Video games are super popular, so why aren’t there more video game adaptations? Now that we’re in a Golden Age of comic book movies there should easily be countless movies sourced from video games as well, right? They already made a movie about Lego, another one about Facebook. Drew just recently told us they’re making Emojis into a movie.
…what is happening? And why aren’t more video game movies happening? Why are there eight Resident Evil movies but zero adaptations of Simon the Sorcerer?
Since Amiga times in the 80s I’ve always loved playing video games, and it’s just outright weird that they decide to make a movie out of Emojis when so far apparently no one has tried to adapt Another World AKA Out of this World. Or Fallout. Or Goat Simulator. Let’s take a look at what’s actually in the making. Maybe the upcoming year is already a brighter one. Here’s a list of video game adaptations that are currently in active production, all of them at least having gone beyond the earliest steps.
(I might cover everything else – Halo, Bioshock etc. in a follow-up article)
UPCOMING VIDEO GAME ADAPTATIONS BEYOND SCRIPT PHASE:
What’s the game about: In the future a guy uses a machine version of what Kitty Pride could do to Wolverine in X-Men: Days of Future Past to enter the minds of his ancestors. All of them of course turn out to be awesome assassins who happened to have lived through exciting adventures, some of them even including naval warfare! He’s doing all of that to find mysterious artifacts which endanger all of mankind. Yeah, the framing story isn’t good, but the recreation of ancient times is always stunning, the hunts are great and every assassin has lots of cool gadgets. One of them is even helped by a young Leonardo Da Vinci who builds him a Hudson Hawk like glider. I mean how cool is that?
What about the movie? Michael Fassbender, The Wire‘s Omar and Marion Cotillard are set to star, and Fassbender is so interested in this that he’s even producing. Justin Kurzel who directed Fassbender in the upcoming Macbeth will direct, and super producer Frank Marshall is also on board. Filming will start in September, and being a fan of the game series I’m sure they’ll manage to improve on the problems of the source material.
Will it be good? Quite possibly! Fassbender has proven himself as one of the most gifted actors of his generation, Kurzel seems to be a talent, and with veteran Marshall on board there’s not much room for a completely half-assed attempt.
What’s the game about: The original strategy game series tells the story of an epic war between Orcs and Humans. Basically, Orcs waste their own planet and come over to the realm of humans, to fuck shit up and smash skulls. Then there’s the MMORPG World of Warcraft which is a bit more colorful. It also has magic Pandas!
What about the movie? Geek favorite Duncan Jones (Moon, Source Code) directs this big fantasy epic for Legendary (Pacific Rim, Godzilla 2014), cooperating with Chris Metzen, the creator of all of Blizzard’s great game series. This is not going to be a simple Lord of the Rings clone, and from what I’ve heard it won’t even focus on heroes solving a single quest. Instead, it’ll be closer to Braveheart, only with tragic, divisive heroes on both sides. This time the Orcs won’t be filthy, mindless hack & slay monsters, they’ll behave more like proud barbarians.
Will it be good? As I wrote before, most of the time Blizzard is truly gifted at creating breath-taking cinematics, but the leaked footage (article) showed a brave approach. They’re really trying to make the Orcs into charismatic characters to care for, and right now, the effects still look rather unfinished and very video gamey. But, they’ve got twelve more months for polishing that up. Epic fantasy movies are a rare breed, and most of the time they simply don’t work (see Eragon, Seventh Son or Dungeons & Dragons). I’m sure it’ll be at least as enjoyable as The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies. (I actually did enjoy The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies)
What’s the game about: You play 47, an artifically created super soldier who is working as a globally operating assassin. It’s a great game series and while the more recent titles make it really appealing to just blast your way through, the biggest fun lies in trying out all sorts of silent kills.
What about the movie? As I said, there are always two gameplay variants for playing a Hitman game: silence & stealth or guns blazing. If you’re solely into the former, you might again be kinda disappointed. Just like the previous adaptation that starred Timothy Olyphant, this new version again relies on fast-paced action with lots of explosion and gunfights (trailer). The choice of tone strangles the most interesting aspects of the game, but is understandable. As an action movie, it’ll attract a bigger audience. However, will it really gross more than the first which only made $100 million worldwide? I doubt it. Friend is no star, the director is a newcomer, the biggest name in the cast is Zachary Quinto, and one of the writers is Skip Woods… who wrote A Good Day to Die Hard, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, and Swordfish. Originally, Paul Walker was cast as 47, but I guess that wouldn’t changed much either, see Brick Mansions.
Will it be good? Even though I thought that Olyphant was rather miscast in it, disconnected from the games, the previous movie was a watchable action flick. Not good, certainly not great, but if you tend to watch more than ten theatrically released action movies a year it certainly wasn’t among the worst (2007 also had AVP:R, Fantastic Four 2, Resident Evil 3, Next, D-War, the Jet Li vs Jason Statham flick War, The Seeker, Primeval, and worst of all, Redline). This new movie looks exactly like the first one. Some of the special effects look outright terrible, but Rupert Friend seems to be a solid 47. I guess it’ll be an okayish home cinema experience.
I’ll drop the format, as it doesn’t really make sense with the next entries. This new Resident Evil was to be released in 2015, but Milla Jovovich got pregnant and therefore they had to wait a whole year. Now it’s actually in production and Milla has already released pictures of her preparation. Apparently, The Final Chapter is supposed to be the promised encore of the Jovovich / Anderson saga, but as it is a constant success and the biggest thing Anderson has ever done I wouldn’t really bet on that one being the actual last chapter (see Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, Children of the Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice or Lake Placid: The Final Chapter). If only you guys had made Pompeii into a major franchise he’d let go of it, and we’d be at Pompeii III already.
