Hollywood has a poor, poor track record of successfully converting video games into movies. Seriously, name one movie based on a videogame that has been better than strictly average. Resident Evil is the closest I can think of, but then again, I don't watch zombie movies, so what do I know?
People complain about movies based on books because they usually stray from the source material, sometimes don't match what the readers imagined, and often unsuccessfully capture the style and depth that make the book popular in the first place. Video games are perhaps even tougher to successfully translate into movies because of the significant difference in interactivity between the two mediums, and because the source material doesn't always provide a solid foundation for a movie.
That's why I was excitedly hesitant--scratch that; cautiously enthusiastic--when I heard of a fan-made movie adaptation of my all-time favorite video game series, Mega Man.
My first concern was about the visuals--creating a non-dorky Mega Man costume to wear to a convention is difficult on its own, but a full cast of live-action robot masters? Nobody could take the movie seriously with a Cut Man who throws silver Pac-Man boomerangs and a Fire Man running around with a lit can of Sterno on his noggin. Game Over.
My second concern was with the story--though later games in the series contain just barely enough plot to give a movie something to work with, the original Mega Man--which is what any halfway logical Mega Man movie would start with--is a bit thin on the plot.
It's all setup, really: Dr. Light is a brilliant scientist whose assistant, Dr. Wily, goes crazy and reprograms Dr. Light's robots to take over the world. Dr. Light transforms one of his peaceful robot helpers into a super fighting robot who fights for great justice. If the movie was to have any actual plot, we'd end up with a painfully prolonged telling of Mega Man's origin story. If the movie stayed true to the game, it'd be all action all the time...which sounds like a liability without a Hollywood budget to back you up.
How do you get around these issues? You deviate from the source material in a big way, which in my mind defeats the purpose of making the movie in the first place. There was no way a live-action Mega Man movie could ever work, but I'd be darned if I wasn't going to watch it anyhow.
Let me be the first to say that Eddie Lebron's Mega Man movie exceeded all expectations and almost immediately became the best movie-based-on-a-video-game in history. That I've seen, anyhow.
What I love and respect about the movie is that it stayed remarkably true to the source material and elaborated on the source material, rather than simply making things up. Though there's virtually no character development and backstory throughout the course of the classic Mega Man series, writer/director Eddie Lebron takes the tiniest details and character interactions found throughout the games and links them together to create characters, situations, and explanations that are remarkably believable.
I was surprised by the visuals. The costumes took a few liberties with the source material, but ultimately the characters looked more convincing than they would have in blue spandex and spray-painted foam. There were actual special effects as well, and three of the robot masters are computer-generated. It's far from top-of-the-line CG, but it's a serious step up from the 8-bit visuals that fans of the game should be used to, and there's a certain charm about the Dark Forces II-esque robots.
As I sit here writing this, I realize that I don't really need to write a review. The movie speaks for itself. There's a real plot with unexpectedly dynamic characters, action sequences that make the most of the budget and talent at hand, an impressive soundtrack, a solid script, a cast that excellently conveys the spirit of each character, a few really fantastic laugh-out-loud moments, and an unparalleled faithfulness to the source material.
If you're watching the film through a critical lens, you'll see an imperfect film with a lot of heart. If you're watching the film as a serious Mega Man fan, you're in for one of the most enjoyable movie experiences of the year. I'm not exaggerating: I believe I've written before about how meaningful it is to experience a favorite fandom in another medium--having a set of KISS action figures, or owning a Discworld t-shirt, for example--so to see Mega Man retold as a feature-length film--and retold well, at that--was a geeky joy of a unique variety. Everything I love about the Mega Man games, short of physically playing the games, was perfectly captured by the film, a film that holds up well even if you're not a Mega Man fan.
It's about an hour and a half, and it's about time you watched it: