300: Variety Takes on Film Critics' Dismissal of Video Games

March 15, 2007 -
There is 300, the movie, which, in addition to generating terrific box office, is drawing the wrath of some film critics who see eerie parallels to U.S. foreign policy in the plot.

There is 300, the PSP game, which is drawing so-so reviews.

And then there is the controversy brewing over not so subtle bashing of the video game genre by film critics. No less a Hollywood authority than Variety tackles the subject in a column by Ben Fritz, who writes:
Reviews for "300" were across the board, but those who disliked it shared a derision that reveals at least as much about today's film critics as it does their thoughts on the movie.

Fritz cites several major reviews to support his point, including that of L.A. Times film critic Kenneth Turan, who wrote, "Once the newness of '300's' look wears off, which it inevitably does, what we are left with is a videogame come to life."

Fritz takes umbrage with similarly game-dismissive 300 reviews in USA Today and the New York Times:
For today's movie critics, videogames are the new MTV musicvideo, a shorthand insult for any movie deemed too heavy on effects and visual panache at the expense of plot and coherence... In reality, videogame developers have created acclaimed works that span genres...

Stereotyping games as based on a brainless, violent subset is as fair as dismissing the art of moviemaking based on "Wild Hogs." 
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Comments

300 didn't do the Spartans true justice, but thats besides the point.

As someone already said, Uwe Boll. Movie reviewers will never like games, just as some literary critics will never like movies because they are not what ever. Its going to be this way for a while.

@Jabrwock

'I’ve always criticized movies for depending too much on the “wow” of effects to carry the movie at the expense or lack of a plot'

Heh, while that's true, I could very easily say the same of a lot of modern computer games, actually, I wonder how closely the list of games that were 'effect heavy, plot light' matches the games that were turned into movies, certainly Doom 3 comes to mind.

@ Terminator44

How is the storyline to Oblivion anything other than a Lord of the Rings clone? I kinda dropped interest in the plot and went ahead with just doing what I wanted the second I heard that Monk say that Oblivion was guarded by "Magical Barriers" (honestly couldn't the writers come up with somethiung less... well... crap?)

@Jahkaviah

What was most engaging about Oblivion was that there was much more going on in the game than just the main plot. There were numerous side quests to embark on, guilds to join and rise up the ranks of, and Daedric(demon) gods who needed a favor. As a result, there were plots within plots, and mysteries within mysteries. I can't think of many movies that can pull that off.

"I kinda dropped interest in the plot and went ahead with just doing what I wanted the second I heard that Monk say that Oblivion was guarded by “Magical Barriers” (honestly couldn’t the writers come up with somethiung less… well… crap?)"

It's hardly fair to judge any movie based on one line, why would that be true for a game (other than Zero Wing, of course)? Maybe it wouldn't have gotten any Oscars if the plot was in a movie, but as far as plots in video games though, this one struck me as one of the best. Then again, maybe you're just the type of person who doesn't look for a deep story in a game, and that's okay too. Gameplay is just as important.

@GPFan

"I’m sorry, but have you SEEN this film? It’s fun, but absurd and only based on historical events in the very barest sense.

I’ll give you examples:
- There were, in fact, 300 Spartans at the battle accompied by several hundreds of other Greek and Thespian soldiers.
- Elephants were certainly not comparable to those found in the works of JRR Tolkien.
- Xerxes was at no point a hairless, nine-foot giant.
- Ogres were not a part of the Persian military, nor were tremendous creatures with serrated blades in place of arms.
- Leonidas died in the thickest of combat, not as “the last man standing.”

Shall I go on? "

Yeah. I have. The graphic novel was based off of historical events, with Miller adding in his own human interests, and in turn the movie was based off of the Miller's graphic novel, word for word with a few scenes added in.

No, it is not historically ACCURATE. But it IS based off of historical EVENTS. Therefore; Not based off of mythology, thus proving my point.

There are plenty of stories based off of historical events, with it's own story line added in. Think a little next time before you talk down to me.

@Terminator44

That's not completely fair, though. Ever since The Matrix, film has also seen brilliant classics like Hero and Pans Labyrinth, while games have seen such bombs as Leisure Suit Larry : Magna Cum Laude, BMX XXX, and... Catwoman :)

Any media is going to have its garbage, including games. The critics just need to recognize that, just like in film, there is sometimes a diamond in the rough.

