For those who are eager to see video game movies becoming a successful and viable genre, it’s difficult not to get a sense of bottlenecking in their development; there’s neverending talk of movies that will be based on Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Devil May Cry, Deus Ex, God of War and countless others – but sometimes it can feel like these projects are in a permanent state of delay, and when a video game movie does finally get released it’s… well, it’s Max Payne.
That’s not to say that there haven’t been any good video game movies – Silent Hill is a fairly decent example, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time wasn’t that bad and the Resident Evil series is generally watchable – but when the pinnacle of video game movie success is “decent,” “not that bad” and “watchable,” it’s no surprise that this particular genre doesn’t have a great reputation.
Former Marvel CEO Avi Arad has plans to change that, however. In an interview with Kotaku, the producer of comic book-based films like Iron Man and The Amazing Spider-Man acknowledged that “converting games to film hasn’t been done yet successfully,” but expressed confidence in the future of video game movies:
“I think that film studios are bankers and filmmakers are risk takers and somewhere in between we meet on the battlefield. And the moment one video game movie goes through the roof, it’s the same thing that I’ve been through with comic books.”
Arad expanded on three video game franchises in particular that he’s involved with developing for the big screen. The first of these, Mass Effect, is a space opera set in the late 22nd century, at which point humans have made first contact with alien life and secured a tentative place in intergalactic society. Peace is disturbed when an ancient and deadly species called the Reapers begin setting in motion the extinction of this collective civilization.
Since the story – and in particular the protagonist, Commander Shepard – is shaped by the player’s own choices in the game, Bioware writer Drew Karpyshyn has said that bringing the story to the big screen will be “complicated,” and advised that the film should be allowed to make changes from the video games, so long as the key themes were kept intact. When asked about Mass Effect, Arad said that there’s plenty of time to work on the script, since the movie might not be out for quite a while:
“It’s a big idea, that we, humans, are the least developed, the least trusted, it’s an interesting mirror image of our world, we are the aliens now. Love the project, it’s getting there, it’s been a lot of work; some movies take five, six years before they’re ready.”
Turning to the subeject of Metal Gear Solid, Arad expressed his view that the franchise is “actually full of storytelling” (and cutscenes, lots of cutscenes), which means that it will translate into film fairly easily. He added that he likes to take inspiration from operas and the Bible, and that Metal Gear Solid is perfect in that sense because Solid Snake and Liquid Snake are like Cain and Abel.
During one stage of development, the Uncharted movie received a lot of fan backlash after David O. Russell, who was originally supposed to write and direct the film, described his version of it as having a strong “family dynamic.” This would have been an odd change from the story of the games, in which protagonist Nathan Drake is raised in an orphanage after his mother’s death and father’s abandonment, before embarking on a career as an explorer and professional thief of priceless antiquities. Arad hints that the new script, penned by Marianne and Cormac Wibberley (G-Force), will draw on the relationship between Nathan and his mentor, Victor Sullivan:
“I think Uncharted will be very successful. It’s a father and son game. There are things about it that are interesting. I think the world of antiquities theft, there are many countries in the world that realised they’re being robbed and they’re trying to recoup these important pieces. Now, the script has a lot of character [and] I think that has a shot at being the first one [to succeed].”
Of course, Arad isn’t alone in working to bring video game-based movies to the big screen, and with the timelines he mentioned in the interview he may well get beaten to the punch when it comes to sparking a wave of successful video games. Develop and publisher Ubisoft has started up a film production company called Ubisoft Motion Pictures that is dedicated to creating movies and TV shows out of some of the most Ubisoft titles, whilst retaining an unprecedented amount of creative control. The first of these projects, a movie based on the Assassin’s Creed series that will star Michael Fassbender, is already set for release in summer 2015.
Are you convinced that the comic book movie revolution will be followed by a video game movie revolution? With so many video game movies currently in development, tell us in the comments which one you think is most likely to succeed on the big screen.