"Max Payne" ushers in wave of videogame films

LOS ANGELES Thu Oct 16, 2008 10:51am EDT

Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the film ''Max Payne''. REUTERS/20th Century Fox/Handout

Mark Wahlberg in a scene from the film ''Max Payne''.

Credit: Reuters/20th Century Fox/Handout

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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The latest film adaptation of a videogame hits theaters in the United States this week with the release of "Max Payne".

The dark, atmospheric film, which stars Mark Wahlberg as a cop in search of the men who killed his wife and child, follows in the footsteps of games turned into films including the "Tomb Raider" movies starring Angelina Jolie, which were commercial hits but critically clobbered by gamers.

"Videogame translations are not for the weak-hearted," said John Moore, the director of "Max Payne".

"It's been a very mixed bag in terms of results. If you read the chat threads there's a big thumbs down from gamers, as opposed to the comic book adaptations, which have been a rip-roaring success. Videogames have sort of stumbled in their transition to the big screen."

With other film versions in the works for game franchises like Sony's Pictures' "Metal Gear Solid," Universal's "God of War", Walt Disney Pictures' "Prince of Persia" and others that track record could change.

NATURAL OUTLET FOR HOLLYWOOD

"Max Payne" is the second fall videogame adaptation by 20th Century Fox, which had success last year with the $100 million hit, "Hitman."

Fox is also developing a film based on Electronic Arts best-selling PC game "The Sims" and is working with Capcom and Hyde Park Entertainment on "Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li" and the new "Street Fighter IV" game.

"I think so long as there are interesting, exciting videogames created with good plots, good stories and interesting characters, it's a natural outlet for Hollywood storytellers to reach for those foundations," said Patrick Aiello, producer of the "Street Fighter" film.

Capcom has also partnered with Arad Productions and Warner Bros. Pictures to bring its ice planet action game franchise, "Lost Planet," to the big screen. David Hayter, the voice of Solid Snake in "Metal Gear Solid" games and the screenwriter of the "X-Men" movies, is working on the script.

"The key to making a good movie is bringing to the screen something that people haven't seen before," said Hayter.

"If you're really just putting them through what they went through in the game, you're not giving them much because they can go home and play the game and literally move the character in the way they want to or take the paths that they want to take."

Arad Productions is developing games like Sony Online Entertainment's "EverQuest," Sony Computer Entertainment America's "Uncharted: Drake's Fortune," BioWare's "Mass Effect" and Namco Bandai's "Pac-Man" into films.

Stuart Beattie, who worked on the Pirates of the Caribbean films, has penned a script for a "Gears of War" movie, based on Epic Games' best-selling franchise.

"For those of us who know how great games are for source material in Hollywood, we're all scrambling to try to make the big game movie that will show Hollywood just how powerful game translations can be on the big screen if they're done right," said Beattie, who is a huge gamer.

Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, who worked with Beattie on the Pirates films, hopes to turn the game Prince of Persia into another Disney Pictures franchise. Bruckheimer enlisted the game's creator, Jordan Mechner, to write the screenplay for the film.

"Just as Pirates of the Caribbean had been inspired by all these great old pirate movies, Prince of Persia had drawn from all the great old Arabian Nights movies," said Mechner.

As more Hollywood producers who play games have moved up the production ladder, Hollywood is taking a closer look at games today. If "Max Payne" makes a killing at the box office, Hollywood already has a diverse line-up of game adaptations waiting in the wings.

(Editing by Patricia Reaney; For the latest Reuters lifestyle news see: www.reuters.com/news/lifestyle))

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