Despite what David Cage would like you to believe, movies and videogames are fundamentally incompatible. Unlike comic books or novels, which act upon the reader, videogames require the player to act upon it, and losing that element removes an integral part of the experience. This is part of the reason why we have yet to get a videogame movie with wide positive response, but another important aspect is the hiring of people who aren’t equipped for the job. Just like every comic book movie doesn’t have to be directed by someone with an intimate knowledge of the series they’re adapting, every videogame movie doesn’t need to be directed by a hardcore player. They should, however, be directed by someone with the visual flair and talent for capturing action necessary to do the job justice. Here are five directors CGM thinks fit the bill:
A seasoned stunt coordinator on blockbuster franchises such as The Expendables and The Hunger Games, Chad Stahelski burst onto the directing scene in a blaze of glory along with co-director David Leitch with 2014’s John Wick. This film demonstrated Stahelski and Leitch’s talent for taking a script that was essentially a shooting gallery and turning it into electrifying action with an interesting setting to keep the audience entertained. Adapting shooters to the big screen seems like an easy task—the action is all there. However, when taking into account the action-to-story ratio needed in film as opposed to games, doing the work becomes much more complicated. When John Wick: Chapter Two, which was directed solely by Stahelski, releases early next year, we’ll see if he’s up to the task on his own.
What He Should Direct: To put it bluntly: John Wick is what the Max Payne movie should’ve been. Combine John Wick’s tongue-in-cheek action with Max Payne’s neo-noir aesthetic and you have a guaranteed winner.
Starting out as a novelist, Alex Garland has been one of the finest minds in genre cinema for over a decade. After getting to know director Danny Boyle when he directed the adaptation of his novel The Beach, he wrote the scripts for his films 28 Days Later… and Sunshine, two of the best horror and sci-fi movies of the 00s. If that wasn’t enough, he also wrote the script for Dredd, finally doing the scowling comic book anti-hero justice. Following that, he got the directing bug and directed the 2015 cerebral sci-fi thriller Ex Machina and is currently at work on his follow-up, Annihilation. To top it all off, he has experience in actual videogames, writing the extremely underrated Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. With a resume that includes some of the best sci-fi and action of the 21st century, few people are better equipped to tackle the world-building and intricate universes of videogames.
What He Should Direct: The good news is that he’s already involved in the first choice: He wrote the original screenplay for the Halo film. The bad news is that said script has since been rewritten and is now in development hell for who knows how long. With that seemingly out of commission, the next best thing would be for him to mastermind a Mass Effect film or TV series.
Perhaps a more controversial choice, DeMonaco is best known for being the writer-director behind all three Purge movies. The first film was a relatively by-the-numbers home invasion movie that wasted its unique, if ridiculous, premise. The next two films, however, went full balls-to-the-wall bonkers, embracing the implausibility of their setting while providing the best social commentary that a B-movie made in 2016 can provide. What makes him relevant to this list, though, is how the technique behind The Purge: Anarchy and The Purge: Election Year can be transmuted to adapting videogames. DeMonaco shows a talent for taking characters going on a journey through a huge open setting and making it thrilling and exciting, and his films emulate the plot structure of a lot of modern games: go to place, action happens, go to another place, repeat. If anyone can make this cycle interesting, it’s DeMonaco.
What He Should Direct: Now that Paul W.S. Anderson is finally winding down his seemingly never-ending Resident Evil film franchise and presumably returning to the tombs of Egypt to slumber, the possibility of a reboot true to the original games is open. DeMonaco has shown that he is comfortable in both tight, enclosed spaces and large, chaotic open ones, making him well-equipped to tackle the claustrophobic Spencer Mansion and the constant danger of Raccoon City.
Getting his big break in the mid-90s with Swingers, Doug Liman entered the mainstream action scene when he directed The Bourne Identity in 2002. After that, he vanished into mediocrity, with his biggest claim to fame being that he was the guy indirectly responsible for getting Brangelina together while directing Mr. & Mrs. Smith. That all changed in 2014, when Edge of Tomorrow exploded into cinemas. The saga of a soldier going through the continuous loop of dying and “respawning” at the exact same point during an alien battle was videogaming to a tee; the cycle of trying, dying and trying again until you gradually got better was perfectly captured for the first time in cinematic form. Hollywood seemed quite fond of it, too: he currently has seven projects in the pipeline, including an Edge of Tomorrow sequel and Justice League Dark. Why not add another?
What He Should Direct: Liman’s already attached to a videogame film: an adaptation of the Splinter Cell series starring Tom Hardy. But with his current slate, it seems like that’ll be pushed to the backburner for now. With that in mind: his style of sci-fi popcorn action would be perfect for a Gears of War film.
Until this year, you could be forgiven for thinking Jonathan Nolan was stuck in the shadow of his brother Christopher. The co-writer of The Prestige, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises and Interstellar, Jonathan actually struck out his own a while ago as the creator of the TV series Person of Interest, but still wasn’t quite a household name. That all changed last month with the premiere of Westworld, where, along with his wife Lisa Joy, he is chief showrunner. The prestige HBO series quickly established itself as the most exciting new sci-fi show on television, and has a pronounced interest in videogames, with The Elder Scrolls and Red Dead Redemption being cited as influences. Plus, he’s now taking his first steps into the world of directing, helming the premiere and finale of Westworld’s first season. He’s shown he can do gaming-influenced works perfectly - now how about the real thing?
What He Should Direct: In terms of cerebral video game sci-fi there’s plenty of good material, but two kings reign above all: BioShock and Half-Life. Nolan would be great for both, but the thematic similarities between Westworld and BioShock’s Rapture make the prospect of him being in charge of a BioShock adaptation too salivating to ignore.