20th Century Fox's Hitman: Agent 47 is but the latest addition to a long line of video game-turned films that have disappointed, both critically and commercially. Nonetheless, Agent 47 may well be part of the calm before the storm, given the sheer number of video game-based movies that are currently in the early stages of development in Hollywood - with the potential game-changer for the genre (in terms of its success) being Ubisoft Motion Pictures' Assassin's Creed film, both starring and produced by Oscar-nominee Michael Fassbender.
The first image of Fassbender in his Assassin's Creed costume has been revealed, ahead of production getting started next week (at the time of writing this). Meanwhile, Lionsgate has announced that it too is looking to turn a popular video game intellectual property into the next hit movie franchise.
Lionsgate's project is none other than a Borderlands movie, based on the action role-playing first-person shooter video game series that debuted its first installment - as was developed by Gearbox Software and published by Take-Two Interactive Software’s 2K label - back in Fall 2009. The film will be produced by Avi and Ari Arad; meanwhile, Take-Two Interactive Chairman and CEO Strauss Zelnick has provided Variety the following statement concerning the news (which follows Lionsgate's acquisition of the Borderland rights a while back, as reported by The Tracking Board):
“Lionsgate has emerged as a major creative force in the global marketplace with an incredible portfolio of brands; our partners at Gearbox have pioneered and cultivated an iconic property; and Avi and Ari Arad are two of the most successful producers of action franchises. This alliance is ideally positioned to create a bold, provocative, no-holds-barred motion picture phenomenon that will delight ‘Borderlands” current legions of fans and captivate moviegoers around the world.”
Avi Arad, a longtime superhero movie producer whose credits includes the Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man franchises, and his son, Ari, are clearly banking on a video game cinema renaissance getting underway sometime in the near future. In addition to Borderlands, the two Arads are currently attached as producers on the slow developing Uncharted video game movie adaptation, as well as the even slower-to-develop Metal Gear Solid live-action film. In truth, several (most?) major video game movie adaptations are stuck in development limbo right now, so those projects aren't exactly outliers in that regard.
The Borderlands video game series takes place on the planet of Pandora, a desolated world where various characters - like Roland the Soldier or Brick the Berserker - with specialities in certain weapons roam and struggle to survive (by violent means, as necessary), as they reside within a realm that has turned to lawlessness, amidst the ruins of a long-gone alien civilization. Borderlands takes more than a little inspiration from the post-apocalyptic tropes and elements of the Mad Max franchise (even with its extraterrestrial setting), enough so that a number of Borderland fans who were once unfamiliar with the latter franchise mistook this year's Mad Max: Fury Road for being a knock-off of sorts, during Fury Road's marketing campaign.
If video game movies like Borderland are to succeed, though, they will need to fully embrace their genre components during the adaptation process - as opposed to, being generic genre films that borrow character names and terms from a popular video game IP. As an example, much like Captain America: The Winter Soldier works as a political thriller on its own (one that happens to feature Marvel superheroes), something like Borderlands should be approached as a descendant of not just Mad Max, but perhaps other tried and true cinematic sub-genres (such as the space western/fantasy). Its mythos alone won't be able to carry it unless handled well, in other words (something that many video game movies past have demonstrated).
This is a lesson that has been learned by the superhero genre in general; hence, its recent success. Whether or not movies such as Borderlands or Assassin's Creed will fulfill their potential and follow suit, that's something many a film and/or video game geek is waiting to find out...
We'll bring you more information on the Borderlands movie when we have it.