Well, this is an interesting development in the currently murky waters of the video game and movie crossover. According to an article on Variety’s website, Lionsgate Films (most recently behind your favorite teen dramas such as The Hunger Games and Twilight sagas) has announced that the FPS Action RPG Borderlands is getting a movie adaptation.
This news comes somewhat out of left field. I’m a pretty big fan of the Borderlands series. There’s a lot to like. Storming new areas, finding increasingly epic loot as you level your vault hunter just the way you want to. Still, does this formula work for a movie?
Borderlands doesn’t really have that deep and immersive of a story. The premise is simple: on the post-apocalyptic planet of Pandora, you play as one of a group of legendary vault hunters — seeking untold riches from within the ancient and alien vaults. You shoot your way through hordes of enemies in the hopes that you will one day find and acquire the wealth and admiration you seek. That may be an oversimplification, but that is the premise.
As a first person shooter, a deep and compelling story wasn’t really Gearbox’s primary focus. While there is interesting characters and a minimalistic but satisfying plot, gameplay has always been the key. That, and of course the loot. While Borderlands manages to juggle these elements with a pretty decent story is admirable, but I’m not sure this is the kind of game that is best suited for the silver screen.
Video game movies have always been lackluster, and for good reason. A huge draw for a video game is player agency and interactivity. Once you take those out of the equation, then you are essentially pulled away from being invested. I’m not trying disparage movies by any means. They’re a very valid form of entertainment, and watching them is one of my favorite past times. Movies are designed differently by nature, and don’t work in the same way to evoke emotions that video games do.
With minute exception, nearly every video game movie adaptation has been mediocre at best. The idea to make one always sounds good on paper, but a huge part of me wishes they would just give up on trying to merge these two massively different forms of media.
As the technology behind video games advances, so to does their cinematic nature. One could argue that games are naturally becoming more like movies, so it would only make sense to go in guns blazing in an attempt at being relevant at the box office. There’s just an aspect of games that you feel is lost when they’re condensed into a 90 minute feature film.
A Borderlands movie carries with it all sorts of issues. How do you proceed stylistically without going too over the top, but make it stand out among the likes of the critically-acclaimed Fury Road? There’s a lot of tongue-in-cheek humor and zaniness littered throughout Pandora, including guns that you throw and explode when you reload them, or Super Badass Midget Goliaths. How do you put something like that in a movie and NOT make it ridiculous.
I’m not trying to sound harsh, and I could very well be wrong with my assumption that trying to make a movie-length story out of Borderlands is a terrible idea. Telltale managed to pleasantly surprise me with their latest game series set in the Borderlands universe. They’ve taken something like Borderlands, and have actually made sense out of it, and melded it into a refreshing and hilarious tale with plenty of emotion and intrigue. If Telltale can adapt the series in such a way, then maybe Lionsgate can as well.
It’s just so WEIRD. There are so many other games that I feel could be more fitting. They are of course working on an Uncharted movie, which is basically an interactive Indiana Jones. I’m not sure why anybody would really care about the movie when they can already enjoy the heavily cinematic game, but I could be wrong.
The games that you would think to be the most adaptably are already inherently cinematic by nature, which makes you wonder why they would invest millions of dollars in the vain hopes of re-creating that same magic. I keep trying to wrack my brain thinking of an actually fitting choice for a game to movie scenario, and it’s hard to actually think of one. Original games will always be naturally better than their movie counterparts.
I guess that they’ll do what they do, regardless. The trend doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon, so I’ll just have to wait and hope that they can manage to make something good out of this. For the time-being, I’ll choose to remain wary.
It’s truly a weird time for nerd culture. Things that our kind were initially chastised for our now becoming mainstream, and are storming into the collective consciousness. Before 2000, I would have never thought that we’d be seeing Marvel Studios as one of the biggest movie franchises of our time. Maybe video game movies will be the next big thing. Only time will tell.
What are your thoughts about a Borderlands movie? Do you think another franchise would have been a better choice? Sound off in the comments below. Thanks for reading!