Need for Speed continues Hollywood’s downward trajectory for video game movies

by | Mar 18, 2014 | Arts

By Victoria Quiroz

After its recent release, Need for Speed, an action film based off of the popular video game series, is following in the disappointing footsteps of previous video game to film adaptions.

Global box office numbers allowed the film to make most of its budget back during its March 14 opening weekend. Originally made for $66-million, Need for Speed pulled in $17.8-million domestically, and $45.6-million internationally.

Still, the movie currently sits at a low rating of 24 per cent on film review aggregate website, Rotten Tomatoes. The 24 per cent represents the average positive rating by domestic film critics.

But when it comes to audience reaction, Need for Speed pulls ahead with a 69 per cent positive rating.

Audience opinion has been mixed, with many championing the films racing scenes, while others lampoon it.







Yet compared to other attempts to transfer video games to the big screen, Need for Speed is doing relatively well.

In 1993 the popular Nintendo game Super Mario Bros. was given the live-action treatment which resulted in a critical and commercial failure. The film set the bar for what was to follow for video-to-film adaptations.

Following Need for Speed’s lacklustre domestic draw, Vulture posted an article explaining why video game movies tend to underperform. A combination of difficulty blending video game companies and film studios, timeliness and increasing similarity between the two mediums were given as examples of problems in the adaption process.

Garrett Kerr, program coordinator for Humber College’s Film and Media Production program said that it is possible for a good video game movie to be made, but that it’s a challenge movie studios aren’t giving enough attention to.

“The two are entirely different mechanisms for engaging audiences,” Kerr continued. “You’re trying to make apple sauce out of oranges.”

“The flaw in the plan is the way you tell a story in a video game with the audience being an active participant,” said Kerr. “Where in a film the audience is in a passive role.”

Kerr said that there are plenty of video games, like the immensely popular Grand Theft Auto, with great story lines that would lend themselves well to film adaption but that most studios don’t care about telling the story, and instead focus on ticket sales.

“There’s a pre-existing market,” said Kerr of why the medium is so attractive to movie producers. “You’ve got a built in audience right away.”

However, as the gaming and film industries continue to develop some still hold out hope for the future of video game film adaptions.

The popular Assassin’s Creed video game series will hit the big screens in 2015. Academy Award nominated Michael Fassbender is producing and slated to star in the film, with Swedish director Daniel Espinosa rumoured to be taking the director’s chair.

Several film websites, such as Screenrant, are calling Fassbender’s inclusion a “step in the right direction” and that the upcoming film could “determine the future of video games at the movies.”

Below is a chart of the top ten highest rated North American video game films, according to average ratings from Rotten Tomatoes.