Thursday, November 19, 2009

Game On/Over...

Push the "X" button, now the "Y" button...

With Walt Disney Pictures "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" slowly approaching it's release, I thought I'd examine what other gaming titles would make a great movie for Disney...

Think of this as a video game version of my "Without Tights" post. Instead of talking about comics that would be good for the Mouse to adapt, we'd focus on video games. This isn't new, in fact studios have been adapting games for the better part of the last decade. Badly in almost every instance. So far there hasn't been any one adaption that has transcended the boundaries of a game controller to become a smash hit. From "Silent Hill" to "Doom," video games has had a spotty record at the box office and haven't been treated too kindly by critics either. And least we not forget Uwe Boll, who has destroyed many a video game adaptation entirelywithout help. In the desecration of games, he's an industry unto himself and probably the main reason people think all video game movies are so bad.

The Holy Grail of video game adaptations was going to be the uber game "Halo" with Peter Jackson producing, but the enormous sized budget gave Suits cold feet and it's been languishing ever since. Hopefully there will be some positive word in the next year or so and a project like this won't wither on the vine, but until then we have to wonder what could be the next potential adaption? What title that is currently out there capable of translating cinematically and financially? While we wait to see if POP is the first one to break out and become a blockbuster let's examine the world around us.

There are several titles out right now that I think could make excellent films, some of them in active development, others just waiting to be plucked up. So with that I'll just go over a list of films that any studio could make into an amazing film, but since this blog is called Blue Sky Disney, I'll pretend that I'm recommending them for the Mouse. We all know they listen to my every word.

Where to start? With the first footstep; all journeys begin with that...


Actually, with the release of "Uncharted 2" this property is currently a prime example of a game that would make an impressive candidate for the box office. Although the first game was good and had impressive gameplay, the sequel is head and shoulders above it in terms of gameplay, graphics and narrative. This title is pure cinema with a joystick. For those that don't know, Uncharted follows the adventures of Nathan "Nate" Drake; a modern day Indiana Jones type character searching for the lost city of El Dorado.

Along the way we meet a rouge's gallery of characters that are out to thwart Drake from his mission. Hunting for the fortune and treasure with his friend Sully, he comes in to contact with Gabriel Roman (Drake's Belloq). They find the remnants of an ancient city which one had a large gold statue. Drake find clues that lead to an island in the pacific as to where this statue was taken. Upon the island he has to confront mercenaries and traps as he hunts for the treasure in a race against his greedy opponents. The game was quite detailed, filled with detailed adventure and interesting characters.

The sequel, "Uncharted 2: Among Thieves" is actually an even better title. Sadly, this story is already in development at Columbia with Avi Arad attached as producer. Kyle Ward wrote the most recent draft of the script and as of now no one is attached to direct, much less star in the film. Disney could have picked this up, but another studio got to it first. If the Mouse had made it the Touchstone Pictures label would have been the best use for it since the film would be far more violent and adult than the Disney label would allow.


If you don't know Half-Life then you're not a gamer. Or you haven't been in the past decade. This adventure follows Gordon Freeman as he goes to work at the Black Mesa Research Facility. He dons a HEV suit and performs experiments that causes an accident known as a "resonance cascade." He performs an experiment that tears a hole/portal in dimensions and blacks out.

When he awakens in the ruined test chamber of the lab, strewn with dead bodies of the people that work there. Having no communication to the outside world he heads to the surface for. He survives alien attacks and dangerous perils in the damaged building only to find that there is a group of government agents that are killing the employees and aliens in some massive government cover-up. He proceeds to try and find a solution to the opening portal and the alien horde that threaten to overtake humanity.

Half-Life is my second favorite of all these games as far as hoping for an adaptation to a film. I can easily see this being a grand, Sci-Fi adventure with Lovecraftian overtones. Again, this would have to be done under the Touchstone or Hollywood labels. But a film of this nature would be a grand spectacle filled with amazing imagery. Finding the right screenwriter and director would be a challenge as the story is complicated and needs someone that is capable of stripping it down to a two hour film. Otherwise, it could easily be a six to eight hour miniseries. Hey, there's an idea! No, actually I want to see a film adaption of this with a budget that matches the scope of the narrative.


