Guest Author - Gail Kavanagh
One of my favourite movies isnít a movie at all. Itís a run through of Final Fantasy X, with all the game fights taken out, and just the story bits left in. It takes hours to view the whole thing, and while some scenes are movie quality, most of the time itís just ordinary game graphics. But itís terrific Ė Iíve watched it plenty of times, and it never palls.
If you ask anyone about Square Enixís Final Fantasy games Ė presuming they know what that is Ė they will tell you what sets them above other games are the stories. These are long, deeply thought out, peopled with fascinating, often flawed characters who nevertheless get to be heroes Ė well, they do in the hands of an experienced gamer. When Iím playing, they canít even walk a straight line.
So instead of playing the games, I watch the stories with all the fighting bits cut out. My son was the first to introduce to me to this concept about ten years ago. He was playing Final Fantasy X and he saved all the story bits for me so I could watch it uninterrupted. I was hooked. Later, when Final Fantasy VII Advent Children was released, I bought a copy and have virtually worn it out. Note to Square Enix, please make more Final Fantasy movies.
Final Fantasy are not the only games with a great storyline Ė I watch my son in law play Assassinís Creed, and bought a copy of Assassinís Creed Lineage, one of three short movies made by the gameís creators, Ubisoft; and my son got my attention again when he played Devil May Cry.
A lot of modern science fiction and fantasy movies seem to be have become stagnant, with endless dragons and Merlin reruns, and the same old shoot Ďem ups in outer space. Rarely now, does a movie excite me with bold imagination and a real feeling of otherworldliness (and not a sound stage). But the gaming scene, I have discovered, is where its at. Here the stories abound with imagination, interesting characters and plots that get you thinking and talking again.
Fortunately, Iím not the only one who has noticed this, and some recent movies have shown that movie makers might be picking up a few clues from games makers. James Cameronís Avatar and Avatar: The Last Airbender are just two examples. Cameron is clearly influenced by the vast imaginative worlds created in gaming in his vision of Pandora, while The Last Airbender is based on an anime that truly takes its inspiration from the world building of games like Final Fantasy X.
Turning games into movies is not so successful. The kind of games chosen are usually those that do not have complex plots, just plenty of fighting, and this is boring on the big screen, while the characters are not complex and donít attract major stars with acting chops. The game makers like Square Enix and Ubisoft show how it is done by making their own movies, but without live actors.
Two notable exception recently were the enjoyable Lara Croft movies with Angelina Jolie, and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time with Jake Gyllenhall. Here some considerable effort was made to bring in quality actors and crew to recreate the excitement of the game. But again, the original plots werenít that great and had to be presented in standard Hollywood form.
But itís not the standard Hollywood form that makes these games so interesting Ė itís the fact that the makers donít follow Hollywood tropes, but strike out on their own, and create worlds and characters we havenít seen before. Iím still waiting for Hollywood to catch on. I may be waiting a while, but when it happens Iíll be first in line at the multiplex.
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy X - Official Soundtrack - Uematsu's Best Selection