Netflix has become the saviour of Video game adaptations

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    Castlevania began as a parody of Universal monster movies, with an orange person with a whip fighting the likes of a mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, and Dracula. The program Castlevania spent its fourth season investigating the relationships of a quartet of immortal vampire queens, focusing on how we deal with grief, and looking just stunning in motion. I don’t believe anyone predicted this, but seven years after the last (mocked) Castlevania game, the Netflix series has become the new gold standard for videogame adaptations.

    I can envision a world where we never received Netflix’s Castlevania because Konami was still haunted by the failure of a catastrophic 1990s Hollywood adaptation. Dolph Lundgren was a yolked Simon Belmont, John Travolta was the most overacted Dracula in film history, and the film tanked so badly that the only cultural legacy it left was a popular reaction gif of Dolph pounding a comically false Medusa head until its eyes burst out.

    In this universe, however, we have a cartoon that combines philosophy and long, meaningful discourse with toilet humor and violent violence, and we never have to deal with Travolta’s “What is a man” speech. After decades of bland, cringy, or outright dogshit videogame movies, the last few years of videogame adaptations have been truly great, thanks to the fact that television has finally given them time to breathe.

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    Hollywood films were never a good fit for video games. There are probably a hundred reasons for this, but if you look at most of the adaptations from the 1990s and 2000s, the major issues are screamed out in all caps. The stories either adhered too closely to the games (cheese alert) or barely felt like adaptations (who were these even for?). The big movie stars of the day took roles they were not a good fit for; the stories either adhered too closely to the games (cheese alert) or barely felt like adaptations (who were these even for?). It’s no surprise that they’re almost all assigned to the Bad Movie Night bin, given their often modest budgets and B-tier directors.

    I still enjoy horrible videogame movies from the 1990s—I’ll watch Street Fighter or Double Dragon every five years or so just to laugh—but the trend of poor videogame movies lasted far into the 2010s. In the best-case scenario, we got Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, an oddly whitewashed but competent adventure film. The majority of them were significantly worse, or simply uninteresting retreads of games we’d already played, such as Assassin’s Creed.

    If it ever occurred to moviemakers that an adaptation could enrich the original material by fleshing out the backstories of well-known characters or adding more detail to the game environments, it was never seen on film. With Castlevania, The Witcher, and especially Arcane, the League of Legends spin-off that has become a true breakthrough hit in the last several years, that has finally changed.

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    Hollywood will keep trying, but the latest evidence suggests that they aren’t moving beyond the same types of films they’ve always made. Uncharted will look like Uncharted, but it will not be any better than playing Uncharted, and it will not improve Uncharted. Borderlands, starring Kevin Hart and Cate Blanchett, is a gamble, but it appears that this is yet another film that would work better as an animated series with more time to explore Pandora. Streamers now control game adaptations, and we’ve only seen a few examples of how much better they can be.


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