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Arcane: The acclaimed animated series has perfected how to create a riveting video game adaptation

The League of Legends adaptation is a masterpiece and puts a vast majority of video-game adaptations to shame by becoming the highest rated Netflix original show.

  • Ryan Gomez

Last Updated: 03.49 PM, Dec 16, 2021

Arcane: The acclaimed animated series has perfected how to create a riveting video game adaptation

For several years, video-game fans or gamers had mixed reactions to their beloved games being adapted into film or television series. While it is an enticing prospect for most fans to see their favourite characters in different mediums, a poor track record of several underwhelming productions over the years has deterred them from being too optimistic. Film adaptations of games such as Resident Evil, Mortal Kombat, Prince of Persia, Assassins Creed, Tomb Raider, Need for Speed, Hitman, Doom, and Max Payne have left a sour taste amongst gamers. The online gaming community often joked that video game adaptations are ‘cursed’. However, there has been a change in the tide in how video games have been brought to life in movies and TV shows.

The Netflix original show, Castlevania, based on characters from the popular video game series by Konami, broke the mould and delivered an excellent animated adaptation with compelling characters, riveting plotlines, and mesmerising animation. And surprisingly, Netflix followed with another successful video game adaptation with the live-action The Witcher series, starring Henry Cavill. While the games themselves are based on Andrzej Sapkowskis's novels and the series may not have reached the heights of Castlevania in terms of sheer quality, it delivered captivating action sequences and excellent cinematography. Despite the success of these TV shows, video game fans were reluctant to fully commit to the idea that games could be recreated into excellent adaptations. The Witcher, Castlevania and a few other television shows and films were regarded as anomalies to the established order. This trend seems likely to buckle with the resounding success of Arcane.

Arcane, an animated adaptation of the popular online role-playing, multi-player League of Legends is currently the highest rated Netflix original show on the platform. The series is a perfect blend of excellent character development, engrossing storylines, and arguably the most stunning animation ever produced. In fact, the animation is a testament to how much craft and effort has gone into creating this masterpiece. The animators have adopted a mix of hand-painted models, 3D animation, and digital visual effects — a technique unique in itself and could often be mistaken for cell-shade animation. The end-product is a visually vibrant TV series that beautifully captures the fictional steampunk aesthetic of Arcane. The enthralling sound design further elevates the series to dizzying heights, making it one of the best produced, if not the best, series this year.

While the animation is, without a doubt, an aspect that Arcane excels in, it is the writing and the story that truly stands out. Each character is given multidimensional arcs similar to how Game of Thrones developed its characters. The innate nature of the characters is tested throughout the narrative in such a way that almost every character is capable of good and bad deeds. This makes these characters more relatable to the audience. For instance, Violet’s (Hailee Steinfeld) reaction to Powder’s (Mia Sinclair Jenness) innocent, yet misguided, attempt to aid her friends, which ultimately cost lives, signifies how even the best of people could slip up in a brief moment of rage. Powder’s evolution to Jinx (Ella Purnell) is compelling and equally tragic. Silco (Jason Spisak) and Vander (J B Blanc) as adoptive fathers are also put under the microscope to analyse their contrasting approaches to fatherhood. It offers a thought-provoking juxtaposition that forces the audience to self-reflect on their own ideologies. Jace (Kevin Alejandro), Viktor (Harry Lloyd), and Caitlyn (Katie Leung) have captivating arcs of their own, intertwined with the overall narrative. In fact, Marcus (Remy Hii) symbolises the very flawed nature of characters in Arcane.

The subtext that the series offers, despite it being set in an alternate steampunk society, is relevant to several contemporary real-world socio-political issues such as class segregation and imperialism. The season 1 finale promises a lot more to season 2 which will contain the aforementioned themes. The success of Arcane offers gamers a newfound feeling of optimism regarding two highly anticipated Naughty Dog adaptations, the Uncharted film starring Tom Holland and The Last of Us HBO series starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey. While the jury is still out on whether Tom Holland is the right actor to play the charismatic treasure hunter Nathan Drake, the casting for The Last Us has been met with immense fanfare. Pedro Pascal (The Mandalorian, Narcos, WW84) as Joel and Bella Ramsey (Lyanna Mormont from Game of Thrones) as Elle have been praised by the fans of the series.

If HBO can mimic the success of Arcane, the post-apocalyptic zombie tale of The Last Us could potentially be a genre-redefining series. Simply because the second game, The Last of Us Part II, which broke the record for most ‘Game of the Year’ wins is arguably one the most thought-provoking and tragic tales ever written for film, television, and video games. With the second season of The Witcher streaming on Netflix on December 17, gamers have plenty of content to churn through as they eagerly wait for several adaptations, which includes Halo TV series by Paramount, Fallout TV series by Amazon, The Division film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain, Borderlands movie, Super Mario movie starring Chris Pratt, and several others. The cherry on top is the rumoured Metal Gear Solid film in the works. Regardless of how these films and TV shows will be received, there could be no arguments that Arcane has broken the much-debated ‘curse’ of video game adaptations.