Every week, IndieWire asks a select handful of film critics two questions and publishes the results on Monday (The answer to the second, “What is the best film in theaters right now?”, can be found at the end of this post).
With “Tomb Raider” opening this weekend, and “Ready Player One” right around the corner, we are once again confronted with the grim history of video game movies. The prevailing wisdom is that video game movies are awful, but surely that has to change at some point… right?
This week’s question: What video game should be adapted into a movie?
Take this all with a huge grain of salt — I did not grow up with any video game consoles in my home! thus, my knowledge is minimal! — but I am still gunning for a really wild “Grand Theft Auto” feature. Yes, yes, of course there’s “Fast and the Furious” and all its related ilk, but that series has gotten way far away from its zoom-zoom-go-fast roots (much to its own advantage), and while plenty of other, smaller films have tried to pick up the whole “hey, fast cars are fun” slack left in its wake, nothing has been nearly as funny as the giddy, illegal charms of the “GTA” series.
I’d sell off one of my vital organs to see “Kentucky Route Zero” adapted for the screen. Granted, I think it’d fare better as a miniseries than a movie, but I’m not too picky. It’s one of the best games to come out of recent years, if not the best, and it’s so aesthetically singular and unique (as well as boasting an atypical background and a diverse cast) that any adaptation would already have a leg up. (If you haven’t played it yet, please do. Cardboard Computer is doing some of the most incredible work out there).
Part of me wants to say, “Hey, let’s just make several sequels to ‘Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.'” But does that even count as a video game adaptation? It’s definitely a film that understands the mechanics and dynamics of video games better than most. I digress. What I’d love to see in the video game space is for a filmmaker or studio to come along and find a way to adapt games known for their aesthetic beauty. I’m thinking games like “Limbo” and “Badland” (both iOS games). These are both eerie, beautiful games with immersive worlds and puzzle-based mechanics. They both have plenty of narrative potential. We have to begin thinking of video game adaptations in the context of sandboxes where filmmakers can play around and create their own stories, rather than more direct adaptations. Or get Jean-Pierre Jeunet to make a “Machinarium” adaptation as a secret backdoor sequel to “Delicatessen” (starring little robots, of course).
“Crash Bandicoot.” Sporting a perpetually winsome smile and some cool sneakers, this audacious, if not very intelligent, marsupial exists somewhere between “Sonic the Hedgehog” and a clumsy “Looney Tunes” character – and that’s what makes him so endearing. Originally released for the PlayStation in 1996 by video game developer Naughty Dog, “Crash Bandicoot” quickly became a huge success and was praised for its graphics back then, but clearly they haven’t aged well. Still, the title character’s personality and the exotic nature of the world he inhabited, which included the Aku Aku, a spiritual guide in the form of a mark, made Crash a household name among burgeoning players of platform games in the post-Super Mario era. Although a new remastered version of the original hit the market last year, an animated feature iteration would make some rabid fans, like this writer, very happy.
There were truncated plans at developing an animated series back in the 90s since Universal Animation Studios created hand-drawn cutscenes for one of the games, which were supposed to be the proof of concept for the actual show, but when Naughty Dog partnered with Sony, the project was scrapped. One can find some of these scenes online, and they really highlight how foolish, yet warmhearted, Crash is in his efforts to defeat bigheaded Doctor Neo Cortex. To avoid simply resembling the video game, an ideal movie adaptation should involve either 2D animation or stop-motion, the latter would really be something to behold. Crash is not a particularly brave hero, but gets by with Mr. Bean-style luck and brute force granted by the experiments that transformed him from a small animal native to Australia into an anthropomorphic, wall climbing, daredevil. If I had my way, Aardman Animation would do it, because they are the best at blending thrilling action and hilarious silliness in a tangible medium. Throw in an entire Aussie voice cast and you have a goldmine of reinvented nostalgia. I propose Chris Hemsworth for the lead role.
My instinct is always to go with “The Last of Us,” but I worry that’s only because it’s already such a cinematic experience, and the rare game that tells a (very effective) story that could easily be repurposed for the big screen. Isolate the cut-scenes and you’d already be left with one of the best zombie movies ever made. As a result, it’s hard to imagine what the value of that adaptation would be — deviate from the game in any way and you’d be left with a lesser experience. In that light, I’d be more curious to see an adaptation of a similarly cinematic — but much less-plot driven — property. Namely, “Dark Souls.” A brutal, oppressive, medieval epic that’s short on story and long on atmosphere? If this is the brand we need to buy us a “Kull the Conquerer” sort of thing that’s bleak enough for the 21st century, then so be it.
“Pong,” but only if Michael Snow directs.
I’m not sure about adapting any more video games but I’m addicted to this FB game called “Block Party” and I’d love to be able to flip a switch so I can see it on the big screen when I get bored while watching a movie, which is pretty much all the time.