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

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

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.