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Screw optimism: a Shadow of the Colossus movie is a BAD idea

4:00 PM on 04.09.2009 // Chad Concelmo

I am the most positive and forgiving person on the planet. When I got punched in the face by a bully in the 5th grade I actually apologized to him for hurting his fist on my large pumpkin head. Then I proceeded to check on him a week later to see if his hand was feeling better.

I’m not kidding.

So why, then, did I have such a negative reaction to the recent news that Sony was going to make a movie out of classic PlayStation 2 game Shadow of the Colossus? Am I just becoming bitter in my old age, or is there a reason for me running through the street nude and crying?

Hit the jump for the reasons why I think making a Shadow of the Colossus movie is a really bad idea.

Remind me: What needs to be fixed, again?

As much as I love being positive, my respect for true art and artists trumps all feelings of unbridled optimism.

It goes without saying that Shadow of the Colossus is an amazing piece of art -- there is a reason the PlayStation 2 classic is always brought up when anyone engages in an “are videogames art?” debate. The stunning visuals, combined with the game’s surprising emotional heft, truly create a unique and powerful experience.

Let me jump back on the positive bandwagon for a second and assume the upcoming Sony movie turns out to be incredible. Say the actors, the production design, the screenplay, the special effects, everything comes together and results in a truly outstanding film.

So what?

It's not really about whether the movie will be good or not. It's about why make it in the first place?

The original PlayStation 2 videogame is already so amazing, why even attempt to duplicate its perfection? In this scenario, the best the filmmakers can hope to achieve is a movie that is equal parts emotionally affecting as the videogame. The worse, and more likely, thing that can happen is the movie version is nowhere near as good as the original.

So why even attempt to remake something that definitely wasn’t broken to begin with?

Adaptation is not always a bad idea

I get that many different forms of art are brought to the big screen with stunning results -- one recent example of this is the breathtaking film adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel No Country for Old Men.

But this is where some important specifics come in.

Turning an incredible book into a fantastic movie is tough, but I respect the effort. A book is, at its most basic form, a series of words typed on a page. The only visuals that can be formed while experiencing a wonderful novel or work of non-fiction are from the reader’s imagination. The transformation from page to screen is an exciting one, if only to see the creativity that is involved with bringing written characters and settings to life. The act of book to film adaptation is almost an art unto itself.

Shadow of the Colossus, the videogame, is already so cinematic that it is hard to imagine what could be done to change anything. Like I mentioned before, the best case scenario is an exact clone, while the worst case scenario is ... well ... I think we all know what the worst case scenario could be. And it’s not pretty.

It’s all about immersion

In a way, the videogame version of Shadow of the Colossus is even better than a movie could ever be. Not only is it remarkably cinematic, it is also interactive.

***MAJOR SPOILER AHEAD*** Take the scene when Agro falls from the bridge. This is one of the most haunting, heartbreaking scenes ever experienced in a videogame, and the player is completely invested in it due to the fact that they are controlling Wander and Agro before it happens. It’s like the player becomes Wander and feels an overpowering sense of guilt once his best friend in the world plummets to his supposed death. By directing Wander and Agro to jump over the broken bridge, the player feels directly responsible for what happens next. ***END OF SPOILER***

This scene could be sad in the movie version, but it will never achieve the same feeling of immersion established in the videogame.

So, again, I ask: what purpose does making this movie serve?

My snobby SotC fandom > Justin Marks’ snobby SotC fandom

As an (obvious) huge fan of Shadow of the Colossus -- something Justin Marks, the writer of the movie, claims to be as well -- I would rather everything stay as it is and encourage people to experience the original as it was meant to be experienced: as a videogame.

Granted, a lot of people out there don’t play videogames and, on top of that, would have a lot of trouble just “trying” something as complicated as Shadow of the Colossus, but I don’t think that should matter. I wouldn’t walk into a renowned chef’s kitchen and ask him to change his recipe for Venison Loin with Celery Root Puree to something closer to my tastes just because I am not a celery fan. The chef’s creation is his art and it should be taken for what it is. If I can’t handle it, I won’t eat it! Simple as that! (For the record, I would totally eat that -- it sounds delicious.)

On a similar note, I wouldn’t repaint the Mona Lisa on the side of a skyscraper just so more people could see it. If people want to experience the original, go see the original. It’s the way the artist intended.

Of course I will still see it -- I will just cross my arms in protest

Maybe I am just being crabby given the fact that my precious Shadow of the Colossus is being brought to the silver screen by the guy who wrote Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li. But I like to think it is much more than just a knee-jerk grumpy reaction to the surprising news.

If Shadow of the Colossus was a novel and someone wanted to transform it into a movie, fine -- like I said before, seeing words visualized is always an interesting experiment.  If Shadow of the Colossus was a painting and a director wanted to recreate its vision into an epic film, go right ahead -- I respect the genuine form of inspiration. For me, it comes down to what Shadow of the Colossus is: a beautiful, heartbreaking, lyrical videogame that stands alone as a glorious piece of art.

A timeless piece of art that should be respected for what it is.

A videogame that should be experienced and not just watched.

It’s not too late, Sony: There are so many original ideas out there, why not create something no one has ever seen before? Attaching the name Shadow of the Colossus to a movie may sell a certain amount of tickets, but is it really worth it? True, the movie’s quality won’t affect the original videogame in any way, but why risk it? Is this what the original artists truly want?

Don’t punch me in the face, Sony. I don’t think I will have the heart to apologize this time.

***All “you are way too serious about this” e-mails can be directed to [email protected]

Chad Concelmo,
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