One of the wonderful things about games is they let you explore a world or interact with characters you would never be able to see or meet in real life. I may never board a space ship, wield a lightsabre, run across the rooftops of Constantinople or save Catwoman from a trap set by The Joker, but I can come close in games. Similarly, movies offer us a chance to experience places we may never go and live through stories that are not our own. When you finish a great movie, sometimes you want more. You want to experience that world, meet those characters and have those adventures that you just saw on the silver screen. And you can do that! All you need is a game and movie double-bill. Here’s some suggestions for great movies to get you in the mood for great games:
10. LA Confidential and LA Noire
It might seem that the best place to go to experience the cast of LA Noire would be the TV series Mad Men – which features almost all of the same actors – but for story and tone the movie to see is LA Confidential. James Elroy’s book is full of sleaze, corruption, hard-drinking men and femme fatales. It’s a buddy cop story formula with the traditional good cop, “straight arrow” teamed up with the enforcer who “just gets the job done”. The movie adaptation by Curtis Hanson is faithful and beautifully evocative of the sleaze and seediness of 50’s LA. Not afraid to make the audience work to keep up, the interview scenes in particular are thrilling character-led high points with Kevin Spacey, Guy Pearce and Russell Crowe all on top form. Watching this movie should make you want to explore that world of 50’s LA and gaze underneath the sheen of Hollywood to investigate crimes of passion, stop corrupt police officers and face off against fearsome mob bosses. You can do all this and more in LA Noire, and some of the technology they use in the game makes the interactive conversations just as thrilling as the scenes in the movie.
The adaptation of The Black Dahlia may be a more obvious choice as the real world events that inspired that movie are also covered in LA Noire, but LA Confidential is a far better move and the tone of both film and game are so perfect, you need to experience both.
9. Event Horizon and Dead Space
Many of the entries on this list are games inspired by movies, but few so directly reference the original as much as Dead Space does with Event Horizon. The enemies and story may differ, but the atmosphere and setting of the two are very close. While Dead Space 2 shifted the franchise a little more towards action, the original was pure survival horror and its setting – the mining ship Ishimura – was hugely evocative of the eponymous ship: Event Horizon.
Paul W. S. Anderson’s movie was a critical and commercial flop but it went on to be a minor cult hit. Beyond its influence on cinema, it was hugely influential in games with titles as high in profile as Doom 3 cribbing ideas and set pieces liberally from the movie. Its lightweight plotline is second to its tense, foreboding atmosphere which is present and even better developed in Dead Space.
If you fancy another similar title to get you in the mood, you could try Pandorum; another “spaceship filled with monsters” movie which was similarly reviled by critics and audiences but which I quite enjoyed. Don’t go near John Carpenter’s Ghosts of Mars though… that’s too much terror for anyone.
8. Raiders of the Lost Ark and Uncharted 2: Among Thieves
Any excuse to watch the original Indian Jones movie is good. Capturing lightning in a bottle, Lucas and Spielberg got this movie so stunningly right that they have both been chasing their tails trying to make something as good for the rest of their careers. While Spielberg has been successful in other types of movies, none of his attempts at anything similar have been as successful, including the recent Tin Tin film. The disappointments Lucas continues to inflict on us meanwhile are increasingly resembling some kind of Andy Kauffman joke at our expense.
Worst of all, the attempt to bring Indie back to life was so depressing it felt like it killed a part of our childhood and somehow managed to make the original movies WORSE in retrospect.
Its good then that a game finally managed to convey the adventure and excitement of the Indie movies. The Uncharted games are stunning to look at and no other series has been able to so convincingly put you in the shoes of an adventurer evading traps, exploring jungle ruins, finding ancient treasure and cracking wise.
It should be pointed out that while the action in these games is astounding, I have never warmed to the story or characters. While Nathan Drake may be beloved to some gamers, I have always found him grating and bland and his cast of accompanying characters to be soulless, irritating or just plain unlikable. That being said, there are scenes throughout these games that evoke the best Spielberg and Lucas managed. In particular, the train scene in Uncharted 2 is something that has to be experienced by every gamer and could only be better if it featured Indie himself.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl and The Secret of Monkey Island
Love them or hate the, the Pirates of the Caribbean movies are popular, successful and ubiquitous. While Gore Verbinski’s movies are often derided for being motivated by studio greed rather than creative integrity, they have a huge appeal to families and children alike. Johnny Depp once said that while Oscar’s are nice, he was more proud of his performance when a child came up to him and said that they wanted to be like Jack Sparrow. While drunken, make-up wearing pirate may not be most parents career choice for their kids, it just goes to show how popular the character is that Depp and Verbinski created.
One of the curious things about Pirates of the Caribean is how closely it mirrors Monkey Islands plot. I mean REALLY closely. It’s not so much that it steals ideas, its more that it’s a film adaptation of the game.
That being said, no movie about pirates has captured the wit and charm of Gilbert and Schafer’s masterpiece. No, not even Cutthoat Island. The first Monkey Island game is probably the greatest “funny” game ever made, rivalled only by the second Monkey Island game. To that extent, consider Pirates of the Caribean to be a starter preceding the main course that is The Secret of Monkey Island. In this double bill, you will be going from good to great.
6. Bullit and Driver: San Francisco
Steve McQueen’s role in Peter Yates police procedural movie was inspired by the real life detective Dave Toschi. McQueen and Toschi talked on set and got to know each other. Toschi himself went on to be involved in the Zodiac Killer murders and as a result became the inspiration for Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character.
Although McQueen’s performance and the involving story were well-regarded, the movie is best remembered today for its genre defining car chase through the streets of San Francisco. It’s this aspect of Bullit that Driver: San Francisco uses as inspiration. The whole game has a slightly bleached, 70’s influenced aesthetic. The 70’s visual look, coupled with the car chases over the hilly streets of San Francisco and the cars themselves (which seem to come from the same era as the movie) make this a great game to play after the film. First you can see one of the greatest car chases in cinema history, then you can try to recreate it yourself.
Join us next week for part 2. In the meantime feel free to add some suggestions. Have a great weekend folks!