With 20th Century Fox’s movie adaptation of the hit gaming series Assassin’s Creed only mere weeks away, there’s some stirring of hope that the curse of the video game adaptation will finally be broken. It has a director in Justin Kurzel who’s already wrangled Macbeth onto the big screen to much acclaim and an unprecedentedly strong cast featuring award ceremony-botherers such as Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendon Gleeson, and Charlotte Rampling. The games series itself drew considerable praise in its earlier iterations not only for its flowing and expansive gameplay but also for its strong storytelling and mythos that genuinely could translate into fine cinema. All of this is forming a sense of anticipation that the Assassin’s Creed movie will be worth the ticket price beyond seeing the iconic shot of the assassin diving from the highest steeple.
If Assassin Creed does indeed deliver on its potential and invert the reputation of games adaptations then it could open the floodgates for several more video games being given the Hollywood greenlight. So, here are 5 of our interactive contenders that deserve to be on the silver screen.
To qualify, the games must have originated from the medium itself (so no place for the excellent Witcher series, which CD Red Projekt based on Andrzej Sapkowski’s books); video games that inherently rely on, are taken from, or continually reference movies themselves (so that’s Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto and Red Dead Redemption out of the picture); and lastly, they must be unblemished by a previous movie adaptation, no matter how much some beloved titles -like Resident Evil and Silent Hill– are in need of a do-over.
5. MASS EFFECT
The mostly adored Mass Effect series (Mass Effect 3‘s ending notwithstanding) has a tremendous amount of spectacle, characters, and space-bound adventures to offer cinema. The Mass Effect universe contains just as much detail, sci-fi politics, and alien races and worlds as either Star Wars or Star Trek. Although the first entry in series isn’t thought of fondly of as its more refined sequel, its more focused story as Commander Shepherd starts to uncover the threat of the eradicating Reapers as he pursues the rogue agent, Saren, across the galaxy would make for some compelling sci-fi fare and audiences wouldn’t have to suffer through those awkward driving sections.
J.J. Abrams would be a solid choice for the director’s chair and the stoic Commander Shepherd would suit Chris Evans down to the ground, or perhaps Emily Blunt if they decided to go with Fem-Shep instead. There have been movie rumors surrounding the series since 2010, so perhaps this is more than idle speculation with Warner’s hoping to bring Mass Effect to theaters by 2018 according to the latest word from the studio.
4. THE LAST OF US
The Last of Us is one of the most highly regarded games in gaming history and although its cover-based/stealth gameplay is solid and flexible, it’s the game’s celebrated storytelling that has made it so revered and as such is a perfect source for a screenplay. The game is episodic in nature and would need some massaging to make a film of it flow, but the post-apocalyptic setting and the creepy, fungus-infused monsters it features would be startling to see realized on the cinema screen.
It’s hard to imagine anyone other than Josh Brolin filling the role of the gruff protagonist Joel and although there is a striking resemblance between the teenage Ellie and Ellen Page (who nearly sued developers Naughty Dog over the use of her likeness), casting would likely have to skew younger to someone like Chloe Grace-Moretz or Hailee Steinfeld. Behind the camera, a studio wouldn’t need to look any further than Canadian director Denis Villeneuve (Arrival, Sicario) who has proved himself several times now to be a master of thrillers with the personal focus that The Last of Us would require.
3. DARK SOULS
It’s somewhat appropriate that this infamously challenging game would prove to be a significant task to adapt it to the big screen. But since Dark Souls is heavy on lore but light on actual story, it could offer a rich canvas for an adaptation that could easily incorporate death as a learning mechanism similar to what we saw in Doug Liman’s Edge of Tomorrow given the series’ menacing tagline “Prepare to die”. Likewise, this would give the film an opportunity to capitalize on the games’ slightly perverse and sick sense of humor and atmosphere that its persevering fans have fallen in love with.
Surely no one working in cinema today would be better qualified to bring Dark Souls‘ imaginatively macabre landscapes and monsters to life than Guillermo Del Toro. And whereas main characters may be thin on the ground if the film was to be true to the arduous one-man army nature of the games, Chris Pratt could bring a wry wit to a protagonist who would likely have to suffer a constant stream of death and resurrection during his quests in the land of Lordran.
Valve Software’s sublime puzzle games have long been ripe for a movie conversion thanks to their ingenious plot twists, devious challenges, and sharp dialogue. In Portal‘s antagonist, GLaDOS, we have one of the medium’s very best villains who is by equal measures sardonic and sadistic, and with the games’ heroine, Chell, there is a resilient female-lead that Hollywood so desperately clamors for these days. The first game in the series is already primed for screenplay duties as it could be lifted straight from the source and put on screen with minimal alterations, but a screenwriter would be wise to include the sequel’s moronic AI, Wheatley, to increase on-screen character interaction.
J.J. Abrams is already behind an upcoming movie version if all the rumors are to be believed, with J.J. confirming recently that an official announcement is due any day now, but whether he’ll be directing or just producing remains to be seen. Hopefully, he’ll just be supervising proceedings as Portal‘s irreverent charm and inventions are tailor-made for The Lego Movie‘s directing team of Phil Lord & Christopher Miller. For the role of Chell, Jennifer Lawrence certainly has the smarts, action chops, and charisma necessary to carry the film as likely the only on-screen human character. As for GLaDOS, there’s no reason why Ellen McLain shouldn’t reprise the role after voicing her in the games already but if the producers are seeking someone with a little more star power then they couldn’t go far wrong with Sigourney Weaver heckling Chell throughout.
When the first Bioshock arrived in 2007, it was heralded as one of the first triple-A titles to intellectualize video games. Set in the underwater world of Rapture, the game’s plot and philosophy was based heavily on the writings of the infamous objectivist, Ayn Rand, and provided a timely satire on the nature of an elitist society’s hunger for individualism and greed unfettered by the safeguards of the state or religion. To this day, the image of Rapture’s reveal and Big Daddies escorting Little Sisters in their quest for more of precious ‘Adam’ remains one of the most striking in video games and would look glorious if replicated faithfully on the big screen. And Bioshock‘s plot itself still contains one of gaming’s best sucker punches that would work beautifully on film, if only a Hollywood studio would kindly take the project on.
‘Bioshock: The Movie’ has already so very nearly happened, but with helmer Gore Verbinski refusing to back away from the R-rated level of violence required, it’s has become a project mired in development hell ever since. Not that Verbinski would likely be fans first choice, though, but would a studio trust the necessary vast budget and difficult water-based shoot to masters of sci-fi satire like Terry Gilliam or Paul Verhoeven, who would take to the subject matter like a Splicer hungering for Adam? So, perhaps any hope of Bioshock being faithfully recreated in theaters would rest on the shoulders of mega-auteurs like Christopher Nolan or James Cameron, with the latter certainly experienced enough in shooting with wet stuff to ensure the funds required.
In terms of casting, you could your take your pick from many a modern leading man to play the game’s protagonist, Jack, but almost certainly Colin Farrell would be a shoe-in the Irish-accented and duplicitous Charles Fountaine. And Rapture’s creator and ruler, Andrew Ryan, could be ably realized in his grandeur and hubris by Sir Ian McKellen with Cate Blanchett filling the shoes of the Little Sister progenitor, Dr. Tenenbaum.
And there we have it, 5 video games that we at Cavalcade think could change the fortunes of one of cinema’s most maligned genres. Do you agree with our choices or are there any others that you believe could remove the stigma from video game movies? Please comment below.