Each failed or underwhelming attempt just adds to what has become known as “the video game curse.” Has that stopped Hollywood from trying though? Undoubtedly, no!
And why would they? The video game industry is a billion-dollar industry that provides terrific story-telling and source material that begs to be adapted for the big (or small) screen (yes, we may be getting to another edition of “The #NetflixTreatment“).
Not to mention, Hollywood has become incredibly predictable in the content it produces. The majority of films (financially successful ones at least) are either sequels, prequels, reboots, remakes, spin-offs, or adaptations of other people’s works — novels, comic books and yep you guessed it, video games.
It’s no secret the majority of the attempts to adapt a video game for the big screen have been…underwhelming, to say the least (although this writer thoroughly enjoyed the Assassin’s Creed adaptation).
Hollywood has all the resources to change the narrative surrounding video game movies. Going back to the Assassin’s Creed film, while I enjoyed it very much, many did not. However, the structure and approach to that adaptation could provide the key to unlocking commercial and critical success in regard to adapting these highly popular games for the big screen.
Storytelling has always been the weakness when it comes to video game films, and that’s mainly because they try to adapt a specific storyline from the game itself.
Assassin’s Creed attempted to tell an original story set within the same universe as the game. While Justin Kurzel’s team didn’t knock it out of the park necessarily, the story felt fresh while the world it was set in still felt familiar to fans of the game series. Creating original content set within the same universe could be the answer, and Assassin’s Creed could be the blueprint to success.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at 5 other video game franchises that deserve their shot on the big screen.
God of War
The concept: God of War is an action-adventure game series that draws its inspiration from Greek and Norse mythology. The story itself follows the main protagonist, Kratos.
Kratos is a spartan warrior that is tricked into killing his wife and daughter by his former master, the Greek God of War Ares. Seeking to avenge the death of his family, Kratos kills Ares and becomes the new God of War. Revealed to be the son of Zeus, Kratos is then betrayed by his father. Having lost all faith in the Greek/Olympian Gods, Kratos vows to protect the world from them and their machinations against humanity.
That creates the mission for Kratos — destroy everything that connects the God to humanity. Ultimately, he brings down the Greek Pantheon, which was built in honor of the gods and represented their main connection and influence over humanity. After destroying the Pantheon, Kratos is transported into the world of the Norse gods where he and his young son set out on a journey to fulfill his recently deceased second wife’s wishes — to spread her ashes at the highest peak of the nine realms.
Why it would work: With inspiration that lies in ancient mythology, there are numerous stories and material that could provide a stellar movie script. God of War is tailor-made for a film franchise. Sure, a lot of attempts that have been made by Hollywood to adapt films based deep in mythology have been pretty underwhelming (e.g., Gods of Egypt, Exodus: Gods and Kings, Clash of the Titans), none of these films have had such a compelling, conflicted and ferocious protagonist like Kratos, nor have they had the freedom to tell original stories.
Kratos isn’t based off any particular historical figure, which gave the game developers ample freedom to craft him and his story in any way they saw fit. Kratos alone is reason enough to justify turning this game series into a film franchise. The games provide the perfect setting for a film, which inspires Kratos’ story to be taken in directions the games haven’t or can’t. The stories in the games were beautifully told and do not require a retelling. If a God of War franchise is made, it would be wise to take Kratos on an all-new adventure that is still able to connect to the stories previously told in the games.
The concept: As of now, there are two games in the franchise. Both games feature different protagonists and storylines that intersect at certain points allowing the two stories to take place in the same world.
The first game in the series follows master hacker Aiden Pearce who, after the untimely death of his young niece, sets out on revenge mission to find those responsible. Pearce teams up with other hackers who are part of a underground network called DedSec in order to track down everyone who had a hand in the death of his niece.
The story features plenty of deception, betrayal and, of course…hacking. This is what makes these games unique. Pearce is able to hack pretty much anything including: phones, ATMs, computer systems, security systems, and even traffic control systems. His ability allows him access to information and files not meant for anyone else to see. If you’ve got dirt to hide, Pearce will find it and he will use it to take you down.
Why it would work: Movies about hackers are nothing new. They have been done plenty of times but the majority of these films always relegate the hacker to a background character, a sidekick, or one of the villains of the story. A Watchdogs adaptation would flip the script making the hacker the protagonist.
The level of hacking abilities generally shown in films (except for Fate of the Furious) is not even close to being on par with the abilities showcased throughout these games. This is next-level hacking we’re talking about here. As mentioned above, there really isn’t anything these guys (and gals) can’t hack. However, the game does do a terrific job of showing the varied difficulty levels as some things are much tougher to hack than others.
They may be masters of the craft of hacking, but even masters run into a few road blocks from time-to-time. The games establish a world where hacking is commonplace and there are plenty of bad people out there to take down through means of exposure. The duality in the games lends itself to a film adaptation where filmmakers can create an original story told within the world that’s already been set up. The games already proved it was possible to do while keeping the stories and characters connected in some way.
Red Dead Redemption
The concept: Red Dead Redemption tells the story of former outlaw, John Marston. Marston finds himself being taken away from his family by the Bureau of Investigation, where any chance of amnesty is contingent on one thing: Marston must bring the remaining members of his old gang to justice.
