I have a few hobbies, the two that I have spent the majority of my life on are watching films and playing games, and unfortunately for me the times when these forms of media cross over they’re pretty rubbish (I’m looking at you Street Fighter, Dead or Alive, Resident Evil etc etc). However as technology improves, so does the output in both of these industries. We have games that tell better stories than films, films based on games and ever improving visuals that provide candy for the eyes. Despite this, games are the one popular media source that have been completely underutilised in the film industry, usually through a combination of poor adaptations and risky budgets. As comics & graphic novels are being picked up and adapted left, right and centre, games have rumbled on with increasing success. As a once avid gamer, I’ll take a look at 10 game franchises that would translate well to the big screen. For this exercise I’ll ignore previous adaptations of franchises, such as Street Fighter & Mortal Kombat, and only look at games with at least one sequel. In no particular order…
10. Call of Duty
So we’ll start with one of the easiest to finance. How in the name of lord a film based on ‘Call of Duty‘ has not been made yet is an utter mystery to me. An annually guaranteed financially successful game should have spawned a film before the time jumping Assassin’s Creed would have surely? As far as I can see it’s one of the games that poses the least risks to success. If you follow either the Modern Warfare of Black Ops strands of the games you have a modern day setting & no expensive CGI necessary. If ‘The Expendables‘ can find success with it’s larger than life personalities and ridiculous bullet expenditure, then a ‘Call of Duty‘ film can do exactly the same. Sure there are absolutely nuts set-pieces in the games, but they would fit right in on the big screen, really they are no different to Iron Man & Hulk wreaking havoc in ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron‘
If I was to do the film I’d use the story of ‘Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare‘ as a basis, preventing nuclear war is still a relevant story point in modern film. Retain the core group of characters of Soap, Captain Price & Gaz and have them tracking down the big bad Zakhaev, it’s that simple. Now there are two ways you can pace the film, have an all out balls to the wall action bonanza, or slow it down and have an espionage war film, of which there really are very few. If you are opt for the former, Michael Bay is a good shout as director. Despite his critics, and often questionable film making style he still brought ‘Transformers’ to the big screen and made it credible. If you want to play it a bit slower, Doug Liman is a great option. ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ & ‘The Bourne Identity’ are great films with a superb blend of action and story, a formula that would work well in an adaptation of this.
Post-apocalyptic films were seemingly all the rage in 2013. ‘Oblivion’, ‘Elysium’, ‘After Earth’, ‘Pacific Rim’ & ‘Snowpiercer’ were just some of the films to feature both utopia and dystopia, so there is an appetite for making films that fall into the genre. There have been many more before and since, and with the success of the recent ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ only weeks ago, there is no time more relevant than now for a film based on ‘Fallout’ to make an appearance.
The problems with RPG’s such as Fallout, and I’ll touch on this again with other entries, is that it takes between 30-48 hours to explore everything, and talk to everyone. Something like this would lend itself more to the small screen, as you’d have time to develop stories and characters. However whatever you can do on the small screen, you can make into a spectacle on the silver screen.
An easy win here would be start with ‘Fallout 3’, have your protagonist escaping Vault 101 and on the run from the evil dictators who run the vault. You don’t need the overarching story of Project Purity that features in the game, just establish a wasteland, a protagonist and a simple story that lays the ground work for more out reaching sequels. There is no need to explore the wasteland in one film and utilising a basic approach would be the best way to tackle it, throw in a bunch of references to the other stories of the wasteland and you’ll send the fans gaga with anticipation and intertextuality.
Who would I like to see direct something like this? Should Mel Gibson ever return to directing I’d love to see him take this on, with his background in Mad Max, working with George Miller and his penchant for directing straight forward but epic films, he could be a good fit.
8. Streets of Rage
This has been a topic of discussion with my fellow usher Welshy on a few occasions, both of us casting the roles and way to tackle the story. Should it be TV or should it be a film? I think it works on both, but visually it suits film more.
‘Streets of Rage‘ takes place at a time when criminal syndicates are taking over all aspects of the city. The government, police, everything is falling under the control of crime. However there are a handful of people who fight against it, ex-police who try to bring the syndicates down and just so happen to be trained in boxing, judo and martial arts. Everybody will know of ‘Streets of Rage’ whether it is passionate reminiscence or general awareness, it continues to be re-released on modern platforms and remains successful. So why not make a film out of it? A small group of ex-police who know how to kick ass? It is handmade for action films, good or bad.
