I’ve played Angry Birds, and I’m betting the vast majority of people reading this have also played some iteration of the game. Most people will agree it’s pretty fun, but it’s nothing mind blowing or ground breaking. It’s partly for this reason that, after watching The Angry Birds Movie a little while ago, I was surprised at how good it was. It’s funny, surprisingly smart, and more than anything it’s a film that has jokes aimed at both kids and adults. Because of these reasons, I gave it the title of ‘the best video game movie ever’ in my review for the film. But how did this happen?
So there is one big factor that I need to address first, and that’s the lack of quality films that Angry Birds is going up against. One of the big reasons I find it so easy to award this film that prestigious title is that really there’s not much for it to compete against. Some would argue that the first Mortal Kombat is a guilty pleasure, but that’s about the highest compliment it’s likely to receive.
Other people might argue that Lara Croft – Tomb Raider is one of the better attempts at adapting a video game, but one thing both of these, and any other choices you might hear have in common is that they’re all just the best of a bad bunch, which ultimately isn’t a compliment at all. While I am happy to call Angry Birds the best video game adaptation of all time, I also want to take it out of that restrictive box, and explain how I think it became such a good movie simply by merit.
So what are the video games fans most want to be adapted? Uncharted, The Last of Us, Metal Gear Solid, The Legend of Zelda, BioShock, Fallout, Mass Effect, Halo, Red Dead Redemption… That’s probably enough examples. Something all of these titles have in common is that they’re all cinematic, and all have great stories and detailed worlds that you can really delve into and get lost in. The better the lore of a video game, the more fans get into it. But Angry Birds has non of that.
What’s the real story of Angry Birds? Some green pigs want to steal and eat eggs, so the Angry Birds get in a catapult and throw themselves at the pigs and whatever ridiculous contraptions they’ve created. Compare that to the three decade long history of The Legend of Zelda, or Metal Gear Solid, which has one of the most complete story arcs for any character in any medium, and it’s laughable in comparison. But this very weakness is why I think Angry Birds succeeded where so many have failed.
Without years of story to draw from, the filmmakers were free to create something completely new. All they had to do was reference the game in a few ways, and it was an adaptation. That’s another thing – adaptation. By it’s definition it means ‘make suitable for a new use or purpose; modify’ (that’s the Oxford Dictionary definition – about the fanciest thing I’ve ever referenced). Making a good video game and making a good film are two completely different things, and while some people do enjoy watching let’s play videos, and equally some people enjoy extended cut scenes, ultimately the two are completely different mediums.
Up to this point, the games people have most wanted to see turned into movies are the ones with the best story, and the most lore around them, but that only gives any script or director a bigger challenge, more to fit in, and more people to please. Maybe we should be looking at the games with less to them to take the genre forward. So, fingers crossed for future awards contender Candy Crush!
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