Editorial: Smearing of the Colossus

I heard some terrible news yesterday.

Sony’s critically acclaimed masterpiece, Shadow of the Colossus is officially being made into a movie.

I have to admit that this makes no sense to me. While it is one of my favourite games of all time (following only Final Fantasy 9 and Ocarina of Time), it is absolutely the last game I ever wanted to be made into a movie.

This was not always the case, however.
When I first bought and completed the game about three and a half years ago, I remember raving about the title and saying that I would love for a movie adaptation. The gorgeous soundtrack, the vast landscape, the intense battles, the epic scope, they all seemed like they would lend themselves perfectly to a movie.
I brought up that idea to a good friend of mine, and a fellow fan of the game and he instantly disagreed. He stated that Shadow of the Colossus would actually make for a terrible, boring movie. Although slightly offended at first, I mulled it over and found that he was absolutely correct.

Think about it.

Get away!
Get away!

The strongest argument for the game is its lonely and hopeful mood and how all the elements come together to compliment said mood. What contributes strongly to this mood? Riding around on a horse for hours with nobody to talk to. As a game, this works very well. Since I am the player, I connect to this exploration. I decide where I want to go and how quickly I want to find the next Colossus. Most of the satisfaction I got from the game was figuring out how to get to the next Colossus and then figuring out how to beat the giant once I got there. That is why the game has been, not inaccurately, called a puzzle game on occasion.
Who would want to watch Tetris: The Movie?

Okay I would, but only for comedic value, and Shadow of the Colossus is not a comedy game.

Essentially the point is this: to make an entertaining movie out of the game, the makers will need to take away most of the elements that make it a good game. They are doomed from the beginning, no matter who they get to make it.

But I want to end on a optimistic note so I am going to play devil’s advocate to myself and make a few points in this project’s favour.

First off, I Am Legend was able to portray just Will Smith and his dog with only enemies for the vast majority of the film, and I think it was very powerful. Wander has a horse in Shadow of the Colossus, and a good actor could potentially pull it off.

The Colossi battles will likely be badass. And there is no necessary significance to having 16 of them, so cutting a few to give time to Wander and the empty world wouldn’t be a bad thing. And, admit it, there were a few duds in there worth cutting.

With movies like 300 and Sin City, I believe there is hope for how the studio approaches this film stylistically to capture the dread and wonder the landscape evokes.

But I have gone on long enough. What are your thoughts? Lusipurr mentioned on a podcast that Advent Children is the only good video game movie and I absolutely agree. Does that scare you as much as it scares me? I did not mention the writer or other announced crew, because that is not the main issue in my opinion. Do you disagree?
I look forward to reading your comments below.


  1. Agreed. 102%. SotC is an experience that can only be had through a game. It’s one of the strongest arguments for games as art.

    Any attempts to translate it to another medium WILL fail. And even if that wasn’t the case, it will fail anyway… just look at the “talent” they’ve recruited…

  2. Just a heads up, Riddles. “Talent” typically means the actors and I don’t believe they’ve been announced yet.
    Like I said, I know the people they’ve got to work on the movie have some not-so-impressive past credits, but I don’t really think that should make a difference. It was a different style movie, and maybe this game inspired them.
    I more agree with you that it just cannot work.

  3. You’re saying the fact that these people have consistently produced crap isn’t cause for worry?

  4. Perhaps. But it is far from my primary concern. What did Peter Jackson do before Lord of the Rings? Nothing spectacular. He was just meant to make those movies. Yes, the writer is the last thing on my mind.

  5. Adapting a work into a movie is tricky in general, but video games will always make for the least successful adaptations. If you turn a book into a movie, you gain something: a visual connection with the plot, which is often spectacular (see Harry Potter films). Admittedly, you also lose something; character development over two hours is an entirely different animal from character development over a few hundred pages (see Harry Potter films).

    That said, video games already have both these qualities. You get to watch the plot play out, rather than have to rely on the author’s written descriptions, and you have ten to twenty times as many hours to connect to the characters and the world in which the story is set. Adapting a work like that into a movie only stands to lose the development which makes video game stories so great.

    As for Advent Children, it’s not a “video game movie” at all. It’s just… a “movie movie” sequel to a video game. And that’s why it works; it was intended from the start to be a movie, rather than an adaptation of an existing game. They didn’t have to condense dozens of hours of story and an expansive world map into a neat little package.

