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Hollywood’s Latest Gamble: Is the Video Game to Film Adaptation Trend Paying Off?

The studios say goodbye to the comic book era and hello to the video game era.

Shutterstock/IGN/HBO/CNN

From ‘The Last of Us’ to ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’, 2023 is proving to be the biggest year for film adaptations of popular video games. Hollywood entertainment giants are investing big in content recycling, but will their risks pay off and what can we look forward to seeing on the big screen this year?

‘The Last Of Us’ – HBO’s Latest Hit

Credit: HBO

It’s been a big year so far for writer, Craig Mazin, and ‘The Last Of Us’ creator, Neil Druckmann. The two teamed up in 2020 in hopes of bringing the video game’s success to the big screen. The announcement prompted online discourse about the accuracy and entertainment value that adapting a successful video game would produce.

It’s officially been a month since the series premiered on HBO Max. Its premiere drew in 4.7 million viewers. During its first week of release, ‘The Last of Us’ became the highest-rated series on IMDB, it currently sits at number five right above ‘Game Of Thrones’ and ‘The Sopranos’. Last week, Forbes reported that ‘The Last Of Us’ had another week of increased viewership, meaning its viewership has improved every week since its release. The series has already been confirmed for a second season.

What Is ‘The Last Of Us’ Doing Correctly?

So what has been the secret to the show’s major success? According to Mazin, they consciously decided to bypass fan expectations when it came to creating a literal adaptation on screen. Following the gameplay sequence Mazin says is ‘”the mistake other people have made, I think, in adaptations [of video games], because they think that’s what connects people to a game.”

Along with this decision, they surprisingly decided to minimize violence in the series. Druckmann says they decided to, “only have as much violence in this story as is required and no more. That allows the violence to have even more impact when you see it on screen than in the game”.

Joel (Troy Baker) and Ellie (Ashley Johnson) must fight for survival in the video game ‘The Last of Us’. Credit: Naughty Dog

Repurposing major factors in the video game’s success has been key to creating a compelling story that instead chooses to keep the focus on its characters. Mazin says “The Last Of Us’, “connected me to character and relationship. And the relationship between Joel and Ellie [the series main characters] was the thing that we wanted to pull through the most.” The story beats that are present in the game appear in the series but their purpose serves the character’s arcs rather than visual spectacles.

Another major change along with character development is taking away Joel’s single perspective that the game is based on. Instead, they chose to expand the perspective by using moments that are unseen but alluded to in the game. Expanding the story through the small glimpses players can recall as well as focusing on non-zombie enemies creates the humanization that the series needs.

It’s what Mazin sees as the key opportunity for adaptation. “How can we bring in all of the elements of the world in such a way to force people into situations that reveal who they really are?” He says, “In doing that, all these other characters and their relationships started coming through.” Not only are Mazin and Druckmann planning on covering the whole first game but their tactics of video game to film adaptation are setting the storyline up for several seasons to come.

Coming To The Big Screen

As demonstrated, video games to film adaptations can be extremely successful. Hollywood is not shying away from their potential in 2023 as they prepare to release these upcoming adaptations. Here is what you can expect to see!

‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’

Credit: Universal Pictures

One of the most anticipated films this year is ‘The Super Mario Bros. Movie’. It’s not the first time that the world-famous video game cartoon, Super Mario, has been adapted into a film. Its last adaptation in 1993, ‘Super Mario Bros’, became the poster child for a bad video game to film adaptations.

This time around big-name studios, Universal and Minions Studio Illumination, are behind the project alongside big stars such as Chris Pratt, Charlie Day, Anya Taylor-Joy, and Jack Black. Hopefully, it can warrant a more positive reaction than the last time Super Mario saw the screen. The film is set to be released on April 7, 2023.

‘Borderlands’

Credit: 2K Games

Another star-studded cast is ‘Borderlands’. The cast includes Kevin Hart, Cate Blanchett, Jack Black, and Jamie Lee Curtis. Out of all the video game adaptations ‘Borderlands’ is definitely the wildcard. It’s co-written by Craig Mazin (‘The Last Of Us’) and directed by Eli Roth. It’s rumored Roth will co-direct with the director, Tim Miller (‘Deadpool’), in order to bring the berserk juvenile humor to big audiences. The game itself is a role-playing first-person shooter video game developed by Gearbox Software. The game’s story focuses on a group of four hunters who travel to the planet of Pandora in the hunt for alien technology and riches. During their travels, they must battle wildlife and bandits that populate the planet. No approximate time has been set for its 2023 release.

‘Twisted Metal’

Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

‘Twisted Metal’ is one of the first big hits from PlayStation. The original game was released in 1995 and there hasn’t been a new installment since 2012. Fans are certainly excited to see the franchise back and returning as an action-comedy series from Peacock. There are a lot of expectations to meet the video game’s dark humor vehicular combat that originally lead to the success of the game. The show is being written by ‘Deadpool’ writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick and it will star Anthony Mackie, Stephanie Beatriz, Thomas Haden, Neve Campbell, and Will Arnett. The series is set to be released in mid-2023.

‘Fallout’

Credit: Bethesda Softworks

‘Fallout’ is one of the most anticipated video game adaptation releases this year. The Amazon Prime series will be led by ‘Westworld’ creators, Lisa Joy and Jonathan Nolan. Although not too much is known about the series synopsis, fans can most likely expect the series to contain ghouls, mutants, and cyborgs mostly inspired by Bethesda’s ‘Fallout 3’. The game is a retro-futuristic and post-apocalyptic role-playing game. The Vault Sweller protagonist scours the wasteland for a computer chip that can fix the Vault’s water supply problem. Along the way, the protagonist interacts with other survivors and engages in combat. The series will star Walton Goggins, Ella Purnell, and Kyle MacLachlan. The series is set to be released in late 2023.

‘Gran Turismo’

Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

An oddball in adaptations comes from Sony Pictures and Columbia Pictures with ‘Gran Turismo’. The game is a sports-racing video game with no plot or characters. Interestingly enough the film will be a blend of the player fantasy and the real-life of Jann Mardenborough. Mardenborough was an early ‘Gran Turismo’ player whose video game fantasy became reality when he became a professional racer. The film will be directed by Neil Blomkamp (‘District 9’) and stars Archie Madekwe, David Harbour, and Orlando Bloom. It is set to be released in the Summer of 2023.

Written By

Hey! I'm Luciana, a recent graduate with a degree in English who loves delving into all things entertainment. When I am not reading or writing, you can definitely catch me watching a series. I love well-scripted plots and dialogue but I also love trashy reality tv, what can I say?

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