Game franchises that never got the movies they deserved
It's been more than 20 years since the first game arrived, and now Warcraft is finally getting a movie adaptation (which may or may not be a ploy to boost the sales of the Legion expansion).
Blizzard isn't alone in getting on the movie bandwagon, with titles from nearly every genre soon getting CG or live action entries. Ratchet and Clank and Angry Birds are the next game-to-movie transformations due to hit theaters, and there's a lot more on the horizon.
Assassin's Creed is slated to drop at the end of the year, with Uncharted and a Tomb Raider reboot (reportedly starring Daisy Ridley of Star Wars: The Force Awakens) penciled in for 2017 releases. There's of course also that Castlevania flick has been listed as in the works at IMDB for years now.
There's a big problem with all this adapting though: most game-to-movie shifts are truly, unrelentingly, awful. Super Mario Bros. Prince Of Persia. House Of The Dead. The previous two Tomb Raiders.
It's not just games that have that problem, as there's a similar issue with related media like comic books and graphic novels. Watchmen was everything I want in a movie. Superman Returns was like a bad joke.
There's myriad reasons for this phenomena on the gaming front, whether due to someone committing the unforgivable sin of handing over the rights (for anything) to Uwe Boll, a low budget, a bad script, or a director who just doesn't know how to transfer a good game experience to a good movie experience.
But for all the schlock that never should have been made, there's still some franchises out there that could – if done right – make for excellent viewing material. Like...
Magic: The Gathering
For the longest time my local pen and paper game store had a joke poster up with pictures of actors like Arnold Schwarzenegger portraying MTG characters, and the lack of a big budget flick seems like a serious oversight.
There is an absolute wealth of lore to draw on here for an endless number of stories: the brother's war, ice age, phyrexia, and on and on with decades of new sets.
A writer and director team could take this any of a dozen directions, from telling personal and intimate stories in an overarching fantasy world to huge, epic-scale battles across the planes.
Why It Won't (Or Shouldn't) Happen: Wizards Of The Coast does not have a good track record with fantasy IPs making it to the movies. I'm not even going to name that one abomination, as it only serves to angry up the blood. I'll just say it had Marlon Wayons and a bunch of CGI dragons and... yep, I've gone an done it, now I'm so steaming mad I have to punch a baby. BRB.
Follow-up flick Wrath Of The Dragon God was better by leaps and bounds, but I'd still present it as “good for a D&D movie,” rather than, “hey have you seen that really good movie?”
While Magic is long, long overdue for a film, keep in mind the Warcraft flick was a two decade pipe dream, so maybe this will happen one day too? Back in 2014, a press release came out saying plans were in the works for a full series of movies, but nothing has come of it, much like with how last year Wizards insisted a totally not-awful D&D movie was in the works as well. I'll believe it when I see it.
Although a non-stop clickfest ARPG isn't exactly ripe for being converted into a drama or horror flick, there is a ton of lore in this universe that could make for an interesting live action movie. The angels vs. demons aesthetic would be stunning rendered on the big screen, and there's lots of room for having either side be the real bad guys.
Why It Will Never Happen: Religious parents. No, seriously. If you think the Satanic Panic and hate for D&D is over, just see what happens when concerned moms on the Internet find out about “that evil Diablo game” getting a film adaptation. Throw in a flaming red pentagram and a demon face and you'll have a massive outcry (which, amusingly, would probably serve just to increase sales and brand recognition).
If Blizzard immediately capitulates to “won't somebody PLEASE think of the children” soccer moms who are upset that butts exists, I can't see them putting themselves out there with a movie about the devil conquering the earth (although to be fair, the replacement pose did seem to be a direct middle finger at the original complainer...)
Yeah, it got an animated movie, but this is one that would be ripe for an all-practical effects, no-CGI horror fest a la The Thing meets Event Horizon. The weird religious themes, the alien artifact, the twisted necromorphs with insanely contorted bodies: Dead Space would make an excellent sci-fi/horror extravaganza.
I'd like to see games like Bioshock and Bioshock Infinite made into movies for similar reasons, even though those take the unsettling ideas and horror in a significantly less gory and more psychological direction.
Why It Will Never Happen: Actually, this one might. My only concern is that it would be a low-budget, poorly acted, direct-to-DVD cheese fest.
Gears Of War
OK, so think about it. If Warcraft does well, why not Gears Of War? Although set in a gritty sci-fi setting rather than a fantasy one, logistically speaking it would be a similar setup with human actors and most likely CGI locust warring it out for domination of a planet. Swap out orcs for locusts and you aren't too far off.
Why It Maybe Shouldn't Happen: While the gameplay, visual aesthetics, and extreme gore are all top-notch, the stories in Gears have always been the weak links. They'd have to really re-think the whole idea and give us some compelling characters with an interesting antagonist to make this one work.
Can you imagine? This one could go one of two different directions:
- A frantic, fast paced bizzaro movie that just never gives up in the vein of the first two games with insane characters like Tiny Tina
- A more even-keeled, deadpanned flick along the lines of the Telltale Games entry
Either way has the possibility to be deeply satisfying, and have a whole new generation of kids yelling “oh screw it, just call them boner farts or something!”
Why It Won't (Or Shouldn't) Happen: I imagine this would be a tough sell to a studio (“a 13 year old girl with an unhealthy sexual obsession towards twins blows up bandits at a tea party, and then it really gets weird...”) and of course there's always the possibility it would get taken TOO far over the top and just be un-watchable.
There are a whole lot of interesting horror games that could go in this slot as well: Alan Wake, I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream, Fatal Frame, and so on.
Among them all though, Outlast has the right length, the right subject matter, and the right horrifying, human-shaped enemies to make a great movie without needing a gigantic budget. The excellent SOMA is another recent first-person horror entry that would work well.
Why It Probably Won't Or Shouldn't Happen: I mean, it's sort of already a found footage movie, since you can conceivably play it through in two hours or so, and they'd probably want to shake up the story a bit rather than just doing the exact same thing as the game.
There's also the fact that found footage seems to be on the decline lately after a long reign, with some of the later entries in the genre going significantly downhill. I'd rather it never get made at all then it get made and be bad -- but then again, I'm a major pessimist.
Even if these games never get their proper big screen debuts, there's still a massive game movie bubble coming, much like the superhero / comic movie bubble that is now in the process of bursting due to extreme over-saturation.
There's about to a be a storm of game-to-movie adaptations, and hopefully some of them won't be the absolute worst. There's an absurd number of games that would make great films if done properly, from Life Is Strange to Fallout and everything in between.
Let us know what game YOU want to see turned into a movie before the bubble bursts!