Every time a studio announces that they're adapting a video game into a movie, the result is usually a collective groan from the gaming fraternity. With good reason usually, as video game adaptations to film have had a pretty poor track record, with Hitman and Assassin's Creed being some recent examples. But that hasn't stopped some directors from forging ahead with adapting their favourite games to film, and if Paul WS Anderson's run with the Resident Evil series is any indication, he knows a thing or two about getting the formula right.
Anderson, who started off with an indie film, Shopping , in 1994, did his first video game adaptation a year later, with Midway Games' cult classic Mortal Kombat . The project, he says over the phone from sunny Cape Town, was one he was quite keen on working on. "I'm probably from the first generation of film directors who played video games growing up, and I was a big fan of Mortal Kombat , having played it in arcades. When I came to Hollywood, there was this project, and it wasn't seen as very fashionable because similar adaptations hadn't done well financially in the past, but I lobbied hard for it, because I felt there was a rich backstory and history to the characters and I was excited to get that to the screen. The film worked, and that was the basis of my Hollywood career."
In the years since, he has worked on many popular franchises, helming Alien vs Predator and Death Race , adapting The Three Musketeers and retelling the tragedy of Pompeii in the eponymous film. But he remains best known for his work on the Resident Evil franchise, and has learnt a lot about audiences on the way.
"With video games, it is about how you take the property and approach the two audiences — hardcore fans who've played all the games and more casual mainstream viewers. And quite often, attempting to please one audience ends up alienating the other. So, you walk a fine line, but I've always been a great fan of the games I've adapted and brought a lot of knowledge about them to the table."
Anderson says that this knowledge resonates with the fans, and helps make or break a film. "A lot of adaptations don't do well because they don't do due diligence on why people love a game and play it. So we try and show fans that the makers of the movie are fans too, through production, design, story, and costumes. And I like to tell stories that are fresh and different, because a slavish blow-by-blow adaptation of the source material of just one game may not be appreciated by people who loved another installment in the franchise. By introducing new characters and pulling from multiple storylines, we deliver something fresh where both audiences start on an even footing and the twists, turns, and surprises are fresh for everybody. I feel that in order to break the rules, you have to know what the rules are."
Having wrapped up the Resident Evil franchise with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter , Anderson is now looking forward to some fresh and exciting new adaptations. He is set to continue his association with Capcom's games (following Resident Evil ) with an adaptation of the Monster Hunter franchise, which he says is exciting because of the rich world and diverse monsters, which are not based on existing mythology. "I've also been a huge fan of George RR Martin's work, and there is a series of short stories written by him that I am working on, which will hopefully come to fruition soon."
Paul Anderson's Resident Evil: The Final Chapter , starring Milla Jovovich, will premiere on Sony Pix at 1 pm and 9 pm on February 25.