It had to happen. It really did. They did it with the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Harry Potter series, so why not His Dark Materials? Happily, there is an answer, and that is why Iâm here. The fact that New Line seem to have either not got into their collective heads, or just simply ignored- THE fact, is the fact that a film DOES NOT make a good game. A book DOES NOT make a good game. A good book does not necessarily make a good film, even, but I hope weâve already established that with my last column, so lets stick with games for now.
Letâs look at Lord of the Rings, in fact. New Line- same cinema company. Fantasy/alternate reality adventure- same genre of story. Crap- probably the same reaction. I must come across cynical, eh? But letâs just look at it. The whole point of a game is to work from the start of the first level to the end of the final one. Then thatâs it. Thatâs the end- there is nothing more to come. The same can be said for a film. The opening music signifies the start of the story, and the credits at the end signify that it is over. There is nothing before that music (except for those bloody copyright protection adverts) and there is nothing after the credits- that is it.
That is not what a book is. And this is where they are going wrong- every single time it is the same. A book is the relevant part of the story. Itâs the part that the author wants to tell. There is always a huge backstory- how things came about, what will happen when things are over, where things may have gone if the story hadnât happened, but with a game, there is nothing. There may be a tiny little introduction to the story, a sort of âjust in case you didnât know, hereâs what happenedâ, and thatâs it. Oh, you can talk about âthe mystery of what happened to Mr Man âcos heâs got amnesia and woke up on a hospital bed and has a tattoo of a rabid hamster on his left middle fingerâ, but itâs still exactly the same. The game focuses on how it affects now. Itâs such an elementary mistake, and yet nobody seems able to spot it.
But this is immaterial, really. A His Dark Materials game will either have a rave review because you can make Pantalaimon change from butterfly to slug in seven seconds, or it will have a terrible review because Lyra doesnât blink like a real person. So letâs go back to my original point. A good book does not necessarily make a good film. Tom Clancyâs The Sum of All Fears, for instance. The book was good. The film was not. Another example could be Trainspotting. The book was an amazing in-depth look at the life of a drug addict. The film was just overly profane.
But just in case you canât see where Iâm going, here we are. Making a âfilm of the bookâ is bad enough. Something will always be lost in translation â everybody knows that not all of a book will make it into a film, itâs not cyninism, itâs fact. And we also know that if youâre making a âgame of the filmâ, something will be lost there as well- you know that if youâre a protagonist, you will eventually win, if you know which button to press and when. But here it is. If both of those lose something, what do you think a âgame of the film of the bookâ will be like?
Iâll tell you what itâd be like.
The Lord of the Rings.