Liz talks about Uncharted/TLOU movies and why they are a Bad Thing
I’ve been thinking about the Uncharted and TLOU movies a LOT recently and I’ve vented about it in several places but!! I thought I’d share my thoughts here. This is going to be pretty long but hopefully it’s pretty comprehensive.
I think the most important question to ask when dealing with movie adaptations of
cinematicvideogames is why does this story need to be told? Or, in the case of these two, why does this story need to be retold?
This is important, because if this isn’t addressed… the film is pretty redundant, right? So: what is this movie going to contribute to the franchise? What does it add to the characters that the existing material does not? What is its purpose?
Both these movies are going to have to take hours and hours of cinematics (not to mention in-game story-driving dialogue) and condense them down to a measely two hours, and that means they’re going to have to change the story. Which begs the question: is it not good enough as a cinematic and interactive experience? Do they think it’s it not good enough the way it’s already told? Because that’s what’s implied here. It leaves a gross taste in my mouth, made even more gross by the fact that Neil Druckmann himself has said that he seriously considered changing TLOU’s ending in this movie adaptation (but only decided against it because a friend told him it was a bad move).
I think there are two options here: Either the people who decided "let’s retell these games" think the originals aren’t good enough as they are at the moment— which I think is pretty disrespectful to the games and their fans— or they think that these games are good enough but want to make more money off the franchise— which is more likely but, once again, I think that’s pretty disrespectful to the games and to their fans. Why not leave good enough alone? Or, if there has to be a movie, why not attempt to ADD MORE to the existing stories and to contribute to the fans’ TLOU/Uncharted experience?
from what I’ve seen, neither the Uncharted nor the TLOU movie seem to have much of a purpose behind them besides “we can make money off of this”. This isn’t something they’re making to enhance our experiences of these stories. This is something they’re making for cash and cash alone, and while it makes sense from an economic standpoint I think it should upset fans, because it means they’re throwing away quality in return for cash.
"But it’s no different from adapting a book into a movie!" is one pro-vgame-movie-adaptation argument I’ve seen several times, but GOD do I think it’s wrong. That’s really comparing apples to oranges; books are not a visual media. Readers form ideas of what characters look like, but mental images are more fluid/malleable and are very different from the set-in-stone faces that these realistic videogame characters have. Joel, Ellie, Nate, Elena, Sully— they all have faces that are very beloved by fans and they’re easily recognizable as those characters whenever you see them. You can probably visualize their face in your head like you could with any other person you know. Their face models are so realistic that they look like real people, so casting alone is probably going to make a lot of people (like me) pretty upset. Casting for movies from books is like growing to love people over the internet and seeing their faces for the first time, even if they are slightly different from how you imagined them; casting for movies from videogames is like knowing what those people look like, but suddenly their faces are replaced by something kinda different or unfamiliar. It’s jarring.
Which leads to my next thought: why do these movie adaptations have to be live-action? What is it about live-action adaptations that’s so great? (nothing, that’s what)
There’s this stigma around animation in the general public— a lot of people seem to think that anything animated is for kids. Obviously this is an uneducated opinion and has been proved wrong in television (by things like futurama, the simpsons, bob’s burgers), but I’ve yet to see anyone try to question it with a feature-length movie. Movies at the moment are so close to being fully animated (Gravity was what, 95% cg animated?), but the general public still considers “animated movies” to be for kids, and that’s really a shame. I’d love to see that idea snapped in half, and a movie like this could be the perfect way to do that. Naughty Dog/Sony could really be a pioneer in the industry of “adult” animated films if they made a movie in the same realistic-yet-animated style of TLOU/Uncharted. That’s a pretty huge opportunity right there that they aren’t going to take, and that’s pretty sad? And surprisingly kinda close-minded.
Another argument I’ve seen (for TLOU, at least, though I’m guessing this probably also applies to Uncharted) has been to expand a beloved story’s audience and to draw more people into playing the original game, which seems like a pretty ok reason to make a movie. But really… retelling the story is NOT going to make non-gamers or casual gamers want to play the game. Their curiosity will be satisfied by watching the sub-par version. If that’s really their goal here, drawing them in with new material in a supplementary story has a higher chance of being effective. Even just from a marketing/monetary standpoint it makes more sense to create a movie with a supplemental story rather than retelling the story, because it will create intrigue and possibly draw in a new audience to buy and play the original game (and maybe nudge ‘em towards purchasing a ps3/ps4, since both games are console exclusive). As I said here, I really think that supplemental material is the way to go. Give the fans new material to chew on while drawing in new customers! It’s a win-win.
The bottom line for me, though, is that making movies out of cinematic videogames invalidates videogames as a powerful storytelling medium. Videogames are capable of telling stories & affecting audiences just as well as— if not more powerfully than— movies, and shrinking these stories in order to fit them into movies not only does the story injustice, but it does the medium injustice. The interactivity of videogames is the medium’s greatest strength, but that’s something that’s still pretty hidden to the general public. Removing the interactivity from the story only further reinforces that.
tl;dr: There’s no reason to make either of these movies if they’re just remakes, beyond cash flow. But sony/naughty dog DOES have the ability to give these movies a purpose. They’re just choosing not to, and that’s really disappointing.