Director Josh Trank's impressive debut feature Chronicle was a surprise hit, grossing over $126 million worldwide on a budget of less than $15 million. It launched the careers of Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station) and Dane DeHaan (The Amazing Spider-Man 2), and Max Landis' screenplay delivered a unique spin on both the found-footage and superhero genres.
Hollywood snapped him up, and in short order Trank was attached to Fox's Fantastic Four reboot, Sony's Venom spinoff, and video game adaptation Shadow of the Colossus. That is definitely a full dance-card, and while Fantastic Four will finalize its cast before this spring, Alex Kurtzman (Star Trek Into Darkness) has since taken over directing duties on Venom. As for Colossus - news on that project seemed to go quiet about a year ago, just after Hanna screenwriter Seth Lochhead signed on.
Now, Trank has opened up (a little) about Shadow of the Colossus, which evidently remains alive. In an interview with Edge-Online, which mainly focused on his views on the current state of video games, Trank offered some insight into his passion for the game and its world.
When asked about the state of the project, Trank replied:
"I can’t talk about it, but I’ll say just one thing: I got 'Ico' as soon as it came out, and I just loved that game so much. I knew immediately when I read that [Team Ico was] making a new one that I wanted to go out and get it as soon as it came out, too, and it just blew me the f**k away. A couple of years later, I remember seeing in Variety that it had been optioned. I must have been 22 or something, and I just knew, ‘Oh my God, if somebody’s doing that, I have to somehow get in there and make sure it’s done the right way.’ It was one of the first calls I made after 'Chronicle' came out – when I realized I could make calls about things. I was like, 'Hey, what’s going on with that?' We’re working on it."
And that's basically all we're getting on Shadow of the Colossus. Trank did say some interesting things about the influence video game narratives are having on Hollywood. When asked if movies are being directly affected, Trank said:
"No, I don’t think so. I think that games are doing their own thing. I don’t think it’s a question of better, because it’s just a different experience. A lot of big sci-fi movies – and I won’t say any particular movies – are made with an awareness of the popularity of video games, and therefore borrow so [many] of the design and visual ideas from those games. I’m like, 'Man, that looks like "Mass Effect." Those look like "Mass Effect" suits.' And that is not at all original or different.
"I also feel there’s a creative drought in Hollywood right now, because most of the young guys who would come in and be the next young, big directors are all in the video game industry. I think if the game industry had been what it is now in the ’80s, a lot of those great Amblin [Entertainment] directors and people from that era would have been in games, too.
And Trank has a point. He's also worried about the next generation of game consoles and the changes we'll see in their wake - and as Trank touches on, many of them will be unforeseen:
"Yeah, I’m curious. There’s this interesting implication of what kids are going to be able to do when they’re my age. Hopefully, it won’t be a dystopian sci-fi scenario. Unfortunately, I feel like it’s going to become one. When I saw this one demo for Xbox One, there was one thing that frightened me big time: these two top developers were talking about 'Forza 5,' and how the game is going to learn you and your driving style, and it’s going to be driving and competing for you against other people when you’re not there. That scares the s**t out of me!"
It's been clear for at least a decade that cinematic storytelling has been taking more and more visual cues from video game spectacle. Movies based on many of the more sophisticated and critical-acclaimed games from the past half-decade have been in development for years now - Assassin's Creed, BioShock (now canceled), Uncharted (stalled for a minute, but back in business), Shadow of the Colossus.
Each game has a different visual style and method of gameplay, but when it comes to their film adaptations, the same question applies to each of them: How will their narratives work in a movie?
We've already explored how thin the narrative of Shadow of the Colossus is - a young boy named Wander hunts 16 massive Colossi with trusty horse Agro in order to save his love interest, a young girl named Mono. The game contains impressive visuals, captivating landscapes, and hardly any dialogue. A feature film adaptation will require a significant expansion of what story there is, and that carries the risk of alienating fans of the game.
Trank has exactly one movie under his belt, but he really made the most of what resources he had with Chronicle, and thus the expectations are high for Fantastic Four. Can he pull it off with the scale of Shadow of the Colossus, or will the visual spectacle mask the lack of any real narrative drive?
We're sure to find out more on the development of this as more details surface.
Fantastic Four is scheduled to open in U.S. theaters on June 19th, 2015. Shadow of the Colossus is currently in development.