How would you do it though? Neon colours, techno soundtrack, beating people over the head with a pipe as you crouch for an apple to heal yourself, they aren’t necessarily the ingredients of main stream cinema. So you need somebody good at making aesthetically cool films with some great action, depth of story negotiable. Two names stand out for me on this, Zack Snyder & Gareth Evans. Snyder has nailed action and visuals perfectly in every film in his back catalogue, from ‘Watchmen‘ to ‘Sucker Punch‘ he can create fantastically glossy worlds and make them come alive and at the same time show a darker, grimier side of life. Evans on the other hand has smaller CV but his last two films pack the biggest punch. ‘The Raid‘ & ‘The Raid 2‘ are masterpieces of film, the first as a perfect example of the straight up action film, the second a sprawling epic of a sequel that is a bigger beast than its predecessor.
Who would you cast? The older/younger brother combination of Adam & Eddie Hunter seems a weird but plausible combination for Will & Jaden Smith, Gina Carano as Blaze Fielding is a good match & Dan Stevens as Axel Stone works for me. Hell even throw in Dwayne Johnson as Max Thunder and you have yourselves an action extravaganza.
7. Baldur’s Gate
So many minutes, hours, days, years playing Baldur’s Gate. This is one of 3 games franchises where I’ve spent too much of my precious life playing, and I don’t regret it. If I remember correctly I was put onto this by my best friend when we were younger and never looked back.
It takes place on the Sword Coast in the Forgotten Realms, a setting for Dungeons & Dragons. Your character becomes the target of an attack by a mysterious armoured figure. After you escape with the help of your guardian, who dies protecting you, you are left to discover the reasons for his death, and the other issues that are affecting the Sword Coast at the time.
The sheer mention of Dungeons & Dragons is enough to turn many people off, an incredibly deep and rich resource with so many stories and characters it is hard to keep up. However, if ‘Game of Thrones’ can be a success, and the fantasy genre growing slowly in popularity, then ‘Baldur’s Gate’ seems a perfect choice for a franchise. ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has left a massive hole in the film industry waiting for the right title to fill it, ‘World of Warcraft’ is certainly going to do it’s best to do so, but should that fail then I don’t see many other big name options available.
Thinking about who would helm such a project is a tough one, few names come to mind and those that do are people who have worked in the genre before, and I think you want to try somebody new for this. Sam Raimi is somebody who I think could tackle the scope of the project, injecting it with fun and action…yeah lets go with Sam.
6. Gears of War
I need to get this one out of the way otherwise I am going to have an embolism thinking about it. ‘Gears of War’ is another title of the three I’ve spent half my life playing. Much like the long gestating/cancelled/now TV show Halo, GoW was rumoured to get the film treatment and presumably budget got in the way.
Admittedly GoW is a little bit of a gamble due to the rating the film will need to carry, but my goodness if you can pull this off you have an epic franchise on your hands. The game takes place on Serra, where the human population one day is overran by a subterranean species known as The Locust. In the aftermath of military strikes and carnage, little is left of the planet, and those that are left are stuck in a fight with the remaining locust to bring peace to humanity.
Despite the action and violence being two of the defining characteristics of the GoW games, they also contain subtle and under appreciated emotional strands that give it some juice. Everybody loves a good bromance and you won’t get a better one than Delta Squad, brothers to the end indeed. The games have spawned comics and novels, the latter being fantastic pieces of work by Karen Traviss, and as a result have a decent pool of stories to borrow from.
Robert Rodriguez is somebody who could definitely bring the action side of GoW to life, visceral gore and all and make it on a reasonable budget. If I were to make it more serious, Frank Darabont could work, he’s no stranger to horror and he makes a damn fine film. A fan cast of GoW will be coming soon!
5. Mass Effect
There are science fiction games out there that are tailor made for films, ‘Mass Effect’ is one of them. If done properly it could rival the most popular of sci-fi TV shows. The games have provided an incredible pool of knowledge, events and back story that could be explored for years to come. Warner Bros & Legendary Pictures picked up the rights to this franchise a few years ago, but with Legendary now at Universal Pictures I’m not sure who holds it outright. Regardless it’s an untapped resource ready for exposure. The games sold phenomenally well and there is no reason this can’t be as successful as Star Trek at the very least when it comes to films.
The story of the first game, which is perfect for a first film, has Commander Shepard hunting down a rogue member of the Spectre Corp named Saren, after he kills a fellow Spectre. The chase leads Shepard and his crew across planets and down a path that will ultimately decide the future of civilisation.
Despite the depth of story and events within the Mass Effect game, there is absolutely no reason to use it all. Name drops here, references there will be enough to appease fans and give a sense of a gigantic universe full of potential. The alien races could be difficult to pull off, but if ‘Star Wars‘ can do it then why not ‘Mass Effect‘.