Yet another property optioned by another studio (Universal). But this one is in turnaround so the Mouse has a chance to get this one. That is, if they're willing to swallow the huge price tag. It would be a reuniting with Gore Verbinski and could/would create another franchise from which to build. But it would also have to be under the Touchstone label for the same reasons as Uncharted.

Bioshock is the story set in 1960, following a plane crash survivor named Jack, who washes ashore on a mysterious island and stumbles to a lighthouse. He finds a bathyspheres and descends down beneath the sea to discover an underwater city known as Rapture. It is there that he discovers a mad scientist, strange monsters, mutated genetics and dark secrets that involve his own life. There are many twists.

This is an incredibly interesting game, filled with science fiction and horror elements that would be very interesting to see in a film. I haven't read the script, but I hear it's phenomenal and expensive. This would have been a bizarre action film set upon an incredible canvas. Will it get made? Not unless someone ponies up for the budget or a rewrite brings the scope and scale of this adventure into a more filmable tale. Ross, you looking for something... different? Actually, it's too different to be Disney... but not Touchstone or Hollywood Pictures perhaps?


The only computer game I still play on my Mac. This was an addiction I had five or six years ago. Before the blog, I spent nights of not being able to sleep killing Zergs and building bases on far off worlds.

For those that have never heard of StarCraft, it's a game by the geniuses of Blizzard Entertainment that is a Sci-Fi combat strategy game (RTS). Set during a war in the 26th century between three species fighting for dominance of the galaxy. The humans, known as Terrans are in a battle with a primitive insectoid type race known as the Zerg and a highly advanced race known as the Protoss.

This would be a film filled with high adventure in space. Picture "Aliens" on a larger level across an entire galaxy, but less dark and filled with crazy action. This film would be the first of these games I've listed that could be under the Walt Disney Pictures label. A filmed adaptation of this game isn't that far fetched since it's sister game WarCraft is already in active development for a film right now. Sam Raimi is producing that one so it's entirely possible that some producer out there could be working on getting the rights to film this one. Could Disney and possibly Bruckheimer (who is working on "Alien Legion" as we speak) work together to make this a reality?

Crimson Skies

Ok, now we've come to my favorite possibility. A dream really. My roommates and I spent endless nights till dawns overheating his X-Box with this game on. If you read this blog often you know I love pulp fiction, serials and worship at the alter of Indiana Jones. My two favorite Disney Afternoon shows were "Ducktales," which was Raiders with a duck really and "Tailspin" which was Raiders of the air with Disney characters. Essentially, that is what Crimson Skies is.

Set in an alternate world in the late 1930's, this adventure is set in a divided America that broke apart shortly after The Great War. Divided into rival factions, this reality has a world enamored with air power. Planes, Zeppelins and balloons are the primary mode of transit. It is a version of Raider set in the sky and it succeeds marvelously. The main character is a rouge adventurer named Nathan Zachary, a dashing and daring pilot. It follows his adventures against air pirates and beautiful maidens. Exotic locations and thrilling adventure themed to an Art Deco world filled these two video games. Two, you say? Yes. The first was "Crimson Skies" for Windows (Boo!). The second, and my favorite was "Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge" for the X-Box. Both had good stories, but the second was superior and the game was better designed as a console game versus being a PC title.

This would be perfectly suited to Walt Disney Pictures and could come across as a Pirates of the Caribbean with planes. And as Iger wants now, it's fully sequel-ready. In fact, it screams franchise. I think the perfect person for something like this would be Peter Jackson. Having watched "King Kong," the way he paints the 30's; he would make an amazing adaption of this game. Together with his LOTR writing team, this would be a film I'm frothing at the mouth to see... and pay money to see over and over... Hopefully some Disney Suits will point that out to Iger, Ross and Aviv, but I ain't holding my breath.

Will Disney, or any company out there make one/all of these? Who knows since these adaptions are expensive. Video games tend to have a scope that is massive and therefore costly. When was the last time you saw a best selling game that featured a small, intimate story? Not many. Suit tend to be wary of spending these kinds of budgets in these hard economic times. But action is something that sells rather well and it also translates internationally across cultures. As a film producer once said to me: "A bullet translates better than dialog." But times are changing I believe.

