With the recent release of the Tomb Raider reboot movie trailer (fittingly, based on the Tomb Raider reboot game), my mind has been racing with possibilities. How many good videogame adaptations have we gotten? Have we even gotten one? Probably not, but I’m not ready to give up on that dream just yet. There have been plenty of times when my expectations soared higher than ever, just to be disappointingly dashed across the ground like a scoop of ice cream melting off the cone and hitting the pavement on a hot summer day. However some of these scoops of cinematic ice cream never made it to the cone before falling flat, so here’s a compiled list of some of the potentially great videogame movies that just weren’t meant to be.
Kane and Lynch
Despite the lukewarm reception the game received, it can be argued that Kane & Lynch: Dead Men was a significant point in the culture of gamers. After all, it is the game that caused Jeff Gerstmann to leave Gamespot and co-found the incredibly influential Giant Bomb. Kane and Lynch had some serious heat around it and Hollywood took notice. With a script penned by Kyle Ward, Simon Ward slated to direct, as well as Bruce Willis and Jamie Foxx set to play the titular Kane and Lynch duo, the adaptation was slated for a 2011 release. That is until Simon Ward dropped off of the film and pushed the release all the way to 2013 before Bruce Willis confirmed himself that if the movie were still in production he had no connection to it anymore.
American McGee’s Alice
There have certainly been dark undertones stuffed into the crevices of the classic Alice in Wonderland, but no spin on the brand fully embraced the darkness quite like American McGee’s Alice in 2000. This brutal, gory take on the fantastical landscape of Wonderland led to staple names in horror attaching themselves to the product. The film rights to the game were originally snapped up by Dimension Films whom immediately attached Nightmare on Elm Street director Wes Craven to direct. After spending some time in development hell, the rights fell to Universal who attached Buffy the Vampire Slayer herself, Sarah Michelle Gellar, to play the titular role. However, Universal also let the rights lapse and fall out of their possession without starting any momentum for the project.
If you don’t remember Kalisto Entertainment’s gothic horror franchise Nightmare Creatures on the Playstation, PC, and N64 that’s perfectly reasonable; it’s certainly one of the more obscure titles of the generation. This just made it all the more surprising when in 2000 Kalisto Entertainment announced that they were in talks to make the game series transition to a film series. In a joint venture between APG and Le Studio Canal, the Nightmare Creatures film was set to be written by Matt Cirulnick, whose credits include Total Recall 2 and True Crime: New York City, and directed by Ralph Zondag, who was just coming off the now-forgotten Disney film Dinosaurs. The film languished in development with no other updates coming from either film camp or the game’s developer until the majority of people just plain forgot that the series existed in the first place.
Squaresoft’s Horror RPG Parasite Eve certainly has a strong fan following and a film adaptation of the stories certainly would make sense. What most people don’t know is that the Parasite Eve games are actually sequels to the Parasite Eve novel, which had gotten a Japan-only film adaptation in 1997. So the market for a film adaptation was certainly there. In fact, there were wide-spread rumors that pop icon Madonna had purchased the film rights of the videogame series from Squaresoft with the intention of releasing the film in the early 2000’s. However, there were many conflicting reports of where the film rights had actually landed with many people confirming Madonna going after the rights, while Square ambiguously stated that they still owned the rights at the moment. This back and forth ultimately petered out before anything tangible could be made of the deal.
We just recently received the first installment of the absolutely excellent Castlevania series on Netflix, which is a focused adaptation of Castlevania III. However, years before this series rose from the dead, there were talks of a full feature length film in 2005 when Crystal Sky Pictures acquired the rights to the classic franchise. Crystal Sky attached Paul W.S. Anderson to direct, who had gained notoriety with his Mortal Kombat and Resident Evil film franchises. Anderson wanted the film to focus on the Dracula/Belmont rivalry with the film spanning multiple generations of the Belmont family. The film went through rewrites and scouted filming locations in Romania before being struck down by the writer’s guild strike. The film was then revived briefly in 2009 with James Wan, of Saw and Insidious fame, to co-direct with Anderson before the final stake was put through the film’s heart.
We all know Spy Hunter as the classic arcade hit that saw you controlling the world’s coolest car down the world’s most dangerous highway; utilizing machine guns, oil slicks, and even transforming into a boat to escape those that hunted you down. Who wouldn’t want to see that on the silver screen? It would be just like a James Bond film, but with 100 times the amount of car chases and 1000 times the amount of an awkward early 2000’s “wrestler-turned-actor” phase Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Spy Hunter the movie was originally set to be directed by action movie guru John Woo, before he was forced to drop out and replaced with the familiar face of Paul W.S. Anderson. The film may have ran out of gas, but the videogame tie-in, Spy Hunter: Nowhere to Run, was still released on the original projected release date of the film.
Remember the whole snafu with the Dwayne Johnson led Spy Hunter? Just picture that, but with his Fast and Furious co-star Vin Diesel and you have a rough outline of the fate of Wheelman. In 2006 Wheelman the game, which was developed by Diesel’s own Tigon Studios, and Wheelman the movie were simultaneously announced. Like the game, Vin Diesel would take the spotlight as the star with Rich Wilkes, writer of xXx, set to write the script for the Paramount Pictures and MTV Films collaboration. With no official script ever written, Wheelman the movie was supposed to act as a sequel to the game, both of which were supposed to be released around 2008. However the film never got off the ground and fizzled out, while the game was merely set back by delays until it eventually released in 2009.