As part of my ongoing plot to shape the world to my will, I occasionally need to come across as a moderately normal human being until it's time for the mask to fall off and the metal fangs to come out. With this in mind, video games are a large part of my "totally a real person" schedule. However, because it's in my programming to find stories in everything, I've found that a whole bunch of classic video games are just clamoring for a movie adaptation. Considering Hollywood's enthusiasm for giving us weirder and weirder game-based films, I take it that I'm not alone in my observation.
So, film-creating deities, if you could pause from your cocaine-fueled genital parties for a few minutes, allow me to suggest ...
The last time I did one of these columns, a fair few readers chastised me for not including BioShock Infinite, one of the most famously story-driven games in recent memory. While I agree that the game's script and general atmosphere are waving their sizable dongs at the competition at speeds that create enough lift and thrust to keep Columbia afloat without any quantum bullshit, there were two reasons why I could never picture the game as a movie. One, the game already gave us the story of its main characters as well as it could be told, and two, as David Wong has pointed out, BioShock Infinite takes good care to piss all over its novel concept and intriguing world by turning into Doom Clone #3697 at every opportunity.
But now, reading the previous sentences again, I realize that's precisely why the game should be made into a movie. Congratulations, guy who told me so in a pub the week after that column came out. You were right, and your congratulatory beverage is already in the mail. It's only slightly used, I promise.
Drink up, kiddo. It's fine.
See, the main character in BioShock Infinite isn't really Booker DeWitt, or Elizabeth, or even that armored rhino-budgie hybrid stalking them. It's the flying city of Columbia itself, chock-full of early-20th-century racism, political extremes, and, most importantly, advanced technology and popular culture that should have no place in an era where people were still compensating ignorance with padded skirts and glorious mustaches. Sadly, the game soon throws its fantastic location in the backseat in favor of (admittedly impressive) story and (frankly mediocre) FPS antics, so the city doesn't really get the time in the limelight that it deserves.
So, let's fix that shit.
The Movie We Deserve:
You know what film franchise has been really, really good at putting the locations front and center? The Pirates Of The Caribbean series. I get that they're not exactly in vogue these days, thanks to Johnny Depp's ever-increasing credibility-suicide-by-mascara and increasingly lazy scripts that have managed to fuck up surefire gems such as Ian freaking McShane as Black freaking Beard. But if you revisit the first couple of films in the franchise, you'll notice one thing: Director Gore Verbinski and his team are very good at making the Caribbean and its many strange islands seem like the star, even when Misters J. Depp and G. Rush are doing their level best to chew each and every bit of scenery to pieces.
Walt Disney Pictures
It's a surprisingly close contest.
That's the kind of treatment I want for the floating cabinet of oddities that is Columbia. Sure, it's an easy concept to mess up -- just ask Disney, who have tried to repeat their pirate franchise's success several times without much luck. However, I'd argue it's because they have lacked the proper environment; Lone Ranger forgot that Wild Wild West had already shown that the Old West doesn't really work as a blockbuster environment these days, and nobody in the history of all that exists has ever given even the most fleeting of shits about Tomorrowland. Columbia would provide moviemakers an interesting enough location to remove this problem. The resulting movie might be a tad family-friendly for the players who, like me, wound up skyhook-decapitating a few too many unassuming townspeople to pass for real protagonists, but you know what? I don't really give a damn. PG-13 can still be subtly dark as fuck if the screenwriters know what they're doing, and dark is practically a requirement in a movie featuring periodic attacks by this fucking thing:
"FUUUCKKK YOUUURRR AIRSHIIIIPPP!"
So, there you go, Hollywood: another license to print money. Just hire a burly man to keep Johnny Depp the hell off the set (or, failing that, confiscate his makeup kit) and we're fine.
4Grand Theft Auto IV
Ah, the Grand Theft Auto series! Intricate in its environment-building, ambitious in its scripting, and atrocious in its attempts at making all the shit you have to do actually worth your while. Each and every installment alone contains about a dozen action movies within it, and GTA V expands to Ocean's Eleven territory as well. Although there's certainly a movie or 50 in their events, it's hard to see them contributing anything that hasn't been done with 10 times as much panache by, say, the Fast & Furious franchise.
Which is why the movie should be character-driven. And before you even begin, no, I'm not talking about GTA V's Trevor. Dude's not a character, he's a set of masturbatory jokes for the kind of guy who plays GTA in the first place. Don't get me wrong; he's got his moments. However, if we're going for a proper, well-defined character, I've got to go with this guy:
Fast-forward 10 seconds and seven gangbangers have gotten their faces busted in.
The Movie We Deserve:
Look, as much as I've enjoyed the GTA series, it hasn't exactly excelled in creating relatable protagonists. They had three freaking tries in GTA V alone and came up with "snarky washed-up rich guy who used to be the best," "snarky young black guy who wants to be the best," and "snarky sociopathic man-child who talks and behaves just like a 12-year-old Xbox Live player." That's not good character design; that's knowing your audience. However, with Niko Bellic, Rockstar came goddamned close.
In a universe full of assholes who justify their mass murderin' antics with, "I grew up in the hood, man," he's a moderately nice guy with a touch of genuine personality who only happens to be a killing machine because the horrors of the Balkan war nigh-irrevocably fucked up his sense of morality. His entire character arc in GTA IV is trying to recover from all that to become something approaching a human being again, and even then, he loses at least as much as he gains.
So, to recap: What we have here is basically a shell-shocked, leather-jacketed John Rambo character from the First Blood era, when Rambo was still an actual character and not just a congregation of beheadings and bullets -- set loose in New York. Niko is genuinely willing to atone for his sins, but is hindered by a) his inability to deal with his past and emotions, and b) the entire New York City underworld wanting to either hire him or cap his ass. With the right execution and actor, this could be an Academy Award-worthy movie. With the wrong ones, it would still be two hours of a large, sardonic Slav butchering mafia goons, screaming heavily accented murder with Vladivostok FM playing in the background. To be honest, I'll take either with equal glee.