There are several out there that are worthy of being made. Some with tremendous potential and with the right talent attached, you will one day see a major success. Will Prince of Persia be it? Who knows, but it certainly has talent attached. It absolutely has the breath and epic scale to it; Jerry B. has seen to that. Come next May we'll find out if it's a hit. If it is you can expect Disney to start looking at what else it can adapt. First from Disney Interactive and then elsewhere.

That's when we'll know if it's truly game on...


jeffk said...

If they really go ahead with the Uncharted movie, Nathan Fillion is the obvious choice for Drake. That's all I ask.

I always thought the No One Lives Forever games could have launched a movie franchise too (though I'd probably rather see the Queen & Country comics get that shot now).

My super-secret number-one wish, though, is for Pixar to do a Grim Fandango movie.

Colt said...

You don't worry that Crimson Skies might draw comparisons to Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow? A movie I loved, but was far from blockbuster.

Michael said...

I love it - I've been knocking a similar story to this around in my brain for a while, and pretty much the sole reason for that was because I wanted to beg Disney to adapt Crimson Skies. For quite a while I've thought that it would be PERFECT for a film series.

Nathan Fillion as Nate Zachary and Rachel Weisz as The Black Swan is all I ask. And as much real flying and as little CG as possible.

Franchise, Iger, franchise!!

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Michael said...

Yes - No One Lives Forever is another great idea. And yes, I've wanted Pixar to do Grim Fandango too.

Honor Hunter said...

While I loved the idea/concept of "Sky Captain" and thought the designs were great, the script was slow and boring. I also think that Jude Law was totally miscast in a role that should have went an American "John Wayne/Flynn" type of character.

So I don't think every serial type film would be thought of as just like SCATWOT. The reason that "Raiders" and "The Mummy" worked is they started with a better script (yes, even from Sommers) than something like "Sky Captain" or "The Mummy 2" or "The Shadow" even.

If you have the right talent (director, writer, actors) the project will usually work out. And I think the same could work for "Crimson Skies."

I'd love to have them film it so we could test this theory...

Spokker said...

The best outcome is for none of those properties to be made into movies. The general trend is that video game movies are terrible. I don't see that changing now.

Video games are a viable medium in their own right. Turning them into films isn't really necessary.

Michael said...

I disagree, Spokker. Videogame films have been terrible because they've been made by terrible filmmakers. A game property in the hands of a good filmmaker could be just as good as movie translated from a novel or other source. You just have to have good people on the job. Sadly, the people that have been making videogame movies are amongst the least talented directors in the business.

I've long wanted to see Crimson Skies translated to film, but I don't need to have a direct film-to-script adaptation. Instead, I think these properties offer a very rich world with interesting characters that could be adapted to any number of storylines. The same could be said of any game with interesting characters, universes, or design elements - I'd love to see a Metroid film, but I wouldn't expect it to be based on a specific game in that series.

Honor Hunter said...

Michael's right, Spokker...

Crimson Skies plot is better than most movies, much less, most Disney movies. It has an engaging story and compelling characters.

The problem with most video game adaptions is the games doen't have enough depth or the film makers aren't up to the quality of the games.

Any of these games would make a great adaptation, but all of them need film makers that understand the material and have the talent to translate it...

Spokker said...

I think a big problem with some of these games, however, is that, you know, Bioshock was meant to be experienced from a first person view. It's doesn't really have cut scenes in the traditional sense. Everything that happens happens, whether you are looking in that direction or not. That's what adds to the immersion factor.

I certainly hope such film adaptions end up being great, but I think that a bad video game movie does a lot of harm to the credibility of video games.

Honor Hunter said...

But the narrative of the story is pretty good... with the right screenplay you can take that story and make it interesting...

One of the problems of "DOOM" was trying to make it first person in some scenes. Not that that was the only problem with it.

Granted, I don't want a bad movie made. But a bad movie begins with a bad script. That's where it all has to start and properties like "Crimson Skies" offers a great foundation to build a great script...

Hugh Hogwarts said...

I say that put you in charge of development at Disney, Honor. Your suggestions make better sense than a lot of the crap they've done over the past few years.