Mac From 'It's Always Sunny's Canceled 'Minecraft' Movie Sounded Awesome
The recent news that Jason Momoa is in negotiations to star in the Minecraft movie was a reminder that, oh yeah, there's gonna be a Minecraft movie, for some reason (probably "because the Lego ones made lots of money"). The project has been in development since 2014, which means that this movie's pre-production is now older than a significant number of the game's player base. The film has gone through a few different directors and directions since then, and one of those actually sounded pretty interesting. For one thing, it would have been masterminded by one of the creators of some of the most accurate gaming sequences on television:
Yes, between 2015 and 2018, It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia's Rob McElhenney was not only attached to direct a movie about Minecraft -- he was, believe it or not, genuinely excited about it. At least that's how he sounded when he talked about the movie on the Happy Sad Confused podcast and revealed his surprisingly deep take on it. According to McElhenney (who started by saying, "I'm comfortable talking about it because f--- them at this point"), what makes Minecraft popular is that it gives you even more freedom to dick around and build whatever you want than other open-world games, and that fulfills a serious existential need for players, especially those who are constantly being told to clean their room or take out the trash. As he put it:
"All you were essentially given was the building blocks to do whatever you want. I thought, what an amazing tool, much like Legos except now you're talking about infinite possibilities because it's digital, to give to kids -- and not just kids, but any person who feels powerless. Kids mostly feel powerless; all day long they're being told what to do, how to dress, do your homework, go to bed. I felt like that could extend to other people. I think everybody feels marginalized to an extent. Your boss is telling you what to do all day long, or your spouse is. You just feel like you don't have this sense of agency over your own life. The game gave you that, and I thought that's a really profound experience."
With that in mind, McElhenney pitched a story centered around "people taking agency over their experience in this digital landscape." Warner Bros. was completely on board with the idea, so much so that they approved a $150 million budget (for comparison, the Lego Movie cost around $65 million). Steve Carrell signed up to play the lead, a visual effects company had been hired, and McElhenney even rented a house in Vancouver to be near the stages the studio had booked for filming. He also spent some time consulting with Pixar to learn more about creating animated films, which suggests that the movie could have ended up being as emotionally devastating as having your server hacked and replaced with blocky dongs and swastikas by 12-year-olds (every single player has been there).
So what happened? The studio head changed and the new guy was like, "Nah, let's not do that." The project "slowly died on the vine" after two years of pre-production, which is too bad, because legitimately interesting takes on video game movies are pretty rare. We might never see McElhenney's Minecraft, but here's an approximation of what might have been, at least in our heads:
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Top image: Mojang Studios, Disney-ABC Domestic Television