For some reason, Hollywood has yet to make a legitimately good movie based on a videogame. While a few adaptations like the Resident Evil films and Angry Birds at least flirt with being watchable, most videogame fans are left to weep silently into their Super Mario Bros. VHS tapes. Certainly terrible writers, directors and casting are to blame for the sorry state of the genre, but there’s definitely something to be said about having chose the wrong games to adapt. After all, we can look forward to a Tetris trilogy sometime in the near future. Here’s a list of the biggest games that have been rumored for Hollywood, and the various stupid reasons they just can’t seem to get filmed.
Gore Verbinski, the director of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, really wanted to make a Bioshock movie. The critically-acclaimed game already seems tailor made for a movie given its twisting-yet-cogent plot and deep explorations of topical themes like objectivism. The game also includes massive sea divers with drills for arms which is always a win.
Verbinski’s vision for the adaptation included high amounts of gore and sheer terror. According to an interview he gave with Comingsoon.net, “I just wanted to really, really make it a movie where, four days later, you’re still shivering and going, ‘Jesus Christ!’… It’s a movie that has to be really, really scary.” All good things so far. The problem was that building the entire underwater city of Rapture would have been fairly expensive. And then Watchmen happened.
After that $130 million budget slow-mo fest failed to make much of a profit, the studio decided that maybe big-budget R-rated films were a bad idea. They asked Verbinski to reduce his budget from $200 million to a scant $80 million. The director refused and left the project. Every subsequent director they enlisted ran into the same problems until eventually Bioshock creator Ken Levine decided they didn’t want a movie anymore anyway. We still desperately want to watch a Big Daddy smash a splicer through a wall, though.
Halo is one of those games that defined a generation. It was one of the first games to truly have both a blockbuster feel and a Hollywood-quality plot. Countless kids have grown up desperate for a big-screen adaption of Master Chief blowing apart the Covenant hordes and stomping the Flood to death. Heck, it’s got everything from space sci-fi to true, creeping horror. If done well, it’s a recipe for an instant hit.
We’ve seen tantalizing glimpses of what we could expect based off a few live action trailers and a halfway-decent miniseries. There’s even one short film by Neill Blomkamp who was at one time going to direct the movie under Peter Jackson’s supervision as producer.
This could have been incredible, but ultimately what did the movie in, and what may end up preventing a Halo movie from ever being made, is the fact that too many people are going to want a cut. In what is considered a highly unusual demand, Microsoft wants $10 million up front AND 15% of the gross profits without fronting any cash of their own. The last time the movie was seriously considered, it was shut down basically the day before that initial down payment was due. No company has been willing to sign away so much up front and potential cash as it puts considerable stress on the initial film budget. Production would start by flushing $10 million down the drain and then end by setting 15% of all profits on fire. Microsoft wouldn’t put any production money into the film (besides hiring a scriptwriter for $1 million), and demanded full creative control over director, cast and every single rough cut of the film.
By comparison, it cost $2 million to option the first four Harry Potter books which is still one of the most expensive options of all time. Somehow I think those are more popular than Halo.
John Woo, director of several classic action movies such as Face/Off and Hard Boiled, optioned the rights to Nintendo’s Metroid and was evidently pumped to turn the long-running franchise into a movie. He and his team spent about three years meeting with Nintendo and trying to make sure they did right by the license. They wanted to make sure their movie about bounty-hunters in space didn’t stray too far from the source material.
But Nintendo had been burned before. After the horrifying dumpster fire that was the Super Mario Bros. movie, Nintendo was extremely unwilling to allow anybody to go too far beyond what had already been presented in the games. When Woo pitched several ideas involving Samus’s backstory, Nintendo realized they themselves didn’t know that much about the character. Nintendo balked at the idea of allowing anybody to make up an element of the character they themselves hadn’t thought about yet. They took so long debating what to do with Samus, eventually the movie rights just lapsed. An exasperated Woo packed up his crates of doves and dual pistols and went home.
After picking up the rights some time in 2007—and getting Len Wiseman (the original director of the Underworld series) to be the director, there was a lot of hope that a Gears Of War movie would be made. The original film idea would have been an epic, $100 million+ film that covered the entire war between the Locusts and Gears in sprawling fashion. It would have covered much more ground than the films, and sounded like a futuristic Saving Private Ryan.
Similarly to Bioshock, the studio got spooked at the idea of spending a bunch of money on a videogame movie, and decided Gears would make more sense as a smaller, more straightforward film like the original Cloverfield. This straight-ahead invasion story would likely be more intimate, which is something nobody has ever accused Gears of being. As expected, this dramatic tone shift was not what Wiseman (or so far really any director yet) was looking for and the movie descended into development hell.
In many ways Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us is practically a movie in its own right. That’s why when Spiderman director Sam Rami got attached to the film adaptation, people started getting very excited at the possibilities. Things were moving along quickly and, in fact, they even managed to stage a table read of the script with some interested actors. But, unfortunately, the game’s writer, Neil Druckmann, sold the rights to Sony before he knew what he really wanted to happen. Now, the writer and Sony are angrily slapping each other around while Sam Rami just sort of sits in the corner waiting awkwardly. When IGN asked Raimi about the situation, Raimi hesitantly tried to describe what was going:
Well, unfortunately that one — when we went to Neil with Ghost House Pictures we were hoping to get the rights like we do any project and then we’d take it out and sell it but we’d control the rights. With this one he went to Sony — who I have a very good relationship with — but they have their own plans for it and I think Neil’s plan for it — I’m not trying to be political — Neil’s plan for it is not the same as Sony’s. And because my company doesn’t have the rights, I actually can’t help him too much. Even though I’m one of the producers on it the way he set it up, he sold his rights to Sony, Sony hired me as a producer by chance, and I can’t get the rights free for him so I’m not in the driver’s seat and I can’t tell you what Sony and Neil together will decide on. If they do move forward I’d love to help them again.
So until they stop arguing, we get exactly zero post-apocalyptic father-daughter action dramas about zombies. Great.
Uncharted at its core is basically Indiana Jones for PlayStation. Throughout its run, the series has consistently been praised for its cinematic nature. Unfortunately, nobody actually wants the film to be anything like the game.
The first attempt to adapt it got big-name director David O. Russell, but he immediately took the premise and changed the world traveling treasure hunting story to a film about a family of art thieves. Naughty Dog (the game’s developers) didn’t like that idea, because who the heck would? Then they hired a new director (Neil Burger, who made Limitless), who dropped the film for a chance to film the Divergent series. Considering how those films turned out, Uncharted fans may have dodged a bullet there.
Since then, they’ve contacted tons of other writers and directors, but the entire time they’ve really been trying to hire Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. But those two keep not agreeing to do the movie because they don’t want to make it too Indiana Jones. They’d consider it if they could make it another movie, which brings up the question, what the hell is wrong with Indiana Jones?
Jordan Breeding is a current Paste intern who also writes for Cracked and the esteemed Twitter.