Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Max Payne: The Move: The Review

Movies based on video games are clearly a sore spot for someone like myself. By and large, gaming movies are ass. Movies ABOUT gaming usually turn out fine enough. Wargames, The Wizard, The Last Starfighter, King of Kong, and Tron. It's all good. But when you actually take a game and try to spin your Hollywood "magic", something gets lost in translation. Usually it has something to do with those in charge being lifeless husks of men creating something that vaguely resembles the source product enough as to get our sorry asses into the seats. Things never got better. Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon, Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat were bad, but considering the time and the general acceptance of games as a medium, it wasn't shocking. But now, games are a valid sub-genre in the realm of entertainment running neck-and-neck even with some of the biggest blockbusters. So what do we get? We get Doom, Resident Evil, Hitman, Dead or Alive and Uwe Boll making a mockery out of pretty much anything he can get his grubby little mitts on.

Now, that's not to say I don't enjoy movies like Super Mario, Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter, but it's the same way some might enjoy something like Snakes on a Plane or Faces of Death. Super Mario is rife with inside jokes concerning the series and Street Fighter just sort of depresses you knowing that Raul Julia's last movie was him playing M. Bison.

Well, that brings us to today. With games being generally cinematic these days and relying heavily on a story, it's no surprise now more than ever, companies want these creations adapted to the screen so they can make billions off of a property they didn't create. With Prince of Persia underway (which features Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character of all people), and games like Bioshock and Halo always being spoken in the "when the hell are these coming out?" breath. For some reason. I mean, it's not exactly like we've had a success yet. I guess the law of averages suggests that at some point one has to be great.

That brings us to the movie based on one of my most beloved franchises from the last generation. Max Payne. Max Payne was far from a "GREAT!" game. It's gameplay was pretty weak, but with a great gimmick. Bullet Time slowed the action down so you could John Woo through a door and blast bad guys away while dodging their bullets. The visuals were nice, and the cinematics were wonderful. That's the one place where it REALLY stood out, the way the cinematic package was presented. It was a film noir story. A revenge story. A vigilante cop story. The cutscenes were like comic panels telling the story. Max had a lot of great one liners and internal monologues all being delivered in a droll boring affect. It was a fairly typical revenge story, with obvious story twists, but it's the way the entire package was delivered in the end that made it movie worthy of a big screen adaption in the first place. It had a lot of flair, regardless of some of it's inadequacies in terms of the actual gameplay at times. Especially during the drug induced hallucination levels where you're forced to follow a very narrow trail of blood in a manner that can only be described as ";lkasjdfihiwebfrsbfvljsf!"

The movie, which stars, in all reality and excellently cast actor, Mark Wahlberg, pretty much takes the very basic storyline of the game in the terms of Max's wife and baby are killed, he tracks the junkies around, finds out the mystery, gets revenge and follows it fairly well. There are some pretty nice plot details they left out. The the entire mob substory being basically left out entirely. And if you haven't played the games, they really make you work to fill in some plot holes. In the game, Lupino is a psychotic satanist junkie that spouts off dark readings while sacrificing another person. In the movie, he's just a nut job, and kills a guy in cold blood for no explanation. A gamer would sort of piece that in his head with the game, the rest, well, to them he's just another junkie. Also, the story wraps up in a familiar but totally different way. And there is no internal dialog save for the beginning.

In general, the movies actually quite decent. But it's still not the Spider-Man 2 or The Dark Knight to the gaming world like those were to the comics world. That movie may never come, or it may come in the next couple of years. All I know is, is that this one movie is pretty much the best example of a gaming movie there is. That lines going to be either pitiful to some, or excellent to others. By the end of the day, Max Payne does a lot of things right with the source material, but the pulled punches of PG-13 forced it to take and some of the liberties with some story elements have kept it from being great.