It is not easy to turn a gaming character into a film protagonist. While you spend hours upon hours exploring gaming worlds in control of a character, a movie allows you to spend two hours watching this character operate outside of your control. Films based on Max Payne, Assassin’s Creed and Hitman have all disappointed, lacking the energy of the games that inspired them. However, video games have become plot devices in some of Hollywood’s biggest movies with much greater success.
Rather than providing a faithful recreation of a gaming world, these films cleverly adapt themes from video games. This means that viewers enter these new games with the same wonderment as the movie’s characters, mirroring the feeling of exploration that comes from a video game.
Ralph Breaks the Internet
Disney’s 2018 sequel to Wreck-It-Ralph uses numerous popular culture references to guide the titular character’s exploration of the internet. While the first film was full of classic gaming references, Den of Geek details how the sequel pulls on everything from social media trends to Disney’s most famous characters to drive its plot.
One of the key locations is the world of Slaughter Race. This racing MMORPG has clear similarities with other games in the genre, but what goes on behind the scenes is as central to the plot as the game itself. While racing games can be formulaic in their gameplay, the presence of Ralph makes Slaughter Race anything but predictable.
Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle
Updating the 1995 classic Jumanji, which centred on a supernatural board game, for a 2017 audience was always going to be a tricky task, but writer Chris McKenna found the answer. Rather than rehashing the board game element, the film’s protagonists are transported into the magical world of Jumanji through a video game. This is a unique take on the portrayal of a video game world, in which many of its aspects are ostensibly ‘real’.
The use of a video game was successful enough to warrant a sequel, with the Welcome to the Jungle cast reprising their roles for Jumanji: The Next Level. This isn’t the only modern update on the classic Jumanji game. All of NetEnt’s work is available at Cherry Casino, including a slot based on the Jumanji cinematic universe – a game based on a movie based on a game. By cleverly updating the series for 21st-century gamers, Jumanji has been turned into a veritable film franchise.
Ready Player One
The 2018 film is adapted from Ernest Cline’s novel of the same name, with intrepid gamers hoping to prevail in the OASIS (the virtual reality software) to fend off the threat of a sinister businessman. The movie is essentially one big pop culture reference, with nods aplenty to classic games and films. The film’s climax may be a grand battle with dizzying CGI effects, but at its heart is the Atari 2600 game, Adventure.
This is a rewarding twist; despite all of the grandeur of virtual reality gaming, there is something enduringly powerful about traditional video games. Tye Sheridan’s character plays what is probably the most high-stakes game of Adventure ever, a clever juxtaposition of classic video gaming against a possible glimpse into the future.
While turning video games into films may not be a wise endeavour, using video games to drive the plot of a movie can be far more successful.