Hitman - Blood money
As the world of Agent 47 hits the big screen in dark action adventure, Hitman, Henry Northmore looks at the links between videogames and Hollywood
Hitman is the latest in a long line of videogames to make the jump from console to big screen. Despite the flops (think Super Mario Brothers and Street Fighter) studios just don’t seem able to keep their hands off videogame properties, with the Resident Evil and Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movies proving there was serious money to be made.
Now 20th Century Fox is bringing IO Interactive’s best-known character to life with Timothy Olyphant taking the title role of genetically engineered hitman, Agent 47. Across four instalments (Hitman and its sequels Silent Assassin, Contracts and Blood Money), you take control of Agent 47, carrying out multiple assassinations as cleanly and efficiently as possible.
Fortunately, director Xavier Gens has the utmost respect for the source material. ‘One of my best friends loves Agent 47 and knows all the videogames like his own life,’ he explains in his thick French accent. ‘So I went to play the game with him and I became an addict. I was a big fan of the videogame, so when Luc Besson said we were going to do a movie of Hitman I said, “I will only do it if I can make the movie I want that captures the spirit of the game.”’
But is there really anything so inherently different in using a videogame as your source material rather than a more traditional source such as a novel? Over the years, and particularly with the introduction of the next generation consoles, videogames have become more and more sophisticated. Games like The Legend and Zelda and Final Fantasy have created worlds as rich in lore as Lord of the Rings or Narnia. However, as Gens rightly points out, one of the main problems in adapting a game for the big screen is that the narrative drive in games is often very different to film. ‘In a game you are in the POV of the character and have a mission but on a movie the objective is to tell a story and give emotion to that story.
‘The freedom with a movie adapted from a videogame is very different from a book, because with a book everybody already knows the story, but when you make an adaptation from a videogame you don’t have to make exactly the same story because there is no real story, there is more a formation of mythology and you can develop your own story around the universe of the videogame.’
Similarly, when bringing superheroes to the multiplex, recent blockbusters have taken to expanding on the basic concept rather than slavishly following every word, image and full stop. Writer Skip Woods has taken the game as a starting point then Gens has added his own love of the game and tried to pay ‘homage’ to both the characters and the look of the original game. ‘All the sets, costumes, make-up and characters are directly inspired by the videogame,’ says Gens. ‘We worked with the director of photography, Laurent Bares, to get exactly the same lighting as the animation of the videogame.’
It’s not a one-way street. There are literally hundreds of games based on movies, though licensed games are usually of a pretty poor quality (of course there are a few notable exceptions, Spider-Man 2 and The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay being just two examples). Film talent is also more and more prevalent in games, with names like Patrick Stewart, Michael Gambon, Samuel L Jackson, Brian Cox, Judy Dench and many more contributing their voices to games.
Actors like Jet Li have taken things even further: his likeness was used in Rise to Honour, a game with no big screen equivalent. Andy Serkis was also heavily involved in the making of PS3’s latest blockbuster Heavenly Sword, which used perhaps the most sophisticated motion capturing in a videogame yet (filmed at Weta Workshop, who performed a similar role on the LOTR movies, with a full cast of actors that also included Stephen Berkoff). John Woo was integral to the development of Stranglehold on Xbox 360, taking on the director’s role and putting you in the midst of the action in a direct sequel to his Hard Boiled film (both starring Chow Yun Fat).
As technology improves, convergence between the worlds of videogames and movies looks inevitable. ‘For me videogames are a new art,’ says Gens. ‘For the moment they are not really recognised, but there are great artists working in videogames. When you see games like Silent Hill or God of War or World of Warcraft the people behind those games are really smart and have built a great modern mythology like Tolkien did with the Lord of the Rings trilogy.’
He concludes, ‘In the near future videogames and movies will become one medium because we could deliver so much if you could mix the two media.’
Hitman (15) is on general release from 30 Nov; Hitman: Blood Money (Eidos) is available now on PS2, PC, Xbox and Xbox 360.