A Video Game Turned Film That Doesn't Deliver: The Complex: Lockdown (2020)


Image Courtesy of 101 Films International

When it comes to adapting content for the screen, not all source material is created equal. Comic books and novels have fair success when turned into films, and stage plays are very suited to that format. Video games are another beast altogether. Although there are successful movies based on video games, the film adaptations of Mortal Kombat or Far Cry show us that it is not always easy. Creating your own playstyle, dealing with challenges, and making hard choices is one of the best parts of gaming. That is particularly true when games take your choices into account, and change the story based on how you handle the situations. The film The Complex: Lockdown is based on a live action choose your own adventure game of the same name, that does not adapt to film well.

The film, and game for that matter features Amy (Michelle Mylett), a scientist developing nano technology that enters your bloodstream and cures any ailment. An unfinished version somehow ends up in an intern who becomes very sick on the London tube, and is placed in quarantine where Amy and Reese (Al Weaver), another doctor and former love interest of Amy, work to save her life, and the technology. One of the best aspects of this film was the science fiction elements built into the lab’s lockdown procedure. An artificial vacuum is built around the lab to kill any bacteria or micro organisms that accidently carried out of the lab, and half a dozen steel doorways lie between the lab and anyone trying to get in. I’m not sure if it’s the pandemic, but this sci-fi tech was appealing.

Despite the interesting science fiction elements, the plot left much to be desired. There were many plotlines that are mentioned briefly but never picked up, or properly set up. Amy mentions using her technology to put someone on Mars, which is mentioned briefly in a meeting and then forgotten about. Everyone believes Clair (Kim Adis), the woman infected with the nanobots, is a bioterrorist, a threat that is not established in the world. Early on it is established that Reese, who along with Amy were field medics in a war zone, is suffering from PTSD, a plotline that is dropped as soon as it is brought up. This creates a sense of randomness in the film, almost as if these were plotlines from the video game that one could explore further with their choices, but we are not given that opportunity in film format.

Image Courtesy of YTS

Furthermore, the film takes many plot twists that seem to only be there to create tension in the last ten minutes. Without giving anything away, there is a point where, for me, the plot stopped making sense and led to an incredibly unsatisfying ending. It seems as if the directors were doing a playthrough of the game where they tried to make the absolute worst decisions possible at every step. It can be fun to run through a game to watch things crash and burn, but it is a lot more frustrating when you are not in control.

I get the sense that the footage used in the film is taken directly from the game itself, as all the actors are the same, and the trailer for the game includes shots that were directly used in the movie. If this is the case, and the directors merely cut together shots from the game to create a film, I would recommend buying the game instead of seeing this move. Although I have never played the game, I would hope it makes more sense than the film chopped together from the cutscenes. At the very least the frustrating choices could be your own.

-Patrick Bernas