I think we all can agree with the truism that a film is a film, and a game is a game. But, when it comes to making a film out of a game, or vice versa, it seems like people tend to forget about the differences between the media.
“Resident Evil – afterlife” is the latest example of a game made into a film. The story is about a woman (played by Milla Jovovich) who has to evacuate humans so they won’t get infected by a virus, and turned into zombies. The problem with Resident Evil is that the director wants to please two different kinds of audiences – gamers and movie lovers – making him create something in-between.
The different scenes in the film are developed like cut-scenes in a game, they forwards the story. When a scene is over the only thing that differentiates it from a game is that you simply watch Milla defeat the enemies instead of doing it yourself. On top of this, the characters in the film are extremely shallow, and the actors act as they were animated. Not even the 3D glasses on your nose can cover this badly written story (and its weird that someone would believe that).
The reviews of the film were poor, and in an article someone said that games adapt catastrophically bad to make films out of. But that is not true, IT IS possible to make good films out of games. One just has to understand that the narrative is non-media specific. Narratives are used independent of media, but depending on the media, you apply the narrative differently. If you like to make a book out of a film, for example, the film is characterized as audiovisual and the book is text; the film is streamlined storytelling where you show what is happening, whilst in the book you need to write down all that is seen, heard or smelled, etc. You simply apply the narrative differently.
So when making a film out of a game you simply has to think what is specific with games, and what is specific with film. One significant attribute that differ the game media from the film media is the character, and especially the main character/player’s character. When making film one has to flesh out the characters and get them “dressed”. To “dress”, or flesh out a character, doesn’t mean you have to write and forward a heavy background story. It can be as simple as in “Indiana Jones” where the character has one line in the beginning saying: ”I hate snakes”, and then the whole audience know when he faces snakes it is his weak point and the audience will associate with him. Another example from the film “Independence day” is the network operator David who says he hates flying. Take a wild guess what he’s doing this in the end of the film? Yes, flying! There is of course an entertaining dialogue in Independence day, between David and the pilot flying an alien aircraft, but it’s still based on this simply characterisation that David doesn’t like to fly and the audience feels with him.
In games you have the possibility to use elaborate environments, but in film you need to work more on the character. There are of course several things that had to be adjusted in the film Resident Evil, but a lot could have been gained by just letting Milla say: “I hate zombies”.