Adapting games into movies might never work

Simon K Jones
4 min readOct 26, 2021

I just watched the trailer for the Uncharted movie, which is a long-anticipated adaptation of the hugely popular and critically acclaimed Playstation games:

There are numerous aspects of the trailer that don’t quite work for me, primarily its liberal attitude towards physics, but it got me thinking about why movie adaptations of games have never really worked, and might never work.

Cinema is often seen — usually by itself — as the pinnacle of the creative arts. Look at the direction of adapation: a book or comic being made into a movie is seen as a prestige thing, usually. The movie version will often become the definitive portrayal, such that the source material is forever flavoured by it. Curiously, if you reverse the process, such that a movie is adapted into a novel, you’re then talking about a novelisation which is rarely considered more than a cash-in.

This hierarchy of Cultural Importance comes from two factors. The first is that movies are just really popular. Compare the money-printing success of the Marvel Studios movies with the comic originals; the comics version of Marvel had run itself into the ground by the late-90s. It’s the movies that drive Marvel’s success, and it’s the movies that prompted Disney to buy the company. Comics and novels simply do not work at the same scale. The second factor is technological sophistication. Writing a book does not require any special equipment, making it quite a ‘pure’ art form. It’s about the words on the page, and that’s it. Cinema, on the other hand, from the very beginning has been about technology and illusion. Throughout the 20th century, filmmaking was the most complicated, most advanced, most technically challenging art form, requiring hundreds or thousands of people to collaborate to make a single movie. It’s a form which takes multiple other art forms and combines them together to create something new: music, art, theatre, writing are all required for a successful film.

Film absorbs all other art forms to create itself, which over the course of the 20th…