We are currently in the midst of one of the most perplexing Hollywood trends.
A trend so unfathomable that it eclipses even their propensity for keeping Mark Wahlberg employed. I’m of course talking about their unrelenting support for, and encouragement of, the video game movie.
You used to know where you stood with these sorts of movies. It’d be that special brand of awful shlock from the banal imagination of Uwe Boll; the only emotion elicited by such works being anger at the laissez faire German tax code that gives the talentless hack funding. They seemed to have nothing to do with passion and everything to do with shady money laundering schemes, but that was fine because Uwe Boll movies came and went without so much as a trickle in the ocean of public consciousness. You might occasionally spot a DVD with ‘Postal Movie’ scrawled on the matte surface floating down a murky rivulet alongside a can of lager and a plastic bag, or ‘House of the Dead’ sitting abandoned in the U-bend after yet another unsuccessful flushing, but you were never going to see ‘Directed by Uwe Boll’ adorning the side of a bus.
Now everything has changed. The video game movie is the next big thing, taking over from those films with gaunt indie vampires that were in vogue for a time. There are, broadly speaking, two categories of these films. First are the comprehensible, relatively level-headed adaptations. Included is Michael Fassbender debasing himself to appear in Assassin’s Creed, the roundly panned Ratchet and Clank, and the promising Duncan Jones flick Warcraft. These are the silver screen showings about games which, while not necessarily having a fully-formed three act narrative, do at least contain some vague slither of coherent, transferable storytelling.
Then there’s the other category. A laughable tide of game movies thought up in that sweet spot between seventeen and eighteen double vodkas at the executive bar. These are the movies which need no marketing budget because filmgoers will flock to the cinema in bemused droves just to make sure that the showing isn’t some elaborate hoax.
If you want an example of this kind of movie, then look at any news aggregate. No doubt another seven will have been announced in the time it’s taken you to read this. There’s two in particular that I’d like to focus on, as each sticks out like a lacerated thumb.
We learnt earlier this month that a Tetris movie is on the way. We also learnt that the only sentence more nonsensical than ‘I’m making a Tetris movie’ is ‘I’m making three Tetris movies’, as it was subsequently confirmed that the project has the funding to make a sci-fi trilogy. You hear that, independent filmmakers desperately pursuing the grant to make their lifelong dream a reality? ‘Blocks Moving Downwards All Sci-Fi Like’ is so assured of cinematic success that it’s got three in the bag. It’s unnecessary, uninspired banality… IN SPAAACE!
Following this, as the movie industry seized upon mobile games like an anaemic lion feebly tearing into a sickly deer, we had the news that Fruit Ninja is also being recreated for theatres. This is a game in which you swipe at various fruits as they fly up onto the screen. If you do well, you cut the fruit, and if you don’t do well you embark on a compelling journey of growth and self discovery worthy of the Palme D’or. Oh that’s not right, I beg your pardon, you don’t cut the fruit. You either do or don’t cut the fruit. In Fruit Ninja, you cut or don’t cut the fruit.
So, to answer the question I posed about six hundred words ago and haven’t touched since, is there a game that couldn’t receive the movie treatment? Based on this evidence, and looking at the depths to which producers will plumb, it doesn’t seem so. Even the most outlandish suggestions aren’t too far removed from what’s already confirmed.
Cookie Clicker: The Movie? Sure! A heart-wrenching tale about the fruitlessness of all human endeavour, or worker exploitation in the unforgiving world of biscuit manufacture. Goat Simulator: The Movie? Oh, absolutely! Hell, Bill Murray probably already signed up and is currently scouting out which mansion to buy with the proceeds.
It doesn’t seem like this trend is going to die down any time soon. All we can do is bide our time while it inevitably passes, paving the way for movies about sheds, or that thing you can do with a pencil to make it look all wobbly, or how the sticky part of a post-it note is made.