As for who could handle such a project, my money is on Peter Jackson. ‘The Hobbit‘ is what it is, but ‘The Lord of the Rings‘ trilogy is a masterpiece, especially in its world building and few other people could deal with such scale. It kinda helps Warner Bros had a hand in middle earth as well…
4. Army of Two
This is like an buddy action film straight out of the 80s/90s. Elliot Salem & Tyson Rios are two mercenaries who fight their way through all sorts of perilous situations, wars, terrorist attacks etc etc and whilst they carry out their risky shenanigans have a fair bit of banter and fun along the way.
The buddy action sub-genre is one close to my heart, and playing through ‘Army of Two’ was like watching another ‘Lethal Weapon‘. In terms of scope, this is a fairly standard concept that doesn’t need a lot of bells and whistles to make it good. All you need is two leads with a goal, who have good chemistry and sharp, witty dialogue, simple. Genuine and effective on screen chemistry is rare thing, and as such can be a powerful tool in making a film go from good to great.
Personally I’d have one person direct this, and that is Joe Carnahan. The man behind ‘Smokin Aces’ & ‘Narc’ is a talented and underused director with good ideas, and has made some ace films (pun intended). As for the leads, that gets tough, I’ve always had the pairing of Dwayne Johnson & Sean William Scott in my head, they’ve worked together twice and are both charismatic actors that are hard not to like. However if Paul Rudd is willing to embrace a bit more action, like he is with ‘Ant-Man‘, he would make a great Salem.
3. Devil May Cry
Of all the franchises on this list, Devil May Cry would be the easiest to make an utter mess of, one wrong step and Dante and his demon vanquishing ways would never see the light of day on film again. Now DMC already has an animated series but that wouldn’t get in the way of a silver screen version. The first game follows Dante a man who seeks revenge for the death of his mother and brother. The person is a demon named Mundus who is set to return to the world and wreak havoc, so it’s up to Dante to stop him.
The game series set a landmark for the hack & slash genre for many reasons, one of them its insane action, so you need somebody to helm it with a good penchant for not just normal action, but gravity defying stunts and the like. In addition to this the game carries a unique aesthetic and wonderful imagery to bring the demonic characters to life. My money would be on employing the Wachowski siblings, Lana & Andy. Why? I revisited ‘The Matrix‘ trilogy and the action hasn’t aged a day and remains pretty damn awesome, as it also is in the more recent ‘Jupiter Ascending‘. They have incredible imaginations and could bring most unlikely concepts to the big screen in an effective way, so the weird worlds of DMC make a perfect stomping ground for them, as long as they can come out of their science fiction comfort zone.
I’ve left the simplest concept as one of the last. ‘Splatterhouse’ remains one of my favourite games from the Sega Mega Drive and was one of my first exposures to the genre of horror. Essentially you have a guy named Rick, who after taking refuge in a old supposedly haunted mansion comes into contact with a Terror Mask which gives him superhuman strength and convinces him to go on a rampage. This is pretty convenient for Rick as he needs to rescue Jennifer, a girl who was with him when they entered the house. Basically boy saves girl, wears a mask, kills lots of monsters with various weapons, blood & body parts ensue.
After his work on the ‘Hatchet’ films, Adam Green is my perfect director to tackle this. The game itself is influenced immensely by western horrors such as ‘Friday the 13th‘ & ‘The Evil Dead‘ and as ‘Hatchet’ is very much a loving homage to 80s slashers as it is so it is well within his wheelhouse. It also helps that he has stuck with the genre in subsequent films. You’d need old school prosthetics and make-up, and buckets of red corn syrup to throw around the set. A simple, effective splatterfest.
1. Dead Space
I think I may play too many horror games judging by the entries on this list…
Regardless, Dead Space is another franchise that would easily translate to the big screen. An engineer names Isaac becomes stuck on a spaceship infested with monsters and mutated people, and must figure out a way off of the ship, he might also be loosing his mind.
The problem you have with Dead Space is that it is very similar in tone to ‘The Thing‘ & ‘Doom 3‘ and the franchise is obviously influenced by these works. Not a bad thing by any means but you run the risk of becoming perilously close to replicating those films & games if you don’t do it right. Strip it of any mystery and make a straight up frightful horror and you have a bloodier, scarier version of ‘Aliens‘. The game breeds discomfort as strange noises and viscous beings come out of nowhere looking to dismember you, something that could easily be effective in a film.
If I was producing this film I’d have the director of ‘Insidious‘ & ‘The Conjuring‘ James Wan in the driving seat. The man is one of my favourite directors, and is a genius when it comes to the horror genre. ‘Dead Space‘ gives him a setting that he hasn’t worked on before, offers a few challenges and would bring the best out of him. Wan’s style of direction in his horror films is inventive and frightening, and he knows how to draw a reaction from you; perfect for this franchise.
So what do you think? Are these games franchises viable as films, or do they suit a different form of media? Do you have your own favourites that you think would work? Let us know below!!