Sunday, 25 November 2012


You have questions and I pretend to have answers so let's get it started...

Tweep @Kanothae linked me to a podcast that contained a discussion about video games being made into movies that raised an interesting question. That question was over how easy crappy movie versions of video games get made, while anyone trying to make a "quality" video game movie usually ends up in development hell?

That raised some further questions...

Are the studios trying to sabotage such films, partially out of jealousy over the massive grosses video games rake in, and is selling them as a stand-alone traditional blockbuster, a la Prince of Persia, works best at connecting them with a wider audience?

Well, I'm sure the studios are jealous of the grosses video games rake in. The latest entries in the big name Halo and Call of Duty game franchises are guaranteed to rake in hundreds of millions of dollars within days of their release, and I'm sure Hollywood would love to have that too.

However, to get those sorts of grosses they would have to charge $30-$60 a ticket the way video games charge per unit.

My state of the art game console system.
And that's where the trouble begins.

Big name games rake in MASSIVE MOOLAH, that's a fact. But the size of those grosses create an illusion of the game's impact on the zeitgeist.

While they may out gross the  big movie release of the weekend, usually more people actually saw the movie, and since they're not spending dozens of hours trying to beat the game, either alone or in the company of fellow gamers, they're out in the world talking about the movie they just saw within their social circle, which then moves outward.

This creates what I call the video game movie paradox.

Studios see the money video games rake in, and think that if they slap that game's brand onto a movie it'll be guaranteed to find an audience willing to spend money on it.

However, that audience isn't really a big enough portion of the population to warrant much in the line of risk. So the studios either look to make & release it as cheaply and quickly as possible, or exploit some element that can sell it beyond the game's original audience.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was sold as a traditional fantasy adventure and raked in $300+ million at the international box office, now the film cost somewhere between $150-$200 million to make, so at best it broke even.

The most successful video game movie franchise that I know of is the Canadian/German/American produced Resident Evil franchise. I'll bet dollars to donuts that the bulk of the audience who watch the movies have probably not played the games they're allegedly based on. The producers have made the movies more successful as they went on by focusing their sales pitch not on the games, but on the over-the-top action and stunts being performed by model/actress Milla Jovovich in impractically skin-tight and/or skimpy outfits.

Hence the paradox. While the brand sells as a video game, it is not guaranteed to sell as a movie. So the best way to sell the movie is to move beyond the game.

Which brings me to the saga of the Halo movie. 

The makers of the Halo games want to retain some control over any potential movie franchise. The studios want the Halo brand, but when they see the game's makers not only want control over the franchise, but want it done by a big money "A-list" filmmaker with a "A-list" star playing Master Chief, they decide that it's just too much money and hassle for a genre with an already iffy track record, and dump that puppy in turnaround.


Reader Kevin J. Waldroup had a heck of a lot of questions...
Do you think Hollywood is dead ?
No.  It's not healthy, but it's not dead. It still has the capacity to produce and release large scale entertainment beyond the capability of any Internet entertainment entrepreneur.

Hollywood does need a shake-up like the one it had in the early 1970s. It needs to go beyond just tossing money at the familiar and try on some new blood with new ideas.
What do you think of Baen books?
Not much.

I'm going to be honest here and admit that Baen and I have a history, and, while I don't want to go into any details, it's not a nice history. So I'm probably the last person to offer an unbiased opinion of the company.

For those who don't know what I'm talking about Baen Books is a publishing imprint that specializes in science fiction and fantasy, and is best known for their long running book series involving space navies, and alternate histories. They are also known for giving away e-book versions of the early books of their more popular series for free to hook in fresh readers.

So while I don't wish them any ill, as my grandpa would say; I wouldn't piss on Baen Books if they were on fire. 
What do think about Baen books going to movie business?
I've heard rumors about this series, or that book being sniffed around by Hollywood, but, judging from my own experience with them, I really doubt anything will come of it.
What do you think of Libertas Film Magazine?
Libertas Film Magazine is a website offering film reviews and discussion from a politically conservative
angle, similar to Breitbart's Big Hollywood site.

Personally, I'm all for as many different people offering as many different opinions of cinema as possible. Diversity breeds new ideas, and Xenu knows Hollywood needs new ideas.
What do you think of The Arroyo: Official Trailer?
Here's the trailer...

The film looks like an indie Southwestern version of Death Wish where the ranchers and residents of the US side of the border with Mexico take on the criminal cartels that are exploiting illegal immigrants and smuggling drugs into the country and terrorizing any and all who they think are in their way.

The production values could be a little slicker, and the acting a bit more "method," but there does seem to be some sincerity on the part of the people making the movie which is rare these days. Whether it's an accurate taste of what the film will be, has yet to be seen.

The fact that its production company Declaration Entertainment has openly professed itself as a politically conservative filmmaker means that they will get nothing from the mainstream critics and press regardless of the actual quality of the material. If they want to make it a viable business, they need to get around that.

Helen asked...
Is there any relief in sight from ridiculously long trailers that give away crucial plot points? I see nothing but complaints from moviegoers yet it only seems to be getting worse. There's north of 20 minutes of trailers at AMC now.
Nope, there is no relief in sight from spoiler-heavy trailers. Marketing studies say that audiences don't mind spoilers in trailers, so the studios go the easy route and just put out miniaturized versions of the movies themselves.

Personally, I like a little mystery in my movie trailers. The guessing makes them more entertaining than the ones that just recite plot points.

Any more questions?


  1. Video Games rake in big bucks? Actually they don't.

  2. Here is a great article describing the problem.

  3. Earl - That's why I used the term "grosses" when describing video game money. One of the big franchises, I can't remember if it was Halo 4 raked in more than twice what Skyfall made in theaters during its first few days out.

    Since Hollywood only sees the surface, and not the details, they don't acknowledge many of the basic economic factors, like big production costs, that go into video games.

  4. Those marketing studies are probably talking to people who never see movies anyway. Anymore if I can't time my arrival at the theater to miss the trailers then I close my eyes through them to minimize the spoilers.

    I have another one:

    Studios spend tens of millions advertising movies that sell themselves, like THE DARK KNIGHT RISES and TRANSFORMERS 3. Wouldn't they get more bang for their buck if they spread that money around to promote movies that actually need the publicity? What am I missing in this equation?

  5. Helen - I assume the marketing people talk to chimpanzees at the zoo for some of the answers they get. I have a personal experience with market research that's almost like something out of a Monty Python sketch for its absurdity.

    As for spending money on films that mostly sell themselves you can find the cause in the fear found in executives who only want to spend money (& assume risk) on sure-fire winning bets.