Movie/Gamer: Where Are All the Video Game Heroines?

Movie/Gamer: Where Are All the Video Game Heroines?

Jun 08, 2011

Although it's still hard to get a female or female-led ensemble front and center in the movies, a girl and a gun can still do very well with fans as movies like Salt, Kick-Ass, and Hanna have shown. Although we're still waiting for more of Hit-Girl's antics, Salt 2 is already being written. The possibility of a Salt sequel or even a franchise rose in my mind as the credits rolled, and I'd damn well go see a second and a third installment in the adventures of Evelyn Salt.

There are plenty of action-ready actresses besides Angelina Jolie, though; Michelle Rodriguez has proved her mettle time and again in films like Avatar, Machete, and Battle: Los Angeles, and later this summer Zoe Saldana will carry the weight of Colombiana on her muscular shoulders. (Colombiana was written by Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, who wrote Taken together; Besson has created quite a few influential heroines, like Nikita of La Femme Nikita, Mathilda in Leon: The Professional, and Leeloo in The Fifth Element.

Even though video games and movies often take cultural cues from each other, the former hasn't quite caught up with the latter when it comes to female protagonists. Sure, you can pick your gender in role-playing games, and sometimes that gives you different perks, such as the Black Widow or Lady Killer perk in Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas, but generally that's not the case. (P.S. Ubisoft, we want our sequel to "Beyond Good and Evil," okay?)

One of the most famous video game heroines by far is the pneumatic Lara Croft, who also did well onscreen played by Angelina Jolie. Tomb Raider was one of the first games I ever played on my janky old PlayStation, and despite its many annoying quirks, I was hooked. It's been a fruitful franchise since '96, and gamers will be getting a new dose in 2012; in this case, it's a very new version, in that we'll be playing as a 21-year-old Croft. That in itself seems ripe for analysis once it's closer to the game's release date, but it would be hasty to judge the game based on screenshots and demo reels.

Right up there with Lara Croft is Samus Aran of the Metroid series from Ninendo, which started in 1986. Although there's been talk of a film adaptation -- John Woo's name has been thrown around in relation to a Metroid movie for years -- Samus still hasn't made the jump onto the big screen. It's also very much worth noting that Samus was in a giant suit of armor for almost all of the game, only revealing her gender at the very end after she defeats the final boss, Mother Brain.

I shall briefly mention the BloodRayne games and their Uwe Boll-directed adaptations. There. Now let's move on.

I'm pleased to announce that an old friend will be returning to the gaming arena June 14th, and her name is Alice Liddell. American McGee's Alice appeared on Macs and PCs in 2000, right around the time I was working my first "real" job at a video game website. Although the site is long gone, I can promise you that this quote on Metacritic belongs to me: "It combines several of my interests: kooky Victoriana, bloody fairytales, lush writing, bratty girls with knives, and talking cats." I mean, obviously, right?

Although the game had some faults, I overlooked it in favor of the character, the narrative, and the aesthetic. The story was simple: Alice really has gone mad, and Wonderland is an evil place that she has to fight her way through with a variety of weapons and cunning. But what we the player/viewer know is that this Wonderland is all inside Alice's head; her house was burned down and she has PTSD and a major case of survivor's guilt. Given that the title of the sequel is Alice: Madness Returns, well, things aren't looking too good for her recovery.

Alice and her guide in the upside down Wonderland of her own mind, a rather mangy Cheshire Cat, have appeared as tattoos, Halloween costumes, toys, statues, and other tchotchkes ever since. Yeah, it's been a long wait to reunite with Alice, and it's too bad it's because she's gone batty again, but I'm excited to jump back into her creepy steampunk-y world.

When I saw Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland, I was so desperately disappointed that I wanted to hurl my shoe at the screen. Sometimes late at night when I close my eyes, I still see Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter doing that damn dance of his. As much as I love Tim Burton, I hated Alice in Wonderland.

On the other hand, American McGee's Alice and its sequel have a lot of potential for the big screen.

There was talk of a movie based on the first game with various names attached, but it's long since disappeared from IMDb. Producer Scott Faye (Max Payne) was working on the film adaptation, and told American McGee that the film was "in 'turnaround' from Universal Studios." That was in 2008. Faye mentioned that the script was written by Jon and Erich Hoeber, who have also collaborated on Battleship, Man on a Ledge, and Red.

According to Faye, "As is the case with a great many video game adaptations, the Alice game narrative does not possess all the requisite elements to establish a straight linear approach. We've built upon many character and narrative elements you employed in the game, and have augmented or created additional elements which we felt were needed to execute a screenplay worthy of being produced." Because the "Alice" games are platformers like the Tomb Raider games, with puzzles, objects to collect, and enemies to fight, it would be easy to adapt for the big screen given its rich story and characters.

So, if the sequel does well, and plenty of gamers also download the original as a DLC for consoles, and the other Hoeber movies garner interest, will we ever see Alice and her bloody vorpal blade on the big screen? And perhaps more importantly, when can we see more girls with guns (or whatever their choice of weapons) in our video games, too?

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