Saturday, July 4, 2009

Things that shouldn't be....

The trend of turning anything and everything into a movie has been building for a long time now. Do we blame this on the success of comic book movies? Is Transformers or Pirates of the Caribbean responsible?

No. The trend cannot be pegged on any single property or film. Rather, we must look to producers who demand films be anchored to something tangible before risking their money and reputation. There was a time when such bets were placed on the basis of the actors attached, but over the past decade it has been often established that no real correlation between names and success exists.

So, in standard studio logic, the major production companies have moved on to other criteria. If you found yourself hoping that they'd begin focusing on scripts, ideas, or talent, prepare for disappointment.

It seems now that what matters is that the property being developed is, in some sense, established. It is no longer a factor whether that property is suited for a film; so long as it exists and is well known, a movie is possible.

We in The Middle Room must admit that this rationale has served us well in the past. The string of superhero movies and 80's cartoons has yet to tire us out, and Pirates of the Caribbean - arguably the franchise that opened this door - deserves the accolades it's received.

Alas, the final line has now been crossed. I refer not to the surprise adaptation of Candy Land, which is being made by a competent director and may actually deserve attention. Nor do I refer to the confusing decision to adapt Viewmaster into a major motion picture, which - and we're speculating far in advance, mind you - may be a strong contender for several Razzies.

No, these stepped up to a line, but they did not cross it. That could only be done by Asteroids. You may wonder what makes Asteroids stand out as the archetype of studio excess and absurdity. Very well, we shall explain.

Candy Land, despite being simplistic, at least has an aesthetic, as well as several built in characters and settings. Whether these are GOOD or not is, at this point, peripheral. The studio which bought the rights bought something.

Likewise, in buying the rights to Viewmaster, the studio has acquired the rights to the iconic toy. While I find it entirely absurd, the plot is obvious: a character, most likely either a child, but possibly a parent (if it is a parent, expect them to be portrayed by one of the following actors: Brendon Fraser, Will Ferrell, or Steve Carrel), will acquire what seems to be a simple toy, but actually has the power to transport them into strange worlds and adventures. It will almost certainly be horrible, but at least it will tie-in with the toy.

Now consider Asteroids. The original video game, of which I'm something of a fan, contains no characters, no real design that's usable by an art department, absolutely no plot, and only four major elements:

1. A space ship.
2. Asteroids.
3. Aliens.
4. Teleportation.

None of these elements are trademarked. In fact, all exist in the mediocre remake of Lost in Space. Think about it: doesn't that film has as much right to claim it's related to Asteroids as whatever will be produced?

So, whatever money changed hands was paid so a studio could produce and market a science fiction film under the name, "Asteroids." Even if it turns out to be a fantastic picture, that won't be any reflection of its source.

And I doubt anyone is more likely to see a movie named "Asteroids" than one called "Meteors", "Meteoriods", "Comets", or "Space-Rocks from Space". Actually, the last one would probably be far more profitable. If any studios are interested, The Middle Room will sell the rights to "Space-Rocks from Space" for half of whatever was paid for "Asteroids".

1 comment:

Unknown said...

See, the movie could actually be related to the game itself! Like, some character is playing the game and is then whisked off to pilot a real teleporting triangular ship, a-la "The Last Starfighter." Or else discovers that he is ALREADY piloting a ship like in "Only You Can Save Mankind." Or maybe it'll be by Daron Aronofsky and it'll be about blowing up geometry. Still, there are some potential tie-ins that actually related to the game. Pretty good chance they won't use any of them.