It didn’t take long for Dead Island to get a movie deal, did it? The viral internet sensation has become the latest videogame to earn a ticket to theaters across the country, but there’s just no reason to suspect the movie will be any good. Videogame movies are the black sheep of the movie industry, constantly getting made without getting any respect. It’s easy to see why: the majority of most videogame storylines are heavily inspired by movies anyway – particularly Aliens, for some reason (I mean, some reason besides ‘space marines are cool’) – resulting in a series of movies that feel like photocopies of a photocopy from frame one. It’s getting to the point where videogame movies are doing more harm to the videogame industry than good, hurting the reputation of worthy franchises instead of expanding their audiences.
Then again, this is what people said about comic book movies over a decade ago until Hollywood starting treating them like A-List projects. Hollywood needs to start throwing actual talent at these productions instead of B-Movie mavens like Paul W.S. Anderson and… well, Paul W.S. Anderson. All that videogame movies would need to be earn some respect is one great adaptation (and no, Resident Evil, Silent Hill and Mortal Kombat don’t count) to shift the tide of public opinion. Here are Crave Online’s picks for ten videogame movies that could finally get the sub-genre taken seriously, and the ten great directors who could finally get them right.
The days of dreamcasting are over. Now we have to dream up a whole development department.
What Is It: Hundreds of years in the future, after a nuclear war has made life on Earth’s surface all but impossible, the doors of Vault 101 finally open. Deep underground, humanity has lived on completely oblivious to the horrors of cannibals, mutants and irradiated ghouls roaming the planet, and our hero must venture forth into the wastelands in search of, depending on the Fallout game being adapted, a missing part to the Vault’s water purification system (ticking clock plotline) or their father, who fled the Vault under mysterious circumstances (hero’s journey plotline).
Who Should Direct It: Paul Verhoeven. Fallout as great a setup for a movie as any, but it could devolve into Mad Max clichés faster than you can say “Post Apocalyptic,” which admittedly would take a while. You’d need a director with a powerful personality and a wicked sense of humor to capture the Fallout franchise on film, and the satirical sci-fi mastery of Paul Verhoeven (Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) is the only man for the job. Give him the opportunity to mold the screenplay into a wicked satire of American culture and values and then just sit back and let him go nuts with miniature Nuclear Bomb launchers and powersuited zealots trying to bring America back to some kind of fascistic glory. The result could be a science fiction classic.
What Is It: A young surgeon balances soap operatic hospital drama while treating bioterrorism victims with a combination of medical knowhow and Pentagram-laced magical powers.
Who Should Direct It: David Lynch. Weird choice? Not really. David Lynch may be famous for dreamy head-trips like Eraserhead and Mulholland Drive but his greatest success remains the first season of Twin Peaks: a soap operatic world quietly infected with magic and horror. Sounds about right. David Lynch’s uniquely disturbed sensibilities would insure that every case has an unexpected bent and that the magic itself would be just one unsettling aspect of Trauma Center’s curiously innocent world. Lynch could craft an unforgettable film based on the fairly simple conceit of the game, proving that videogames can be adapted into cinema without worrying too much about conventional plotting. Let’s begin the operation…
What Is It: Gentleman top hat enthusiast and puzzle expert Professor Hershel Layton is half Sherlock Holmes and half Henry Higgins, alighting from one mystery to the next while keeping his respectable demeanor about him at all times. Layton’s mysteries usually begin plausibly: a missing treasure, a box which kills anyone who opens it, and so on before eventually expanding into fantastical sci-fi adventures filled with robots and vampires. With his faithful sidekick Luke Triton at his side, Professor Layton proves that every puzzle has an answer, even if the answer itself is equally puzzling.
Who Should Direct It: Peter Jackson’s affinity for period fantasies, as demonstrated in King Kong and (to a smaller, weirder extent) Heavenly Creatures, makes him the perfect candidate. Let him take a crack at Professor Layton and the Unwound Future, in which our heroes must travel to a near future in which Layton himself has taken over London’s criminal underworld, forcing the professor to solve that greatest mystery of all: himself. Jackson would bring to life Professor Layton’s familiar yet wholly original world of witty adventure to the screen like no other, crafting a respectable videogame franchise devoid of shallow action sequences and stock characters.
What Is It: Speaking of shallow action sequences and stock characters, how bad was that Doom movie that came out a few years ago? Pretty bad, and it sure as hell wasn’t the videogame’s fault, given that the fairly straightforward and pretty badass original plotline was completely scrapped in favor of some kind of human genome project nonsense we can’t even be bothered to remember. Return to the simple pleasures of the game’s setup – a scientific research station on Mars accidentally opens the gates of hell, forcing the survivors to confront zombies, demons and their own madness to save their lives and prevent the forces of darkness from reaching Earth – and you’ve got a great recipe for R-rated horror action awesomeness.
Who Shoud Direct It: Sam Raimi’s doing bigger PG-13 projects now but we can’t think of anyone better for this ultraviolent sci-fi shoot-‘em-up than the director Evil Dead trilogy. He can handle action, humor and the descent into insanity with wildly entertaining aplomb, embracing the simplicity of Doom while adapting it to the screen with verve. It might not be the Citizen Kane of videogame movie adaptations, but a proper Doom adaptation could at least be Aliens.
What Is It: The Castlevania franchise, silly name aside, is an immensely popular series about generation after generation of the Belmont family and their ongoing battle with Count Dracula, who is resurrected every 100 years. Lost in Translation it ain’t. But the iconic imagery of the game, filled with enormous gothic castles(-vania) and heroic whip-bearing protagonists make it an obvious choice for a film adaptation.
