This weekend sees the release of Hitman: Agent 47, the second attempt by 20th Century Fox at adapting the popular stealth video game series. the 2007 version, starring Timothy Olyphant, didn’t exactly light up the box office, so it’s taken almost a decade to make a follow-up, rebooting the series with a new actor (Rupert Friend). While the story seems fit for the big screen, following a cloned assassin with an impeccable track record of taking on assignments across the world, it’s surprising to see a studio take another go at the property so soon, considering how many video game properties are stuck in development.
Because there are huge fanbases for certain properties, who would love for their favorite characters to be realized on film, here is Screen Rant’s list of 10 Video Game Movies Stuck in Development Hell.
Army of Two
Taking a predominant focus on co-operative gameplay tactics, Army of Two follows mercenaries Salem and Rios through numerous war-torn environments, as they fight to uncover a vast political conspiracy that holds ramifications for the entire world. A third-person action game with a storyline about two buddies, the game seemed primed for a feature film adaptation, especially given its strong reception among gamers.
Not long after its release in 2008, Universal Pictures acquired the rights and hired Scott Z. Burns (co-writer of Matt Damon projects The Bourne Ultimatum and The Informant!) to pen the screenplay, setting production to begin in 2009. In addition, video game studio Electronic Arts was to be directly involved as a co-producer, in order to have a role in shaping the final product. As of now, no progress has been made on the film, although two further games in the series, Army of Two: The 4oth Day and Army of Two: The Devil’s Cartel have been released.
Arguably one of the most original and compelling narratives in recent memory, BioShock is set in the underwater city of Rapture, intended to be a utopia for the upper-class before a crisis involving genetic mutations decimates most of the population. The game’s protagonist, Jack, discovers the city by accident, and must figure out a way to escape while unraveling the mysteries that lay dormant.
Considered to be one of the best games of its era, receiving universal praise and stellar sales, developer Take Two Interactive made a deal with Universal Pictures in 2008 to produce a film with director Gore Verbinski and writer John Logan on board as key creatives. In 2009, both Verbinski and Logan left the project, as they were too occupied with developing their motion-capture animated film Rango with Johnny Depp. 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was then signed, with Verbinski staying on as a producer. Pre-production officially started in 2010, but Verbinski’s insistence on a hard R-rating created a dilemma for Universal, who planned to spend $200 million on the project.
Finally in 2013, Irrational Games creative director Ken Levine confirmed that the film would be put on the backburner, citing conflicts between studios over funding, direction, and the failure of other big budget R-rated tent-poles in the same vein.
A franchise that has been running for nearly thirty years, the Castlevania series blends action and horror elements, revolving around the Belmont family of vampire hunters. Each game is set in a different time period with a different Belmont, though in several cases the primary antagonist is Dracula himself.
In 2005, Resident Evil director Paul W.S. Anderson was hired to direct an adaptation, and expressed a desire to make the film as close to the storyline of the games as possible. While pre-production, location scouting and budget allocation took place, Anderson eventually left to direct the remake of Death Race starring Jason Statham. The reigns were then handed to Sylvain White in 2007, who scored a minor hit earlier that year with Stomp the Yard. Despite this effort to get things moving into production, the Writer’s Strike of 2008 put the film on hold indefinitely, and White moved on to direct an adaptation of graphic novel The Losers. In mid-2009, it was claimed by studio Rogue Pictures that the film was officially dead, yet only two months later it was resuscitated by Saw director James Wan, who signed on to write and direct.
After Wan became extremely busy following the success of Insidious, reports began that Paul W.S. Anderson was still trying to get his version off the ground. While he is currently busy with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, set to hit screens next year, it could potentially be the beginning of a new video game movie franchise.
Gears of War
A flagship title of the Xbox 360 generation, Gears of War is set on the fictional planet of Sera, where humanity battles against a rampant army of subterranean monsters known as the Locust Horde.
Only a few months after becoming a major phenomenon with gamers, New Line Cinema paid for the film rights, and commissioned screenwriter Stuart Beattie (Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl) to write the first draft. Soon after, Underworld director Len Wiseman signed on to direct the film, with the storyline envisioned as a prequel to the original game, with an expected 2010 release date.
After years of stalling, Wiseman left to direct the remake of Total Recall instead. With a new entry in the series expected to release on the Xbox One in 2016, the chances of re-igniting this adaptation are very strong.
Easily the most important franchise for Microsoft’s Xbox brand, Halo follows the adventures of the Master Chief, a faceless soldier caught in an intergalactic conflict between humans and a race of aliens known as The Covenant. Since the release of the first game in 2001, Halo has been regarded as one of the greatest first-person-shooter series in the history of gaming, making the prospects of a feature film all the more daunting.
Halo was at one point going to happen under the guidance of Lord of the Rings‘ Peter Jackson, with WETA Studios hired to create most of the effects work. Alex Garland, writer of 28 Days Later submitted the first screenplay draft. 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios partnered on domestic and international distribution rights, with Jackson signing on to executive produce. At this point, a protege of Jackson, the then unknown Neill Blomkamp, was hired to direct with only a collection of shorts and commercial work under his belt.
