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Movies that were supposed to launch franchises (but didn’t) Pt. 1

 

Remo_Williams

In journalism classes, they teach you never to refer to something as “first annual”.  No matter how good the intentions, sometimes events that are planned as annual never have a second installment.  The same is true in movies.  Some films were clearly intended to launch long-lasting franchises but act two never came.

What follows is a cautionary tale about what can happen when a franchise dies out after the first installment.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins – It’s right there in the title, folks.  “The adventure begins.”  It also ends.

Every now and then, you’ll hear film makers talk about an American James Bond.  Remo Williams was one of the candidates to be the American James Bond.  The problem is he was played by Fred Ward and the movie looked like it cost what a typical James Bond movie spends on catering.

Oh, also it had Joel Grey (father of “Baby” Jennifer Grey) in asian drag as a martial arts master.  Yeah, that was totally believable.

The truth is, Remo Williams wasn’t a half bad movie (especially compared to some on the list).  But it serves as a prime example of hubris when it comes to minting a franchise.  This is why you don’t put “The Adventure Begins” in your title.  26 years later and Remo is still the butt of jokes.

Next: Dick Tracy

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Posted on March 29, 2011, in Movies, movies that were supposed to..., sequels and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 66 Comments.

  1. bucaroo banzai was just as good as robocop because of a great actor like peter weller.

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  2. sit through it next time and enjoy it it is just as good as robocop lebeau. i guarantee you.

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  3. Both “Dick Tracy” and “Daredevil” had major casting issues. Instead of Beatty’s smooth California guy quality, Dick Tracy needed a hard-boiled, muscled-up Burt Lancaster type. Come to think of it, Lancaster himself might STILL have been better than Beatty in 1990.

    Neither Affleck or Garner were quite right for their roles in “Daredevil.” Both are far too “clean,” as was the film itself. “Daredevil” should really be filmed as a period piece, set in late 70s-early 80s New York City, when Times Square was full of porno shops. The first shot of the film should be of a trashcan with a couple of rats rooting through it. The tidier NYC of later years just doesn’t seem right to me for DD. Guy Pearce’s hard-edged, lean, vulnerable stoicism would have fit DD much better than Affleck’s beefy smart-allec persona. I often like Affleck, but even in his best roles he doesn’t come off as very deep.

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    • Heck yeah to Burt Lancaster as Dick Tracy! Even in his golden years. I think Beatty fundamentally misunderstood the point of Dick Tracy and instead made a movie about a middle aged guy dealing with being tied down by a family. WTF was that all about?

      Inicidently, Le blog favorite Sean Young was originally cast as Tess and then fired supposedly because she wasn’t maternal enough. It’s like Beatty wanted all the acting to be as bland as possible. How do you replace Sean Young with Glenne Headley?!?

      My primary problem with Daredevil is writer/director and all-around hack, Mark Steven Johnson. This is from the guy who wrote the Michael Keaton turns into a snowman opus, Jack Frost! His only hits were the Grumpy Old Men films. And yet somehow he gets to make Dardevil and Ghost Rider? Wow. I am still in awe that the fight scene in the park was ever filmed.

      Affleck and Garner were “off”. But I think they could have worked given the right material and director. And those costumes sure didn’t help either. Apparently Matt Damon was close to signing the role. I bet he’s glad he went with his instincts and said “no”.

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  4. The director also has to answer for the AWFUL fight choreography in “Daredevil.”

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  5. I was actually thinking more specifically about the scene in the bar, when DD takes on a bunch of thugs. It was supposed to reflect the confusion of the thugs as DD darts in and out of the darkness to take them out one by one, but: A) It was poorly shot/edited, making it just as confusing to the audience B) In my reading experience, this really isn’t DD’s style and C) how do you waste that opportunity to show off DD’s acrobatic but brutal fighting style?
    But yeah, the scene in the park was massively silly.

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    • Thankfully, I have blocked out most of my memories of the movie. I still can’t seem to delete the park scene though. Some things can’t be unseen. On the whole, DD was a massive wasted opportunity. And the thing is, they had a lot of the right ingredients. But they had the wrong writer/director and his touch soured everything else.

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  6. dick tracy wasn’t that bad. the idiots at disney could have worked with beatty again for a sequel. shame on the people at disney. buckaroo banzai could use a sequel, big trouble in little china and the big lebowski.

