We live in the age of adaptations in Hollywood. Truthfully, the sooner we all come to terms with that, the sooner we can all enjoy the good ones, forget about the bad ones, and hopefully move on to more original works in the distant future. But in order to do that, it’s important to recognize the ones that have no place being adapted in the first place.
YA novels? Those are practically ripe for movie franchises and offer a vast, rich universe to work with. Even the worst ones have the potential to be entertaining films if done the right way. Comic books? They feature superheroes from all walks of life, with 50-plus years of stories ready to be plucked and blown into summer blockbusters. Phone apps? No. That’s it. Sorry, studios — thanks for playing, but no. Take a look at the history of adapting mobile games into successful movies for a moment. Odds are it took you all of three seconds, because it’s never been done, and for good reason. Enter Sony’s Angry Birds, set to hit theaters in May 2016.
It’s fairly simply to understand the basic concept of why Sony is about to whiff in a massive way on Angry Birds. Take, for example, the spotted history of video game movies. Not mobile games, mind you, but video games, replete with hours of gameplay, cutscenes, and characters. Throughout Hollywood’s history, these particular adaptations have almost never been successful. Whether it’s Super Mario Bros. or Resident Evil, Hollywood has struggled mightily to translate these massive universes into well-made 90-minute features. Odds are, a game originally designed for smartphones with the premise of throwing birds at buildings won’t be the one to break that trend.
But history isn’t the only thing working against Angry Birds. It recently came out that Rovio will be pouring $185 million into the budget for the movie, $100 million of which be directed toward marketing. More than half of the film’s budget won’t actually go into making it. Fifty-four percent, to be exact. That $100 million will be used to plaster birds all over billboards, toys at Walmart, and even the backs of airline seats, while whatever’s left will (presumably) be used to make the movie. It’s a harrowing demonstration of Sony’s knowledge that it’ll need to work hard to get butts in seats, and apparently the studio’s chosen strategy is to plaster as much Angry Birds merchandise and advertising across the known universe, a la Apple hocking the latest U2 album.
Maybe children will drag their parents to see the movie, kicking off a horribly profitable franchise that will never truly die. But the real truth of the matter is that Angry Birds has long since passed its shelf life. Other mobile games have risen in its place as the order of the day. Kids with attention spans comparable to Dory from Finding Nemo have likely moved on with their lives, meaning Sony’s target audience will have little to no interest. Rovio, the company that developed the game, has even seen consistent declines in profits as enthusiasm has waned, painting a bleak picture for the 2016 release date.
The Angry Birds movie is a bad idea for a whole list of reasons: artistically, financially, creatively, you name it. And yet Sony seems determined to make it happen despite the tidal wave of evidence saying that virtually no one wants this movie about to be crammed down our collective throats by a $100 million marketing campaign. We best get used to our aviary overlords before it’s too late. Come 2016, it’ll probably be difficult to turn a corner without being pelted in the face by the visage of a big red bird.
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