There is no such thing as an “easy” video game adaptation.
Frankly, I’m not convinced yet that there’s any point to adapting any property from video game to movie. The entire medium of games right now is so heavily dependent on movies in terms of style and structure, but with the added benefit of interactivity, that to remove that one element from a game premise pretty much robs it of the thing that makes it special.
Yes, “Bioshock” was a very creepy, very cool world, built on a structure that deals in some direct and even surprising ways with the idea of moral ramifications to the choices a player makes. It’s built around a fairly devastating twist, but in order for that twist to pay off, it needs to be the player who has made those choices, so that once they learn exactly what the results of those choices are, it affects how they approach choices in every game, not just this one.
When Gore Verbinski was attached to direct this film, the assumption was always that this was going to be a mega-budget event film. But the more I’ve thought about that, the less sense it makes. What is it about this story that is so inherently large-scale that people think it needs to be this giant bloated tentpole?
Now that Juan Carlos Fresnadillo has been tipped to become the director of the movie, I’ve seen some people on Twitter, like Pete Sciretta of /Film, bemoaning the loss of that giant-budget version, complaining that the hiring of Fresnadillo means the film is inherently going to be smaller and cost less.
GOOD. THANK GOD.
[more after the jump]
I don’t really believe that Hollywood is going to learn anything from the success of “District 9,” or from the budget of that film, but I can pretend. I can pretend that I live and work in a town that is facing a rapidly changing financial paradigm, a town that needs to start embracing new business models if it hopes to keep a healthy profit margin alive even as they encourage the growth of a new generation of commercial talent. I can pretend that I live in a town where they greenlight material because of compelling screenplays, not because they figure $200 million of art direction porn will equal a trailer that at least buys them an opening weekend. I can pretend I work in an industry where other movie bloggers and critics care about whether people are doing good work, not about pimping out the same tired idea with a different name every day. Video game, video game, comic book, comic book, remake, remake, sequel, prequel, video game, comic book, synergy, synergy, synergy, synergy. All this goddamn synergy makes me want to put a bullet in my head some days, and instead of wondering why a talented European genre filmmaker whose flawed-but-fascinating “Intacto” seemed to suggest an interesting new voice is stucking making sequels to other people’s horror films and video game movies, we treat it like reason to celebrate. “Yay! Hollywood’s turning another interesting filmmaker into a guy who makes widgets! Hooray!”
I don’t mean to sound cynical. Maybe Fresnadillo and whoever’s writing the latest draft of “Bioshock” can actually create a compelling narrative, a film that’s about more than how cool an underwater city and some soggy zombies look. Maybe. But when “Halo” fell apart and Neil Blomkamp was forced to make an original film instead for about 1/6 of what he would have spent on “Halo,” the result is a movie that has established Blomkamp as a major new genre filmmaker. I like Fresnadillo enough that I see this as wholeheartedly sad news. I’m sure his agents have told him it’s a great gig, and as a business opportunity, they’re right. My agents would probably kill to get me on a film of this size as a writer.
But I mean what I say: we’ve gone so far off the rails that people are actually debating the merits of this announcement. There was a time where “Pop Will Eat Itself” was just a clever name for a band, but now it seems to be the underlying principle that drives our entire entertainment diet, and I refuse to dance and sing and pretend that it makes me happy to see one more guy line up, ready to trade what made him intersesting for a chance at big-budget pod-people anonymity.
We’ll see if this one actually makes it into production, but for now, I’m guessing we’re looking at another “Silent Hill.” Christoph Gans was wonderful and unique when he made “Brotherhood Of The Wolf,” and as soon as he hooked up with “Silent Hill,” working with the clever and canny Roger Avary as a screenwriter, they both hit the same wall that all these films seem to hit: it’s easy to bring the atmosphere and mood of a game to the bigscreen, but it’s nearly impossible to create a strong narrative that doesn’t feel like you’re sitting and watching someone else play.
It’s a genre that makes no sense so far. Go ahead… convince me otherwise.
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