The big picture: Lately it seems we have been seeing a lot of video games being turned into films or TV shows. While such adaptations are nothing new, it may be the wild success of The Witcher that has spurred investment in the latest round movie knock-offs. The real trick is getting them to pay off with finicky fans.
On Thursday, motion picture production house Lionsgate confirmed rumors it is working on a film adaptation of the video game Borderlands. Producers Avi and Ari Arad have tapped Eli Roth to direct. Filming is slated to start sometime this year.
“I’m so excited to dive into the world of Borderlands, and I could not be doing it with a better script, producing team, and studio,” Roth told Deadline.
Wind of the adaptation broke last summer when a film synopsis was leaked to Full Circle Cinema. According to the plot summary, the film will be taking several liberties as far as character backstories, and game lore are concerned.
“A legendary thief named Lilith will be the protagonist in a new story that will include instantly recognizable faces, like the fan-favorite Claptrap. The movie will find Lilith in the Atlas Corporation space prison when the CEO gives her the chance to earn her freedom by rescuing his daughter, the foul-mouthed Tiny Tina, on the planet Pandora. The mission takes an unexpected turn when it becomes clear that the little girl is the key to unlocking a valuable alien vault that Atlas wants all for itself.”
At the time, Full Circle reported that 22 Jump Street writer Oren Uziel was working on the screenplay. However, Lionsgate says it has hired Craig Mazin to write the adaptation. Mazin just won two Emmy Awards for his work on the HBO miniseries Chernobyl. The studio has also brought Take-Two Interactive CEO Strauss Zelnick and Gearbox Software founder Randy Pitchford onboard as executive producers.
“With Eli’s vision and Craig’s screenplay, we believe we have cracked the code on bringing the anarchic world of Borderlands to the big screen in a big way that will be a fresh, compelling and cinematic event for moviegoers and fans of the game,” said Lionsgate Motion Picture Group President Nathan Kahane.
We shall see. Lionsgate did not mention plot points, nor did it acknowledge the allegedly leaked synopsis, but if the rumored outline is valid, the movie will probably be a hard-sell for fans.
Video game film adaptations rarely do well, and most of the time, they flop because the writers played with the lore too much. The Netflix series The Witcher is an excellent example of how games should be translated to television or film.
Fans might give Lionsgate a pass for making Lilith out a thief since there is a lot of her backstory that is unknown. However, it is well established in Borderlands lore that Tiny Tina is an orphan and not the daughter of an Atlas exec. Furthermore, she is definitely not a vault key. These types of changes are what usually land video game adaptations in the rubbish pile with the likes of Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Alone in the Dark, and Resident Evil: Apocalypse.