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The list of successful Hollywood adaptations of video games is relatively short, with such hits as “Lara Croft: Tomb Raider” and “Resident Evil” wildly outnumbered by a legion of commercial and critical duds that includes “Super Mario Bros.,” “Doom” and “Hitman: Agent 47.”
Undeterred, studios hope to bolster the list of successes this year with the release of “Ratchet and Clank,” “The Angry Birds Movie,” “Warcraft” and “Assassin’s Creed.” However, that’s only the beginning of their video game plans.
Last summer, New Line Cinema announced that superstar Dwayne Johnson will headline “Rampage,” based on the 1980s arcade game about three giant monsters under attack by the military as they stop their way across North America. It’s perhaps not the most obvious choice for adaptation, but director Brad Peyton and screenwriters Ryan Condal and Carlton Cuse believe they can make a better video game movie.
Although plot details are, of course, being kept under wraps, Condal spoke with SPINOFF about his love for “Rampage,” the challenges of bringing an action game to the big screen, and working with the Rock.
Spinoff Online: Movie adaptation of video games often crash and burn. What was interesting about this property for you?
Ryan Condal: I played this on my home system, which was probably the standard Nintendo, possibly Super Nintendo, at the time. I just loved it. And, I loved the challenges that this was an action game: You battle these monsters that strike. When New Line came to us and said, “This is what we’re trying to do. We have the Rock to star in it,” Carlton Cuse and I were both really inspired by the challenge of applying a character-driven, three-arc structure to that world. And, honestly, who doesn’t want to watch the Rock run around and fight giant monsters? The world has been begging for it for a long time and now we’re hopefully going to give it to them.
Why is it so hard to deliver an entertaining video game adaptation?
It’s a really good question. I think comic books really struggled with this for a long time. In quick succession, Chris Nolan, and then Jon Favreau figuring out “Iron Man” – and you could make the argument, too, for Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man,” which was a really fitting origin story – helped. I think video games suffer from a different challenge, which is most video games don’t have a central character. We want to go see a “Spider-Man” movie because we love Spider-Man. He was the comic-book geek that got beat up in high school and then got superpowers that allowed him to lash back against the people who were miserable to him. What comic-book geek wouldn’t hook in, and be inspired, by that kind of story? A lot of video games don’t have that central hook. The solution goes two ways. If you happen to have a video game that does have that compelling central character, like an “Assassin’s Creed,” the Assassin is the character that world is built around. There’s a character you can anchor that story in. That’s one version. Then, it’s really about writing a great, compelling story in that world and making a great movie.
The issue that “Rampage” faces is it’s an action game; it’s a world. It’s based on an idea and doesn’t have a central, three-dimensional character at the center of it. In that case, the trick is to find the story within that world that’s compelling, and love the game – that source material it’s based on – and be willing to dismiss the things that don’t make a great movie and embrace the things that do help make a great movie out of it. But, don’t be slavish to the underlying IP. In any adaptation, even in the great comic-book adaptations like “Spider-Man,” “Batman” and “Iron Man,” there were concessions that had to be made and things that had to be dismissed out of the canon in order to properly service the movies. Video games are the same way. All of those begin with what anybody should begin with when they are writing or creating a movie, which is make a good movie.
How exciting is it to have Dwayne Johnson attached to the project, and what kind of conversations have you had with him to this point?
It’s really exciting. Dwayne is the biggest action-movie star in the whole world. He’s just a force of nature. Carlton and I have both had experience working for, and with, and writing for him in the past. It’s really the entire creative team from “San Andreas,” which was one of the most successful movies last year. Dwayne was obviously a central figure in that. That’s the same here. We’re thrilled writing for him again. He’s a great creative partner. We have a clear sense of what he wants the film to be and be about. We’ve both written in his voice before and are excited to do it again.
Which iconic moments from the “Rampage” video game absolutely must make it into the film?
That falls into spoiler territory, but I grew up a big fan of the game. Those moments and things are part of my DNA. I think fans will be pleased with the way the game is serviced by the movie.
In what ways are you setting this up to be a franchise? Does this have the potential to be the next “Resident Evil”?
We would all love that. Dwayne, as an actor, is drawn to big worlds like that which do have multiple stories left to be told. Our challenge with “Rampage” is to make a great movie and leave people begging for more. If they are asking for more, if the movie is successful, I don’t see any reason why New Line wouldn’t want to see another one.