You want proof that video games have good stories? Just check out Oblivion. It had a very deep, multi-faceted fantasy plotline that unfolded before your character's very eyes.

By contrast, the movie industry has seen, ever since The Matrix was shown, such bombs such as Son of the Mask, Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, and of course, Catwoman.

And yet these film critics say video games are without redeeming value? Who do they think they are kidding?

"It’s fun, but absurd and only based on historical events in the very barest sense."

Well, that would actually make it a legend, and still not a myth.

Yoshiko Says:

March 16th, 2007 at 1:11 am
“It a movie based on Mythology, thats the whole point.”

Actually it’s based off of a historical battle during the Pursian Wars at Thermopylae. Frank Miller created a graphic novel off of a movie he saw about it when he was a kid.

Definintely not mythology, though
----------------

I'm sorry, but have you SEEN this film? It's fun, but absurd and only based on historical events in the very barest sense.

I'll give you examples:
- There were, in fact, 300 Spartans at the battle accompied by several hundreds of other Greek and Thespian soldiers.
- Elephants were certainly not comparable to those found in the works of JRR Tolkien.
- Xerxes was at no point a hairless, nine-foot giant.
- Ogres were not a part of the Persian military, nor were tremendous creatures with serrated blades in place of arms.
- Leonidas died in the thickest of combat, not as "the last man standing."

Shall I go on?

Aye, now if you went and made a movie about Ragnarok (which I would so watch if they did it right; I mean, just look at Fenrir. He KILLS Odin, y'know, Odin, the king of the god? Yeah, he dies. Along with nearly every living thing, and nearly every last god), that would be based of myth.

But Thermopylae was real, and even yeah, the movie is based off of it, again, "in the very barest sense," but it is still history. Well, Thermopylae, that is.

But anyhow, yeah, so what? A lot of movies coming out nowadays really suck. Like The Ring 2; what a huge pile of...anyhow, yes. And there are some movies that were based of games. Example: Resident Evil. The movie sucked; I mean, c'mon... You didn't actually see Hunters entirely, and no Tyrant? BS! Although, and maybe it's just me, and again, I say this only if done right, I'd like to see a StarCraft movie. Or, an anime.

Hmmm... It reminds me of "Dungeons & Dragons : The Movie".

I haven't seen it (I didn't have the courage) but I remember that it was terribly criticized... and some movie critics who bashed it took the opportunity to bash role-playing games too.

Bring back Black and White video and no sound ... Yay, its so much more than the future has to hold.

Dumbasses. It a movie based on Mythology, thats the whole point.

“Once the newness of ‘300’s’ look wears off, which it inevitably does, what we are left with is a videogame come to life.”

WTF? Everything wears off ... EVERYTHING. What a stupid comment.

This guy obviously plays crap games.

Have not seen the movie itself, so cannot comment on it, but no matter what he says, vidoe games can have a life of their own ... Half-Life 2?

Look, I have just as much faith in videogames as an artistic medium as the next person, but can you think of one game that you would pay to watch someone else play for 2 hours? Cuz that's really what these reviewers are saying.

Games are compelling because they are interactive. Movies are not interactive, so if a movie runs like a game then its missing something.

Plus, gamers are constantly complaining that game designers favor flash over substance. But when movie reviewers make reference to that tendency, then they're hatin'? C'mon.

I see your point but I think the problem isn't really with the quality of the movie.

I'll fully agree, as I mentioned earlier that Computer games are too much 'Bump-mapped realtime pixel-shaded! It might only do 6 frames a second in combat, but those 6 frames look great!', and that most computer games make poor subjects for movies, because the storyline often depends on the players actions, take out the actions and you cripple the story. In Oblivion, for example, the quest in the Well, where you recover the Ring of Burden would be an extremely dull part of a movie, but works in-game.

Anyway, I digress, I think the general annoyance here is really at the resurface of the old stereotype. After all, you could describe the film 'The Day After Tomorrow' as being like a computer game, or 'Clash of the Titans' even, after all they all have lots of death and special effects, in the case of 300, it must be remembered that Death and Special Effects was more or less the entire substance of Greek Myths and Legends from thousands of years ago, it's kinda hard to do the story as translated from the original without lots of either.

"The problem was, that film was far more expensive per frame to create than a filmed movie, iirc, the girl in Advent Children has the dubious title of ‘most expensive acting part ever’ and she didn’t even exist."

