The names of the movie stars involved are familiar to audiences world wide and the current list of game titles has fans optimistic that the eventual outcome will be represented favorably each time a new project is announced. What’s the connection between the two? It’s the number of video game adaptations that have made it recently to the big screen or are scheduled to be heading to theaters in the near future and along with it comes the hopes and aspirations of fanboys and girls everywhere anticipating their favorite game will see the same success at the box office as it has on a console or computer. As the fresh ideas in Hollywood continue to be at a premium, the movie industry is still turning to the gaming world for help.
Even without a consistently proven track record on the big screen, film companies and top personalities still vie for well-known game franchises in the hope that the string of video game cinematic misfires (which include “Hitman: Agent 47” and “Pixels” along with recent duds “Need for Speed”, “Max Payne” and “Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li”) will end and a “AAA” franchise gamers love will do the same for moviegoers as well. But what are these games that are (or were) being bandied about as the next potential Hollywood “blockbuster” that could potentially bring the masses? (Data provided by BoxOfficeMojo.com and RottenTomatoes.com).
Ratchet and Clank (Final worldwide tally: 8.8 million, Rotten Tomatoes score 16%)- From Rainmaker Entertainment and Focus Features/Gramercy Films comes this CGI adaptation of the platforming series created by Insomniac Games that has been a Sony exclusive throughout its iterations covering the lifespan of the Playstation 2 and 3 and even taking a turn on their portables the PSP and Vita on occasion. The narrative of an alien mechanic (Ratchet) his robot friend (Clank) and the friends (Captain Quark) and foes (Dr. Nefarious) who complicate their lives as they travel from one galaxy to another in search for that next thrilling adventure. Released with a “re-imagining” of the original game, Ratchet and Clank’s success was only on the Playstation 4 as the movie itself was met with bad reviews and even poorer financial results.
The Angry Birds Movie (347.8 million, 42% Rotten Tomatoes)- The idea of making a film from Rovio’s “uber-successful” mobile game that is again seeing riches due to its bird flinging sequel has Sony Imageworks and Columbia pictures thinking a lot of “green” (and it’s not the “piggies”) will come their way as the movie gets “flinged” onto movie screens just before Memorial Day next year. The list of stars lending their voices (Including “We’re the Millers” Jason Sudeikis, “Trainwreck”‘s Bill Hader and Peter Dinklage from HBO’s “Game of Thrones” among others) to the project is strong but certain questions arise when this movie is discussed. Can two video game animated adaptations coming out within a month from each other connect with audiences? Well, it looked like audiences answered that question with an emphatic “NO” as only these Angry Birds were able to thrive at theaters.
With a plot that stayed close to the source material, Rob McCallum, director of the video game documentary “Nintendo Quest” weighed in with his thoughts on why the film would be successful, “Because the game is so straight forward that they’ll have more creative freedom to explore storylines as long as they keep the central conflict. Not to mention, being a CG affair will appeal to a broader demographic” Since so many have experienced the game on their tablets and smartphones, it’s no wonder why Angry Birds performed well in its debut cinematic outing with the movie seeing enough worldwide success that a sequel appears to be on the way along with a TV series to boot.
Warcraft: The Beginning (433.5 million, 28% Rotten Tomatoes)- A shift from December (most likely due to a certain “Star Wars” film that came out around then) to this summer sparked interest in this movie and its projections on how well it will perform with ticket sales. Based on the online role-playing behemoth the film, being brought to the screen by Hollywood powerhouses Universal and Legendary Pictures, takes moviegoers into the world of Azeroth and into the heart of the battle between Humans and Orcs that Blizzard has expertly kept alive for gamers for over ten years.
Samantha Poremba shared her thoughts on why she believed Warcraft would succeed in the United States, “I don’t think the world would have been ready for a Warcraft movie five years ago. ‘Nerd’ wasn’t cool yet. Now being ‘nerdy’ is ‘trendy’ so there’s more acceptance overall.” Stephanie Johnson cited the success of the “Warcraft” books on the New York Times Best Seller List said, “Blizzard has built such a rich environment and lore that it will appeal to a wider audience than gamers.” Sam Romano concurred “I agree with Steph…they (Blizzard) were really successful with WoW for a long time plus ever since I saw their ‘cinematics’ with the games I (had) always hoped they’d make a movie.”
Despite the recent interest stateside with the game due to the Legion expansion, the film flopped stateside with much more expected than its final $47 million haul. HOWEVER…the film gained massive appeal abroad with the movie accounting for almost $400 million outside of the United States including a huge $220 million in the #2 market in the world, China. While it is still up in the air if a sequel gets made due to the inconsistency of its reception one cannot ignore the possibility of a Chinese-exclusive follow up if it again ever sees the light of day.
