Game To Film – DOA: Dead or AlivePosted: August 8, 2011
DOA: Dead or Alive is actually a rather good game adaptation.
Wait! Come back! I didn’t say it was a good film!
Adapting games is a bit different to adapting books in that games will often lack a vital element of the story, such as an actual story. (Some are bursting with story, of course, but that’s a whole article in itself.) This means that scriptwriters for the adaptations have a little more freedom, but have little guidance as to what the game is actually about. The Dead or Alive game series is about a fighting tournament run by a shadowy corporation, and offers sketchy characterisation to show who the heroes and villains are. Standard for fighting games, then, but not exactly mindblowing in its complexity.
The DOA: Dead or Alive writers solved this problem by not only importing the story, and then bunging some bollocks about nanobots on top of it, but writing in the spirit of the game as well. Rather than focus on the, er, intricacies of who’s supposed to win and who’s related to whom, they merely throw together an incoherent hodgepodge of ninjas, fighting and fanservice.
Oh, the fanservice. Not five minutes into the film, they’ve managed to crowbar a freshly showered Holly Valance practising towel-fu into the plot. Slightly less laughably, the bikini-clad volleyball scene ties into the Extreme Volleyball subseries of DOA. You can’t expect anything less from a film based on a game with a jiggle slider – remember, kids, the older you are, the more they bounce!
If anything, the film has more of a sense of humour than the game, questionable physics aside. The single best moment of the film, and I am genuinely not exaggerating when I say that, us when human rumpsteak Bayman reloads his arms prior to a fight, complete with pump-action sound effect. Less amusingly, over-protective father Bass suffers from Lesbian Assumption, an increasingly common joke in films where a chance remark by a female character leads a man to assume she is having a more intimate relationship with her friends than is actually the case.
The fight scenes took a lot of flak from critics, who said they looked ‘fake’ and ‘stagey’. This is an unfair criticism. Those of you who have played the game will have noticed that, despite the fluid and accurate animation of the characters, there’s something just not quite right about the way they fight. The timing of the hits is off – they connect at the wrong moment – and the gentlest movements can knock over a giant while a complex combo won’t even leave them reeling. At least unrealistic moments in DOA: Dead or Alive are dramatically appropriate.
There are three things that drag this film down from gloriously stupid to just irritatingly thick, and the most obvious of these is the title. It’s DOA: Dead or Alive, but presumably the DOA stands for Dead or Alive, in which case the Dead or Alive bit is extraneous, but then isn’t DOA more commonly used to mean Dead on Arrival? And if that’s the case, is that something you really want in the title of your film in case the critics pick up on the opportunity for a joke? (Shut up, Dennis Quaid, your one was actually good.)
The rest of it is down to the miscasting, coupled with a complete lack of understanding of the characters. Devon Aoki was presumably chosen to play Kasumi because she possesses the twin powers of “red hair” and “having Japanese heritage”, rather than for her acting abilities, although she does a nice line in disdainful glaring. I think so, anyway, although she does it for 90% of the film so that might just be her natural expression. Valance’s natural sunny charm means that the cold, deadly Christie becomes a wisecracking babe with a nature less dark than her own tan. Meanwhile, whoever thought that casting tiny Jaime Pressly as a glamorous Amazonian wrestler needs to be handed a dictionary open at the word ‘blonde’, which does not mean ‘big and busty’. And Helena! My God! Helena! Look, it was bad enough putting the elegant opera singer in a bikini and having her disgrace herself in the Extreme Volleyball games, but this…! Roller skates, hotpants, candy-stripe halter-tops – why not give her a lollipop and have done with it?
Still, as I said, the writers were concentrating more on bringing across the essence of the games. And boy, did they do that. Because the games are flashy and trashy, and by God this film is as well. Completely lacking in characterisation, taste and any semblance of coherence, this film lacks only one thing, and that’s the ridiculous Kasumi-X clone made entirely of jelly.
Jelly? With an almost entirely female cast in a martial-arts flick? I think the writers missed a trick there.