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5 video game movies that almost happened

With 'Rampage' rocking the charts and Universal planning a new 'Doom' movie, here are some video games that almost made it to theaters.
UPDATED JAN 15, 2020
Halo (Getty Images)
Halo (Getty Images)

Since the time of the monochromatic 'Pong', video games have come a long way. Over the years, they have evolved into an industry that produces well-written, beautifully designed worlds. With modern day immersive technologies, users have gone from just playing games to pass the time to living out the stories the same way they would with a novel or a movie.

Sadly, however, video game movies have historically been unable to take off. Most film adaptations of classic video games, like Mike Newell's 2010 adaptation of 'Prince of Persia', have received either negative or mixed reviews. In recent times, however, movies like 'Rampage' and the new 'Tomb Raider' reboot have brought video game movies back into the limelight. Now with Universal reportedly planning on remaking their adaptation of the classic video game series 'Doom' after producing a widely disliked movie back in 2005, we decided to look at some of the video game movies that almost made it to theatres before being either delayed or abandoned altogether.

1) Grand Theft Auto 

Arguably one of the most iconic and controversial video games of all time, fans of 'GTA' have been clamoring for a film adaptation for years. But the project has not been able to move forward due to complicated legal issues.

Grand Theft Auto (Getty Images)

Rockstar Games, the creator of the hit series, was sued by Roger Corman over copyright violations of his 1977 comedy also titled ‘Grand Theft Auto’. The case was settled between the two parties in such a way that Rockstar was prohibited from making a movie adaptation of the game while Corman and his successors were similarly forbidden to make a video game adaptation of the original film.

Though the chances of a film project taking off are slim, 'GTA' has created a vast and interconnected world that channels the spirit of classic pulp gangster movies like 'Scarface' and Quentin Tarantino's 'Pulp Fiction'. The open-world nature of the games allows for unbridled creative freedom when it comes to stories that can be told. Every 'GTA' game introduces multiple characters and settings, any of which would rock on screen.

Admittedly, the series creators have not been particularly keen on making a movie anyway. As a rule, game creators are wary of Hollywood because of studio pressures about language and portrayal and the lack of creative freedom. The franchise has been hounded by parents since its inception and any future movie will probably face some amount of backlash as well. But the world of 'GTA' is rich enough and the series popular enough to warrant an adaptation, as unlikely and risky as it might be.

2) The Last of Us

As survival games go, 'The Last of Us' is a true masterpiece of world-building. Not only is the horror game visually stunning, it is driven by an intense story that reads like the script of an epic drama.

A movie adaptation of the game was planned by Sony back in 2014 with Sam Raimi producing and series creator Neil Druckmann writing the script. The script was reportedly completed in 2016 but since has entered development hell where it has been gathering dust ever since. The movie has reportedly been shelved due to irreconcilable differences between Sony and Druckmann about the script.

The Last of Us (IGDB)

'The Last of Us' has the potential to make for a deeply philosophical movie that would question things like morality in the context of a world bent on survival. A zombie story, as a rule, allows the writer to launch into a deep psychological analysis of its characters. In 'The Last of Us', we see characters reeling from loss, guilt and despair in the face of a seemingly unstoppable enemy. The story is well spaced out across the country and the span of a year. Though it would be a little weird seeing different actors in the roles of Joel and Ellie, this is a world and a story that truly deserves to appear on the silver screen.

3) Half-Life

This is one film adaptation that still has a chance of making it out of the "development hell" that most video game movies are inevitably condemned to. The original 'Half-Life' game follows a research scientist who goes from being an admittedly underpowered individual to a formidable force to reckon with. The story is set in a secret military research facility where an accident opens a rift to another world through which horrifying aliens begin to invade. The scientists who work at the facility, including the protagonist, are forced to fight off the monsters while simultaneously being hunted down by a black ops team of skilled soldiers.

With 'Half-life', writers and directors have a unique opportunity. Unlike other First-Person Shooter games of the time, 'Half-Life' does not rely on cut-scenes to detail the story. Instead, the users are immersed in a continuous experience with events unfolding as part of the gameplay itself. In a video game, this allows for greater user control over the actions of the hero who is more or less kept silent and unseen. What this means for a movie is that the directors would have far greater creative control over how the story unfolds.

J J Abrams is reportedly planning to direct adaptations of 'Half-life' and its sister series ‘Portal’. Despite plans for the movie being announced back in 2013, progress has been excruciatingly slow and it doesn’t seem as if it will ever reach the big screen.

4) BioShock

Few games have as much philosophical and literary brilliance as Ken Levine’s BioShock series. The award-winning FPS game incorporates political philosophy and class struggle into a stunning dystopian world that is as detailed as it is impressive. Add to that a storyline that could give most thrillers a run for their money and you’ve got one of the greatest video games ever made.

'Bioshock' follows a man named Jack as he discovers Rapture, an underground city created by a businessman obsessed with the writings of Ayn Rand. Though the city had been envisioned as a utopia, class distinctions and conflicts grew until the city exploded into a civil war that turned Rapture into a cyber-punk dystopia by the time of Jack's arrival.

Gore Verbinski was supposed to direct a big screen adaptation of the game for Universal but the plans fell apart because the studio was not willing to give the director the $160 million budget he asked for and, after the failure of Zack Snyder’s 'Watchmen', Universal was wary of producing R-rated movies.

Things have changed in the industry since then, of course. After the success of 'Deadpool' and 'Logan', studios are once again confident about the prospects of R-rated films. And with movies like 'Infinity War' being made on budgets that run up to hundreds of millions of dollars, the money might not be as hard to come by as once thought. Presently, all fans can do is wait and see if Universal would kindly allow the movie to happen.

5) Halo

'Halo' is one of those games that truly left a mark on video game history. It is considered to be one of the greatest First-Person Shooter games ever made. In fact, almost all FPS games that came post-Halo can be divided into two groups: games that tried to be like 'Halo' and games that tried to be different from 'Halo'. Either way, the game has had an undeniable influence on the industry as a whole.

Halo (Getty Images)

The story behind 'Halo' is well-written and ripe for the migration from consoles to the silver screen. The sci-fi story follows the adventures of Master Chief Petty Officer John-117, a super-soldier dropped behind enemy lines who fights for an army locked in an unending war with theocratic aliens. Metaphors for the War on Terror aside, it makes for some beautiful visuals and a universe that would look absolutely gorgeous on the big screen. Master Chief is joined by his partner, the Artificial Intelligence known as Cortana; a character so iconic that Microsoft named its intelligent personal assistant after her.

The franchise has produced books, graphic novels and two web-series. Plans to make a live-action feature film on the franchise started way back in 2005. Alex Garland wrote the script and Guillermo Del Toro was initially in the running to direct before the studio finalized on Neill Blomkamp. After a long series of false starts, Blomkamp declared the project dead in 2007.

343 industries announced in 2013 that a live-action TV series would be made on the series with Steven Spielberg as executive producer. It is believed that the series, which is set to air on Showtime, will start production later this year after years of being stuck in development hell but, while it is still an exciting project, it would be so much cooler to see Master Chief and Cortana on the big screen.