Stuart Beattie talks videogame adaptations
Stuart Beattie has been talking about Hollywood's view of videogames, his work on adapting Gears of War for a film and what he could have done with the Pirates of the Caribbean videogame adaptation. All in all it's a very interesting interview.
Stuart Beattie is the writer responsible for turning a theme park ride into a hugely successful film and franchise, Pirates of the Caribbean. He also wrote the excellent Collateral and Derailed (Filmstalker review).
So he knows what he's talking about, a man who can turn a park ride into one of the most successful franchises ever can certainly do it with games. That's probably he's working on the Gears of War film adaptation.
It's interesting to think that the story of Halo and Gears of War are rather similar, and yet it's Gears of War that looks to be heading towards the cinema screen first. Halo won't be a first, it'll be a follower, if it gets made.
“Hollywood likes to do what's proven. They've already proved that books work, and plays can work, and recently that comic books can work. But they've yet to have a film be as successful as say Spider-Man, that's based on a videogame. We had the same thing with Pirates of the Caribbean. They didn't want to base a film from a theme park ride. But now that it's done and it's been successful they're looking for what other theme park rides could possibly work as films.”
That comment made me smile and reinforces the fact that Hollywood studio's aren't as interested in plot and story as they are hard cash. The fact that since Pirates of the Caribbean has been successful that they're looking to other theme park rides, is very funny. Surely they realise that the power of that series is in the writing and the actors.
What managed to turn a theme park ride into a superb film is the writer who adapted it, sure there were actors, director, etc on the way that made it much better, but it's the writer who turned a piece of machinery into something special.
Can't the studio's see that and realise that the investment should be in a writer who can turn a machine into a rich and enjoyable story? If it was then they'd see that taking a videogame would be much easier, after all it already has a backstory, plot, characters, all developed, particularly in the case of films such as Halo. There's much more for a writer to work with.
“I would say the perception of videogame movies in Hollywood is: they are interested, they're intrigued, but they're still not completely sure if it can actually work.”
While Hollywood hangs back and wonders without actually making much commitment to the videogame adaptations they are making – isn't there something about the effort and passion put in would maximise the profits taken out? - the gaming industry isn't holding back. They're producing games that are huge in scope and extremely cinematical, in fact some of these games have more backstory, plot and character development than mainstream Hollywood films. Beattie agrees.
“Films are definitely influencing videogames...There's that scene in Call of Duty when you lying on the beaches of Normandy and it's straight out Saving Private Ryan. You really feel like you're there as much as you'd want to feel like you're there. I remember being terrified by that in the game. It captured the craziness of that experience and you could clearly see it was inspired by Saving Private Ryan.”
It sounds as though someone in Hollywood is on the ball and with that Stuart Beattie is working closely with the developers of Gears of War on the film adaptation.
“I hope it's extremely collaborative...From my point of view it's definitely going to be, because I'm going to be riding their asses about it. I mean, they have lived with this game more than I have and they definitely know these characters, this world and all that kind of stuff. I think the things that they need to develop their games are the same things that I need to write my script. That's just a treasure trove waiting to be mined as far as I'm concerned.”
Well it's obvious he knows what to do, why doesn't the rest of Hollywood? Beattie talks a little about the film and reveals that he would think that the film would have to be filmed in the style of 300 (Filmstalker review). He doesn't think that recreating the world would be possible anywhere else but on a sound stage with big effects, and that would lend to the styling anyway.
Beattie also reveals that he's a bit surprised that he wasn't approached about the first Pirates of the Caribbean videogame, which he says he could have made into something big, something that could have returned a similar amount to the film.
This is another area of Hollywood that they haven't managed to get quite right yet. It all screams out that Hollywood and the gaming industry need to work closer together, and Hollywood needs to realise what the gaming industry already does, you need both to make a killer product.
It also looks like Gears of War may just have the chance to be the first videogame to fulfil the potential and become the big box office success that they could so obviously be.
What's interesting that with the negative comments of Neill Blomkamp on the Halo film, or as Mogulus in the comments realised, his incarnation of the Halo film, and the complete inaction on the project, Gears of War could get to that box office before it does, and perhaps just set the bar very high.