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‘BioShock’ director explains how he’s planning to break the video game curse

One of the most complex video game narratives is being adapted for cinema.

Image via 2K Games

It’s just a generally accepted rule of wisdom at this point that movies don’t make great video games and video games don’t make great movies.

In fact, no Hollywood producer needs to look any further than the boneyard of failed projects that simply couldn’t live up to expectations, whether by changing the source material too much or too little, to know that taking up a project like that is like shooting yourself in the foot, career-wise. But for something like BioShock, which was already developed as a cinematic character-driven experience with a philosophical story backing up its stretching silences, the transition to live-action might be smooth-sailing after all.

This is something that director Francis Lawrence (I Am Legend, The Hunger Games, Red Sparrow) recognizes all too well. In a new interview with Collider, the filmmaker revealed that he not only knows his BioShock, but he understands the assignment in ways that no previous director tasked with bringing a video game to life on the silver screens could.

“First of all, I think it’s one of the best games ever created,” he said. “It’s also, I think, one of the most visually unique games ever created. The other thing, and one of the things that always appeals to me, is it is very thematic. There’s real ideas and philosophies underneath the game property, and it’s really, really, really thought out. A lot of games may have a great world of some kind, or they may have a great lead character, or they may tee you up for great set-pieces, but they don’t really have the ideas, they don’t have the kind of weight and the gravitas that BioShock does.

“The sort of combo of real ideas and philosophies mixed with the unbelievable aesthetic of it. Plus, one of the other things that I love, love, love is that sort of strange mashup of genre, the idea that you have what feels like a period piece, mixed with body horror, mixed with sci-fi. It’s one of those great mashups, and I think it can be really unique and really beautiful and really entertaining.”

BioShock definitely feels like it’s always juggling multiple genres at once. Acclaimed video game writer Ken Levine set out to tell an ambitious story that morally and philosophically underpins many themes in human nature, and the fact that BioShock remains unbowed against the backdrop of all these complex subjects is a testament to its storytelling power.

Hopefully, Lawrence, Michael Green (Blade Runner 2049), and their team will be able to manifest all of that abstract complexity in their anticipated adaptation, which is still undergoing the early stages of pre-production.

About the author

Jonathan Wright

Jonathan is a religious consumer of movies, TV shows, video games, and speculative fiction. And when he isn't doing that, he likes to write about them. He can get particularly worked up when talking about 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'A Song of Ice and Fire' or any work of high fantasy, come to think of it.