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    • Warren Beatty still claims to be working on a Dick Tracy sequel. He just works really, really slowly.

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      • Even if it weren’t for Beatty’s slow work ethic or the legal issues (I really wish that Beatty no longer held the film rights to Dick Tracy, which I believe he still does the last time I checked), a sequel seemed to be pretty hard to do. Part of this is because Beatty really “played his card” too quickly by putting all of Tracy’s memorable villains in at once and if I remember correctly, having them all killed off. That would be like making a Batman movie and having say, Joker, Penguin, Riddler, Two-Face, and Mr. Freeze killed off in the same movie. Or more to the point, starting a Spider-Man movie franchise w/ the Sinister Six as the antagonists and having them all die at the end.

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        • I think that would be pretty easy to overcome. I don’t think Tracy’s most recognizable villains were known to most movie goers. Just throw some grotesque make-up on one of Beatty’s friends and invent a kooky nickname, and voila – instant bad guy.

          Beatty does still own the rights. He went to court a year or two ago to retain them! I’d say it’s time for a reboot, but does anybody really care now that we have The Avengers, etc.?

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      • Mother Brain’s Top 10 Unproduced Movie Sequels: THE SEQUEL:
        http://cosblog.cosmelentertainment.com/2014/07/08/mother-brains-top-10-unproduced-movie-sequels-the-sequel/

        1. Dick Tracy 2

        The 1990 film adaptation of Chester Gould’s comic strip was a heavily hyped affair at the time with Warren Beatty, Al Pacino, and Madonna headlining. As with Batman a year earlier, Dick Tracy was set up to be a major franchise for Disney: Action figures, video games, a hot soundtrack, a stage show at Disneyland, etc. As director, Beatty approached the film with the thought of throwing everything including the kitchen sink to avoid a sequel. The majority of the strip’s villains were used with popular character actors of the day filling their shoes. Disney still saw possibilities for an Indiana Jones-like franchise until they halted plans due to box office not meeting their expectations. On top of this, a lawsuit between Beatty, the producers, and Tribune Media kept the rights in limbo for over a decade until Beatty retained them. Even at age 74, Beatty still intends on making another Dick Tracy movie. Until then, one can find the sequel novels by Max Allan Collins on ebay.

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  7. tron made a sequel and the sequel did much better at the box office that the original. i’d have to say the tron movies were great. if they ever made a good sequel to a cult movie i would see it like i saw tron legacy.

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  8. dick tracy is still the best better than the dark knight. dark knight sucked.

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  9. that’s what you think. pacino should have won for dick tracy or any other movie he was nominated in. yeah it’s good ledger won for dark knight. but it’s also good that he didn’t win for brokeback mountain. cause i could never watch a straight actor play a homosexual in a movie that deals with homosexuality, it just seems kind of weird for straight actor to play a gay guy, not that i hate gay people which i don’t. i suppport gay rights and gay marriage since i’m a libertarian. it’s just that i just hate how hollywood portrays them especially sean penn the ratface.

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  10. Yes, Pacino was actually great fun in “Dick Tracy,” and I wish the Academy had awarded him for something other than “Scent of a Woman.”
    As an actor myself, I find it kind of strange to limit what you can play based on stuff that can’t be seen. I shouldn’t play an African-American, but gay? Why the heck not? I’ve done it before, and it has always been a secondary characteristic of the character.

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  11. Yeah, Scent of a Woman kind of ruined Pacino. But he was a lot of fun in Dick Tracy. Easily one of the best parts of the movie.

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  12. he should have won for dick tracy or serpico or godfather as well.

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  13. dick tracy still is the best. pacino is still the best even in carlito’s way. he was better than that ratfaced communist anti american dick head sean penn. in my opinion pacino blew penn’s performance out of the water. penn always manages to play a piece of shit even though now that he is one.

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  14. i would also boycott sean penn’s movies as much as i would boycott a tom hanks movie. i wouldn’t even watch a movie with zack galifankis even if it was the hangover after what he said about not wanting to work with mel gibson in the hangover 2.i can honestly say i hate the hangover movies.

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  15. I’m betting there are some people you would prefer not to work with if you had a choice. Most people have one or two of those. It’s just a matter of who they are. I always ask a director about who I might be working with before I accept a role. Otherwise, you can find yourself in an unpleasant situation, and it can reflect negatively on everyone involved. It’s not like having an office down the hall from a guy you don’t care for.

