Hollywood is hot to make video games the next big source of ideas for big-budget blockbuster adaptations, but thus far it’s been a tough sell. The abject failure of high-profile releases like Street Fighter and Super Mario Bros in the 90s still casts a dark cloud over the genre – and while the outlooks towards upcoming adaptations like Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed are optimistic, neither film’s early marketing has managed to set the world on fire quite yet. So how do Sony and Rovio think they’re going to squeeze a hit out of The Angry Birds Movie: an adaptation of an addictive mobile game so basic it doesn’t even have much in the way of a story?
Apparently, by giving it one – along with plenty of jokes and an island-vs-mainland twist the frames the Birds/Pigs feud in terms of colonial-exploitation. Didn’t see that last one coming.
While previous U.S. trailers have stressed humor and introducing the main characters’ predicament (Jason Sudekis’ “Red” and his friends are the lone “angry” Birds on an otherwise idyllic tropical island), this new international trailer clarifies the film’s actual storyline. Whereas in the games the Pigs merely snatch the Birds’ eggs, here the Pigs hail from a seemingly more “advanced” civilization and travel to the Birds’ island under false pretenses; using flashy technology and false promises in order to distract the natives while they loot the place of all eggs. When they realize they’ve been had, the Birds’ turn to their “angry” citizens for help – which involves using the game’s signature giant-slingshots to take the fight back to the Pigs.
It’s a take that makes a lot of sense in terms of reverse-engineering a storyline from a title and gameplay. (Why are the Birds angry? Why do they have to use the slingshot? Etc.) But it’s also an interesting take on the traditional feel-good message of most family films, with “be yourself” here being taken to a logical extreme where characters who’ve been ostracized for “negative” behaviors (explosive tempers, general cynicism, rudeness) are called upon to use those personality-traits in a positive and useful way. Additionally, recasting the Pigs from simply unscrupulous egg-fanciers to a kind of colonial power looking to extract resources from a seemingly “primitive” neighboring society implies at least a passing reference to narrative depth that one was not likely to have been suspecting from The Angry Birds Movie.
Regardless, the film likely still has its work cut out for it in terms of convincing audiences and critics that this particular franchise is something they want to see. While The LEGO Movie was a huge hit, other blockbusters based on plot-light material like Battleship have landed as major duds; and there’s still no telling what will come from similar planned projects line Minecraft or The Play-Doh Movie. In order to stand out, the assembled cast of comedians will have to make audiences invest in their characters in between the jokes and physical humor, which appear to be plentiful – though it’s very possible that the game (now several years old and awhile since its last significant update or expansion) still carries enough cache with kids and casual gamers to drive a solid opening weekend.
The Angry Birds Movie opens in U.S. theaters on May 20th, 2016.
Source: Sony Pictures Entertainment