Game Over

vidgamemovieI like movies but I don’t much care for video games. This isn’t an unfounded bias based on my age or a disconnect from current culture. (My video game experience goes back to the pre-Atari days). No, the reason is my preference for story.

Aristotle had it right, in my opinion. A story should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. That separates it from pageantry, which is a continuous display without a plot. Thus, I prefer plays to parades and Olympic competition to opening ceremonies.

This bias extends to my preference for baseball, which I see as a plot-driven competition (complete with 9 “chapters” with no clock) as opposed to basketball, soccer, and hockey, which are continuous action.

Today, the line between the movies and video games has become blurred, if not invisible. Movies are made based on video games. Screenwriters write for video games. Actors voice video games. It seems that, now, gamers are writing some of the movies.

This struck me when I recently watched the movie “Divergent”, a film made from a YA novel of the same name. Not surprisingly, it echoes many features of the wildly successful “Hunger Games” series: onion-skin-thin YA characters in a dystopian society trying to kill each other off. If you think the similarities in these logos is a coincidence, I have an Amway franchise you’d be interested in. (I’m not alone in this. SNL noticed the connection, too. Check it out.)










I can’t speak for the book because I haven’t read it, but “Divergent” the movie was mind-numbing for me. As I watched, it felt like I was trapped in a video game. The protagonist, Tris (rhymes with Katniss from “Hunger Games”; get it?), has to survive multiple levels of challenges not a whole lot different than those faced by Mario Brothers. In case the obvious isn’t obvious enough, she even gets a score for each level. All middle, no beginning or end; not exactly Aristotelian.

There is a plot buried somewhere under all the mundane action, one-dimensional characters, and hackneyed relationships but it’s as trite as it is uninteresting.

And, guess what. Like a video game, it doesn’t end. The vapid protagonist and all her shallow cohorts simply set themselves up for the next level, er, sequel. Oh joy.

From all appearances, a movie in a similar (i.e. exactly the same) vein is “The Maze Runner”. This flick dispenses with any pretense. The name is a game and the plot appears to be trying to play a game.

This one is also based on a book. The usual suspects: YA, dystopian, trilogy (i.e. built-in franchise).  Once more, I have to confess that I haven’t read this book. It could be a YA classic that will make us all forget “The Chocolate War”, “A Catcher in the Rye”, and “The Giver”.

I’m betting not.

This class of pulp seems to be churned out at a factory somewhere and judged not on their ability to challenge or inspire, but on their potential for selling cookie cutter movie franchises and tangential tchotchkes to gullible adolescents.

Mario would be all over them.