Writing down the title of this piece was very difficult for me. Likewise, I’m not entirely sure if this is the correct note to bring Fresh Meat back with. The reason being is that I’m not entirely sure whether or not I believe the words you are about to read in their entirety, but a point has to be placed out on the table over a situation that might not even happen in the first place. Whether it is only partially true, or fully true, the next statement will be resoundingly powerful. A film adaptation will be the death of Shadow of the Colossus as a work of art.
I like pretentiously artistic video games. I like games that are not only visually appealing, but emotionally powerful, and preferably leave room for myriads of player interpretations. For instance, this year’s Journey was exactly that kind of game. They told an unforgettable story using nothing but a bunch of computer generated sand, walking, and a multiplayer feature that doesn’t even let you select the fellas you play with. I don’t doubt that Journey will be the new benchmark for the “video games are art” argument. This is especially so if we lose the previous holder of that title, Shadow of the Colossus.
Why will a film adaptation ruin Shadow of the Colossus?
The best way to figure that out is to look at what makes Shadow of the Colossus such a powerful game. The story was ambiguous, the controls weren’t very good (especially the camera), and you could go for hours without seeing a single thing (if you sucked really badly at navigating, like I did on my very first playthrough). Yet Shadow of the Colossus is revered as one of the greatest games of all time. There has to be a reason why.
Despite its weaknesses, Shadow of the Colossus pulled on something more influential than our finger muscles: our emotions. The scale of the world made riding your horse aimlessly completely breathtaking. The anticipation of what insane beast your sword is leading you to this time creates a crazy sense of adventure. And despite being the only (living) human in this world, you never feel alone, with your trust friend Agro.
Upon crossing a shadowy hill you see it, immense, earth-trembling, your next target. Even more emotionally tolling is the creatures aimless gait, disturbed only by your arrival. The music begins to play, ripe with powerful horns and the twist of violins that has blood flowing effects. You approach the lumbering giant, looking for a way to board its vastness. Time seems to slow as you retain ultimate focus in climbing the creature, careful to watch your stamina meter, so not to fall from heights that actually feel nauseatingly high.
You sink your sword into the colossus. It lurches and cries, black blood spewing from the new wound. You struggle to hang on. Each strike brings the colossus closer to death until finally, it falls. Toppling over in a magnificent cutscene, as you watch its entire body slam into the earth from which it came. The tones of strings vibrate through the air as you stand in awe over your victory, only to be overtaken by a disturbing force. Now if that doesn’t envoke unique and powerful feelings, I don’t know what does.
Why are you doing this? What have these creatures done to you? Who is the woman on the alter? All of these are open to interpretation by the player. Are you truly evil, or simply misguided? Is the voice using you, or are you using it? All you can do to find out is spill the blood of yet another unbelievable creature after another. Each one brings you closer to apparent damnation.
Shadow of the Colossus is a tragedy fueled entirely by the curiosity and imagination of the gamer. Whether you are sinking beneath murky waters on the back of a colossal sea serpent, or flying through the air on a hawk the size of Air Force One, Shadow of the Colossus never fails to bring you feelings of excitement, amongst many other emotions, more than just about any other game ever. I’ve yet to play a game that makes me feel quite like Shadow of the Colossus does. That fact is what makes it a work of art.
In order to understand why a movie would ruin this fantastic game’s effect, you must understand what must be involved in order to create a film in the first place. A narrative, likely to have several characters, with a developing plot, all within a specific timeframe.
Shadow of the Colossus is a 6+ hour game, with 3 characters (one of which is presumably dead, and one of which is not even human). A film could not possibly encompass a strong narrative with only one character, nor be able to fit 16 Colossi battles in a two to three hour time frame without compromising every emotional investment of the game’s carefully articulated battles, or cutting Colossi all-together, which would have the exact same effect.
Not to mention the film would be insanely boring. Without a doubt, the movie would be like watching another person play Shadow of the Colossus… except in live action. The reason for this being that there is really nowhere that they could go with such an ambiguous story, unless they shoehorned in some sort of prequel, which would create a sort of resolve, and explanation to the main story that no Shadow of the Colossus fan wants, trust me. I don’t need to know who Wander is, or who the woman is, I’d like to leave that to my own interpretation, and to the interpretation of fellow fans. You know what would be better than watching a 3 hour, half assed film about Shadow of the Colossus? Playing Shadow of the Colossus.
Unfortunately, especially with Ueda’s supposed involvement, the performance of this film would likely reflect on the lineage of the PS2 classic itself. Unlike films like the Mark Wahlberg disaster Max Payne, the series itself had continued to where one could go without knowledge of the films existence and still enjoy the series. Shadow of the Colossus has no such distraction. As the only game in its series likely to ever see the light of day, fans will probably turn to watch the abominable film after finishing the game, and it may alter their perception. A similar effect would be The Last Airbender, a great series on Nickelodeon, being shamed by an M. Night Shayamalan film which took disgusting liberties. At least that series had the equally entertaining The Legend of Korra to recover with. Shadow of the Colossus has no such luxury.
Shadow of the Colossus is one of my all time favorite games. Even writing this is creating extreme urges to play it again (now the brand new beautiful HD remastering on the PS3). The film could be great, and I could be completely wrong, but my gut is telling me overwhelmingly that this is one of the biggest mistakes the gaming industry could make, with compromising one of it’s most beloved titles. Lets preserve this game for gamers to enjoy through future generations, without tainting it with Hollywood money-grubbing garbage. Just something I wanted to take a bite out of.