Now closing in on 50 episodes, David Dutton’s 8-Bit Cinema series for CineFlix celebrates and critiques the increasing video game qualities of action films. Or maybe it’s a nostalgic do-over of a childhood spent watching great films turned into terrible games and your favorite games turned into terrible films. 8-Bit Cinema imagines popular and classic movies turned into NES-era console games, with the movie’s plot imagined as a “perfect run,” as gamers call it.
Their version of Guardians of the Galaxy (watch it here) quotes Megaman, Capcom’s 1987 hit game that is still spawning sequels, and confines its action to a platform shooter, which, in a way, describes James Gunn’s film. (But dig that 8-bit version of “The Pina Colada Song,” man!). The film adapts too well to a video game, and that may be its problem.
Things get more interesting when Dutton’s creative team tackles films in the cult canon. One of their favorites, Pulp Fiction combines several game genres: Dance Dance Revolution for the Jack Rabbit Slim sequence, side scrollers for the gun (and samurai sword)-heavy action, and more. But what 8-Bit Cinema had to do was straighten out Tarantino’s non-linear narrative, allowing the “player” to change characters from Vince to Butch after their unfortunate meeting, and ditch all that wonderful dialog. This 2 1/2 minute version quotes plenty of rare video games, just like Tarantino quotes movies.
The Shining is one of two Kubrick films the team has attempted, the other one being A Clockwork Orange. The Shining one works better as Kubrick’s examinations of domestic violence are rendered even icier (no pun intended) through typical violent gameplay, and tense confrontations between Jack and Wendy are reduced to emotionless exchanges. The video references 1987’s Maniac Mansion, appropriately enough, which itself was a tribute to horror movie cliches.
Wes Anderson’s ship set from The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was designed much like a platform game, so the 8-Bit Cinema team had an easier job with this one, and threw in references to Metal Gear Solid to boot. Judging from the comments, the 8-Bit death of Ned still manages to pull the ol’ heartstrings, but the narrative remains just as inscrutable.
The takeaway here might be this: The better the film, the less it can conform to the simplistic plots, puzzle play, and point-scoring violence that make video games fun to play. And while video games are undoubtedly a form of art, there’s a large gulf between them and cinema.
Currently Dutton’s crew manages one 8-Bit Cinema short a month. For a behind-the-scenes look at what it takes to put three minutes of nostalgic bliss together, check this out:
Ted Mills is a freelance writer on the arts who currently hosts the FunkZone Podcast. You can also follow him on Twitter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.
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