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From Our Little Screens To The Big Screen: Adapting Movies From Video Games

There’s a common motif within fan communities that has been going on for, well, forever: if you love something— be it a character, a game, a series— you always want more of it. More expansions, more memorabilia, more of everything will give you even more of that beloved world to explore. This adage of more, more, more can be seen quite clearly in the vast empire of films that have been made based on video games. Let’s settle in with some popcorn and sodas and learn about the many films that have been made off of their original game inspirations and how these adaptations have expanded the fandoms around these games.

Video Games
Courtesy of Gamespot

There are a few films that really stand out when I think of video games that have been adapted for the big screen. They are Detective Pikachu, Warcraft, Sonic The Hedgehog, and the series of Resident Evil films. All of these films were born of series so beloved by their respective fan communities that the movie industry recognized an opportunity to add more story. While not everyone will agree with this (there are always those people who just hate movie adaptations,) when I watch a movie that has tried to give me more of something I love, I can’t help but love it. It is definitely very nice if the movie is well-made and enjoyable, but even if it is lacking in some areas of filmmaking, I am bound to love it almost out of a sense of nostalgia because of its connection to the game it came from.

Detective Pikachu1
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

To start off with an absolute treasure of a film, Detective Pikachu was actually my motivation for picking up the Pokémon games. I know it’s shocking to hear that I hadn’t played any Pokémon before watching Detective Pikachu, but there you have it: not only was I a complete newbie to the world of Pokémon before watching this film, but watching it brought my level of excitement surrounding my new copy of Pokemon: Shield from a 4 to way over a 10 (probably around a 15.) This movie was done exceptionally well, and I think the fact that I was able to enjoy it so much as a new Pokémon fan is quite the testament to how good it is. Now, after having played for several months, I love the movie even more because I can recognize and enjoy so many more its details. As Molly Freeman of said, “Detective Pikachu is wholesome, silly fun, with solid world-building and stunning CGI Pokémon that are complemented well enough by its story.” Overall, even for die-hard Pokémon fans, the movie is an absolute delight.

Courtesy of Universal Pictures

The 2016 film Warcraft is another rather interesting example of a film made from a game. World of Warcraft is, arguably, one of the best games in existence, so it came about quite naturally that a filmmaker would want to adapt it, and they certainly succeeded in making a really good action film. However, the movie has been a bit of a divisive part of the gaming community. While it has been appreciated overall for bringing such a well-loved game to the big screen, it has also been often noted that there seems to be something lacking in the film. Heather Newman for said it best: “That source of Warcraft‘s success as a game may be the root cause of Warcraft the movie’s critical failure. The games are designed to be narrative shells, offering a multitude of stories taking place around the player, all given roughly equal weight – because the hero is you, the lead character. You provide the arc, and it’s your character’s journey that links all those disparate stories and personalities.” While the film does share a view into the many areas of the worlds of WoW, it would be nearly impossible for a film to fully capture the magic that comes from being your own character in such a vast universe. Warcraft makes my list of some of the most interesting movies made based on video games because it is, as a film, truly a success and a good story, but it’s tangle of connections to the original game is what makes it quite interesting to watch and examine from a gamer’s perspective.

Sonic the Hedgehog
Courtesy of Sony Pictures

Sonic The Hedgehog is another interesting example of a movie adapted from a game that had a bit of a strange ripple in the gamer tide. As Bob Hoose said for, “This big-screen take on Sega’s anthropomorphized cobalt cannonballer is mostly cute and cuddly. Sonic’s story is quick, involving, and packed with nice lessons about caring for the ones you love and being grateful for the blessings you have.” Overall, it was a well-made film with a fulfilling amount of Jim Carrey charm. The gaming fandom was so involved with the process of the film, they even influenced the creators of the movie to alter Sonic’s appearance after seeing his first design and not loving it. However good the film is, I am simply amazed at how involved the gaming community (and larger fanbase for Sonic) was in influencing the actual design of the film. It is that kind of involvement that makes the relationship between video games and the movies that are based off of them so interesting.

Resident Evil
Courtesy of Screen Gems

The last film to make my list is actually a series of some of the most interesting film adaptations of video games: Resident Evil. Maybe it’s because they are only loosely-based on the games, but these films have really taken on a life of their own outside of the game franchise; I actually watched several of the films long before I played any of the games. Overall, the film series is a fantastic example of how vast the world behind a video game can be, rife with enough backstory to inspire a series of films with new information, characters, and overall story lines. There will always be fans who want films to be parallel with the games on which they’re based, but Resident Evil films bring a lot to the table for fans who simply want to see more of the world with which they have fallen in love. 

All of these films based on video games have been accepted in many different ways by the gaming community. While not all of them have been received with the warmest of welcomes, it is clear after looking at all of them that they have been a labor of love for their creators. Whatever their faults may be, they certainly add a lot of information and exploration to their video game counterparts, and whatever your opinion of movie adaptations, it can’t be denied: there is always something special about seeing something you love expanded in such an exciting and inclusive way.

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