Outside of Japan there have been 29 films based on video games released into international theaters (starting with Super Mario Bros. in 1993 – 1989’s The Wizard doesn’t count, so don’t even try). While you could certainly count the number of these films that were, at the very least, decent (considering that at least half them, were directed and/or produced by either Uwe Boll or Paul W.S. Anderson), they do continue to make money (especially the Resident Evil series, which seems to be on it’s 34rd entry or something like that at this point) and so they keep making them.
With that in mind, we thought we’d do a little update of five game related projects in the works (these aren’t the only five – five just happened to be the number of these films we can investigate and write about for a certain amount of time before we want to throw ourselves through a hotel window). These aren’t just rumored projects: each of these video game movies are in some stage of production, albeit early stages.
The Tomb Raider reboot - scheduled for sometime this year – The latest reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise in video game form is only a couple of months away (March 5th, as a matter of fact) and, as reboots are wont to, is taking the adventures of Lara Croft in a whole new direction. While still listed as a 2013 release date (because we all know how set in stone those are), all we know so far is that Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby (who also wrote Cowboys and Aliens, Iron Man, and Children of Men) are currently working on the screenplay. No casting, no director, nada.
Now, that’s not to say that, with a modest budget, they can’t have a new flick by the end of the year. It’s also possible that the studio – in this case GK Films, who also had a hand in producing Argo – is simply waiting to see how the new game is received. Paramount, the distributor behind that last TR movie, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, blamed the poor performance on the notoriously awful Tomb Raider: Angel of Darkness game for the film’s awful box office. Chances are, we’ll see a new Tomb Raider movie, if not by the end of the year, at least fairly soon.
Assassin’s Creed - also scheduled for sometime this year – Oddly enough, despite the fact that there’s more traction on this than on the Tomb Raider movie, the release date is even more muddled. In fact, we’d be highly surprised if more than a teaser trailer was released for this in 2012. Luckily, the rest of the behind-the-scenes news is a little better.
Every now an then, an extremely talented actor decides he has a passion project that they just have to get off the ground, one that seems out of the ordinary. Kevin Spacey had his Bobby Darin biopic (Beyond the Sea), John Travolta had his ridiculous sci-fi ode to L. Ron Hubband Battlefield Earth and, it appears, Michael Fassbender (X-Men: First Class, Prometheus, Inglourious Basterds, Shame) has the Assassin’s Creed game series. He’s not only signed on as a producer and hired a writer (Michael Lesslie) but has even agreed to play the role of Altaïr Ibn La-Ahad – the titular assassin of the first game. If Fassbender can bring the same quality he’s brought to the rest of his work to this project and if Lesslie can create a script that can make this story and its weird mix of sci-fi and history accessible to both fans of the game and newcomers, we might be on to something.
Mortal Kombat: Rebirth – supposedly 2014 – The first film in the franchise had a lot of things going for it. It had a plot that borrowed heavily from Enter the Dragon (which, in this case, turned out to be just fine), it had director Paul W.S. Anderson oddly restraining himself and it has Highlander‘s Christopher Lambert, as the lightning god Raiden, doing what he does best – chewing scenery and being Christopher Lambert (instead of trying to convince us he was some Kung Fu master). The second movie, Mortal Kombat: Annihilation? Not so much.
So, while new games were launched in the series – games that turned out to be really good – there wasn’t much in the works for a new series of films. Then, strangely enough, came Kevin Tancharoen and his short film. (By the way, REALLY NSFW below)
Until this short, Tancharoen was known for directing the Fame remake and that Glee 3D concert movie. Genre films like this, though, was his real passion, and he was able to produce and direct this short in order to convince New Line Cinema that the franchise was still a viable property. He succeeded. Not only was a web series produced, but Tancharoen will be directing a big budget feature film version, as well, with the cast of the web series returning. Keep an eye out for it next year.
Splinter Cell - who the hell knows? – It was sort of a toss-up between listing this one and the long-rumored Metal Gear Solid picture (Splinter Cell has always felt like Tom Clancy meets Metal Gear to me, anyway), but I went with this one simply because the Splinter Cell movie actually has writers and a producer attached to it. Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) is attached to star in this one, as well, although, like the Assassin’s Creed film, nothing has entered production yet. With those two flicks plus the recently announced Ghost Recon film, as well, you sort of have to wonder when in the world Ubisoft is going to have time to make actual video games.
Angry Birds - 2016 – Yep. Angry Birds. The smartphone game where you fling birds at pigs. Game developer Rovio is currently working with the producer of Despicable Me, John Cohen, to self finance and produce a CGI film version of their ridiculously popular casual game franchise. It makes sense, in a way: the games are popular enough to spawn numerous spin-offs (including versions based on Star Wars and the animated film Rio, as well as a game featuring the said pigs of the original) as well as t-shirts, stuffed animals and other merchandise. There’s enough of a backbone of a story to the game to turn it into, at the very least, a 90-minute animated feature.
The real kicker, though, is the release date. We realize these CGI animated features take a while to produce, especially when you’re making them outside of a major studio and are financing yourself. On top of that, once it’s done (or, at least, nearly done) you need to find someone to distribute. But, who’s to say this franchise will have the same legs it does now in three years? Are enough people going to be interested in Angry Birds the game to be interested in Angry Birds: The Movie by 2016? Hell, are there enough people now?
As long as there’s people buying and playing games, there are going to be studios producing movies about them. So, we pose these questions to you: What are your expectations for the films mentioned above? What games do you think deserve to be translated to film? As usual, we have a comments section below where you can leave your thoughts.