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Grand Theft Auto: The Movie – do we really want it?

Grand Theft Auto: The Movie – do we really want it?

Transmedia is all the rage these days – it’s very rare that a new game isn’t released alongside a comic book, mini series or novel. But Rockstar is one developer that’s refused to allow its franchises to be exploited in movies, television or comic books. Talking to the Hollywood Reporter, Rockstar co-founder Dan Houser clearly laid out the reasons for this, saying, “Virtually all movies made from games are awful, while many games made from movies are also pretty horrible.

“If you feel the property has something about it that is universal or could work in another medium, and it is not simply about making easy money, then that is something worthwhile,” he continued. “Too often, however, the aim appears to be to cash-in on the success of a particular game, book, pop singer, website, etc., and that usually produces mediocre results.

“If we were to attempt to make a movie, we would like to make it ourselves,” concluded Houser. “Or at least work in collaboration with the best talent, so at least if it is bad, we can know we failed on our own terms.”

Apparently there’s been talk of LA Noire being turned into a film, which, to me, seems completely pointless, as I believe to be the case with all of Rockstar’s franchises. Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Manhunt – I don’t see the need for them to appear on the big screen. One Rockstar franchise has made that leap – Max Payne – and we all know how that turned out. I had to get replacement eyes after I clawed the originals out of my skull in a fit of agonising desperation. Rockstar must have felt somewhat the same, seeing their creation totally misinterpreted and misunderstood in such a careless manner. It’s probably the exact reason that Houser makes comments like those above.

But it’s not just because film versions of videogames are predominantly bad that I believe Rockstar’s work should be left well alone. It’s because these are cinematic, worthwhile pieces of entertainment in their own right. Any attempt to extend them beyond videogames seems, to me, to work against that which Rockstar Games is hoping to achieve.

But firstly, let’s not dismiss the fact that most of the Rockstar games I’ve listed above already owe a great debt to cinema. Grand Theft Auto references everything from Scorsese to De Palma; Red Dead Redemption echoes pretty much every Western ever made; and LA Noire – while certainly no imitation of films like LA Noire and others like it is still undeniably inspired by them. To then put these films on the silver screen would therefore create something of an awkward feedback loop. Films recalling videogames recalling films – it could feel like a photocopy losing definition and focus with every copy made.

But that could be avoided with careful, acute and intuitive filmmaking. These games still have enough character to call their own and the right person could use that to craft something worthy of cinema. But still, even then I wouldn’t be convinced, and it’s because Rockstar has a very defined place in the videogame industry right now. Its aspirations to merge the artful and the cinematic with the interactive is a valuable and significant enough pursuit by itself. Nearly every major project the company has worked on over the last decade has been geared towards this goal – whether it’s the car chases and characterisation of Grand Theft Auto; the panoramic vistas of Red Dead Redemption; or the MotionScan tech in LA Noire, Rockstar is working towards a kind of videogame that doesn’t need to be turned into cinema; it wants to create one that can confidently stand alongside it.

I don’t need to see Niko Bellic projected onto the big screen or some actor doing his best John Marston imitation and ultimately failing. I already have those characters, in their perfect incarnation, in the games themselves. If Rockstar should be concentrating on anything it should be in further developing its craft as a videogame developer, because if any one company has the potential to elevate games to a medium as worthy of praise as the bests of cinema, it’s Rockstar.




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