By Rob Manuel | Indiewire August 1, 2014 at 12:24PM
The woeful tales of "Super Mario Bros." and "Street Fighter" have taught studios that merely slapping a name to a movie is not enough to bring in the fans of the franchise. Also, the way games now unfold their stories more parallels that of a movie, with characters and plot points actually meaning as much as a high score. And there's real talent behind these films who not only shaped the games but know how to tell a tale.
While the number of "get-rich-quick" types of movies have never diminished (I'm looking at you, "Angry Birds"), there are probably a handful of upcoming movies that might actually surprise you with the talent they have stacked behind the camera. Put that game on pause and break open a new bag of Red Vines. Here are just some of the video game movies looking to reset your expectations.
"The Last of Us"
This week, we got to witness one of the rarest occurrences of all time -- a video game on stage. The cast and developers behind last year's hit game, "The Last of Us," put on a live performance of select scenes from the game in Santa Monica: The single performance demonstrated that the real weight of the game came from characters rather than pulling a trigger. What turned out to be only a couple of scenes on stage may be our first taste of things to come on the big screen.
It's a tale you're probably familiar with by now -- mysterious disease, infected people roaming around in a murderous rampage, civilization hanging on by its fingertips. "The Last of Us" starts twenty years after the event that saw the world fall to a fungus, introducing us to Joel, a man who lost his family, and Ellie, a girl who could be the key to a new life for humanity. All they need to do is survive the wandering marauders and the cannibalistic infected between Texas and a well-insulated bunker of the Fireflies, a group fighting against the oppressive regime of the government.
What gives me hope about this movie are the characters and focus of the story. While you would think this would be about stepping into Head Shot City, the plot of "The Last of Us" packs in plenty of interesting character choices that blur the lines of morality. On top of that, the relationship between that of Ellie and Joel could certainly hold the movie up on its own, as they each find the family that they lost in each other.
Neil Druckmann, the writer of the original game, returns with Sam Raimi on board already to produce the film. And if you have been listening to the Comic Con gossip, then you know that Maisie Williams of "Game of Thrones" has been rumored to take on the role of Ellie. If they can get Rory McCann to play Joel, I'm pretty sure people will start camping out for tickets months in advanced just to see those two on the big screen.
To be fair, the idea of a "World of Warcraft" movie has been bouncing around Hollywood ever since the game hit the market back in 2004. A decade later, the company behind the billion dollar game announced that the virtual world will be heading to a very real screen late next year. Duncan Jones, the director behind "Moon" and "Source Code," will be directing as well as helping to pen the script of this epic tale of light versus darkness.
Very little has been revealed up to this point about the story itself, other than it will start with the conflict that first arose between the two factions in the kingdom of Azeroth, the massive world where the game takes place. There's the Alliance, a group brought together by nobility and honor made up of humans, night elves, dwarves, and your typical menagerie of do-gooder looking to keep everyone and everything in order. And then there's the horde, a group held together through power and uneasy alliances. The story behind this game is massive. Hundreds of characters from every faction, race, and class line the history books, with new ones appearing with each expansion to extend this epic story of goblins, dragons, and knights in legendary armor.
The fate of the movie, as well as Azeroth, has yet to be seen, but having over 100 million accounts created for a single game means that there will probably be a few people waiting in line opening day.
As the story goes, in 2005 a group of men dressed in Master Chief armor walked onto the lots of some of the top film studios in LA with a script for the "Halo" movie and a term sheet. Executives had only hours to read the script and agree to the terms, no questions asked. While still the stuff of legends, the deal ultimately fell through. However, the series and the idea lives on even today -- it was no surprise that when Microsoft announced their original entertainment initiative, "Halo" was at the top of the list of projects. But instead of the big screen, Microsoft wants to bring the Chief straight to your TV.
"Halo: Nightfall" serves as a five-episode connector between "Halo 4" and "Halo 5: Guardian," where you follow Jameson Locke and his team to investigate a terrorist attack on a distant colony world. Even if you're not familiar with the series, you'll be happy to know that the TV show takes a side step into the world of "Halo" by introducing Locke as a new character who will appear in the next game. Paul Scheuring, the creator of "Prison Break," pens the five episode arc that will lead into the next game and will have narrative ties with another "Halo" series that will start airing sometime later.
While Microsoft has recently shut down its original entertainment studio, this experiment in narrative construct may prove interesting as we see more and more games turning to a narrative television model to tell a broader story. After watching the credits of your favorite show, you might end up picking up a controller to finish the story.