The hit game series Uncharted, Metal Gear Solid, and Mass Effect have all had film adaptations stuck in development hell for years. Uncharted came the closest to the big screen when David O. Russell was attached to write and direct and Mark Wahlberg on board to star as the treasure hunting hero Nathan Drake, but that fell apart. Neil Burger then got in the director’s chair, but he departed the project about a year later. Metal Gear Solid has been in development for over five years, and exactly one year ago, we reported that video game developer Konami was actively developing an adaptation. It’s gone silent ever since. And as for Mass Effect, almost a year ago we reported that Morgan Davis Foehl had taken over writing duties on the film adaptation.
Now Avi Arad, who is producing all three movies, has provided updates on their status, and the difficulties of adapting video games for the big screen. Hit the jump for what he had to say.
Speaking to Kotaku, Arad, whose credits include the Spider-Man movies and a lot of other superhero properties, says that no studio has done it right with the exception of the Resident Evil franchise. He goes on to say, “I think that film studios are bankers and filmmakers are risk takers and somewhere in between we meet on the battlefield,” said Arad. “And the moment one video game movie goes through the roof, it’s the same thing that I’ve been through with comic books.
He’s absolutely right. Until some movie gets the ball rolling, studios are going to be skittish. It also doesn’t help that movie studios aren’t the only ones who are hesitant to adapt these properties. Franchises are equally important to the game studios if not more so. That’s why Ubisoft demanded a large amount of control over the upcoming Assassin’s Creed adaptation. But if that movie or another one like Splinter Cell is a success, it could open the floodgates.
Until that happens, it’s still slow going on Arad’s pictures. Uncharted is the furthest in its development, and Arad says:
“I think Uncharted will be very successful. It’s a father and son game. There are things about it that are interesting. I think the world of antiquities theft, there are many countries in the world that realised they’re being robbed and they’re trying to recoup these important pieces,” said Arad. “Now, the script has a lot of character [and] I think that has a shot at being the first one [to succeed].”
I agree. The Uncharted films are essentially really long movies (to the point where I feel it’s to the detriment of the gameplay), and Arad acknowledges that a movie has less time to rope people in. I still think Uncharted is a good candidate since truncating the set pieces could tighten up the story. An hour in Uncharted 3 is just trying to escape from a sinking ship.
Arad also believes Metal Gear Solid has the storytelling chops to translate to the big. “And with Metal Gear,” he says, “you have Cain and Abel.” Presumably the “Cain and Abel” he’s referring to are Solid Snake and Liquid Snake. I’m more interested in bringing in Psycho Mantis. Think how amazing it would be if halfway through the fight, the projector “broke” and the audience didn’t know how to handle it. Sadly, Arad says a Metal Gear Solid adaptation is at least three years away even though he’ll be having dinner soon with creator Hideo Kojima. Nevertheless, negotiations between studios are long and tedious, and the film will probably remain in stasis until an agreement is reached.
Finally, don’t expect to see the Normandy flying at your multiplex anytime soon. Arad says the motion picture adaptation of Mass Effect could be five to six years away. “It’s a big idea, that we, humans, are the least developed, the least trusted, it’s an interesting mirror image of our world, we are the aliens now,” said Arad. “Love the project, it’s getting there, it’s been a lot of work; some movies take five, six years before they’re ready.”
What’s encouraging about all of these projects is that Arad seems to get them. He’s accepting the games on their terms. It’s possible the films could still turn out as bad as every other video game movie, and that’s if they come out at all. But I think at the very least, we should take comfort that a sensible producer is on board.