I recently experienced the self-inflicted misfortune of watching two similarly styled films based on video games: Hitman & Max Payne
Each featured an array of decent acting talent (not A-list, but well above C-list). Each was also pretty well shot and offered some interesting visual effects. But each was also severely lacking in the story department. Now, I will say that I have not played the games that begat the films. It is likely that the screenwriters were both constrained by and propped up by the stories that are presented in-game. The projects were probably little more than work for hire and neither was able to be pulled up to rise above that ignominious start. In retrospect, only Max Payne really had any chance of engaging me as a viewer since the characters appeared to have some unmined depths.
I don’t even need all of the digits on one hand to count the satisfying (for me) movie ventures that fall into this genre – Mortal Kombat & Lara Croft: Tomb Raider. And Mortal Kombat was more of a nostalgia win, since it was based on a game that I actually enjoyed playing.
Looking ahead, I only see two films in this space that might have a chance to break the mold. One is Alice, based on the American McGee game title. If the film makers (and more importantly, the screenwriter) can capture the deliciously twisted vision of this game, I will be impressed. The other is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, but only because the game designer, Jordan Mechner, based the game on old movies to begin with. Still, it will require more than flashy swordplay to hold my attention for ninety plus minutes. That’s right, it’s going to take a story.