Despite the popularity of gaming, Hollywood has had a difficult time translating successful video games to the big screen. Despite a few successes - Resident Evil, for example, has become a multi-film franchise - for the most part, the track record for turning a game into a movie has been pretty dismal, with most adaptations failing to make much of an impact critically or commercially. This year, however, might be the year where it all gets turned around.
The impending release of Warcraft this June, in addition to the release of Assassin’s Creed in December, has Hollywood on the edge of its seats. The system as it is moves in waves, with one successful idea giving birth to an explosion of copycats and followers. It’s worked for comic books, after all, which underwent a cinematic renaissance in the 2000s after the success of the X-Men and Spider-Man movies. With forecasts looking fairly good for both Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed, studios are scrambling to develop adaptations of their own, so as not to be left in the dust. There’s plenty to cull from, of course, and one long-running and successful franchise might just make its way to a theater near you.
Deadline is reporting that Sega’s popular Shinobi series is currently in development by producer Marc Platt (Wanted, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World). The producer is said to be working closely with Sega as the project evolves, though there’s no word yet on who might be writing the script. Platt seemed excited about the prospect, however, saying,
“We love the Shinobi games and believe that the world of ninjas has never been properly explored onscreen. We now have the opportunity to do just that. With Shinobi, we hope to make a film that honors the essence of the games.”
The Shinobi series is well-known in the gaming community for its notorious difficulty and deep mythos. The series follows various ninjas, mostly associated with the Musashi family. The first few games in the series followed Joe Musashi, a character who combined elements of the shadowy ninja with the lone-wanderer from American westerns in his quest to defeat the villainous Zeed. Other entries in the saga have dealt with Musashi’s father as well as his children, creating a vast timeline full of hard-hitting ninja action.
As a movie, Shinobi marks an intelligent, if somewhat safe, choice for development. The martial arts movie genre has a long-standing semi-cult following in U.S. - to mention nothing of its popularity around the world, especially in the increasingly lucrative Asian markets. Shinobi would be an easy gateway into the world of video games for Hollywood, as it takes familiar martial arts concepts that are already proven to be big earners. One wouldn’t necessarily need to be a fan of gaming to enjoy the ninja action an adaptation would provide, which means that the film wouldn’t need to rely solely on the core base of gamers to turn a profit.
Still, where numerous cinematic adaptations have faltered is in the execution. As it stands, the long running Shinobi video game series has a dozen entries in the franchise, and fans will certainly have expectations for what the movie will choose to showcase. As much as a martial arts movie should, in theory, stand on its own, too much bad press from the gaming community could affect the project at the box office.
It's a difficult line to walk, and Hollywood’s success ratio with video games movies isn’t exactly a cause for celebration. But that might be changing. Again, if the success of comic book movies in recent years has taught us anything, it’s that adaptations work best when they stay true to the core elements of the stories that made them popular to begin with. If studios can manage to continue this trend with video game movies, then we might see our next box office renaissance.
We'll bring you more information on Shinobi as it becomes available.