Since its release in 2007, BioWare’s Mass Effect series has garnered a huge, devout following, through weaving an intricate, decision-driven narrative that explores the vast reaches of space. Set in the year 2183, players take on the role of Commander Shepard, a soldier who must put together a team of intergalactic allies to stop the onslaught of an ancient race of aliens from wiping out all life in the galaxy.
In May 2010, developer Electronic Arts announced that Warner Brothers and Legendary Pictures had acquired and begun collaborating on a film version, which would be executive produced by BioWare personnel Casey Hudson, Ray Muzyka, and Greg Zeschuck. A year later, Legendary featured the prospective film at San Diego Comic Con, to generate buzz among the fan community and showcase the potential of the film.
Metal Gear Solid
An landmark property that helped define the stealth genre, Metal Gear centers around the exploits of Solid Snake, a talented spec-ops soldier who engages in espionage missions for an elite unit known as FOXHOUND. While initially stylized after 80s action films, the demand for a live-action Solid Snake has only grown in ensuing years.
In 2006, series creator Hideo Kojima announced that the Metal Gear film was finally happening, with plans get it in theaters by 2011. While initially enthusiastic, Kojima would shift gears in 2010, stating that the film was shelved for the time being, believing that the potential failure would also effect the reputation of the game franchise. After two years of silence, Kojima declared in 2012 at an event for the game’s 25th Anniversary that a deal was struck with Colombia Pictures to produce with brothers Avi and Ari Arad. Jordan Vogt-Roberts, behind The Kings of Summer and the upcoming Kong: Skull Island is slated to direct.
One of the franchises that served as a progressive entry in Nintendo’s game catalogue, Metroid is based around female bounty hunter Samus Aran and her never-ending mission to free the galaxy from the tyranny of a nefarious group known as the Space Pirates.
The attempts to do a Metroid movie go as far back as 2004, when action director John Woo bought the rights, seeing the potential in a storyline that fuses adventure, horror, and suspense. In order to do justice to the material, the film’s producers met with Nintendo on several occasions to get their full support and collaborate on the right direction. Emphasis was placed on exploring Samus’s backstory, a concept that Nintendo was wary over given that this element was never clearly expressed in any of the games.
Due to their reluctance to do big screen adaptations after the massive failure of Super Mario Bros in 1993, Nintendo was not ready to move away from some of the foundational aspects of the character. The film rights expired in 2007. However, with the recent interest in outer space sci-fi stories (see: Guardians of the Galaxy), its not impossible that discussions will start up again with the right creative team.
One of the more intriguing entries in development hell history, the deal to make Spy Hunter into a serious film franchise first came about in 2003, when Universal Pictures obtained the rights. Superstar Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was signed on, with production scheduled to take place in spring 2004 for a summer release the following year. Just as with Metroid, John Woo was purportedly signed on to the film at a time when the screenplay went through numerous changes and re-writes. Woo departed the project in May 2005, and after a long period in stasis, Johnson left as well.
Interestingly enough, a tie-in video game for the film titled Spy Hunter: Nowhere To Run was released in 2006, with Johnson playing the game’s protagonist, despite not being affiliated with the film by that point. The studio then pursued Paul W.S. Anderson to direct, though his obligation towards Death Race did not allow him to oversee these duties. The rights eventually moved to Warner Bros, who announced that Zombieland director Ruben Fleisher would make the film, but that version failed to surface as well.
Drawing inspiration from adventure films like those in the Indiana Jones or National Treasure series, the Uncharted series follows Nathan Drake, a globetrotting treasure hunter tasked with solving ancient mysteries and coming into conflict with numerous adversaries in the process.
Sony Pictures have been developing the project since 2009, in an attempt to capitalize on the first game’s success. David O. Russell, recently coming off the success of The Fighter was attached to direct, aiming to cast Mark Wahlberg in the lead. Actor Nathan Fillion, a fan-favorite character actor known as Captain Malcolm Reynolds in the Firefly universe, launched a grassroots campaign to get him the role of Nathan Drake, but Russell quickly shot down any possibility of that casting choice. After no movement on the property for two years, Russell left, leading Sony to sign Neil Burger, director of The Illusionist as his replacement. A complete re-imagining of the core concept, meant to hew closer to the game, was put into action. In 2012, Burger also left, leaving Sony to find yet another replacement. The offer to write the screenplay was bestowed on Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg numerous times, based on their ties to the studio and relative success of Superbad and This Is The End, but that team couldn’t find a way to make things work. The project was then set up with Horrible Bosses director Seth Gordon and The Hurt Locker screenwriter Mark Boal, but Gordon walked away from the film in June 2015.
Just recently, Sony has re-dated the film for a June 2017 opening, but with no director currently attached it remains to be seen if Nathan Drake’s conquests will come to fruition in cinemas around the world.
Which of these films would you most like to see happen one day? Is there any other game you feel warrants an adaptation? Sound off in the comments below!