I think you're confusing Advent Children with The Spirits Within, but your point still stands :)

---

I think some people here are misunderstanding the point of this article: it's not about movies based on games. It's about film critics deriding certain movies by saying "it's just like a videogame", which is an insult to video games.

That being said, this is one more good reason we should stop trying to be like film and start being our own unique media. The larger focus on story and spectacle in recent games is forcing this comparison, and in the end a game cannot match a film in linear storytelling and direction. We need to embrace what film cannot do: interactivity, dynamic storytelling, and personal attachment to your characters.

@Joe Bourrie

'I think you’re confusing Advent Children with The Spirits Within, but your point still stands :)'

D'oh.... You're right :) Spirits within was like a really expensive Lava-lamp, it was fun just to leave it playing in the corner and look at the pretty colours ;)

Who cares what critics say?

Most movie critics suck at what they do and will always give a higher rating to some crappy drama just because it has some left-wing political attributes than to a very well done action movie

Advent children was like an hour long summon in FF, pretty to look at, but completely and utterly pointless.

"It a movie based on Mythology, thats the whole point."

Actually it's based off of a historical battle during the Pursian Wars at Thermopylae. Frank Miller created a graphic novel off of a movie he saw about it when he was a kid.

Definintely not mythology, though

Conejo Says:
bad movies don’t break sales records.
------------------

Excuse me? "Norbit," anyone?

the thing that always bothered me about advent children is that it's a movie with a bad plot, made by a game company that has recently produced games with better plots than most movies coming out.

@Joe

Agree'd. Video games need to stand on their own merits without being compared to movies.

Also, I hope Anonymous attacks these film critics. Won't solve anything but it should generate lulz.

@GoodRobotUs

"I wonder how closely the list of games that were ‘effect heavy, plot light’ matches the games that were turned into movies,"

True. The less plot, the more freedom the director has to twist it to his own story. ;)

Then again, Resident Evil had a pretty in-depth plot, and they still just chopped it up and mashed it all together.

I suspect that now that comics are becoming a valid source of inspiration for movies, and they're not being butchered (as much as video games), video game-based movies will eventually come back. That's why I was sad that Halo has been postponed. Because it could have set the standard for game-based movies that DIDN'T suck... All we need is an example to get the genre out of the rut that Uwe Boll dug...
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

Truthfully, there are 3 words which sum up why producers should be extremely careful about what computer games they turn into movies.

Super Mario Brothers.

You know, maybe they should take their heads out of their arses when it comes to reviews, in general? I mean, it's pretty hard to fit a "video game", with its complete story and all the action, into the span of a 100 minute movie. Some of those games get to be 50-60 hours long!

For 5-6 times the price of admission to even the best movie, I can get a game that will last me 10x as long. Pretty good value, I'd say.

remember when Star Wars: ANH got terrible reviews?

yeah...

it just goes to show that most "critics" have gotten so snobbish, they don't know what people like anymore.

bad movies don't break sales records.

Advent Children always struck me as more of a tech-demo of the animation tech than a serious attempt to capture the story of the game in a movie.

The problem was, that film was far more expensive per frame to create than a filmed movie, iirc, the girl in Advent Children has the dubious title of 'most expensive acting part ever' and she didn't even exist.

As for films based on computer games, yes Uwe Boll did a hell of a lot to damage that genre, and walking around threatening to hit people who disagreed was an excellent example of how little he really cares about making a decent movie. I don't really see much of a future in using games as the basis for movies, at least not for a while.

The thing that annoys me is that games like WoW originate their content from things like Lord of the Rings, which was, moving backwards in time, a movie and a book. Now, that Book by Tolkein was itself based upon Tolkeins other 'book' (even Tolkein admitted he never wanted to release it to the public), the Silmarillion. The Silmarillion is a Biblical-style book based on variations of hundreds of Gaellic, Roman, Greek and English myths and legends.

This means that for all their complaining about computer games, they still fail to realise the Computer games are part of a chain in education and entertainment that has gone back for over 400 years, they aren't 'new'. How many warriors went off to fight for their country because they wanted to be like one of the heroes of legend? Does that mean that they were programmed to do it by those legends? No. It just means that when society starts telling people what they are supposed to behave like, they have a natural tendency to try to live up to that expectation in order to fit in.

This leads me to the slightly scary conclusion that if the Government keeps insulting, belittling and ignoring its youth, they will end up with a youth that actually thinks it is expected to live up to those stereotypes.

