Why So Serious?

Christopher Nolan is one of modern cinema's most visionary and talented filmmakers. This was obvious from the first time audiences saw Memento, and was confirmed when he delivered the equally excellent Insomnia and The Prestige. Batman Begins was a revolution for the comic-book superhero, taking the origin story of one of the most iconic characters and placing it in the context of a serious, masterful, worthy drama that explored the ideas of legacy, duty, redemption, righteousness and honour. So when Nolan's much hyped follow up Batman film, The Dark Knight, hit cinema screens last year, nobody would have been surprised to be watching an excellent film. But what the film did was so much more; it again took a potentially camp concept (a superhero dressed up as a Bat fighting a chaos loving Evil Clown) and turned it into the best crime epic since Michael Mann's Heat in 1995. Seriously, this film had everything: Stunning IMAX camera work, great action scenes and production value, a powerful and exceptionally rousing musical score by two master composers, a visionary director working with an excellent, hard hitting script; and last but certainly not least, an unfaltering ensemble of performances by great actors. Christian Bale brought a sense of honour and pain to Bruce Wayne. Aaron Eckhart capatalised on his promise and all-American everyman charm to bring us Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent as a man torn apart by loss. Maggie Gyllenhall delivered a romantic interest performance of considerable restraint. Gary Oldman's Gordon is the best performance he has given in recent times, an extraodinary portrayal of a man bound by law and an unshakeable need for justice. Veterans Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are simply brilliant in comic relief roles. And of course, the standout showy role went to the late, great Heath Ledger, who won a thoroughly deserved Academy Award for his spine chilling performance as The Joker.

This was the best film of 2008, and should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, especially as two of the nominees were the highly overrated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Reader. As it was, it was rejected for a shot at the top prize, a travesty of modern cinema.

Why do I go to such great lengths to stress what most people know, and take for granted? Well, I was talking to a friend recently who bemoaned the lack of a video game license for The Dark Knight. I shared his sentiments at first, but then reconsidered when I thought about it sometime later. Why would you spoil cinematic perfection with a video game that could potentially sour the source material, a la Batman Begins.

And to elaborate further, I looked at the list of all the films that have been honoured with the Best Picture prize at the Academy Awards. Only three of the winners have ever had  videogames based on them, one of them being The Lord of the Rings; Return of the King, which swept the Oscars in February 2004. This was an obvious exception to the unwritten rule, as Return of the King was also a blockbuster film that was heavily marketed and had all sorts of licensing agreements attached. The other two, incedentally, were The Godfather and The Godfather Part Two (even though the connection between Godfather 2 film and game is sketchy at best) I mean, would anybody really buy figurines or a video game based around A Beautiful Mind?

And really, how would a video game of The Dark Knight be any good without any of the elements listed above? It works as cinema, NOT as a video game. EA cancelling it was a good move.

Inspired by this topic, I thought about which Best Picture Films would work the best (and worst) as modern console video games (please note these are more recent winners):

WORST

5. Crash
Drive around as Chris Ludacris Bridges in a stolen car, harass Sandra Bullock's racist digital likeness and beat up goofy Brendan Fraser in dramatic mode a la Gods and Monsters. Oh, and shoot an innocent Mexican girl with blanks whilst playing as an angsty Arabian shopkeep. Fun.

4. Schindler's List
 Steven Spielberg's masterful Holocaust drama as source material for mass entertainment? I don't think so.

3. Shakespeare in Love
Let's prance around in ye Old Shakespearean times with Ben Affleck and Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, collecting hearts and playing through a stupid and thinly veiled rip-off of Romeo and Juliet posing as a biography of the Bard. Oh, and there will be amusing catchphrases and minigames with Geoffrey Rush. Yippee! Not.

2. A Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe as your avatar. Need I say more?

1. Driving Miss Daisy
The film charts a life-long friendship between an angsty (becoming a running trend?) white upper class woman and her black limousine driver. They explore racial tensions of the time and get along splendidly. This game would be the equivalent of an abortion.


BEST

5. Million Dollar Baby
Okay, so it's really depressing at the end. But Clint Eastwood's boxing saga has the potential to be such a great sports game due to its story and the multitude of fights and enemies to beat down. And there's the potential for alternate endings! :)

4. Gladiator
The Roman Gladiator Epic has been done a few times now as a game, but why couldn't we get a game based on the film that started it all. Oh, and Russell Crowe as your avatar. Need I say more...?

3. Unforgiven
Another Clint Eastwood film that won Best Picture. This one has the potential to be a GUN or Call of Juarez style Western Revenge Story.

2.  No Country for Old Men
The Coen Brothers thriller has a little action and plenty of suspense, and has potential to work as a solid action title. The assistance of evil villain Anton Chigurh would help, as the game could explore his other exploits as well as tracking down the film's protagonist Llewellyn Moss.

1. The Silence of the Lambs
A wonderful, confronting thriller that has so many scenes that could be translated to gaming levels. The prison scene with Jodie Foster could turn into a breakout, and you have the only gun! Hannibal could finally have his old friend Doctor Chilton for dinner. And there could be great mini games, with some guava beans, and a nice chianti. Fifififififififififififififififfffffffff.

If there's any others you think could work, just let me know and I'll post them in an upcoming blog.

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