5 More Video Game Film Adaptations Currently in the Works
Last time we talked about video game movies, we learned that stacking blocks in Tetris or Minecraft is apparently cinematic gold. Good to know that my OCD might help my screenwriting career. Given that these films and the atrocity that is Sonic the (Nightmare-Inducing) Hedgehog managed to get financed, I suspect that Hollywood is realizing that meme-worthiness is crucial to success in the social media hellscape we currently enhabit. While I’m disappointed to report that movies based on The Sims and Mega Man won’t be gracing the screens of meme enthusiasts any time soon, there’s no shortage of mediocrity coming our way. Let’s take a look at five more video game movies and keep our fingers crossed that these adaptations do right by their franchises.
#5–Mortal Kombat Reboot
The Mortal Kombat movies of old, while financially successful, can generously be filed under the “guilty pleasure” category. The first Mortal Kombat was the film that launched Paul W. S. Anderson’s career, and based on the last article in this series, we all know how that turned out. Since the release of sequel Mortal Kombat: Annihilation in 1997, the series has been in hibernation, afflicted by “production limbo” syndrome since New Line Cinema announced the reboot in 2011. Cold feet and production shakeups seem to be a recurring theme for video game movies. Pre-production began to heat up in 2015, and now it’s well under way.
Until reading this lengthy synopsis for the purposes of this article, I didn’t realize that the button-mashing, spine-ripping franchise had such deep lore. Most of the games are fairly light on story, but the bevy of tie-in comics fleshed out the world. There’s certainly plenty of material to draw from.
The film, set to be released in 2021, will be directed by newbie director Simon McQuoid and produced by James Wan of Saw and Aquaman fame, featuring a cast of mostly unknown actors, a few of which are known predominantly for their work on martial arts films. The fact that the filmmakers are shooting for an R-rating is encouraging. Mortal Kombat without excessively gory fatalities would be like Minecraft without Creepers or World of Warcraft without neckbeards. Actually, now that I put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
Regardless, this film will either lean into the campy cheesiness that was the original games or it will embody the more serious tone of Mortal Kombat 11. The meme gods hope for the former but the latter might make for better cinema. We’ll just have to wait and see.
This is a strange one, not in the sense that I think it’ll be bad; it’s just not the outright smash hit that you’d think would get a Hollywood film. It doesn’t really come off as a franchise that would draw the attention of the Eye of Sauron that are Hollywood investors. Rogue One’s Donnie Yen is the only name that has been attached to the project. He took to Instagram in February of last year to assure fans that the movie was in motion. His skill with martial arts is certainly nothing to scoff at, which bodes well for the film.
The fact that Sleeping Dogs doesn’t have the same public recognition as something like Grand Theft Auto might be the best thing that the film has going for it. It may be able to dodge the stigma that video game movies often carry, because most of the movie-going public is likely to be unaware of its origins and will judge it on its own merits. The mob story is interesting enough to hold up on screen, and with the right script and fight choreography, this film has the potential to be a hit. I just hope that Pork Bun Guy gets a lot of screentime. “A man who never eats pork buns is never a whole man. Why don’t you have a pork bun in your hand?”
A man so full of wisdom shouldn’t be left out of this adaptation.
#3–Super Mario Bros. Returns
Some people have a hard time learning from the past. The abysmal box office failure that was the live-action Super Mario Bros. in 1993 wasn’t enough to keep this billion dollar franchise away from the big screen forever. The age of remakes and reboots won’t allow it, despite the fact that the previous film is a huge part of why video game films have such a stigma in the first place.
At least they won’t repeat the mistake of making this film live-action. Perhaps if they had started production after Detective Pikachu hit theatres, it might be a different story. But as it stands, Nintendo signed a deal with “Despicable Me” studio Illumination to bring Mario to theatres in full CGI style.
This time, Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto takes the role of producer. Hopefully, his involvement means the film will match the tone of the source material. Thankfully, this isn’t his first foray into filmmaking. In 2014, he produced short films based on the Pikmin series.
Little else is known about the Mario film. Given that animated films can take years to produce, it’s likely we won’t hear anything for some time. The track record of Illumination makes me think that, at the very least, this film will be better than the last. But that’s not saying much.
#2–Tom Clancy’s The Division
On the list of adaptations no one asked for, I’d think The Division would rank fairly high. While it sold 20 million copies worldwide, the narrative wasn’t what drew players to the looter-shooter. In fact, the storytelling in the game was criticized by fans and critics alike. However, it’s fair to say that the premise holds a lot of potential.
The game is about an outbreak of smallpox that was planted on money. After the epidemic spreads throughout New York City on Black Friday, the island of Manhattan is quarantined and society falls into chaos. Sleeper agents from the Strategic Homeland Division (aka “The Division”) who are trained for apocalyptic scenarios like this are called upon to save the city and find out how the virus was spread.
Ubisoft is determined to turn their popular franchise into a blockbuster hit. They brought Deadpool 2 director and John Wick co-director David Leitch on board to helm the project. Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain are set to star in the film. It’ll be interesting to see these two grind for XP and repeat the same story missions over and over again. Wait, that’s not how movies work. Never mind, moving on.
No one can out-Kojima the Kojima. As convoluted as the plotline has been known to be, there is a particular tone that Kojima brought to the franchise that can’t be matched. Just ask fans about how Metal Gear Survive turned out without him and watch their heads explode. So when a film is in production from the director of the by-the-numbers blockbuster affair that was Kong: Skull Island, don’t get mad at me for being skeptical that this team is capable of pulling off the same avant-garde style that Kojima brings to the table. I think I’d prefer to see this film helmed by a fellow auteur like David Lynch, but I digress.
The intricacy of the plot, the philosophical themes, and the fourth wall-breaking, scatological humor are all things that might be lost in translation. The Hollywood market typically isn’t all too friendly to this kind of storytelling.
The script has been completed, and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts has been singing its praises in the media. “It’s one of the best scripts I’ve ever read. It’s one of the coolest, weirdest, most Kojima things.”
While that’s encouraging to hear, we’ll see if the final product lives up to those expectations. Vogt-Roberts’ passion for the series and admiration for Kojima is evident in his pitch to executives. He’s determined to get over the hump of video game movies and make something great. Let’s hope that he gets it right.
Do any of these films have you shaking with excitement? Or are you lamenting the state of Hollywood? Let us know in the comments below.
Brian Schuchert is a writer and filmmaking professional. He’s been playing games since before he could read and will continue to play them until he’s a big-shot director in Hollywood with no time on his hands. You can follow him on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/user/TINSELTOWNINC) or Twitter (https://twitter.com/ShookEarthMedia).