“Video Games At the Movies” or “Asteroids was really the best they could think of?”

4 08 2009

So a while back it came to light that somebody, for whatever reason, thought that Asteroids would make a good movie. Now I could have sworn this already happened with Michael Bay’s explosion-and-anachronism sandwich known as Armageddon, but I guess someone thought that having one rock pales in comparison to having many rocks. Knowning Hollywoood they’ll probably get Shia LeBoeuf and his stammering to headline such a picture. But really. What in the world is the plot going to be? Many rocks threatening earth? Many rocks threatening a space station? Considering that the threadbare plot of the game was that your ship basically got trapped in an Asteroid field with UFOs by accident, it doesn’t exactly leave much to work with other than “Independence Day meets Armageddon”

That being said I can think of 5 other arcade games from the early 1980s that would make a better film than Asteroids, so here we go, in no particular order

Sinistar: How can you not think about making a movie out of Sinistar? It’s possibly one of the most intimidating games of its time. For the uninitiated, Sinistar is a freescrolling space shooter built by Williams with a bit of a twist. See the enemy ships are trying to construct Sinistar, which is a mix somewhere in between of the Death Star and Unicron. It eats planets. It also taunts you while it chases you about the map. Relentlessly. With phrases like BEWARE, I LIVE, and RUN, COWARD!. And you cannot beat it by conventional means. In fact it’s pretty much impossible to stop it from being built. What you have to do instead is mine crystals to get homing weapons known as Sinibombs which are capable of destroying Sinistar. It takes 13 of them though and that means a whole lot of mining in between running away. So you pretty much have a story here wherin an evil empire has set its sights on Earth, preparing to unleash Sinistar on it. This leaves one hero (or even a group) to find a way to take it down. You could even add more tension by a plot twist where Sinistar, once activated, instead turns on its creators (because seriously, I don’t think you can control something like that). But the important part is to make it about the chase and the idea that this is a cosmic horror that one might not be able to stop.

Life was easier when aliens only did bad things to cows...
Defender: Defender is another game created by Williams, this time it’s a sidescrolling shooter set on a planet where you have to defend the inhabitants from being abducted by aliens. If they get abducted they get turned into mutants that then cause even more problems for the populace. Simple concept that could transfer to film. You could even show what exactly the aliens are doing to the people they take, and why. Eventually things would work their way back to the ship in charge of the whole invasion, if not the aliens’ home planet itself.

not the best way to spend the end of the world
Robotron 2084: Yes, another Williams game. In it you play a superpowered human trying to save the last family on Earth after the Robot Apocalypse. So it’s a lot like Terminator except you’re facing overwhelming odds and can shoot in a different direction you’re running in. (yes, this was cutting edge for its time). Again this is pretty easy to translate into movie form, especially since it’s kind of already been done before. You might have to alter some aspects. For example making it the last few hundred humans instead of just one family, but that’s just details at this point. Really all you’d need is a lot of robots getting exploded repeatedly with them trying to come up with other methods of doing away with the hero and/or directly threatening some of the few surviving humans.

I don't want to set the world on fire...
Missile Command: Missile Command is both easy yet difficult to realize as a movie, but stick with me here. Imagine a world where the cold war went hot. In the initial fusillade of missiles communications are cut off as a result of EMP bursts, thus leaving every ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) base to fend for itself and the area it’s protecting. The movie would focus on one such base, defending against incoming missiles and doing what it can to replenish weapon stocks while the crews continue to have idealogical discussions as to whether there’s anything worth defending anymore. So yeah it’d end up being like a lot of Twilight Zone episodes but I think it could be done well with the right crew and the right amount of dramatic tension. As to how it ends? Well let’s be honest, I have no idea. Hell the last show about nuclear apocalypse (Jericho) didn’t even have a definitive ending.

When all you have is a bicycle pump...
Dig Dug: Turn this into a horror movie about miners being attacked by eldritch abominations from beneath the Earth’s surface and you have something I’d actually want to see rather than something stupid like “The Descent”. Admittedly this is my weakest idea but I still think it’s better than Asteroids as a movie concept.

So yeah, none of these are particularly awesome, and I wasn’t expecting them to be. I was thinking with B-movies in mind because really, they’re still just arcade games from the 1980s.



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