There's no denying that Gears of War is a popular video game franchise. Eleven million copies sold worldwide to date for the first two games is no insignificant feat. That's why it's no leap in logic to assume that there are millions of people out there eagerly awaiting the previously announced Gears of War film to be directed by Underworld and Live Free or Die Hard helmer Len Wiseman. I'm not one of them.
Last week the LA Times reported that production on the film had gone stagnate. I rejoiced a little. For starters, even though I'm not a stalwart fan of the third person shooter, I'd like any film adaptation of it to at least do the bombastic, each monster ia bigger than the next game, justice. So if New Line Cinema's run at the property has lost its stride because no one wanted to make the film after its budget was cut, well, that's good news in my book. No movie is preferable to a cheap movie, there's no question about that. But I also cracked a bit of smile because I knew the news of the great Gears of War stalling would give me a nice excuse to rant about a game I'd rather see turned into a movie in its steed.
Now, I could give myself a wicked case of carpal tunnel syndrome if I were to rattle off my dream team of video game movies, so instead of a normal list I'll opt for a run down of a single older, perhaps forgotten property. Because, let's face it, I'd rather see a Half-Life or Fallout movie over Gears of War no matter what kind of a budget the latter had. Hell, I'd rather see a Half-Life film over just about anything else on the planet, but choosing a huge title like that is too easy.
No, for my ideal video game movie I'd like to see a studio reach back to the vintage years of LucasArts, the game arm of LucasFilm. The fanboy in me would love to see any title from their early-to-mid '90s catalog make the transition to film, but there is one that I think would make a legitimately outstanding film; The Dig. This should be a no-brainer considering the story for it was first conceived by Steven Spielberg as an episode for his ""Amazing Stories"" TV series and then as a standalone film. Spielberg eventually convinced himself the story was too expensive to film, though. I suppose the proper telling of astronauts who go to blow up an Earth-killing asteroid only to find its hollow interior is actually a transport to another planet would cost a pretty penny. It then fell into the laps of LucasArts who turned it into a point-and-click adventure computer game.
The Dig is no simple point-and-click game, though. It's got an astounding amount of pedigree standing behind its story, what with dialogue written by Orson Scott Card (author of Ender's Game) and a terrific novelization written by Alan Dean Foster. It's got a young, gender-diverse quartet at its core, so it'd be easy to cast four attractive actors while keeping some sexual tension; always a plus for studios (the lead, Commander Boston Low was voiced by T-1000 himself, Robert Patrick). There's more than enough spectacle to go around thanks to an entire alien planet complete with a fully-constructed civilization that was seemingly abandoned. There are still a few alien creatures lingering to allow for the expected quotient of action set pieces. Even to this day I remember playing The Dig as a kid and being terrified at having to use an alien dinosaur's jaw bone to cut off a comrade's trapped hand, not to mention the strange eggs that bring the dead back to life...
On top of all that, The Dig is bursting with the kind of heady ideas that make the genre so attractive. Though admittedly it would be a bit of a challenge to visually communicate a planet whose entire race has built a device that allows them to leave their corporeal bodies and become an ethereal, immortal collective conscious. But hey, that's not my nut to crack; that task belongs to the phantom director of this phantom film. As long as we're playing fantasy, we might as well fill those shoes as well.
If you had asked me 15 years ago when the game first came out, little gamer/movie-nerd me would have died to see Spielberg actually make the film. The wiser, older me knows what kind of a streak The Beard has been on these days, though, so I'd rather see a relative newcomer tackle the feat. I know he's everyone's fantasy draft pick at this point, but I really do think it would be a snug fit for District 9 director Neill Blomkamp, a man who has proven capable of Spielberg-level spectacles for a third of the budget. The abandoned alien world, the creatures, and the characters' journey to it all seem an ideal match for his wheelhouse.
(From 1995's The Dig)
But, hey, like I said; it's all just wishful thinking. It does have me feeling a might nostalgic for good, old games, though. Here's to hoping Gears of War teeters either into are fully out of production again, that way I can use its news as a great cover for another trip down memory lane.
Check out last week's MindFood here