Assassin’s Creed (December 21, 2016)- The series that has sparked twenty, yes that’s correct, iterations in the past nine years have publisher Ubisoft partnering up with New Regency Films and 20th Century Fox to get this “killer” of a film concept to the big screen. Michael Fassbender, he of the recent hits “X-Man” and “Prometheus”, has agreed to star and co-produce the movie to ensure that all signs keep heading in the right direction for this cinematic adventure. The series, which centers around the conflict between ancient rivals the Assassins and the Knights Templar, has been set in so many different time frames including the Rennaissance Era, Imperial China, and the French and American Revolutions that it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when the story of the movie will take place.
One thing is for certain however, the current success of the series has caught the attention of gamers prognosticating its future box office success. That includes Josh Pederson, author of the novel “Vendetta Dark” who stated “I would think Assassin’s Creed. They’ll probably do bigger numbers at the box office because of the star power behind (it). Whether or not (Assassin’s Creed) will be good, we’ll have to wait and see.” Will the possible over-saturation of the series and the potential fatigue for gamers on the series cause this movie to “die” with audiences? The picture will become a bit more clear as it gets closer to the movie’s release during the holidays.
Resident Evil: The Final Chapter (January 27, 2017)- The climactic ending to a series that holds the record for the highest gross and most iterations for any video game adaptations, it comes as no surprise Sony and Screen Gems look to revive this franchise that has consumed audiences for over 915 million dollars worldwide one last time. Milla Jovovich for a final go-around takes up the role of Alice, in her final quest to defeat the Umbrella Corporation, find a cure for the T-virus and end the battle with the zombie horde. While none of the films has achieved anything resembling critical praise (the highest Metacritic rating was for “Resident Evil Extinction” at 41%) the films have continued to be one of the very few representations of video games on the big screen that has achieved any level of success.
“Angry” Nick Holman took that into consideration when he said “Look at what the series has done far. No matter how bad the movies get trashed they (audiences) seem to be coming back for more and more. I personally don’t like the films but at this point, I’m not going to bet against them.” When asked if the sixth film might be too much for movie fans and fatigue for the series will drive them away Nick remarked: “Doesn’t matter, Sony has raked in nearly a billion bucks of this franchise, I’ll take my chances (on the film being a hit).” With evidence like that, it is truly hard to bet against “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter” when it is scheduled to be released in early 2017.
Uncharted (TBD)- As of now the adventures of Nathan Drake and his never-ending quest for historical treasures sit as the premiere gaming series on Sony’s Playstation platform. So it is no small wonder why the company has dealt with the transition to the silver screen very carefully with delays that have caused some of Hollywood’s well-known artists to drop out on more than one occasion with names such as Robert De Niro, Seth Rogen, Danny Devito, and Bradley Cooper all attached at some point to the film. The latest to leave being director Seth Gordon (“Horrible Bosses”, “King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters”).
The good news is that Sony has found a writer for the screenplay (Mark Boal who wrote “The Hurt Locker and “Zero Dark Thirty”) and committed to a summer 2017 release date that “The Amazing Spider-Man 3” once occupied. Unfortunately, the bad news is that Sony has taken that date off the table for the production and has yet to provide an alternative as of this update. Should the film stay on course, it could have “blockbuster” potential not only for its Indiana Jones-like feel but the way fans feel the series has been portrayed on Playstation consoles. Just ask Katie Marie Scott, who when approached commented on the game’s theatrical presentation “I think Uncharted could have the potential to be an awesome movie if done right (because) playing the game was almost like watching a movie.” Just like the games themselves, the Uncharted film has seen its share of ups and downs, but in the end, Nathan Drake and Sony could again experience a very happy ending.
Those are the films that have a set course (as of now) with hopefully many others (“Mass Effect,” “Gears of War,” and “Splinter Cell” among others that are rumored or have been confirmed as being in some stage of pre-production) that will follow suit. The emphasis on providing higher quality video game movie adaptations than what has been done in the past should be cause for excitement for hardcore gaming fans and the general consumer at large. Even with an unproven track record and a summer with only “so-so” returns the movie industry is still willing to dive into the gaming culture for ideas that hopefully will attract large audiences once they arrive in theaters in the not so distant future. Stay alert moviegoers, the battle for the “high score” will continue very soon.
(This is an article originally posted on Game Source on 9/1/15 but has been updated with current box office numbers and information as of 10/16/16)