Despite the box office disappointments of most videogame adaptations for the big screen and the complete collapse of recent big budget attempts at turning Halo and BioShock into films, Hollywood remains infatuated with videogames and the millions of devoted gamers around the globe that they can tap into. But more often than not, Hollywood just doesn’t get it. And we’re not even talking about Uwe Boll and his bombs.
The first trailer for the upcoming TRON sequel movie and game
Even when videogame companies step in to help, as Capcom has done twice with Street Fighter: The Movie and Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li. Neither Jean Claude Van Damme (in his prime) nor Kristen Kreuk could attract a decent audience. And yet, according to Mona Hamilton, Capcom’s vice president of marketing, there’s still the possibility of a third try for Street Fighter on the big screen.
“I think there's always hope for great videogame movies,” said Hamilton. “I think we just have to have the right partnership and we have to have the right involvement of the key players to insure that we have a good representation on film.”
Capcom financed the original Street Fighter film on its own but turned to Hollywood studio Hyde Park Entertainment on the second film. The 1994 Universal Pictures film cost $35 million to make and earned just under $100 million globally, while last year’s reboot earned a measly $12 million worldwide with 20th Century Fox distributing the film.
“We do have a big hand in the production of the movies, but I think that we need a little bit more of a Western slant on that so I do hope to have a stronger presence with our movie development going forward,” said Hamilton. “We have a great Lost Planet movie that's in development right now for 2011 and I think that we'll see that one really kind of take the gaming movies to the next level."
Lost Planet is coming from Arad Productions. Avi Arad is the man who helped turned Marvel comics like Spider-Man, Iron Man and X-Men into Hollywood franchises. Now his new film studio is aiming its sights, thanks in large part to son Ari, on videogames. The production house already has the movie rights for Sony’s Infamous, EverQuest and Uncharted: Drake’s Fortune. And they are also working on big screen versions of Mass Effect and the aforementioned Lost Planet.
“The truth is even coming from comics, we really try to make the best movie out of the gate but most of these game characters lend themselves to further adventures,” said Ari Arad. “We'd like to make all of these film franchises, but the road to that is to just make the best films you can.”
Arad said it will take about two years to bring each of these game franchises to the big screen. Part of the younger Arad’s job is playing videogames, something his father doesn’t do.
“I pretty much look at every single game that comes out,” said Arad. “We want to choose games that we think we can do justice to on film. If we see a game we believe we can create a movie that lives up to the experience of the game or exceeds it, then that's something we really want to do. It's a huge priority for us. We just trying to find the right ones so people are really satisfied by the adaptations we do.”
In Hollywood, as we’ve seen with Uwe Boll. The major players behind videogame adaptations tend to grab a lot of licenses. Boll, who operates outside the Hollywood system, is still filming low budget films based on games, although these days they’re going straight-to-DVD. His latest effort, Far Cry, is now out on DVD from Vivendi Entertainment. Boll is also prepping for BloodRayne 3, which he will film in early 2010 in Croatia with Kristanna Loken expected to reprise her role from the first film. Boll said the third film will be set during World War II, which was also the setting of the original game.
Producer Adrian Askarieh already had success with his first videogame adaptation with 20th Century Fox, Hitman. The $30 million film earned $100 million worldwide. He’s currently prepping Hitman 2 with screenwriter Kyle Ward writing a script that will incorporate elements from the upcoming Hitman 5 game, which Eidos will released in late 2010. The new film will focus on Agent 47 at a low point in his career as he tries to regain his reputation as the best assassin in the world. Timothy Olyphant previously said he’d be open to a sequel, but the actor is currently busy with a FX’s new TV series “Lawman.”
“Hollywood is making less movies and they want those movies to hit and videogame movies are filling that gap nicely,” said Askarieh. “Metal Gear Solid is going to get made at Sony Pictures, definitely. Gears of War is getting made at New Line Entertainment. It’s a completely new era. I am doing Just Cause and Kane & Lynch.”
Askeriah has Bruce Willis attached to star as Kane, Ward completed the script, and director Simon Crane for an early 2010 film date with Lionsgate. Just Cause isn’t as far along, but it continues Askarieh’s relationship with Eidos. Warner Bros. is now handling Spy Hunter, although things for that potential franchise, which has Dwayne Johnson interested in the lead, remain slowly moving forward.
In addition to Jerry Bruckheimer starting his own game company, he’s filmed his first game adaptation. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time is the first of a planned trilogy of Walt Disney films starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the Prince. The first film is slated for a May 2010 release.
Next year will also see the long-awaited release of TRON Legacy, Disney’s sequel to the videogame movie with Jeff Bridges reprising his role as Flynn.
“The world of TRON has evolved and grown larger over last 20 years and it’s become more visceral and physical with weather systems, and photo-real environments,” said Joseph Kosinski, director of TRON Legacy. “We’re going onto the streets of TRON city to see what it’s like to be a program in this world. Disc Wars has evolved into a 16-player tournament that occurs simultaneously.”
While there will continue to be flops like Max Payne, it took a while for Hollywood to get comic book rights, as well. The fact that so many movies are being made about games means that at some point, some one’s going to get it right.