I remember watching Silent Hill when it was first released, and it was then that I realized that it set a benchmark on how movie adaptations of video games. The Tomb Raider films starring Angelina Jolie, personally, were nothing more than Angelina Jolie vehicles (probably another unpopular opinion here, but then again I was never a fan of the Tomb Raider games). Mortal Kombat, while decent enough, probably didn’t satiate the bloodlust of hardcore MK fans as the film by Paul W.S. Anderson wasn’t as gory as the original game. As for Street Fighter, the Japanese anime are probably the best adaptations, while the live action ones (Street Fighter, and The Legend of Chun Li) are a disgrace (d’oh alright, the Van Damme film was a “so bad it’s good” type of film).
Going back to the issue at hand (before I geek out on video games further), what exactly made Silent Hill a benchmark for movie adaptations of video games? There are two reasons. For starters, it had a decent story. “Again with the story, Dr. Bok?!” you haters might say. Well, I’m sorry if I’m giving great importance to the story, but let’s face it; without a decent story, you wouldn’t have any reason to follow the events projected on screen. A lack of a decent story is the reason why Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen was horrible. Sure it had robo-destruction galore (despite the nauseating cinematography), visual effects, and Megan Fox’s boobs, but those things can only do so much.
Silent Hill had a story. Sure, it may have been a bit convoluted when it tries to explain (or not) the reasons why the town of Silent Hill is evil, but at its essence is a simple point: “Mother is God in the eyes of a child”. The protagonist, Rose DaSilva, is willing to go through the extra mile just to save her daughter, even if it means invoking the aid of the Devil and aiding in the massacre of loony cultists. I may not agree with Rose’s decisions to save her daughter, but the very core of the story is simple and engaging enough for the audience to be involved.
Secondly, the film captured the spirit of a Silent Hill game. It made use of enough images, tropes, and camera angles to make you feel like your watching somebody play a Silent Hill game. The first time Rose enters the Otherworld, the awkward camera angles reminds one of Silent Hill for the Playstation when Harry Mason follows his daughter, Cheryl, into a dark alley, only for darkness to engulf him. Sure, scenes were lifted from the videogames, but they were done so in the service of the story (though a minor complaint is that the film seemed to cram as much Silent Hill monsters as possible that they weren’t properly utilized).
Also, Akira Yamaoka‘s score was used in the film. Music is an excellent tool in film making as it can “alter” the film experience tremendously. Try watching Star Wars without John Williams’ score. Or better yet, try watching In the Mood for Love without the the music. It’ll alter the film tremedously. Akira Yamaoka’s score for the games were fitting for them, and to hear them in the film only helps develop the feel of the movie. Listen to the soundtrack, and you’ll instantly know that you’re watching a Silent Hill movie.
From the images, camera angles, the monster cameos, and Akira Yamaoka’s score, the film included enough material from the games to capture the spirit. Add a relatively decent story, and we have a clear winner on our hands.
Now if only the Hitman and Max Payne movies had the same filmmaking craft like Silent Hill. *sigh*