Hollywood targets gamers in a big year for video-game movies

21 Jan 2016

Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed. Photo via 20th Century Fox

For the vaguely nerdy at heart, this is a very good year. A bevy of comic books movies are coming to a cinema near you, as are some YA big-hitters, and a whole host of sci-fi franchises and standalone efforts. It’s also the year, though, that video games go Hollywood in a big way.

Here at Siliconrepublic.com, we’ve been on a bit of a movies kick recently. Over the last two weeks, we’ve brought you lists of movies you should look out for in 2016 and movies that will bring some of your favourite literary characters to life.

This week, though, we’re going far more niche. Enter the world of the video-game movie.

There’s a rich history of Hollywood teaming up with the gaming community, with previous ventures on the silver screen ranging from the sublime (Doom) to the faintly ridiculous (Super Mario Bros.), with a whole lot else (Final Fantasy, Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Street Fighter) in between.

And then there’s Wreck-It Ralph, which pulled together a whole lot of different video game characters, from Pac-Man to Sonic.

This year seems to have more video game offerings than most, with four franchises making it to the big screen – a record, in actual fact.

Here they are in all their trailer-y glory.

Ratchet & Clank – 29 February

The first video-game movie out the gate in 2016, Ratchet & Clank is based on the platform game series of the same name, which saw the eponymous Lombax and robot travelling the universe and fighting evil.

Kowtowing to the current fad of origin stories, the Ratchet & Clank movie will take us through the events that brought the titular characters together, and embellish some of the details.

Apparently squarely aimed at younger audiences, the movie appears to squander any chance it had to appeal to aging (if being in your late 20s can count as aging) gamers. The trailer is a little too self-referential for my tastes, and a little too try-hard. A little too, ‘Hey, look at us! We’re funny’!

A decent voice cast – part original VG cast, part celebs like Paul Giamatti, John Goodman, Sly Stallone and Rosario Dawson – could indicate that there’s more to this than meets the eye, but I’m not holding out too much hope.

Incidentally, 2016 will also see the release of the Ratchet & Clank video game based on the movie of the video game. Meta.

The Angry Birds Movie – 13 May

The announcement of this movie pulled me up in my tracks, but not in a good way. More in a ‘How is this happening?!’ way.

Angry Birds is huge, and has been since it first launched. With more than two billion downloads to date, the Angry Birds brand clearly has immense appeal. Seeing those numbers clearly got pulses racing in Hollywood, and the movie rights were picked up in 2013.

The Angry Birds Movie will tell the basic story of the game – birds living in paradise get a little pissy when some evil pigs show up to ruin everything, and they decide to fight back.

I wasn’t expecting much from the trailer, but have to admit it made me chuckle once or twice. And, with a voice cast that includes comedy heavy-hitters Jason Sudeikis, Maya Rudolph, Kate McKinnon and Bill Hader of SNL, Keegan-Michael Key of Key and Peele, and Josh Gad of Frozen, the finished product should, at least, be funny, if nothing else.

But is it a step too far to turn this into a movie at all? Make up your own mind when it comes out in May.

Warcraft – 3 June

Warcraft should be good. I say ‘should be’ not in the sense that I have any expectation of it actually being so, but in the sense that, with such a wealth of source material behind it, it has so much promise.

Watching the trailer, that promise has clearly fallen by the wayside.

Warcraft is a series that started out as a real-time strategy game before morphing into its more popular iteration – that of massively multi-player online role-playing game, or MMORPG.

It takes place in the fictional Azeroth, and features plenty of orcs, elves, dwarves and magic.

But Lord of the Rings this ain’t. If the trailer reminds me of anything, it’s 1998’s Small Soldiers – a decent kids’ flick, sure, but not the sort of thing epics are made of.

To me, this trailer evokes nothing but the image of a moviemaker looking at the Warcraft empire – games and novels and collectibles ­– and seeing the dollar signs roll, without ever thinking about the fact that deciding to make a Warcraft movie would actually result in having to make a Warcraft movie.

Script, characters and graphics seem to be an afterthought here. Travis Fimmel and Ruth Negga cannot save it. Simply put, it looks awful. Watch at your peril.

Assassin’s Creed – 30 December

Video game: Michael Fassbender in Assassin's Creed
Michael Fassbender in Assassin’s Creed. Photo via 20th Century Fox.

The Assassin’s Creed adaptation has been long in the offing. With casting announcements starting way back in 2012 – our own Michael Fassbender was (and still is) to take the starring role – filming didn’t begin until late summer last year, months after it was initially slated to appear in cinemas.

While few details are known about the story just yet, it will follow the format of the franchise, throwing a present-day man into the memories of his assassin ancestors, so he can get the skills he needs to take down the Templars.

The plot will not be drawn directly from the video-game series, however, with creators Ubisoft declaring it to be a ‘brand new story’.

Kirsty Tobin was careers editor at Silicon Republic