4 Times Movies Totally Stole Ideas From Video Games

Video games have been stealing from movies since... well, for as long as they've existed really. Now that process is more of a two way street and that makes sense: both are visual mediums and both have similar problems to solve with narrative. But recently I've started to notice a trend: more and more movies are beginning to blatantly steal ideas from movies that were, up until now, video game exclusive. Here are four that range from the subtle to the absolute blatant.

With the below list I tried to focus on things that were, up until now, purely the domain of video games. Plenty of movies have felt 'video gamey' or taken a couple of moves here and there. The following four, for me, represent moments when movies actually took very specific video games style 'things' and placed them in the context of cinema. It's not a bad thing, in fact I'd argue it's a very cool thing.

Here goes...

Edge of Tomorrow Totally Has Respawns

Let’s get the most obvious one out of the way first.

Clearly Edge of Tomorrow is influenced by video games. Clearly. It’s so obvious that I barely have to point it out. In Edge of Tomorrow Tom Cruise’s character miraculously acquires the ability to manipulate time during an alien invasion. When Cruise dies he is automatically able to rewind time back to the start of that day, and relive that day. This allows him to survive more efficiently and improve his abilities within that day.

Basically Edge of Tomorrow has respawns. It totally has respawns.

Which is fine. Actually it’s awesome. It allows Edge of Tomorrow to cleverly borrow some of the techniques that gamers have been using for decades. Like memorising the positions of enemies, learning optimum routes in specific levels, timing the movements of collapsing structures. At one point Tom Cruise even blindfires, Gears of War style.

I can’t think of a single movie that depends more on video games. I understand that Edge of Tomorrow is based on a manga which based on a book but, beyond the high concept — which is pure video games — the look, the enemies, the weapons, the mechs. Edge of Tomorrow is a video game. It just isn’t interactive.

Gravity Totally Has A Tutorial Level

It’s a situation we’re all familiar with.

“Hey rookie, welcome to the team. Pick up that sword/gun/welding tool/steering wheel and follow me around for an hour while I show you how to jump/shoot/fly/punch/drive.”

Welcome to the training wheels of video gaming. Welcome to the tutorial.

For folks like us tutorials are mostly something to be endured. Unless the game is attempting something original and new (which is hardly ever) the tutorial is a chore one must endure to earn one’s agency in the game world. That sort of thing isn’t necessary in cinema, is it?

Well, it turns out it sorta is.

Take Gravity. In my estimation, the first 20 minutes of Gravity is, basically, a tutorial. George Clooney: our grizzled veteran showing us the ropes is basically dragging us, the viewer through a crash course in how ‘space’’ works. The rules and regulations of the space we’re currently inhabiting. The camera follows behind as he gracefully dances through this vacuum like a stay-puft ballerina. This is important because it sets up so much of the tension when shit actually starts to hit the fan. By telling us how things are done right, it becomes so much more dramatic and meaningful when things go terribly wrong.

In most movies this sort of exposition isn’t necessary because it’s pretty clear when things go wrong: something explodes, someone dies, etc. These things all happen in Gravity, but in space the consequences of those things happening are all the more dire, because of the nature of space and the resources one needs to survive in space. That’s essentially what the opening scenes of Gravity establish: a quick tutorial on the dangers of space, what one needs to survive. When those resources slowly deplete the tension is palpable.

George Clooney is basically Captain Price in every Call of Duty game ever made is basically what I’m saying.

The Raid Totally Has Levels And A Full On Boss Battle

In terms of how its shot and its ridiculous set pieces, The Raid is probably the most dazzlingly original action movie of the last decade. The tropes of action cinematography just simply don’t apply to this movie and the result is an experience that frequently shocks and surprises the viewer.

Ironically, The Raid borrows more from video games than it does other action movies.

Most obviously, The Raid borrows the very ‘gamey’ concept of ‘levels’ for its structure. As a movie that takes place in a tower block, the goal of our hero is to reach the top and his progress can be measured in terms of what ‘level’ he is currently on. This is some baseline Rainbow Islands/Donkey Kong shit. The goal is to move upwards and you win the game when you reach the top.

Yep, the Raid totally has a level system.

Now that theory of levels and progress is cleverly subverted throughout the movie, but the end goal always remains the same. Climb to the top assassinate the boss. I can’t think of a more video game like motive than that.

The Raid borrows liberally from video games. There is the repeated ‘stab and rip’ motion that the protagonist uses to dispatch his opponents. He uses it so often that it feels like an animation. This motion also works to establish to the viewer that the enemy he is fighting is ‘dead’, that he won’t climb back up to attack him, that he can move on to the next attacker.

And of course there is a boss battle. But I won’t spoil that one for you.

Lucy Totally Has A Skill Tree

First, I think it’s important to state for the record that Luc Besson’s Lucy is… a little bit rubbish and makes no sense on any level. Therefore trying to make sense of it by comparing it to video games is totally a fool’s errand.

That being said… Lucy totally has a skill tree.

It’s a linear skill tree — it would have to be given that Lucy is a non-interactive piece of linear entertainment — but it still exists.

The (totally scientifically false) core idea of Lucy is that human beings only use 10% of the brain’s capacity. As a drug mule Lucy (played by Scarlett Johansson) accidentally ingests a crapload of drugs that enable her to access the remaining 90% of her potential. As she hits various different percentage levels, she ‘unlocks’ new abilities. In short: Lucy is free to play and she totally just bought all of the specials.

As Lucy progresses she is, at first physically stronger and mentally more adept. Then she acquires some telepathic abilities, then telekinesis. Before long those abilities increase in strength and she can physically harm and disarm people using those abilities. Then she can mess with the space time continuum.