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  16. well that’s like richard gere hating everbody including bruce willis. i like bruce willis better than richard gere. gere is a cocky asshole and a pussy. pacino should have won for glengarry glen ross. peter weller is a good actor. he did a good job in buckaroo banzai and robocop. rumor is they might consider him for expendables 2 as well as any other action star. what do you think redskins?

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  17. I think anyone would try to control who they worked with if they could.

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  18. maybe so. who are you and what have you acted in redskins?

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  19. I’m not a famous person. I’m just a person who has spent most of his life acting in plays, starting when I was about 11. In college I received professional actor training and a BFA in theatre. I spent a couple of years in Chicago and did a few plays while I was there. For the last 15 years, I’ve been living in and doing shows in North Carolina. I’ve won a couple of awards locally and got some good notices for a show I was in this past month. By day, I’m a speech-language pathologist. I work with kids who have developmental delays, teaching them to speak and read. I’m married and I have three dogs. I’m a very lucky guy.

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    • I did a little acting in my day. I was not especially good though. I won’t say I was terrible, but if I was in a comedy I had a hard time not laughing along with the audience. I actually wrote a couple of plays which were produced on campus. Good times. Later, I did some stand-up comedy and improv. Again, I wasn’t especially good at either. Among the amatuer stand-ups, I could hold my own. But put a pro in the room and I couldn’t keep up. The less said about my improv group, the better. I was probably the best member of my troop, but that says more about the troop than it does about me. We were terrible!

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      • I have nothing but respect for the people who are really good at standup or improv comedy. I would probably be lousy at those things. I really enjoy being part of a storytelling team; shining when it is my turn, and supporting others when it is theirs. I also really love the immediacy of good live theatre. It’s like jazz.

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        • It’s very cool stuff. I don’t get to enjoy nearly as often as a I would like. That’s one thing I miss about living in a college town. I was surrounded with that kind of stuff. It’s still available here. But with work, kids, etc it’s pretty rare I get to go out and enjoy it much less participate.

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  20. oh, so you’re not the two time academy award winner for forrest gump and philadelphia that i hate, are you?

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  21. that’s obvious. i’ve been clear that i don’t like tom hanks for a lot of reasons and that i’m done watching him in a movie, right? you guys would still watch him in a movie but not me. if you ask me the man is no stand up comic like robin williams. hanks never even did an action movie. those are also my reasons and i’m done talking about him. you guys can still talk about him if you want, i don’t want any part of your conversation of tom hanks. i respect you guys and all but i don’t want to talk about hanks anymore.

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  22. you know what you can talk about how mel gibson is a evil man and that george clooney is a good perfect actor. same with sean penn the ratface and brad pitt the pretty boy, but i don’t buy it. i think it is bullshit. mel gibson is a great actor, clooney is a cocky poster boy and an asshole same with sean penn, brad pitt, richard gere, etc. i will not go see a movie from george clooney, sean penn, and angelina jolie and brad pitt. i hate how pitt insulted jennifer aniston saying their marriage was pathetic. i will never watch brad pitt in a new movie. i boycotted his movies when he started dating angelina and i will still keep my promise. i will not see money ball, the ides of march or any other stupid movie from clooney and pitt. they are a bunch of cocky no talent hacks posing as good actors. i will still watch a mel gibson movie because he is better than all the assholes in hollywood that i mentioned i hated.

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  23. Is there anybody else you hate? I’m making a list to keep so I can show it to other people when I’m in a restaurant or at the mall.

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  24. that’s about it dude. just hanks, penn, clooney and pitt and jolie.

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  25. and zach galifankis and richard gere and tim robbins.

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  26. While it definitely has flaws, I enjoyed “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” because Connery was perfect casting as Allan Quartermain. If it turns out to be his last screen appearance (SIr Sean announced his retirement from acting after the film’s release), there could be worse notes to end a great career on.

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    • I can’t always be unbiased. So I try to be upfront with my biases. I read Alan Moore’s League of Extraodrinary Gentlemen comic book. After reading that, there was no way a Hollywood adaptation was going to satisfy me. But the movie that got made was so aggressively stupid, it just outraged me. I’m sure it’s better than I give it credit for being. It would have to be. I loathed that movie. I just couldn’t get past the fact that they took such an incredibly intelligent source material and turned it into such dumbed-down crap. I have absolutely nothing positive to say about the film version of the League except to say that it may have redeeming values that my personal biases prevent me from seeing.

