A few years back, filmmaker Gore Verbinski was going to adapt BioShock to the big screen. And then he wasn't. What happened?
BioShock, of course, is the enormously popular first-person shooter game first published in 2007 that was set in a sort of alternate dystopian universe, circa 1960, where players must fight their way out of a secret underwater city called Rapture. Genetic enhancements have driven the inhabitants mad or turned them into human monsters, transforming their proposed utopia into a city of horrors.
Director Gore Verbinski, best known for The Ring and the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies, was confirmed to direct a film adaptation of the game for Universal Pictures in 2008. He was actually eight weeks away from the start of filming when the plug was suddenly pulled ... and nothing has been heard about the project since.
So what happened? In a Reddit AMA session earlier this week to promote his new Gothic horror film A Cure For Wellness, Verbinski was asked that very question and gave this reply:
"It's an R-rated movie. I wanted to keep it R-rated, I felt like that would be appropriate, and it’s an expensive movie. It's a massive world we're creating and it's not a world we can simply go to locations to shoot. A Cure For Wellness, we were able to really utilize a variety of locations to create the world. BioShock it wouldn't work like that, we'd be building an entire underworld universe. So I think the combination of the price tag and the rating, Universal just didn't feel comfortable ultimately. At that time also there were some expensive R-rated movies that were not working."
It's true: The major Hollywood studios are leery about sinking $150 million or more into a movie that might carry an R rating and cut off a large segment of their target audience. Look at what happened to Guillermo del Toro's proposed film of At the Mountains of Madness a few years ago (also with Universal, but they're not the only studio to feel this way). Even with Tom Cruise signed to star and James Cameron producing, del Toro could not get the company to make a $150 million "hard" R-rated horror film.
As for whether he would ever return to the project, Verbinski seems to have moved on:
"I think things have changed and maybe there will be another chance, but it's very difficult when you're eight weeks away from shooting a movie you really can see in your head and you've almost filmed the entire thing, so emotionally you're right at that transition from architect to becoming a contractor and that will be a difficult place to get back to."
Another director, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, did come onto the project for a while, but it stalled out under him, too.
While BioShock games remain as popular as ever, game-based movies have taken a real hit in the past year, with high-priced adaptations of classic titles like Warcraft and Assassin's Creed failing at the box office and even the most recent (and final) entry in the dependable Resident Evil franchise going out with a relative whimper. So while on paper BioShock sounds like it could be the basis for a strong movie, it doesn't seem likely to be revived as a film anytime soon.
Do you think BioShock deserves its shot at the big screen, even in a compromised PG-13 version?