Video game movies haven’t exactly had the best track record. There are dozens, if not hundreds, that are currently in development hell (see: Halo, Uncharted, Last of Us, Bioshock, Gears of War, and so on), and while other series are said to get their movie due one day like those Borderlands and Mega Man movies that’ll eventually come out, there’s been no real development as of late to get people truly excited. Of the ones that have been released, only two video game movies actually still hold up to this day, the first Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat films. And even then, the latter sort of falls into the “this is bad and cheesy, and that makes it great” zone, and the former is rebooting itself due out in the next year or two.
The most recent video game movie, Ratchet and Clank, didn’t really elevate the genre from the sound of it, and everyone’s still undecided on whether or not Assassin’s Creed is going to live up to anything. Angry Birds comes out this weekend, but let’s face it, the fact that Angry Birds is getting a movie just screams “cash grab”. Right now, the only real “hope” that we have is Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, due out in three weeks. It has a slightly better chance of being better than Creed, but we won’t find out for sure until June. At the moment, the hope is that none of the upcoming video game movies be bad on the level of the last big one, Super Mario Bros, a film that’s so bad it made Nintendo never make an attempt to bring one of their properties to the big screen again. Until now.
Last week, the Big N announced their plans to bring their properties to film again, and they’ve already got a movie in the works. Naturally, a lot of people got to speculating and wishing about what the first film would be. Would they take another shot at Mario? Could this be Zelda’s time to shine? Might Samus Aran’s series finally get redeemed with a silver screen treatment? We won’t know for a while, but what if Nintendo went a different route for their first film? Instead of going into what’s basically the past, why not the here and now? Why not… Splatoon?
Okay wait, before saying that this is a stupid idea, hear me out. The game’s a global success with a devout fanbase and became the fastest selling Wii U game at launch. Its premise of kids turning into squids more or less guarantees that it could dominate the stores with licensed toys (and costumes, come Halloween). It’s been said before, by both fans and detractors, that Nintendo is more or less the only kid-friendly publisher in the gaming industry and they make toys. While others have gone for the older demographic, they’re intentionally more geared towards younger audiences and their families. Kids, in a sense, dominate the movie industry more than geeks do at the moment (Zootopia made so much money), and that movie would get kids to beg and plead their parents to camp out at the theater for weeks leading up to release.
Another thing working in its favor is that it is, like it or not, the easiest and safest bet for Nintendo to make. The other franchises everyone knows Nintendo for are, unless they go for something like Bayonetta, all around predictable. If they made a Mario movie, there would be a lot of people skeptical, given the level of suck the last one still maintains. Zelda, while just as popular as the plumber, would be seen by people unfamiliar with it as something in the vein of Lord of the Rings, and the same holds true with the Metroid franchise and Alien. There’s nothing you can do with a solo Donkey Kong movie, and Star Fox’s future isn’t something fans are looking forward to. A case could be made for Pokemon, but that is again predictable and would be pretty much Rocky with animals. And Super Smash Bros, while something that would be awesome, is something that can only be done once you’ve set things up in other films, basically Nintendo’s Avengers.
A movie based on Splatoon carries no expectations behind it; there’s no lore that fans would demand the film has to acknowledge, and there’s no real precedent that would have people mocking it as being a knockoff of. What else do you really need to know or expect besides 90 minutes of kids throwing paint at each other? Keeping in tune with the film being primarily for kids, a CG movie would again be safe for Nintendo to pursue. A live-action version of these characters would look just plain bizarre, especially when you take the shapeshifting into account. A computer generated film also serves the frantic and messy multiplayer that the game provides.
A problem with video game movies (or at least the recent ones that have tried to get made) is that they’re all based on A-list franchises and properties that are already have some vein of cinematic flair about them. Should Sony actually find a way to get that Uncharted movie to see the light of day, what all is there to gain from seeing the film that makes it a priority over playing four really damn good games? Ditto Assassin’s Creed, a series whose real main appeal at this point is the historical background it gives players a chance to run through.
Splatoon may be one of the biggest games of the Wii U and received a ton of acclaim, but it’s not A-list, more like B-list. Should the movie suck (again, a valid concern, given Nintendo’s track record), it can’t really be seen as anything more than a small black mark on the franchise that’ll more than likely fade from memory over time. But if it’s great and a massive success, that elevate’s the game’s status even further. It’s a win-win scenario for Nintendo here. They can make movies for the big franchises eventually, but it’s best to start small so fans know you can build up to the bigger stuff in the future.