IMO: A Comical Analogue
So, J.J. Abrams and Gabe Newell want to turn one’s films into games, and one’s games into films? Please do. It’s not that we haven’t been treated to a myriad of game to film adaptations ranging from the Kylie Minogue led brilliance of Street Fighter, through Dennis Hopper’s bewitching turn as King Koopa in Super Mario Bros. all the way to the actually kind of fun Resident Evil films, but just that the bulk of those films have been unavoidable trash on so many levels. Most disappointing of all though is that as gaming fans we look forward to all the forthcoming conversions to the silver screen and without fail leave disappointed as the subject matter just never seems to be treated the way it should. That’s why the exchange between two of the most important figures in their respective industries recently at the D.I.C.E. summit is so exciting.
J.J. Abrams is arguably one of the hottest two geek film-makers around right now (along with Joss Whedon, he of The Avengers Assemble fame) thanks to his varied and ever-upwards career progression. Starting in TV with creator credits on Alias, Lost and Fringe (to name the most relevant) and moving into cinema direction via Mission: Impossible III to where he is now, king of the crop as he’s brought Star Trek into the modern era and has now been given the keys to the Millennium Falcon. It’s interesting to hear already that the new Star Wars film may be delayed a year from Disney’s original 2015 release because Abrams wants more time; he wants to make the right film - the best he can, not just any film.
Gabe Newell is co-founder and President of Valve, makers of Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead and Dota. The culture in his company and the structural organisation is closer to a hive mind than a typical Fortune 500 company and from that epic gameplay married to wonderful narrative and laugh out loud dialogue emerge. There will be a Half-Life 3 one day. When it’s ready. No rush as we’d all rather get the best game ever than a great big disappointment, right? It wouldn’t serve Valve to do anything else anyway as short-term gain does not lend itself to long-term self-sustenance.
I mentioned The Avengers Assemble earlier. It wasn’t by accident. This is the culmination of Marvel’s Cinematic Universe: Phase One. Similar to the comics the intention was to build the universe on celluloid, a common world shared by the Iron Man, Hulk, Thor and others. Each had their own film and then they got together. Phase Two is in production - it begins with the third Iron Man film in April and will finish in 2015 with a second Avengers soiree. Phase Three is being developed as we speak by folks at Marvel, ensuring the best possible outcome due to planning, attention and care. It wasn’t always like this though. Many Marvel character’s film rights are still owned by other companies (Spider-Man being an obvious high profile example) but equally so many films had utterly sucked and disappointed the millions of fans who lapped up the weekly serials. Did you know there was a Captain America film in 1992? Probably not as it was quite rightly released straight to VHS due to its overwhelming lack of quality. Marvel themselves took a big risk. They borrowed several hundreds of millions from an investment bank to fund this great adventure and attempt to translate their comic-book world into a set of summer blockbusters. It worked, big time. People may not have been as familiar with Iron Man as they were with Superman or Batman but given the time, the support and the creative care a fabulous movie was born. Then others followed and it all came together to yield one of the biggest box-office hauls ever.
So that’s the benchmark, the model to follow. Marvel comics struggled to succeed in the cinema despite the characters and ready-made stories having been around for tens of years. All it took was a focussed end goal and the requisite support in all regards as opposed to executive interference with focus groups and monies the end goal as opposed to rewarding the fans. With Abrams and Newell you have two men with their respective worlds at their feet. Anything they want to do will be done, anything they say will be heard. Everything they say will be for the good of that game or that film in terms of how it will be received by fans, new and old alike. So please gents, please do combine and give us gaming fans the widescreen smile we deserve.