Board game movies (maybe) heading your way

It's unofficial board game week on Pfangirl Through the Looking Glass, seeing as I've already profiled upcoming game-to-film adaptation Battleship and got to play the marvelously fun cooperative demon basher Arkham Horror - set in the Lovecraftian pulp horror universe - for the first time.

Recently though, there's been relatively disappointing news for lovers of old school, non-electronic gaming. Or, more precisely, for board game lovers intrigued by the prospect of seeing the pastime leap onto the big screen with a bang (Box office hit Jumanji, though board game-centred, was actually based on a book).

Toy and game company Hasbro has been rolling in dough since The Transformers movies, and is clearly keen to keep dipping its toes in the Hollywood pond. After all, if a film based on a theme park ride could spawn a billion dollar franchise, who's to say that movies based on board games couldn't do the same? To that end, Hasbro formed a 6 year, multiple film development deal with Universal Pictures. Planned game-to-film adaptations - listed in 2008 - were Monopoly, Clue (also known as Cluedo), Ouija, Battleship and Magic: the Gathering. A Stretch Armstrong movie was also planned, although that's based on a rubbery action figure as opposed to a game.

Well, just 2 weeks ago the news came through that Universal was dumping the Monopoly, Clue and Magic: The Gathering adaptations - so as to "narrow their focus to the 4 films that most made sense for the studio."

Battleship is in the can (for release in May next year), while Stretch Armstrong will be a 3D family adventure starring Twilight's wolf boy Taylor Lautner.Unsurprisingly, Ouija also still made the Universal cut, although bizarrely it turns out that this one won't be a R-rated creepfest but a supernatural family adventure instead... directed by McG. Finally there's the strangest board game adaptation of them all - Candy Land, which has been described as a Lord of the Rings-style epic, set in a world made entirely out of sweets. The director of Enchanted helms this lighthearted, child-safe fantasy.

The curious thing is that the films Universal dumped are frankly the projects with the most potential and interest value. Well, at least I think so.

Magic: The Gathering could be a rollicking good time - the Kickboxer or Enter the Dragon of fantasy movies, centred on a high stakes spell-casting tournament that attracts the greatest mages from across the globe.

Monopoly, meanwhile, may sound impossible to turn into a cinematic narrative but producer - and likely director - Ridley Scott insists that the adaptation will work as an avarice-driven comedy about the modern real estate industry, and/or people who come into "new money." If this is the concept that survives all the rewrites and makes it to actual filming, it works for me.

My point is this: as cynical as most people are about the idea of films based on board games - citing Hollywood's creative bankruptcy and corporate greed as the reason for this odd genre's emergence - there are some pretty competent people working on these adaptations. In fact, I'd go so far as to say the quality of these board game directors is higher than that of their brethren overseeing the ever-flowing stream of mediocre video game movies. Ridley Scott has helmed some of the biggest money-spinners in the world. The same goes for Gore "Pirates of the Caribbean" Verbinski, who is planning a remake of arguably the first ever board game film - murder mystery farce (and 80s cult classic) Clue. Only this time the film will have a global scope, and apparently a more serious tone.

For the record, despite Universal dropping Clue, Monopoly and Magic:TG, development is set to continue on all 3 films. Hasbro is providing the financial backing for the smaller production companies working on the projects, and will shop around for studio partnerships once the scripts are more solid.

As a side note, a film adaptation of Hasbro's military strategy game Risk has just landed a screenwriter over at Universal rival Columbia Pictures.

Whether you like it or not, this new genre is coming. Battleship's level of critical and commercial success next year may determine what follows, and how fast. However, I'm certainly not going to dismiss all of these adaptations upfront. There's a lot of potential for fun and entertainment with these creative properties on the big screen, as long as the filmmakers think outside the box.


Phaezen said…
Magic: TG has a much deeper back story than a mages competition - I could easily see a world spanning Planeswalker epic told over a trilogy of movies. The concept art for some of the worlds is amazing, I would love to see them on a big screen.

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