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  27. The problem with this list (I have not yet read parts 2 and 3) is that, with a few exceptions (the most obvious being BATTLEFIELD EARTH and DOOM), these were GOOD movies. VAN HELSING in particular is a much better movie than you seem to give it credit for, its only real flaw in my opinion being its portrayal of the Dracula character. THE ROCKETEER and BUCKAROO BANZAI have gone on to become bona fide classics with LEGIONS of fans; DICK TRACY and REMO WILLIAMS as well. GODZILLA had its problems but is an enjoyable enough diversion. I’ll admit I’ve not seen the other movies on the list but I’ll tell you flat out that anyone who badmouths BANZAI, VAN HELSING, THE ROCKETEER or REMO WILLIAMS will be held in contempt not only by me but by my two sons, who count all four among their favorite films.

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    • I’ve not seem Remo Williams, but I completely agree with you that Buckaroo Banzai, Van Helsing and The Rocketeer are fine films.

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    • Maybe it was just because of my own preconceived notions about how awesome a Van Helsing movie could be, but to my eyes, the movie they made was utter crap.
      The script was crap.
      The CG was crap.
      The concept was crap.
      They made the wrong kind of movie.
      The crappy kind.

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      • When you are right, you are so not wrong.

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        • I guess you guys saw a different Van Helsing movie than I did. I thought – and still think – it was a fun movie.

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        • Was the one you watched filled with crappy CGI? 😉

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        • It may have been. Having grown up on a steady diet of George Pal, Irwin Allen and cheesy Japanese monster movies, I tend not to let little things like less than perfect special effects of any kind get in the way of a fun movie. Again maybe it’s the result of my age, but as a rule I’m not a big fan of too much reality in my fiction. I liked the Golden Age and Silver Age DC Comics better than the crappy “New 52” or pretty much anything done by Marvel since the 1960s simply because I don’t like bringing the real world into comic book adventures. I don’t believe state of the art effects make up for a dull or unimaginative story. (Don’t even get me started on “Avatar,” for example.) If I find the story interesting, the effects are secondary. That’s why so many of the attempts by other filmmakers to cash in on the success of the original “Star Wars” fell so short of the mark; they concentrated on trying to duplicate the effects but produced stories that in many cases were so bad they wouldn’t have made a good Saturday morning cartoon. Again I realize this is a matter of opinion and I don’t expect many of you folks to agree with me. All I know is that they call it “make believe” for a reason.

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        • I am with you on some of your points. But for me (purely personal preference) crappy CGI is worse than low-tech effects. I enjoy the unreal qualities of the low tech effects in John Carpenter’s The Thing. It adds a nightmarish quality even though it is obviously model work. But early CGI (or bad modern day CGI) just pulls me right out of a movie.

          As for comics, I have soured on the “New 52” as a whole. It just seems like they are throwing everything at the wall to see what sticks. There are books I enjoy, but the line as a whole is just too haphazard.

          In general (and I am making a very broad statement here), I prefer not to let the “real world” intrude on super heroes too much. It works better in something like Watchmen or an Elseworlds book. But once you start doing it “in continuity” with established characters, it doesn’t work. See Civil War for a prime example.

          I do agree that special effects are a tool for storytelling and all too often film-makers put the cart before the horse. I would rather have a good story than good special effects. In my opinion, Van Helsing had neither. Obviously, you feel otherwise.

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        • I do, but that’s okay. There’s certainly room enough for both points of view. I make no claim that Van Helsing is a masterpiece; as I noted before I didn’t particularly care for the way Dracula was portrayed, but I did like the way they worked in the old gypsy verse from the original Lon Chaney “Wolf Man” and in a way even provided some explanation as to why Chaney’s character was so intent on defeating Dracula in “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein.” In any event, I thank you for the discussion and the civil tone in which it has transpired; that’s been a far cry from the kind of responses I typically get from people who disagree with me on such matters, both on the ‘net and face-to-face. Kudos for that!

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        • Right back atcha, Mr. Small. We cut up around here. But we keep it civil. At the end of the day, it’s just movies, comics, etc. They are meant to be fun.

