Monday, July 06, 2009

Beyond "Asteroids": Four upcoming videogame films

The other day, I was feeling really positive about the world. Maybe it was because I'd had a nice meal and my blood-sugar had risen above its usual level of what you'd expect in a shipwreck victim stranded with nothing but a crate of saltines and a drum of instant coffee, but for a while there it seemed like everything was going to be OK. Global depression, terminal ecological collapse, solar flares, invasion of the Moon Men... these things, if they came at all, would pass and we would survive. And not only would we survive, but we deserved to survive. Humanity was a bright, beautiful species with lots of good to offer the cosmos!

And then, this from The Hollywood Reporter:

Universal has won a four-studio bidding war to pick up the film rights to the classic Atari video game "Asteroids."

Oh, right. We're that species, too. Bummer. My first thought wasn't actually a despairing mental wail over how the main stream of our culture is a shit-eating Ouroboros with its mouth grafted to its own asshole, but this: why a four-way bidding war over a "property" the title of which is a common noun and which carries with it no characters or narrative? If they wanted to film 90 minutes of CGI space rocks getting blown all to hell -- "Armageddon grossed half a billion dollars, Chief, and they had only one lousy asteroid. Imagine Armageddon times, like, a zillion!" -- they could have optioned my ninth-grade Social Studies binder for a box of Hochtaler and a set of winter tires.

My third thought, after I'd wracked my brain to come with the nearest accessible structure from which a fall would certainly kill me, was that if they're filming fucking Asteroids it's open season for videogame adaptations. The old world is dead. All rules of sense, taste and cultural necessity, however slight they may have been, are struck down. And thus:

QIX: The Movie (dir. Alex Proyas)

Tagline: "Infinite vectors. One victor."

The game: A big hit in 1981, QIX called on players to draw geometric zones on-screen while avoiding, and ultimately containing, a deadly Apple ][ screensaver.

Synopsis: In the year 2025, cyber-hacker Damien "Ghost" Gost (Chris O'Donnell) finds himself fighting for the survival of reality itself as he races against time to prevent a "techno-demon" dubbed QIX ("Quasi-Interfaced eXomorph") from corrupting and conquering the world's datashpere. Meanwhile, in the "meatspace" of the real world, the shadowy Corporation responsible for summoning QIX is closing in on Ghost's fiancee (Anna Paquin), a brilliant DARPA statistician who just might hold the key to humanity's survival.

Amidar (dir. Russel Mulchahy)

Tagline: "Who or what is Amidar?"

The game: Fill-the-zones games were a big deal in '80s arcades, and Amidar stood out by offering two bizarre alternating scenarios for its path-following gameplay. In one, players controlled an ape running from cartoon jungle cannibals; the other featured a paint roller pursued by angry pigs.

Synopsis: Unwilling to leave Fox's QIX alone to cash in on the fill-the-zones market space, Dreamworks rushed Amidar into production. Bob Balaban (Close Encounters of the Third Kind) stars as struggling poet Michael Amidar, whose life takes a turn for the weird after he discovers a strange map in the lavatory of an antiquarian bookstore. Following the path laid out in the map leads to surreal shifts of reality and identity as Amidar comes every closer to the greatest mystery of all: himself. Co-star Genvieve Bujold is unrecognizable under award-nominated prosthetics as Balaban's otherworldly porcine love interest, Squee Cochonne.

M. Night Shyamalan's Math Fun (dir. Alan Smithee)

Tagline: "Dying is easy. Math is hard."

The game: In 1980, kids played the "education card", holding up Math Fun to convince their stepdads that an Intellivision console would be something other than a mind-rotting gateway to delinquency. Basically, you had to answer arithmetic questions correctly or your gorilla got dunked in the river.

Synopsis: On the banks of a river with no name... surrounded by creatures of fantasy and nightmare... one child must race against time to decipher the equations at the heart of reality. Dexter's Preston Bailey stars. Noteworthy as the late Rutger Hauer's last credited screen appearance, in the role of the Malicious Mister Minus.

Wonder Boy (dir. Rob Cohen)

Tagline: "The Eighth Wonder of the World... is first in line for action!"

The game: Also known in its NES incarnation as Adventure Island, Wonder Boy featured a kind of kewpie-doll caveman in a grass diaper who had to throw stone axes at slow-moving animals, and sometimes jump a skateboard over campfires, in order to rescue a princess, or something.

Synopsis: Superstar rapper by day, secret agent by night, Simon "Wonder Boy" Wilson (Common) and the bicoastal crew of "hip-hoperatives" known as the Tomahawks face their greatest challenge yet when terrorist group S.N.A.I.L. threatens to foreclose on the mortgages of every orphanage in America. Features the voice of LL Cool J, who postponed an announced retirement to play the role of "Papa Choppy", Wilson's acerbic robot helicopter. Decried by Wonder Boy purists ("Wondies") as a betrayal of everything Wonder Boy stood for, this urban-action-spy-comedy nevertheless had boffo box office with the fifth-best St. Patrick's Day weekend opening of all time.


GF said...

Glad to see my idea for Q*bert hasn't been explored already. Adrien Brody in the title role, right?

Anonymous said...