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Video games are the future of filmmaking — and not just for video game movies either. Jon Favreau and his team were trailblazing with The Lion King remake, which they partially constructed and filmed with the use of a video game engine. Designing films, especially animated films, is easier when you're working with pixels and not physical sets. Ben Wheatley, director of films like Free Fire and Rebecca, is taking on a sequel to the recent Tomb Raider film and has a slightly more accessible and low-tech solution to that same end goal: Minecraft.
Speaking to Polygon, Wheatley explained that he's been using the ubiquitous building game for years to develop his on-screen work. Basically, he's already made a video game movie...if a movie partially designed inside a video game counts. The 2016 shoot-'em-up Free Fire (starring Sharlto Copley, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson, and Cillian Murphy) was "effectively a Counter Strike game," according to Wheatley. “And I designed it in Minecraft.”
The director cites the game, which recently saw its main character infiltrate the stages of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, as “the most user friendly 3D, CAD design” solution for a filmmaker on a budget. “When we [built the set for Free Fire in Minecraft], we actually got cardboard boxes, which were the same dimensions as the cubes from Minecraft, and then rebuilt the thing we built inside the warehouse," Wheatley explained. However, making a video game movie is a lot different (and has bigger challenges) than designing a movie inside a video game.
“Video games have trouble crossing back into cinema because they are born out of cinema,” Wheatley said. “But the the magic sauce is interaction, which you’re then removing back out of the game to put it back into a film. That’s the trick the back and forth of it, and that’s why it’s been very hard to make things successful.”
Though Wheatley confirms that he's still committed to making Tomb Raider 2, he's not spilling any details on the sequel project — or if he's started putting it together set by set inside of his personal, secret Minecraft server.