I've always criticized movies for depending too much on the "wow" of effects to carry the movie at the expense or lack of a plot, but to compare it to a video game? That's just a cheap shot by reviewers who can't be bothered to come up with a decent criticism. The best they can do is compare it to a genre they clearly despise, and probably expect their readers to despise as well.

I like the NY Post's take (even though it focuses a bit much on the machoness, and tries to imply the movie is anti-gay...) It recognizes that it's a comic-book-movie. Not a video-game-movie. That it's graphics are over-the-top, because that's a style borrowed from the comic it was based on, much like Sin City resembled a live-action comic book, complete with artistic exaggeration.
-- If your wiimote goes snicker-snack, check your wrist-strap...

"Are you saying Advent Children was a bad movie? I dare you to say it! Say it and Feel the Nerdy Wrath of Gamers Everywhere!"

Advent Children was a *terrible* movie. It looked awesome, but the direction was questionable (especially the camera movement during fights), the plot made no sense except to FFVII fanboys (and fangirls) and even then it was full of holes.

It was overly expensive fanservice, nothing more; anybody deluding themselves that it was anything more than eye candy needs to see more *proper* movies.

It also shows a complete ignorance of history on the part of the reviewer, they might benefit from learning a little about Sparta and its Martial teachings.

Robb,

Two words..Well, one name really. Uwe Boll. Two more words, Mortal Kombat. (Don't give me this "oh the first movie" nonsense.) I can name the few decent game to movie adaptations on one hand. And I say decent because frankly not a single one of them is "good" Advent Children was cool, but mostly accessible to the gaming crowd. Which is alright, just not what most producers really want. They want a wider group of people to see it. And AvP had a mix of both due to the beginnings of both IP's. I'm straining to find a video game adaptation that was more than just decent.

Why would they even bring video games into it? They could just have easily said it was a comic book/graphic novel come to life, which it is.

It's a moveing representation of a comic book based on impressions of a historical event. Don't expect more than what it is critic dudes! (Not saying that it's a bad movie, but personally I'd rather watch a historical documentary investigating the actual sites of the event and what the true numbers of each fighting force may have been.)

So movies made with a Computer that look realistic are bad movies..... Are you saying Advent Children was a bad movie? I dare you to say it! Say it and Feel the Nerdy Wrath of Gamers Everywhere!

In a backward way, this is good. MTV had such an impact on movie productions, mostly good. Videogaming has to go through this rite of passage as it becomes commonplace. Videogames have, so far, influenced a few movies, some good, mostly bad. The reviewers are saying this is a bad thing because they either don't like games or they're comparing it to being a video game you can't play.

"Stereotyping games as based on a brainless, violent subset is as fair as dismissing the art of moviemaking based on “Wild Hogs.” "

Buuuurn!
Incineration!

You're the insult master!

Well, as long as we let cowards and technophobes, who cannot understand the present and are afraid of the future, to continue this stereotype it will expand unfortunately.

Reminds me of when John Favreau's comment on 3-d animation was taken out of comments by some people. I believe he critiqued films that used it as opposed to real models (comparing the original star wars trilogy to the new one) and said they couldn't be taken seriously in his eyes because they looked like a video game.

Its idiots like this that flame animation for being "unartistic" and modern movie dribble as art..... you sir are a stereotypical idoit.......NEXT!

Strangely enough, I think Oblivion would make a far better book than, say, movie, a book can go a lot further into the history and backstory of the plot than a movie would have time to, and, like most fantasy stoies, 90% of the relevant stuff took place before the story started.

For example, the whole Silmarillion took place before Lord of the Rings, and the latter doesn't truly make sense until you read the former.

"What was most engaging about Oblivion was that there was much more going on in the game than just the main plot. There were numerous side quests to embark on, guilds to join and rise up the ranks of, and Daedric(demon) gods who needed a favor. As a result, there were plots within plots, and mysteries within mysteries. I can’t think of many movies that can pull that off"

But I wouldn't call that as a good storyline, but as a good storytelling platform, which is of course what a video game is. As far as I am concerned, I would rarther look towards a game like Psychonauts for originality, or a game like Deus Ex for a meaningful plot rarther than TES Oblivion.

my example is pooooooooooooooooppppppppyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy thats what you are!!!!!!!

pppppppppoooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooppppppppppppppppp

FART POOP TURD BUTT PEE CACA
 
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