Who Should Direct It: Ridley Scott. Actually, Paul W.S. Anderson (of the Resident Evil franchise) has been circling the project for a while, but while he’s made a few good movies here and there he’s not exactly the kind of auteur who we expect to make the most of a story about familial responsibility and epic conflict. Ridley Scott on the other hand has made a career out of large-scale action with a soulful center, previously wowing us with such grand adventures as Legend, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven (or rather the director’s cut of Kingdom of Heaven… Legend too, for that matter). His visceral cinematic style would ground Castlevania in a “You Are There” aesthetic while still paying heed to the overwhelming awe of the supernatural setting. It might not win Scott that Oscar he’s been earning for decades, but it could be an instant action classic.
What Is It: Here’s a high concept for you: a little boy runs away from the circus in order to go to school. Not just any school of course… a summer camp for psychic youngsters. In Double Fine’s hilariously dark adventure game, Razputin ‘Raz’ Aquato has just a few days to learn as many psychic powers as possible before his angry, psychic-hating father comes to pick him up, and he’ll need all of those abilities to solve the mystery of his fellow students’ missing brains. In one sequence Raz enters the mind of a giant lungfish, appearing in its subconscious as an enormous monster terrifying a metropolis full of helpless fish citizens. Who doesn’t want to see that?
Who Should Direct It: Game designer Tim Schafer’s quirky sensibilities would be a perfect fit for Edgar Wright, whose vibrant visual style and colorful sense of humor could bring the world of Psychonauts to the screen without sacrificing any of the game’s acclaimed personality. Psychonauts might be too eccentric to be an enormous hit, but it would certainly prove to all the pundits that videogame movies can be a dynamic source for originality rather than just recycled old movie clichés.
What Is It: We’re really surprised that nobody’s seriously been able to get a live-action Mega Man movie off the ground yet. The concept is perfectly pitchable… It even has the perfect The Player synopsis: Transformers meets Pinnochio. The tale of a robotic lab assistant who must save the world from his robot brothers – or “Ro-Bros” – after they are reprogrammed for destruction has all the earmarks of great sci-fi drama. The conflict between man and machine, the ability to overcome one’s nature, and of course giant robot fights would all take center stage in this family-friendly action-adventure.
Who Should Direct It: Jon Favreau, who previously handled similar material with the excellent Iron Man movies and the equally excellent (and criminally underappreciated) Zathura. Favreau could combine the epic battles and wholesome heart of the Mega Man series like no other could, emphasizing the father-son relationship between Dr. Light and Mega Man without ever making the movie feel like A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. We wish he would. Mega Man could very well be the best blockbuster never made, and would put the similar Astro Boy movie to shame.
RED DEAD REDEMPTION
What Is It: John Marston’s a retired turn of the century outlaw forced to hunt down the members of his old gang after Pinkerton detectives kidnap his family. It’s a sprawling tale of violence, morality, and (obviously) redemption with a dynamic cast of characters, cutting cultural commentary and an unforgettable ending. You should probably leave out the zombies though. You gotta save something for the sequel…
Who Should Direct It: Can you believe it’s been 20 years since Clint Eastwood made a western? Neither can we, particularly when he’d have some of his best material in years with Rock Star’s tragic Red Dead Redemption to work with. Some have said that Unforgiven was his ‘last word’ on the Western genre, but explosive tales like Red Dead Redemption have proved that not only is the Western alive and well, it’s alive and kicking ass. We like the quiet new Clint Eastwood, but we loved the hardcore director of High Plains Drifter and The Outlaw Josey Wales even more.
What Is It: Underneath the ocean’s waves lies Rapture, a futuristic city founded by billionaire industrialist Andrew Ryan in an Ayn Rand-inspired attempt to craft a society based on unchecked individual accomplishment, without any of that pesky ‘social consciousness’ which keeps the rest of humanity from reaching their true potential. But when Rapture’s scientists develop the genetics-altering drug ADAM, the city degenerates into madness and monstrosities until a lone plane crash survivor arrives unexpectedly and uncovers its secrets.
Who Should Direct It: Christopher Nolan, of course. Gore Verbinksi (Pirates of the Caribbean) has been trying to get Bioshock off the ground for a while now and we think he’d do a pretty good job with the right screenplay… there’s just no guarantee that the right screenplay will end up in his hands. He’s also having trouble getting Bioshock funded with the R-rating required to adapt its source material faithfully. Christopher Nolan would probably have no problem with it, having successfully directed intelligent, hardcore action epics that miraculously speak to and attract mainstream audiences. And with his uncanny screenwriting abilities and reliable collaborators he wouldn’t just be able to get it made, he’d be able to get it right, resulting in the smartest – and almost certainly the best – videogame movie ever made.
GRAND THEFT AUTO
What Is It: The Grand Theft Auto series is an obvious choice for a movie adaptation – it’s one of the most popular and well-known franchises on the market – but it’s also a tricky bit of work. The tone of the franchise varies wildly from gritty crime drama to over-the-top Jason Statham-esque action with tanks rolling out into urban cityscapes to take down one rogue badass with an unlimited supply of ammo and a “F*** You” attitude. We’d probably adapt Grand Theft Auto IV which, annoying side quests with your stupid cousin aside, had a particularly compelling protagonist in Niko Bellic: an Eastern European immigrant who comes to America looking for a soldier who betrayed Bellic’s platoon in a recent war and gets embroiled in organized crime along the way.
Who Should Direct It: Ben Affleck. Yes, really. You’d probably need to tone down the bit with the tanks, but at some point our hero would also have to go on a no-holds-barred crime spree, generating the most over the top chases and shootouts ever filmed. Ben Affleck wouldn’t have been our first choice before The Town, but now he’s our only choice. His tale of bank robbers with broad, conflicting personalities was laden with just the kind of id-draining bravado the Grand Theft Auto movie would need to be over-the-top entertainment and worth taking seriously at the same time.