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But it’s also a bit of a puzzling paradox. If awesome films and TV shows can be made from comic books – everything from The Avengers to The Walking Dead – why does Hollywood have so much trouble adapting good games into good movies?
The interactive nature of storytelling in games is fundamentally different from movies, for one. But given how fast and loose film studios play with source material anyway, this doesn’t seem like it should be a major hurdle. This week’s Captain America: Civil War is a great movie, but it has very little to do with Marvel’s Civil War comic series.
There’s also the problem of the persistent stench that clings to video game movies, from Wing Commander to Street Fighter to Super Mario Bros. (which, to be fair, can be kind of awesome if you watch it in the right state of mind). But superhero movies eventually overcame a similar stigma, and now the Hulk can’t swing a puny human without hitting costumed crime fighters clogging up the big screen.
A whole slew of blockbuster video game franchises are being circled by creatively bankrupt Hollywood suits with eyes on a film translation, and this year kicks off what could be the start of a new games-to-movies resurgence. But will these flicks score a critical hit, or be a floundering miss? Here’s a look at five upcoming game-to-movie adaptations.
RATCHET & CLANK (April 29)
In one of the most faithful video game adaptations yet, Ratchet & Clank not only retells the story of the game that launched the blockbuster PlayStation franchise in 2002, it features the game’s voice actors in the titular roles, as well as Hollywood heavyweights, such as Paul Giamatti, John Goodman and Sylvester Stallone.
SHOT AT A HIGH SCORE: While it has something of a Saturday morning cartoon vibe, the movie’s got plenty of action and a few good laughs. Plus, the new PlayStation 4 Ratchet & Clank game is based on the film which, in turn, is based on the first Ratchet & Clank game – fan service doesn’t get much more circular than that.
THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE (May 20)
If they can turn the board game Battleship into a film, why not the smartphone-born Angry Birds series? The movie chronicles a showdown between an island of multi-talented birds and the portly green piggies who arrive with unclear intentions.
SHOT AT A HIGH SCORE: Though the furious fowls’ popularity has waned a tad in recent years, the franchise is still a merchandising juggernaut, and the film boasts slick computer animation and a voice cast of comedy vets that includes Jason Sudeikis and Bill Hader. It won’t do Minions numbers, but it won’t bomb.
WARCRAFT (June 10)
Duncan Jones, director of the twisty sci-fi movies Moon and Source Code (and son of the late David Bowie), is behind this ambitious adaptation of the monstrously popular online role-playing game World of Warcraft.
SHOT AT A HIGH SCORE: While it might appeal to the many millions of World of Warcraft players and is going so far as to painstakingly recreate locations from the game, the trailers make the movie look like a mishmash of generic CGI-driven fantasy. But Jones is a talented guy, so there’s still hope.
ASSASSIN’S CREED (Dec. 21)
Get a first look at the upcoming #AssassinsCreedMovie. pic.twitter.com/mHMTPinWNy
— Assassin’s Creed (@AssassinsMovie) January 5, 2016
Ubisoft’s time-hopping action game series arrives on the big screen with Michael Fassbender playing a modern-day dude who discovers he can tap into the experiences of his ancestor, a good-guy assassin in 15th-century Spain.
SHOT AT A HIGH SCORE: With Ubisoft’s own movie production arm behind it, the film should remain faithful to the tone and ideas of the game, and Fassbender brings a lot of talent to anything he does. Still, Jake Gyllenhaal is also a fine actor, but he didn’t exactly set the screen on fire in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time — another Ubisoft game adapted into a movie. Fingers crossed, blades hidden.
SPLINTER CELL (2017)
Ubisoft has already lined up another major name for their second big in-house movie, with Tom Hardy (Mad Max: Fury Road) playing black ops super-spy Sam Fisher. Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) was slated to direct but has since left the project, with no new director announced just yet.
SHOT AT A HIGH SCORE: Hardy is almost always fantastic, but a rock-solid script and deft director will be needed to make this stand out in a field crowded with the likes of Bond, Bourne and their many descendants.
As we wait to see how Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed fare in theatres this year, here are three other game franchises crying out to be made into films.