Movies based on video games often get a tough time, and to be honest they deserve nothing less. A bad movie is a bad movie whether it’s based on a game, a TV show, another movie, a book, or the life story of the director’s cat. There’s no excuse for bad filmmaking, and pointing to the source material with an accusatory “that’s what the game is like” just doesn’t cut it.
It’s depressing, however, to see movie critics disregard a video game-to-movie conversion simply because it was inspired by a medium that isn’t film. It’s okay not to like the movie, but it’s not okay to not like the movie based on your dislike of a video game you haven’t played and have very little knowledge of.
Take, for example, this:
Or perhaps this:
“Other scenes, which involve Agent 47 striding down corridors, an automatic weapon in each hand, shooting down opponents who come dressed as Jedi troopers in black. These scenes are no doubt from the video game.”
I understand that I’m using these quotes out of context, but my point still stands – it’s clear from both of these excerpts (both taken from reviews of the Hitman movie) that the reviewers in question have no experience with the video game series.
I’m not meaning to discredit either of these reviews here, by the way: I’m not a film critic, and I don’t pretend to be, but I’d like to take a moment just to consider this movie from the perspective of someone who is, first and foremost, a gamer.
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Hitman is, probably, the best example of a video game-inspired movie, and it’s still not very good. Its flaws are numerous and blatant, and are explored in the reviews I linked above. Here, though, I want to briefly discuss some things it does right, particularly in regards to the games it is based on.
Agent 47 (played by Timothy Olyphant in the movie), the protagonist of both the film and the video games, is a genetically engineered assassin created from the recombinant DNA of five of the world’s most dangerous criminals. He is one of many, trained from birth to be nothing but a killer.
The movie does a good job of establishing this in a way that doesn’t delve too deep, but provides enough context for 47’s actions throughout. During the opening credits sequence, a number of children are shown being tattooed and trained for combat; in a couple of instances, dialogue between the characters indicates that Agent 47 has been bred solely to kill. This explains his somewhat superhuman instincts and abilities, but also his social failings, particularly in his interactions with women.
For example, there’s a scene quite early on in which Agent 47 is approached by a good-looking blonde while drinking in a hotel bar. When the lady starts to act vaguely flirtatiously, 47 immediately drains his drink and says “I have to go” like a nervous child, before leaving the room without as much as a glance back.
This is a good scene because, despite his combat prowess creating an image of an almost infallible warrior, here we see some genuine weakness in his character. This theme continues throughout with his relationship with Nika, a prostitute (played by Olga Kurylenko) who serves as a principle witness to one of the film’s major events. Her role here is in service to more than just the narrative, however – she’s flirty, vulnerable, emotionally distraught and close to Agent 47 all the time. This is an idea that the video games never explored; how 47 might react when forced to actually protect someone rather than simply murder them.
I’m glad to see that this particular relationship didn’t pan out the way I thought it would, with no obligatory sex scene, no self-sacrifice for Nika’s benefit, and certainly no remorse when it comes to Agent 47’s particular line of work. It was easy to imagine that 47 was going abandon all of his emotional defences, fall in love with Nika, renounce violence and sail away with her to Narnia, but thankfully none of that happened. While he did develop genuine feelings for her, I don’t think they were born of love, or even lust. I think Agent 47 essentially sees in Nika all the human characteristics that he lacks. Like I said, it’s certainly not lust because when Nika gets pissed up in a restaurant and tries to get 47 in the sack, he stabs her in the neck with a syringe.
It’s difficult to argue that Hitman is a good movie, because for the most part it isn’t, though it does have its moments. Whenever I find myself watching a movie based on a video game, I almost feel as though I’m at an unfair advantage; that my knowledge of the source material puts me in a position to enjoy the film more. Perhaps that’s true. I certainly got that feeling during Hitman.
Sometimes it’s just the little things. During a hotel firefight, 47 stumbles upon a couple of kids playing one of the Hitman video games. When Nika meets with a shady CIA agent, 47 covers the conversation in this exact position. I would never have noticed these tiny things if I wasn’t familiar with the game. There’s more, too – the disguises, the scene with Robert Knepper and the rubber duck – and these are all small elements that added to the experience for me. It’s not a great film, sure, but I enjoyed it for what it was, and my love of the series aided in that.
All I’m saying is give Hitman a chance, especially if you’re a fan of the games. There are plenty of things there to like if you allow yourself to do so, and if all else fails just watch it to see Olga Kurylenko get her tits out, you dirty bastards.