Video game movies, historically, suck. Prince of Persia, May's Jake Gyllenhaal action-blockbuster, was supposed to be the grand savior of the genre—the film that proved once and for all that it was possible for a video game's plot to hold together as it passed through the eye of Eywa to be reborn as hit movie.
But while the summer's most easily identifiable video game movie was an all-points failure, video games crept into many of the summer's biggest—and best—movies in more subtle ways. And while licensed video game movies tend to remain a stew of Uwe Boll dreck and the weirdly successful Resident Evil franchise, a slew of less obvious video game movies this summer offer some better clues about how these unmanageable stories fit into popular culture.
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Inception was the first big one, borrowing its basic narrative structure from games. Movie buffs might call the scene where Leonardo DiCaprio's character explains the ins and outs of dream manipulation to Ellen Paige's character "exposition." But it was much closer to a tutorial level: something nearly every game has, where the player goes through a safer version of the game world in order to learn the controls and rules.
The rest of the movie followed suit: four levels, each with their own ambiance, backdrop, objectives, and legion of undifferentiated baddies, just like video games since time immemorial (the mid-eighties). In the end, DiCaprio must confront the reoccurring boss character in the final level. You can imagine the player jamming the "overcome crippling guilt" button until his self-actualization meter is full.