic quality and even the A-List names to compete with Tinseltown rather than whore itself out to some Hollywood honcho with green being the only end-game.
You already know the candidates I'm about to call forward to prove my point. It's the usual suspects: Heavy Rain gripped me for a weekend, making me second guess my certainty as to who the killer was at every turn before dealing a bread-basket battering blow and a cold sweat of realisation on a par with any spine-tingling twist from the silver screen.
Uncharted has given us better characterisation and dialogue than a lot of box office bruisers out there, which is why I'm sceptical that a film with a few big names stuck on the poster will really be given the attention it deserves to offer anything extra. In fact, if I were a betting man (I have the frail will power but not the funds) I'd say it's likely to diminish the integrity of the brand more than anything.
I can see the value in taking a book or comic to Hollywood; it fills the gaps previously left to the reader's imagination - whether it's how a character looks, moves or sounds - and projects them for us all to see in a real, tangible, live-action story.
But - and no offence here Mark - is Mark Wahlberg really going to bring anything to the character of Nathan Drake that our beloved Nolan North hasn't? Heck, North is Nathan Drake - he was captured from head to toe so that he could define every part of the character and we love him for it. So when the evil temptress that is Miss. Tinseltown swans by wafting some other fella under our nose that looks like our man but somehow isn't, excuse us if we call her up on it.
The same goes for Metal Gear Solid except this time my qualm is more story based: My first thought when I read about rumours of a movie adaptation years ago was "Why?" Hideo Kojima has been making epic Metal Gear movies since 1998 it's just that they've been incredibly playable.
Here you have this massively unwieldy, incredibly thought-out, deep, twisted, socio-political plot that's been spread out and developed over 13 years with more history and background than you can fit on a Wikipedia page.
Metal Gear Solid 4 is around 20 hours long, which means we'd need a run of about ten Hollywood adaptations just to cover the final chapter. There's no way the suits in L.A can handle MGS without a serious amount of dilution and dumbing down.
If MGS is the sweet blackberry, an MGS film would be Ribena - drunk down with ease by the masses who think they're experiencing the fruit in a new form but in actual fact they're getting a sugary, nutritionless syrup that's easy to glug down.
The storytelling integrity and cinematic fidelity looks set to continue as well; L.A Noire is shaping up to not only be an engrossing murder mystery but a showcase of face scanning technology that allows for every aspect of stellar acting to really shine through for the first time.
Then we come to The Bat who, as I said in my Arkham City preview, is one of the hardest characters to do justice to. The recent run of films are, of course, worthy of fanatic praise but, as far as comic-book recreation is concerned.
I don't think there's a redesign in Rocksteady's mammoth rogue gallery that even comes close to butchering a much loved character like so many Hollywood adaptations have managed to do without remorse in the past (although Calendar Man could stand to lose a few).
Add that to a cast comprised of great voice from the fan favourite animated series and you get some understanding of why I said about Arkham City looking like the best Batman adaptation I've seen on a screen.
What sold it to me though was a cutscene where Two-Face was just about to blow Catwoman's pretty head off her leather-clad body. Right at the last, Batman snares Dent with his grapple gun and strings him up as the camera takes a low angled zoom to reveal the Dark Knight holding a powerful stance enhanced with an orchestral swell.
It was when that wave of muscle-tightening excitement washed over me once again that the package became complete and I realised we don't need Hollywood anymore. Our developing gods have got this cinematic storytelling lark down.