Over the last decade or more, video games have been putting together better quality, more complicated, and emotionally engaging narratives that bind their gameplay better. Often these go through multiple games, forming long, overarching storylines with deep character development and more challenging goals. Often you will hear gamers playing these epics “It was like I was in the middle of a movie.”
This typically leads film studios to immediately start formulating plans to adapt those games into new film franchises. Some are on the more puzzling side, such as MINECRAFT or TETRIS, but others cut their own paths, such as ANGRY BIRDS and MORTAL KOMBAT.
In 2013, the gaming world was taken by storm with the release of Naughty Dog’s post-apocalyptic horror game “The Last of Us” for the Playstation 3. Gamers were immediately sucked into the world of the game and were attached to the game’s two protagonists, Joel and the young girl he tries to escort, Ellie. It painted a gray picture of human emotions and morals, with characters and gamers alike pondering choices they normally wouldn’t make in order to survive.
If it sounds like this theme and storyline would be ripe for a film, you’d be on the same page as studio execs. Announced in 2014, the adaptation was to be written by the game’s Creative Director, Neil Druckmann, and produced by Sam Raimi and his Ghost House Pictures production company. There was also a lot of hype generated when rumors stated that they were interested in bringing on Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams as main character Ellie.
News about the film since then has been quiet and sparse, to say the least. When asked by IGN earlier this year, Neil Druckmann admitted that there hadn’t been much work done on the development of the film in the last year and a half, saying that the film had basically entered “development hell.” Many films end up in this state for a while, as scripts sometimes take longer to develop, or directors can’t see eye to eye with studios.
In an interview with IGN during the lunch for the release of the DON’T BREATHE Blu-ray release, Sam Raimi indicated that creative differences are the reason that the film hasn’t moved forward at all. About the status of the film, Raimi said:
“Well, unfortunately, that one — when we went to Neil with Ghost House Pictures we were hoping to get the rights like we do any project and then we’d take it out and sell it but we’d control the rights. With this one he went to Sony — who I have a very good relationship with — but they have their own plans for it and I think Neil’s plan for it — I’m not trying to be political — Neil’s plan for it is not the same as Sony’s. And because my company doesn’t have the rights, I actually can’t help him too much. Even though I’m one of the producers on it the way he set it up, he sold his rights to Sony, Sony hired me as a producer by chance, and I can’t get the rights free for him so I’m not in the driver’s seat and I can’t tell you what Sony and Neil together will decide on. If they do move forward I’d love to help them again.”
When asked about what his status with the project was and what he could do about it, Raimi continued:
“Yes, I’m attached to it. I’m not too sure what that means. Right now it’s just sitting there. They don’t want to move forward, and it’s not my place to say why, and Neil, I think, is in a slight disagreement with them about how things should go so there’s a standstill. And I don’t have the power to move it.”
Video game to film adaptations has been an extremely mixed bag, with studios constantly looking for the secret formula to make audiences as enthralled as they are when they play the games. It could be that the story loses that interactive element or that they can never reach the narrative level that the games achieve. While a success in China this year, Duncan Jones’ WARCRAFT was not as popular in the United States. While there was a lot of hope in making a video game a blockbuster film, ending the box office curse, WARCRAFT failed to deliver. All hope now rests on the shoulders of Justin Kurzel and Michael Fassbender as they bring the Ubisoft franchise ASSASSIN’S CREED to the big screen in December.
If there is a great success in ASSASSIN’S CREED, it’s possible that studios may redirect energy and resources to video game material, renewing interest in THE LAST OF US, but that is pure speculation. For now, we’ll have to settle with playing through the acclaimed story in the video game itself. Many people may debate that that’s the place it belongs.
What do you think? Do you think video games should just stay games, or is there potential in transferring their stories to the big screen? Were you looking forward to a LAST OF US film? We’ll keep you up to date as this story may continue.
Jason Stollery has horror films encoded into his DNA, going so far as to name his sons Michael and Fred. He can be found talking all things film on Twitter @smegghed.