Lately, it seems like Hollywood has browsed through my video game collection and decided to make film adaptations of everything I own. First, there was news of a Shadow of the Colossus movie, followed shortly by an update about the new Mortal Kombat film. Now comes word that both God of War and Assassin’s Creed are going to be bringing their bloody stories to the big screen. God of War is one of the best games I’ve ever played and to some is considered the greatest action game of all time. But like many video game adaptations before it, there doesn’t seem to be any chance that a good God of War movie can exist. Here’s why.
Kratos: There are two huge problems concerning the protagonist of the God of War series, Kratos. First and foremost, Kratos is impossible to sympathize with for an audience. He is a ruthless warrior, famous for leading his troops into villages and slaughtering any and all inhabitants, be they men, women, or children. There is an attempt at humanizing him by having him experience a tragedy, but it’s a vague attempt lost in the fact that he slaughters innocent people to regenerate his own health. Kratos is a badass through and through, which works immensely for a video game. But in the conversion to the theater, audiences won’t see him as anything more than a caricature.
The second major issue with Kratos is the simple fact that no actor can portray him without eliciting groans and laughter. His excessively muscular physique, paired with the fact that his skin is all white with red tattoos, makes him comical to look at. In a video game, his appearance is frightening. In the real world, he’s a joke. Kratos is also characterized by a deep voice that he uses to shout almost all of his dialogue with. There’s nothing an actor can do with this character without seeming like he’s just a fan dressed up for Comic-Con.
The Content: There is no such thing as “down time” in God of War. One of the reasons the game is incredible is that you are constantly doing something, and it’s always really fun. There are two elements to the game: puzzles and fights. Puzzles in games are near-impossible to convey adequately in a film, because they eliminate audience involvement. The joy of puzzles isn’t in watching somebody else complete them; it’s in completing them yourself. Because of this, the film will more than likely be filled wall to wall with action. But there are so few action films that can be sold on their action alone and, in fact, can maintain excitement throughout based solely on fight sequences. A well-choreographed sword fight placed in a relevant scenario is 1000x more exciting than watching 90 minute-long sword fights happen in a row. After a while, even the prettiest action can be boring.
The Action: This leads straight into the next point, which is that the fighting in God of War is not film-friendly. You’ll usually find yourself in three types of fights in the game: 1) Fight a large amount of weaker, respawning enemies. 2) Fight fewer, but much stronger respawning enemies. 3) Both those options at once. Kratos is a master of combat, so watching him fight a group of weak enemies is going to lack tension and be boring. But if you constantly fill the screen with larger, stronger enemies, you’ll exhaust the viewer with the same battle over and over again. You can change the film so Kratos fights one enemy at a time (i.e. he enters one area, fights a centaur and wins, moves to another area, fights a gorgon and wins, etc), but Kratos is such a great fighter, there’s no reason to believe he won’t win every single battle.
The action is thrilling in the game because you can be surrounded on all sides by enemies, and no matter how fast you hit buttons, there’s no guarantee you’ll make it out alive. Your button inputs have to be precise, and you need to know when to block and dodge. In film, this scenario would overcrowd the screen, and audiences will have to strain to see what is going on. In the game, Kratos’ chained blade zooms around the screen in a dazzling, somewhat chaotic way, but the camera always allows you to see exactly where it is and where it is going. On film, the behavior of the weapons is going to be impossible to track moving at such velocity, and if you pair that with the body parts and blood that will be flying everywhere, it’ll be a chore to see anything clearly.
The Writers: Even if the film can overcome all those problems by finding a perfect Kratos and a director who can masterfully capture the intensity of the game’s action, God of War will never get past its writers. The latest script for the film is being written by Marcus Dunstan and Patrick Melton, the duo responsible for the final four Saw films, The Collector, and Piranha 3DD. The story in God of War would be hard to capture by even the most talented writers. What chance do these hacks have?
The God of War series currently consists of six games for PS2, PS3, PSP, and mobile phones. A seventh game, God of War: Ascension, is set to be released in March 2013 for the PS3.