‘Borderlands’: The First Good Video Game Movie?


Source: Take Two Interactive

There’s a long history in Hollywood of terrible video game movies, ranging from Super Mario Brothers to Resident Evil. Each time a studio takes a crack at one, for whatever reason it falls flat, mired in poor storytelling, too much CGI, and bad acting to boot. The reasons behind this trend are numerous to say the least. Sometimes it’s simply a case of Hollywood picking a game that doesn’t lend itself to a normal movie storytelling structure. Others, a solid game is adapted poorly. Whatever the reason, it hasn’t stopped the film industry from continuing to try and strike gold just once.

Coming up in just the next few years, we have Assassin’s CreedAngry Birds, and World of Warcraft among others. Added to the pile by Lionsgate though was one movie that could be better than anything else Hollywood has planned right now: Borderlands. The game’s story alone is just crazy enough to be entertaining: A frontier planet called Pandora houses advanced alien artifacts, that the main player of the game spends the game searching for, all while battling an evil corporation deadset on owning the technology themselves. Think Mad Max meets Avatar, and that’s essentially what we have the potential for here.

That’s not to say that the planned Borderlands movie will be the next Fury Road, but with a good director and a solid screenplay, there’s a chance we could actually have a video game adaptation worth seeing. The planet it’s set in is a treacherous and untamed wasteland, reminiscent of the old West but still futuristic in its available technology. There’s almost too much material to choose from, since hours of gameplay and cutscenes can’t exactly be condensed into a 2-hour blockbuster without something hitting the cutting room floor. 

There’s huge cinematic potential here for what could be the first quality video game movie Hollywood has ever produced. That being so, there are still plenty of ways Borderlands could follow its predecessors in failure. In the wrong hands, an adaptation could be bloated with special effects and little substance (looking at you, Resident Evil), or dig too deep into its mythos (a la Tomb Raider). There’s a well lit path laid out that tells us how a poorly made video game adaptation is made, and it’s up to the studio in charge of Borderlands to learn from the past mistakes of other films.

The quality of the final product will largely depend on how well the Borderlands creative team manages to capture the spirit of the game. The franchise is centered around patently insane characters skillfully interwoven with comedy elements, something not often done to much success in Hollywood. But when a movie does manage to accomplish the right balance of humor and insanity, you get something like Guardians of the Galaxy. When you swing and miss, you get Jupiter Ascending. It’s a tenuous scale that leaves little in the way of middle ground, making it that much more important that someone gets this right someday soon.

Whichever way Borderlands ends up going, there’s no questioning the fact that there’s plenty of solid source material to draw from. It’s up to Lionsgate to not duplicate the same mistakes every other studio has made when adapting a video game to the silver screen. We’re not entirely convinced Hollywood knows how to do that quite yet, but it has to start somewhere. Why not with Borderlands?

Follow Nick on Twitter @NickNorthwest

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