Eventually she becomes goddamn omnipresent.

How is this not the ultimate end-game for the greatest RPG skill tree in history?'

Did we miss any? Let us know in the comments below.


    You didn't have 'Game of Death' in your list - that was doing levels and boss fights way before The Raid.

    Last edited 12/11/14 1:09 pm

    Avatar kind of did the tutorial thing too, didn't it?

      I think Inception is probably the best example of a tutorial in a movie.

        YESSSS. But I think Gravity's was better because it made sense. Inception was just HERE IS SOME EXPOSITION.

    You guys know that the author for "All You Need is Kill" (The novel Edge of Tomorrow is adapting) flat out said that the inspiration for his book was from the concept of respawning in videogames and gradually getting better after each death right?

      EoT just reminded me of Groundhog Day, though it's probably more similar to a game.

        Endless loops in time for homura in magica madoka, ragna the bloodedge in blaz blu, all characters in when they cry, juno in future diaries etc

        I first heard it described to me as "groundhog day but it's a soldier during an alien invasion". When you actually read the story though you realize it really is a lot more like videogame respawning, especially since unlike groundhog day, there is actually a way to reach a "checkpoint" and start moving forward.

          Read vs watch the movie? I only saw the movie. There's no real checkpoints... if you die, you start AAAAALLLLLLLL the way back at the start. That would be a terrible game. They both have their ultimate goals, trial and error... and every attempt, the hero learns something from the previous attempt. I enjoyed Groundhog Day more though... it seemed more "open world" vs "rails".

        That was my first thought. "Oh, so it's Ground-hog Day but with guns?"

        Then I also thought of the great Jumanji cartoon series where there was an episode where they kept repeating the same day over and over, trying to keep Alan from dying (he'd keep dying differently after being saved each time)

          That cartoon sounds like The Butterfly Effect! =)

    One of my favourite movie games to play is "How would I make a cheap movie tie-in game?". Some movies are easy because they have easy game elements such as a chase sequence with lots of jumping, ducking, rubber banding and throwing obstacles in the way of the pursuer or escort sequences, fire fights, or parkour/climbing sequences. Others are a little more difficult and tend to be more suited to something with a lot of dialogue choices and adventure game verbs. You get bonus points if you can pick when the flags are set. (Eg. The death flag, the enemy flag, the "I'm going to join your party now" flag, etc.)

    The Raid was an awesome movie just so well played out. All this talk about edge of tomorrow I might have to overlook the fact that the main character is Tom Cruise and actually watch this darn movie.

      It's great. And Tom Cruise is actually good in it.

        Lies. Movies are good despite Tom Cruise.

          Wow Tom Cruise did awesome acting in Edge of Tommorow, same with Emily Blunt. Tom Cruise is a great actor despite the opinions of others.

          Do people not think he was good in Collateral or Magnolia or A Few Good Men?
          I've always thought he was ok (doesn't deserve his salary, but)

        I actually thought it was rubbish, but I think I'm alone with that opinion around here.

        Tom Cruise is actually ... in it.

        That's all I needed to know.

    Edge of Tomorrow was based off a manga "All you need is kill" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_You_Need_Is_Kill

    Dark City is a good one. The whole movie involves re-rolling all the npc's stats/attributes, as well as modifying the level layout. Kinda rogue-like in a way!

    Last edited 12/11/14 1:43 pm

    Wasn't suckerpunch just a set of big video game set pieces

      SHHHH! We're trying to forget Suckerpunch ever existed!

        That bad? I bought it recently but I haven't watched it.
        Then again I think I paid a few dollars so not too concerned if it is terribad.

          I actually enjoyed it. It's not a cinematic masterpiece but still very watchable. I'm not sure about the dancing segue to the action set pieces though. That was a bit weird.

            Yeah, the 3 levels of reality Inception thing was a bit wacky, but I liked it in places.

            Abby Cornish is the bomb in that movie, yo.

      No, it was also filled with really awful cover versions of your favourite songs from the 90s.

    I cannot shut up about The Raid. I have told all my friends about it. I got a bunch of people to sit down over the weekend and watch it. I thought it was the best action movie of the last decade...

    And I was right. Right up until they released The Raid 2. It is better on every level, and is just a joy to watch (if you like super-brutal action movies). Do yourself a favour, get both of them, and watch them.

    And Death Race (2008) was effectively an arcade racing game. It even had power ups on the track for the cars to collect.

      "You can't kill me!!!!!"
      A guilty pleasure of mine.

    What about Snowpiercer?

    This very site had an article awhile back talking about how it was just like a video game with different levels and bosses, etc.

    I didn't know Luc Besson made Lucy. I'll have to check it out now.

    I saw Edge of Tomorrow's premise as being more like a save point rather than respawning. Typically when you respawn in a game, everything's still the same, but when you load a savegame everything has refreshed back to how it was.

    They stripped the working script for a Secret of Monkey Island movie and reworked it into pirates of the Caribbean :D For those who have played the game and seen the movie, prob the two most notable scenes would be the walking underwater with the upturned boat and dog in the prison holding the keys.

    I'd also liken Gravity to platform/free-running games like Ass. Creed and Tomb Raider, where you just hope the ledge grab mechanic catches whatever it is your aiming at after making a huge leap.

    Seriously though, who didn't watch Gravity and say to themselves: 'for the love of God, just grab on to something!'? Stressful.

    Oh, and George Clooney gave up way too quickly in that movie. I haven't seen someone fold that fast since Anakin Skywalker. Yeah, I went there.

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