Marston is able to track down and dispatch of two of the remaining three members of his old gang, Bill Williamson and Javier Escuella. However, his travels to bring these men to justice take him all the way to Mexico and smack dab in the middle of rebellion. After crossing those two names off the list, Marston thinks that might be enough and tries to get back to his family. The Bureau refuses to let him see his family until he helps them bring in Dutch Van der Linde, the leader of Marston’s old gang.
After successfully bringing Dutch to justice, Marston is able to return to his family on their ranch believing it all to be over. Suddenly, he is forced to repel a surprise attack led by the agents of Bureau that took him from his family. Marston is able to get his family to safety before (SPOILER ALERT) sacrificing himself to hold off the attackers.
In an epilogue, it is revealed what happened to the companions that accompanied Marston throughout the game, as well as how revenge stricken Marston’s own son has become over the death of his father.
Why it would work: Westerns still have a lot of potential in the film landscape of today. The Magnificent Seven, released in 2016 starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pratt, made a worldwide total of $162 million.
If the budget would have been kept in check, that film would have turned a nice profit. There’s clearly an audience for these types of films.
The story told in this game not only would make for a great film adaptation, but also could also be deemed worthy of recognition by the Academy. It’s a story of an outlaw trying to do right by his family, a man that seeks redemption acting out of desperation to ensure the safety of those he loves.
An adaptation of this game would work better as a straight-up retelling of the story with no deviation, including what should be the title of the movie. What happens at the end of the game would give filmmakers the freedom to take any sequels or spin-offs in fresh new, original directions.
Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, is being released this month and that game acts as a prequel to the original, detailing the events that took place while Marston was still a part of his old gang but instead focusing on the other gang members. The game sets itself up for further exploration of the setting and characters introduced, Hollywood should take advantage of that.
Grand Theft Auto
The concept: One of the most popular and well-known video game franchises since its inception in 1997, this crime-oriented, action-adventure game series has taken the world by storm with intricate world-building, ambitious storylines, and (with the more recent installments) superb character development.
Very few video games receive and deserve as much hype as the GTA series. The games masterfully blend satire of the real world with immense amounts of chaos. At the core of each game, in regard to the protagonists, there is always a story behind the characters to help the players relate.
Whether that story is a rags-to-riches tale revolving around a tough upbringing or a story about a man who put his family in danger due to his life of crime, these games are satirical of the real world. The GTA franchise also manages to add a surprising amount of heart in its games, which helps the players relate even more to the characters they control.
Action, comedy, chaos, adrenaline rushes, vulgarity — all aspects of this series that have helped it stand out from other titles and secure its’ position as one of the greatest video game franchises in history.
Why it would work: In a short answer, all of the reasons mentioned above. An adaption of GTA might seem difficult because we have seen these kinds of action-crime movies before, so what could set this apart from other films?
Establishing the entire GTA franchise — movies and games — as one big shared universe would help the film side create all new original characters and fresh storylines, while also incorporating characters and events from the games.
The characters from the games have already had their stories told, and the great thing about GTA is that each new installment has brand new characters and a new protagonist. The precedent for creating new, fresh chapters in the GTA saga has already been established within the games, which already eliminates that challenge for anyone wanting to bring GTA to the big screen.
Incorporating live-action counterparts of the characters in the game into a live-action adaptation tells an entirely new story would connect everything in an almost effortless way. No, the concept of the games and films wouldn’t be anything new per say, but the games have such a huge following as is that fans would surely flock to the theater to see this iconic franchise get its’ chance on the big screen.
For casual viewers, a heavy action, crime story will always have a certain appeal, especially with some star power!
The concept: Set in a post-apocalyptic wasteland where the world that came before was destroyed by nuclear warfare, a large amount of the American population (and we assume global too) went into underground fallout shelters called Vaults.
Many years after the nuclear bombs destroyed civilization, the world is left with barren wastelands. Humanity is reduced into tribal factions warring with each other in attempts to grasp whatever power they can. The player plays as a lone, faction-less wanderer that must battle his way through the wasteland that used to be civilization while banding up with companions out of necessity to survive deadly radiation, enormous mutant wildlife, marauders, raiders, and ghouls.
The game is really all about survival and adapting to the world as it is now.
Why it would work: I know, I know. Post-apocalyptic wasteland has been done numerous times before, but hear me out! The premise of the game lends itself to a film adaptation.
In the history of the game, when America and China were pitted against each other over an oil drilling conflict, nuclear warfare became a real possibility. Before the nuclear exchange took place, huge vaults were constructed all over the country to protect the American citizens from radiation, or so they thought. There are 440,000 vaults needed to protect the nation, yet only 122 were constructed.
This is because (SPOILER ALERT) these vaults were not intended to save humanity at all. They were constructed as social experiments conducted by the United States government and were intended to assist in rebuilding humanity.
They never intended to save everyone. The games have the told the stories of the occupants from certain vaults, but not all of them, lending itself to film adaptions that could explore any number of the vaults not already seen within the games. Not only that, but with the twist about the government planned for this and never intended on saving the entire population, a film adaptation could also explore the governments motives as well as the mysterious Vault-Tec company that designed the vaults in the first place.
The films could take the franchise in fresh directions that the games haven’t, incorporating government conspiracy, tribal factions and survival against a mutated environment; think Mad Max, I am Legend and Resident Evil all rolled into one. The beautiful thing about the Fallout franchise is that the main characters are never named and their backgrounds never explored, clearing the way for the films to create all new characters to explore with.
There are vaults all over the country that are waiting for their time to emerge, what better way to discover them than through live-action?