Infamous German film director Uwe Boll recently consented to an interview, and for that we thank him. Unfortunately, due to scheduling conflicts, he was unable to give a live interview but he answered our questions anyway—
Eliot Hagen: Could you tell us a bit about some of your upcoming projects?
Uwe Boll: I have a lineup with 2 very commercial projects, Far Cry and The Storm and then I have my very personal movies like Rampage, Stoic, Darfur, and Max Schmeling. A lot of movies and besides Max Schmeling, all have been shot.
[The Storm follows a group of people forced together by a terrible storm. Rampage has nothing to do with the game of the same name, and is instead about a killer going on a rampage. Stoic is an arthouse film about three convicts suffering from ‘group psychosis,’ Darfur follows American journalists who are faced with a choice to stay in Africa and help directly or leave to report what they’ve seen, hoping to make a difference. The Storm stars Luke Perry (Oz, The Fifth Element) , not to be confused with the 1999 film Storm, which also starred Luke Perry, Rampage features Boll regular Michael Paré, and Edward Furlong (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, American History X) is in both Stoic and Darfur, being joined by Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Boll films Bloodrayne and In The Name of The King: A Dungeon Siege Tale) and Billy Zane (The Phantom, Titanic, Bloodrayne) in the latter.]
EH: What first prompted you to adapt video games?
EH: Why do you choose video games whose plots are, to put it lightly, less than spectacular? Seeing as your job is to adapt an interactive medium to a non-interactive one, wouldn’t it be better to choose some titles that could stand solely on characters, plot, and dialogue?
UB: The first was House of the Dead. After that I focused on games I liked with good characters or stories like Edward Carnby and Bloodrayne. [The problem is that] almost all games have only one act and movies need three acts.
EH: Back in the 80’s, horrible video game movies like Super Mario Brothers and Double Dragon were aimed at the younger audience whereas your films are intended for a slightly older demographic. Are you intentionally following the trend of gaming or are you just making the films the way you want to make them?
UB: Both. I can get easier financing if I make a video game based movie and at the same time I picked games with totally different stories and characters in different genres. I made horror, action, fantasy, western, sci-fi video game based movies and comedy with Postal.
EH: Speaking of which, could you explain how your films are financed?
UB: In the earlier days with funds, but now with presales and private equity.
EH: Which films of yours are your favorites?
UB: Postal, Rampage, Seed, Stoic, Darfur, and Heart of America,
EH: There’s been all sorts of speculation as to what series you’ve acquired the rights to—would you mind setting the record straight?
UB: I have [the rights to] Far Cry, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, Dungeon Siege, Alone in the Dark, Postal, and Zombie Massacre. I had Fear Effect and Hunter: The Reckoning but lost them. I almost had Hitman and Soul Calibur but I didn’t get them and I can still get Velvet Assassin.
EH: Are there any games in particular that you’d like to adapt?
UB: Yes, but I don’t want to say the titles. You saw what happened when I said I wanted to do Metal Gear Solid.
Once again, a big thanks to Uwe Boll. For some strange reason, people seem all too willing to hop on the ‘Hate Boll Bandwagon’ and I can guarantee that at least 90% of the people who despise him can’t give a rational reason for feeling that way.
People say that he’s ruined many video games. Not so. While I do agree that House of the Dead and Alone in the Dark were pretty bad, that was due to the scripts (neither of which were written by Boll) and the acting. Bloodrayne was OK—about as good as a movie based on that game could be. But in light of the poor quality of the first few adaptations, people automatically assume that the later movies are horrible, which isn’t true.
In The Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale was good—think Lord of the Rings lite with Jason Statham and a bunch of other top notch talent like Ray Liotta, Ron Perlman, and Burt Reynolds. Postal was hilarious, perfectly capturing the irreverence and crudeness of the games in the series. As for Far Cry, it was action-packed, had Udo Kier playing the role he was born to play (an evil German), and some action sequences that will make your jaw drop and get your adrenaline pumping.
Then there are, of course, his other films. I’ve yet to see Blackwoods and Heart of America but both are in my Netflix queue. But Tunnel Rats, another non-video game based movie, was excellent. It was raw, visceral, and it covered an aspect of the Vietnam that has never been covered in film. The direction was excellent, the camera work exemplary (especially in the tunnel scenes) and every line was improvised, making the film seem much more real. The dialog wasn’t what told the film—it was the action and how the characters responded.
As for the slasher flick Seed, the warning at the beginning of the film’s graphic nature is not to be taken lightly. If you are even the slightest bit squeamish, either turn it off or keep your finger on the fast forward button. It’s not so much the blood effects which are incredibly realistic and gruesome, but it’s the stock footage of actual animal torture (made available to Boll by PETA) that’s truly disturbing—even for me. I can watch the film if I just skip past the PETA footage (which is right at the beginning) but the rest of it still makes you feel a bit queasy and in need of a long shower. Yet the film gets poor reviews and sales when other films like Hostel and every Saw movie besides the first enjoy moderate success. Why? Because it’s made by Uwe Boll.
He’s not a great director. Few are. In fact, there’ve only been a handful of directors who could be called ‘great.’ But he is most certainly not the worst director of all time. He is not a modern day Ed Wood, he isn’t even a bad director. I’d say that he’s better than many based solely on the merits of Tunnel Rats.
His earlier video game adaptations weren’t that great because he was still experimenting. Since then, he’s figured out how to faithfully adapt a video game, with Far Cry being the most faithful adaptation of a video game I’ve ever seen. He understands that you can’t adapt everything and you can’t just film the storyline from the game. Imagine Far Cry or Postal or any game without the gameplay. They’d be horrible. The only game that I think could be made into a film without any modifications would be Ico.
People say he’s ruined video game franchises. What about the Super Mario Bros or Double Dragon movies? What about Tomb Raider? That one only worked because of Angelina Jolie. What about Resident Evil, Doom, Silent Hill, and Dead or Alive? The only thing Boll is guilty of is making the job of filmmaking even more difficult by choosing to adapt video games.
If you just watch his movies without being too serious, you’ll enjoy them or at least be entertained. The problem is too many purists can’t seem to grasp the fact that adaptations mean changing the original source material to fit another medium. Just like with books or plays, direct adaptations of video games would result in painfully boring movies.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Eliot Hagen.