5 Classic Games That Desperately Need A Movie Adaptation
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.
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.
Grand 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.
I'm ancient enough to have played the very first Castlevania on NES when it came out, and to be honest I hated the shit out of the game. Maybe it's because I just sucked at gaming until Mega Man 2 or thereabouts, but Simon Belmont and I always had a profound disagreement on the subject of how to kill vampires without dying at the first opportunity. Yet I found myself following the development of the franchise with something approaching interest. Not because I enjoyed the games, for I never really returned to them beyond a few half-hearted attempts at Castlevania II, but because the ever-expanding monster-slaying mythology they were crafting was pretty interesting. By now, every single member of the Belmont clan must have killed all the classic Hammer horror monsters at least thrice, and for what Wikipedia timelines are worth, they're going to keep that shit up at least until 2057.
I don't even know how those games play out anymore. For all I know, they might be pretty awesome by now, but all I see when I think of Castlevania is that stupid, sad sprite whip-fighting his way through 8-bit scenery until his inevitable demise when the first set of challenging jumps comes along. Well, that and the whole mythology, concentrated around the Belmonts and their weird, vampire-killin' whip that would drain the life out of everyone who wasn't a part of the family.
Luckily for errant whip-grabbers, roughly half the world is family.
The Movie We Deserve:
There's precious little potential in a monster-fighter or two doing their thing (see: Van Helsing, The Brothers Grimm, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters). However, an entire family devoting themselves to Dracula-punching is a different story entirely. TV series like Supernatural and Buffy have already explored the concept of multi-generational monster-dickery. Castlevania and its cinematic "fuck up famous monsters while wielding a whip" setup could translate nicely into movie territory with the simple act of pulling a True Detective and focusing on the protagonists instead of the villains, no matter how "legendary monster" this and "holy shit, it's Dracula" they might be.
Save up on the antagonist corner by giving the Big Bad role to a competent but reasonably priced name (Jeffrey Dean Morgan springs to mind), and fill the Belmonts and assorted acts with all the star talent you can afford. Just Hollywood superstars passing their magic whip and leather clothing to each other through centuries of kicking monster ass, accompanied by a decent enough script to justify the change of lead so the whole thing won't go all "Heath Ledger's character in The Imaginarium Of Doctor Parnassus."
Every once in a while, a game arises that changes the playing field in a profound and permanent way. Super Mario Bros. taught us side-scrolling platformers were awesome, Wolfenstein 3D ushered in the era of the first-person shooter, and Dragon's Lair taught us we can never succeed in life and all our choices are moot. Myst is one of these games, despite the fact that, even today, no one can tell what the shit it was actually about. There were ... books? And a mystery? Yeah, definitely a mystery, revolving around some fucker that could write magic books that could take you to different planes of existence or whatever.
See, that's the thing about Myst: It doesn't matter what the game was actually about -- only its atmosphere counts. At the time it came out, this first-person puzzle game was unique; not only did it completely neglect the whole "shoot at shit until something explodes" approach that has dominated the video game industry throughout its existence, it actually managed to create something hitherto unseen -- an eerie, surreal atmosphere that could suck you in even though you have no idea what the hell you should be doing and why all the books are screaming at you in static and why you had to solve mind-melting puzzles.
In a not entirely unrelated tangent, fuck this lighthouse.
The Movie We Deserve:
The fact that a game that largely consists of aimless rambling, sweet scenery, and isolated, contemplative confusion ever managed to become a best-seller, let alone score countless sequels, has always been fascinating to me. I tend to picture it as a video game version of the movie The Ninth Gate, which consists of -- all together now -- a bunch of atmospheric, creepy bullshit revolving around books. Handily, this proves that a Myst-style movie is not only possible but has already been made. So, Hollywood, it looks like you're all out of excuses; give me that slow, contemplative movie about books that literally no one else will ever even consider watching. I think we can all agree you owe me as much.
Be quick, though. Strangely enough, rumors indicate that Myst might actually become a Hulu TV series before long.
Oh, hell yes.
I will not even bother describing the mound of glorious frustration that is Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! By now, it should be coded into your very DNA, along with the Konami Code and an all-consuming hatred of that fucking Duck Hunt dog. Really, the only strange thing about filming what is the only boxing game worth knowing in the history of both boxing and gaming is why it hasn't already been done. I blame Don King.
The Movie We Deserve:
I've long held the opinion that there should be an Academy Award specifically for movies where people punch each other in the face. Sadly, it's a surprisingly stagnant style: Although occasional worthy contenders have been made throughout the years (see: The Raid movies, Undisputed III, Tony Jaa), the grandmasters of the genre still hail from the 1980s. The best absurd boxing movie will forever be Rocky IV, the finest tournament-style fighting movie is Bloodsport, and I will combat any man disputing this in the kind of flailing mock-fight that is only possible between people who watch too many martial arts movies and get ideas far beyond their level of dexterity.
Punch-Out!! might give us a way to add to that glorious legacy by combining these movies. Ideally, the movie would be roughly two minutes of establishing Little Mac's character ("is little, answers to the name Mac, can box like a motherfucker"), and a good 90 minutes of Rocky vs. Ivan Drago, with opponents and their special skills switching every 10 minutes or so to keep things interesting, Bloodsport-style.
Weight classes clearly aren't a thing here, either.
To be honest, I highly doubt that Punch-Out!! The Movie would be an all-consuming blockbuster of the Jurassic World sort. But does it really matter? Indominus rex be damned -- I'll happily spend my precious spare time watching a plucky protagonist take on Soda Popinski and Piston Honda. That's what I did a couple of decades ago, and I can see no reason to challenge that tradition.
Also, we should totally get Mike Tyson to play himself. Maybe give him a huge monologue just before the final battle, to make his face extra punchable.
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For more from Pauli, check out 5 Insane Sports We Brought Back (In The Worst Possible Way) and 5 Impressively Insane Theories About Famous Buildings.