The best game-to-film adaptation yet?
April 27, 2010
“The best game-to-film adaptation
By Brian Rowe
A critique of Bright Falls, the live-action episodic feature
Bright Falls is the live-action prequel to Alan Wake that premiered on Xbox Live and has made its way onto the internet. Only two of six weekly episodes have been unveiled, but I am already compelled to hail it as the best filmic adaptation of a video game.
I am amazed that such a small production can leave such an indelible mark in the face of massive endeavors such as the adaptations of Resident Evil, Hitman, and Doom, especially with a mundane lead who doesn’t have duel-wielded shotguns nor a spinning kick in his repertoire. Then again, I don’t recall the digital Chris Redfield ever getting vertical while unloading a clip.
Bright Falls’ strength is its realism. Jake is a no-frills reporter with a scruffy beard, troubles with the lady back home, and biceps that could barely tear through the phonebook of Tenney, MN (population: 6). He is on assignment to interview an author, who is not Alan Wake. In fact, Alan has yet to be shown as anything more than a cursory character through the obsessions of a waitress.
Very little has happened in terms of plot, and yet, I feel completely immersed in the world that Jake has entered. The uncomfortable divide between the city and the small town is made acutely apparent by the backhoe parked at the diner and the guns that plaster the walls of a motel like paintings at an art gallery. In spite of the rural setting, Bright Falls has yet to fall prey to the stereotype of the toothless hillbilly berating the city-slicker. Phillip Van seems far too capable to stoop to such levels.
You can find Van on IMDB, but whether you bother to check him out or not, his talents as a short-filmmaker are proudly displayed by the production company, Little Minx – a branch of Ridley Scott’s Ad agency (RSA). Van taps his skills to create scenes of merciless tension without the use of a single axe or masked antagonist. Through sound and masterful pacing, he manages to make the most innocuous objects, including a ceiling fan and a sugar cube, nervously unsettling.
How can a mini-series about a game that hasn’t been released yet make me feel so invested in the world of Alan Wake? Van is but one part of the answer. Since Mortal Kombat, Hollywood has given us what it ‘thinks’ gamers want, instead of what gamers ‘actually’ want. There is a colossal gap between the two notions that has yet to be traversed.
Bright Falls succeeds, because first and foremost, it is an example of solid, intellectual, and artistic filmmaking that doesn’t have to resort to backflipping headshots to get the viewer’s attention. To Phillip Van, I say, “Bravo,” and I can not wait to see what mysteries and horrors future episodes will bring.