  6. re: Advent Children –
    Well it’s still a movie based on a game. In a game universe, game characters, continuing a game’s story.
    I don’t believe Tomb Raider is an adaptation of a particular game is it?
    But I agree that for a video game movie to work best would be for it to be its own entry in the canon.
    Although Sands of Time is making me optimistic (if I forget about Jake playing the prince)

  7. This just in:
    Brad Pitt to star, with Angelina Jolie set to play his horse.
    Special guest star: Oprah Winfrey as the Colossus (all of them).

  8. ….that might be the ONLY thing that would make me excited for this movie.

  9. @Ethos
    My point about Advent Children is that it avoids the concerns you have for Shadow of the Colossus. Final Fantasy VII is a relatively big game, with lots of towns to visit and world map to cover. Advent Children could have attempted to be a true “video game movie” and shown events at Cosmo Canyon, Wutai, Golden Saucer, etc. Fans would have loved that, and what’s the function of video game movies if not fan service? However, the main setting of Advent Children isn’t even in FF7. For that matter, Advent Children has its own distinct themes and motifs (maternity, communication, cell phones, the lone wolf) which aren’t important in FF7. It may technically be based on a game – although I’m still not convinced being a sequel qualifies; The Godfather Part II isn’t based on The Godfather Part I, but is simply part of the Godfather canon – but functionally, it’s far from being a video game movie.

    I can’t expertly comment on Tomb Raider since I’ve played none of the games and seen none of the movies, but I imagine the whole point of the latter is to see Angelina Jolie kicking ass in skimpy clothing, giving curves to a previously jagged video game hottie – the very image of fan service.

    Bottom line is… I think there’s a clear difference between Advent Children and Tomb Raider, and giving them both the same name is unfair to Advent Children. And… oh yeah, this is about Shadow of the Colossus, isn’t it? Well, I haven’t played it either, but I agree with you, ethos, the likelihood of a deft translation to the big screen is slim by virtue of the style of gameplay.

    Wait, you’re saying they’re not even going to try to cast Vin Diesel. I thought that was required for these sorts of projects.

  10. @Sand Wizard – I do agree that Advent Children didn’t have to suffer the same issues we agree that SotC will likely suffer.
    But I can’t expertly comment on Tomb Raider either, so can either of us say there’s a clear difference between the two?
    We may prefer the themes, style, and world of Final Fantasy 7, but does that mean the Tomb Raider movie didn’t have the same development benefits that Advent Children did?

  11. I’m pretty sure they will get Shia LaBeouf to be in this movie… Hes in everything nowadays.

    Just picture it! Him hanging onto the Colossus, all the time screaming “NONONONONONONONONONONO!”

  12. Oh god. Please anybody but him. Please an unknown European actor. HE DOESN’T NEED TO TALK!

  13. No game should ever be turned into a film. Period. But the talent (or lack thereof) involved makes this project twice damned and a mark of disrespect to gamers, who they think no better than fools ready to blindly consume whatever tepid crap they dish up.

    @sand wizard- the theme of maternity also plays a strong role in FFVII in relation to the development of Sephiroth and his relation to Jenova and Lucretia.

    @Ethos- You’re absolutely wrong about Peter Jackson, before LOTR he made some of the best splatter films of all time. Brain Dead is truely a sight to behold.

  14. @Noob: thanks for bringing that up about Peter Jackson while I was at work. Even though I hate splatter films. Peter Jackson didn’t produce crap, just little-known cult stuff. Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li and The Scorpion King are true and unadulterated crap.

  15. I have to agree with Noob here. The best “video game movies” aren’t adaptations of the games themselves, but set in the general universe. This is where the Tomb Raider movies succeed. They aren’t trying to mimic the events of a particular game, but are showing an original story in the spirit of the games, that could conceivably take place in the games’ universe. This is also why the first Resident Evil was so much better than the other two. The first movie could be seen as a perfect “gaiden/prequel” to the original game. When the second and third movies took a dump on the games’ universe, that’s when the movie series fell apart.

  16. @Master Chief – Exactly what Sand Wizard and I were saying.

    @SN – I spoke too quickly. That came from a place of prejudice since I don’t care about splatter films.

    @everyone – but still, I think it’s more just a matter of it being a doomed case. People should have second chances to prove themselves. People can improve just like people can get worse. Look at Darren Aronofsky:

    Pi = Excellent
    Requiem for a dream = Okay
    The Fountain = God awful
    The Wrestler = Apparently amazing

    And remember, talent means actors…

  17. @Ethos: NO! It will be LaBeouf, and his horse transforms into a huge Colossus! There will be tons of explosions and his dead girlfriend will come back to life only to scream in slow motion as A few Colossus fight abouve her! And in the end, They live happily ever after.

  18. Bit of a stretch to call tomb raider or resident evil a success, though comparitively they are much better that films based on the source material.