Do I like the movies? I sincerely don’t know. Milla is great, the music is often superb, the 3D is always astonishing, the action pieces are always solid, but the story is rarely making any sense and it too often takes itself too seriously. Everytime it tries to be as serious and cool as the Underworld movies it becomes as bad as them. When it allows itself a litte fun, for example anytime Shawn Roberts shows up as pumped up Wesker, it’s a blast.
Of course, if you’re a veteran fan of the game series and still longing for an actually dark, serious, gruesome flick similar to the first three game entries, there’s only one thing left to do. Read the George Romero script Capcom passed on, and weep. And I don’t even like ninety percent of Romero’s flicks. Yeah, I just said that. Let me be more direct: Event Horizon is a better movie than Dawn of the Dead. Still, his version of Resident Evil would have been better, if only because it would have been an actual horror movie and not a sci-fi action movie disguised as a horror movie.
Okay, it’s not that easy to bring up much enthusiasm for this. I think I’ve played about twelve of the twenty-one official Need for Speed games. The movie adaptation had Aaron Paul of Breaking Bad, Imogen Poots and Michael Keaton, amazing practical stunts, and still managed to be a rather dull affair. It wasn’t as bad as Keaton’s other car movie Herbie Fully Loaded (useless trivia: on which Disney decided to digitally decrease Lindsay Lohan’s bust size), but Paul W.S. Anderson’s Death Race for example had way better pacing and didn’t take itself that seriously. If it were for domestic audiences, a sequel wouldn’t exist, but overseas audiences loved the movie so much that Chinese investors already paid for a sequel. No idea whether anyone will return, but hopefully they’ll include more elements of the Underground and Hot Pursuit games.
The simple mobile game in which you catapult agitated birds into pig fortresses has no actual story to speak of, but it has become one of the best-selling games of the last decade. They already branched out making two television series out of it, and an animated movie is deep in production. Expect this to be huge, as Sony has already announced a $100 million dollar marketing budget.
Will it be any good? It will obviously be directed at kids, but only the first trailers will show whether it will be able to reach even further than that. If we’re lucky, those wacky little featherballs could be as fun as the Minions or the Penguins of Madagascar. There are also upcoming movies for the platformers Ratchet & Clank (trailer) and Sly Cooper, but both of them seem to only address kids.
Well, that certainly weren’t that many. I’ll name three more that technically haven’t actually gone into pre-production yet, but all of them have had very recent announcements.
Dwayne Johnson just recently announced that he’ll play the lead in the adaptation of that old arcade classic Rampage. The 1986 game was a rip-off of the King Kong and Godzilla movies, and had you fighting military forces as either a giant ape or a giant lizard (or a giant werewolf). Which means the movie will pretty much be King Kong & Godzilla vs The Rock. Of course it’s not the first foray into video game adaptations for Johnson. He starred in that Doom movie and tried to make Spy Hunter happen for a quite a while. I love the big guy, but please don’t let this be another Pixels.
I’d say thanks but no, but The Lego Movie proved that talented people can make almost anything into a enjoyable movie. Just days ago, Minecraft guru Mojang announced that Rob McElHenney of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is going to direct this. I gotta admit that I’ve never watched that Danny DeVito series, but I heard mostly good things about it. Minecraft is currently one of the most played games on Earth, and this will really be big. Hopefully they’ll succeed at aping the humor of Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Following my recent article on this, I’ve now actually played Minecraft! I can now understand the appeal of it, but I better stop playing it before I begin to replicate all of the Monkey Island isles. (I stopped at the Sword Master’s hut)
These horror series of games has you evade homicidal teddy bear animatronics. There’ve been four games in two years, and now there’s gonna be a Warner Bros. movie. I have never played any of them, but the thought of having an living Gooby puppet out there to gut me works. Talent involved: Seth Grahame-Smith, writer of both the novel and screenplay of Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Hunter, and Roy Lee, a veteran producer of tons of horror film remakes.
Man, that’s a rather underwhelming list, isn’t it? As a lifelong gamer I’m quite bummed out over the choice of projects and the way they’re treated. Maybe I am wrong. Maybe all of them turn out to be amazing movies, and I’ll certainly be the first to openly praise Grahame-Smith and Brad Peyton if their works turn out to be highly successful, acclaimed, and beloved, but aside from Duncan Jones – is there any specific talent that really excites you? We all know that almost all movies get made because someone sees a potential for good returns in it, but most of the projects named in this list seem to mostly get made because their brand is well known and profitable, and because they can easily risk to expand their merchandise by making a movie. Not because their stories and worlds greatly lend themselves to be movies.
One last thing: Why is it that movie studios don’t approach game studios more often?
Most movie studios see the success of video game franchises, and would love to adapt all the good ones! They’re open to anything that could provide a watchable story, especially if there’s already an established fan base. Video games do have such stories, and it really is not like no one ever asks Nintendo about adapting The Legend of Zelda – it’s just really difficult to share an understanding.
The two biggest factors for trouble are money and power. The more successful a video game series is, the more expensive it gets to acquire. And even if you manage to pay a hefty sum to finally bring Euro Truck Simulator 2 to life, you’re still not completely free to work like you do on regular movies. Most of the time, game studios insist on having lots of control over creative decisions, and that makes it exhausting for every party involved. Writing, producing, promotion, every stage is different, but both sides don’t notice, or care, and that makes most of those cooperations end like Rihanna and Chris Brown’s. Just think of the adaptation of the original Uncharted. Plans for a movie for that were published in 2008. In a few months, a fourth Uncharted game will be released, and the movie is still smoldering in development hell.
What do you think? Are you satisfied with the current crop of video game adaptations? Anything you look for in particular?