Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Videogames Surge in Hollywood

Photo Credit: Nick Marquez
 A multitude of art forms have served as source material for film adaptations since the dawn of cinema: novels, plays, newspaper articles, comic books, and even videogames. However, the latter, unlike its peers, hasn’t exactly had the best marriage with Hollywood thus far. But it looks as though that is soon to change. Over the past decade, video games have evolved substantially, providing audiences with more advanced and sophisticated graphics on the surface, as well as more concise, layered, and eloquent storytelling underneath. Videogames have always contained intriguing and compelling stories; even as far back as 1986, with the releases of titles such as, The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Quest, and Metroid, but what they’ve always lacked, in regards to being transferred onto the big screen, is a sense of believable and realistic dialogue and character development. If you don’t know what I mean, let me draw your attention to the disappointing and abysmal attempts of adapting the likes of, Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat, Hitman, Doom, Max Payne, and Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, to name of few, all of which received under a 50% rating from critics that weighed in via Rotten Tomatoes.

Now, I understand there are some of you out there, die-hard fans of these games, who either enjoyed, or brainwashed yourselves into enjoying these adaptations, but let’s be honest with ourselves, these were all very poor efforts in filmmaking. In fact, I had convinced myself for the longest time that Paul W.S Anderson’s, Mortal Kombat, was a good film, probably because I was happy to be able to finally witness live-action brawls involving Sub-Zero and Scorpion, two of my favorite video game characters of all time; but in reality, the film is as unimaginative and uninspiring as the rest of the lot. And it is because of these poor attempts to bring these titles to the big screen that there has been a disparity between Hollywood and the videogame industry. But the good news is, that is all about to change.

On July 9, 2012, Michael Fassbender, the star of critically acclaimed films such as, Steve McQueen’s Shame, and X-Men: First Class was cast in what was reportedly an Assassin’s Creed movie, based on the videogame of the same name. However, videogames in recent years are often announced and rumored, only to disintegrate in the months or years following. But I’m happy to report that Assassin’s Creed is still in motion today, as Ubisoft has confirmed that the film will hit theaters on May 22, 2015. Little is known of the plot, and the debate still continues as to whether Fassbender will star as Desmond, Altair, Ezio, or some other unknown entity, but it looks as though Assassin’s Creed is going to be the beta tester of what could be the onset of a videogame revolution in Hollywood.

I use the word, “revolution,” implying that there must be more than one videogame property on its way to the big screen, and I’m proud to inform you, there is. In fact, there are multiple. As I mentioned earlier, videogame film adaptations are often announced only to join many of their peers in film purgatory, and the Warcraft movie was no different. Back in 2009, Sam Raimi, writer/director of the Spiderman Trilogy, was announced to direct Warcraft, from a script written by himself and Robert Rodat, writer of Saving Private Ryan. But as the story goes, Blizzard had reservations about the story that Raimi and Rodat had pitched to them, and they ultimately vetoed their script. Now, Raimi’s story on what happened is a little different, but, in any event, Raimi went on to helm OZ: The Great and Powerful, and we were back to square one, with no Warcraft movie. However, Warcraft fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as it looks as though the movie is once again moving forward. Duncan Jones, director of critically acclaimed films such as, Source Code and Moon, has been commissioned to helm the project, working off a script written by Charles Leavitt, writer of Blood Diamond. Moreover, Legendary Pictures CEO, Thomas Tull has recently gone on the record to express his confidence in Jones and saying that we will soon hear updates regarding the project, which at the moment has a tentative 2015 release, according to IMDB.com.

In addition to Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft, one of my favorite videogame titles has recently been in the news lately regarding a film treatment, and that title is Dead Space. In an interview with Game Informer, John Carpenter – the legendary master of terror, who brought you horror benchmarks such as, Halloween, and The Thing, has expressed his interest in giving Dead Space the big screen treatment. “You know, it’s great,” said the 65 year-old director. “The first game was more – I guess it was like Alien – but not quite. It was a little different than that.” When asked whether or not he’d be interested in adapting Dead Space, Carpenter went on to say, “I maintain that Dead Space would just make a great movie, because you have these people coming onto an abandoned, shut-down spaceship, and they have to start it up and something’s onboard. It’s just great stuff. I would love to make Dead Space, I’ll tell you that right now.” Although nothing is official, it seems as though Carpenter would be the perfect candidate to helm Dead Space, in my opinion, but only time will tell.

By now most of us have heard about the failed Halo movie, which had Neil Blomkamp attached to direct, writer/director of District 9 and the upcoming Sci-fi epic starring Matt Damon, Elysium, with Peter Jackson onboard as a producer, but what most of you haven’t heard, as the news was only leaked a few hours ago, is that Steven Spielberg, yes that’s right, is currently working with Microsoft on creating a live-action Halo TV series. While it might not be the big screen, this is still pretty exciting news. “The Halo Universe is an amazing opportunity to be at the intersection where technology and myth-making meet to produce something truly groundbreaking,” Spielberg said in a pretaped video during Microsoft’s official reveal of the Xbox One. The Halo Series will be commissioned exclusively for Xbox Live and the release date is currently undetermined.

As you can see the push for videogames to be adapted into live-action iterations, whether it is for film or TV is ongoing. Although the relationship with Hollywood and the videogame industry has been anything but affable, Hollywood still recognizes the potential for videogames in their world. Titles such as, Gears of War, Mass Effect, and Mortal Kombat still remain in the announcement-limbo phase, perhaps studios are merely awaiting to see how these guinea pigs will perform before they give them the green-light. I guess we will have to wait and see what happens. What do you think?