          You have actually intrigued me to give Van Helsing a second look next time it’s on.

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      • I’m of the same mind as Lebeau when it comes to CG. While old school special effects were, yes, clearly models, there was something about the fact that they were MADE of real things: clay, wood, cloth, etc. When CG is poorly done (heck, even when it’s done fairly) my eyes know that I’m looking at pixels, which are made of…what? The intrinsic lack of physicality translate to my brain as “fake” in a way that minature models never have. Even the excellent work on Gollum from Lord of the Rings didn’t always do it for me.

        I’m totally with you on Avatar. As fantastic as the FX were, I just didn’t care at all about the characters.

        This all ties in to my feelings about Van Helsing. I would have much preferred a smaller film with fewer FX, fewer characters, less action, and more atmosphere and suspense. That definitely goes back to personal preferences, but the low quality of the CG just topped off my low opinion of the project.

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    • Let me make a couple of points. 1. Just because a movie failed to generate sequels does not make it a bad movie. This series is looking at why movies that the studios expected to use to launch franchises failed to do so. Some of these movies failed in part because they were not good. But that is not a prerequisite.

      2. Obviously, matters of taste come into play. I have respect for Buckaroo Banzai for trying something different. But I have just never been able to get into it. We can agree to disagree as civil people do.

      Now, with those two caveats out of the way, I liked The Rocketeer okay. I can sit through Remo Williams. Dick Tracy was a flawed movie that could have been great but fell far short. Van Helsing was completely wrong-headed. Every decision made except for casting was a bad decision. It was all motivated by the desire to build a theme park attraction which is the wrong reason to make a movie. And Godzilla? Godzilla is a steaming pile.

      Again, my opinion. Different strokes and all that.

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  28. If Hollywood is rehashing such stories as Hansel and Gretel, and Superman (how many times do we have to go to Smallville?) etc. then they can do a Remo Williams. Chiun can be played by Ken Jeong (of The Hangover fame) or Psy of the Gangnam song-fame. Karl Urban can successfully play the dark hero-character Remo Williams.

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  29. Van Helsing itself maybe should not have a sequel, but they should make a movie about the back stories of those 3 female vampires.
    They were by far the best part of the movie.

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    • Unfortunately, Universal has it in their heads that the classic monsters are going to make some kind of Avengers-style franchise with Dracula Untold as their Iron Man. Despite that movie’s lackluster performance, Universal is staying the course on that one.

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  30. Van Helsing wound up a disappointment, but there was some potential there. In this era where every movie studio is remaking and re-remaking every existing property at this point, I’m surprised we haven’t gotten a rebooted Van Helsing movie yet.

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    • It’s coming. See my earlier comments about Universal’s grand scheme to build a franchise. Every studio is looking for their Avengers right now. For Universal, it’s the classic monsters. Unfortunately they have Alex Kurtzman overseeing the whole thing which is doomed to failure.

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  31. Yeah, I always think adapting a video game into a movie is a bad idea; they’re just too different as forms of entertainment. I think there are video games that tell a good story though, but Hollywood never…nah, forget it, I don’t want them adapting anymore video games (I checked out after “Hitman”).

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    • I think inspiration can come from anything. Video game movies can be good. I can’t think of any good video game movies. There may not be any. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be done. Prior to Pirates of the Caribbean there were no good movies based on theme park attractions. Now there is precisely one. Someday, there will be a good video game movie.

      It is a tricky thing to pull off. The easy way out is to make the movie feel like you are watching someone play a video game. That will fail every time. You have to find a way to incorporate enough of what made people love the video game without just putting the game on the screen.

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      • Well if what you describe ever occurs, I’ll salute the individuals involved that pull it off!

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        • Ha! I’m not holding my breath on that one. Although I am cautiously optimistic that The Last of Us could make for a good movie. It was very cinematic.

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        • Yeah, “The last of Us” has possibilities. I was thinking “Heavy Rain” myself, by not sure how many others would agree with me.

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        • I’m not much of a gamer, so I’m unfamiliar with Heavy Rain. But as video games become more cinematic, I figure there will come a time when a movie will be adapted from a video game and non-gamers won’t even know that the source material was a video game. For example, not many people probably realize that The Road to Perdition or Snowpiercer were based on comic books. Video games will reach that point as well. It will just become one more source of inspiration.

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