This news is just big enough for me to briefly pause my hiatus. Sony Pictures has acquired the rights to make a Roller Coaster Tycoon movie. More from Reuters:
Sony Pictures Animation has pre-emptively picked up rights to the Atari video game “Rollercoaster Tycoon,” and is developing the project as a live-action/CGI hybrid.
The “Tycoon” franchise, created by Chris Sawyer, is a popular series of computer games that simulate a combination of designing roller coasters and amusement park management. Each game challenges players with open-ended amusement park management and development while allowing them to construct and customize their own unique roller coasters.
The games are popular in the PC world, generating more than $300 million in sales and giving Atari bragging rights for having the third-best-selling PC title of all time in the U.S.
Obviously this is exciting news for coaster geeks around the World. The sheer premise of a movie based solely on roller coasters is enough reason to take note. Never mind the countless hours some of us have spent plopping down drink stands, insane steel loopers, and landscaping to keep our park guests happy. I had a pretty intense addiction to the original game in 1999. One of my best creations was an X-Men themed park with a dueling launch coaster. Then, I had a short relapse in 2002 when the sequel was released. By the time the third game was out I was married and had much less gaming time on my hands. But, I still own it.
What Would a Roller Coaster Tycoon Movie Be Like?
Right off the bat the movie will most likely be aimed at families and kids. The press release refers to the project as a “live-action/CGI hybrid”. Also, the movie will be developed by Sony Pictures Animation that has created animated movies like Open Season & Surf’s Up. This leads me to believe that the game may somehow come to life like Jumanji or Zathura. Only this time, the live-action characters may be pulled into the game where everything is animated with CGI. A movie like this is perfect for the new 3D trend. I have no idea what the storyline would be, but that’s my best guess at some of the plot. Luckily, for Sony, a visual spectacle doesn’t have to have a good story to do well at the box office. On the other hand, we shouldn’t expect a great movie when you look at the horrible track record of video game to movie adaptations.
Coaster fans shouldn’t be too excited just yet as there are plenty of movies that make it further into development and never get made. Meanwhile, others are greenlit and pushed into production immediately. I’d lean towards the latter for a movie like this, but we’ll just have to wait and see.
Another Video (PC) Game Movie: An Infamously Bad Track Record
Unfortunately, the track record for movies adapted from video games is really, really, bad. Die hard game fans may like some of them, but they don’t have a history of performing well at the box office or being well received by critics. Case in point, I just watched Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li (hey, I’m a huge Street Fighter/martial arts fan), and it has a 4% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. Shockingly lower than PC game Doom (18%), but not as low as Alone in the Dark (1%). This history of bad transitions from game to movie goes all the way back to early 90′s with such stinkers as Double Dragon, Street Fighter, and Super Mario Bros. Even big budget movies don’t work. Tomb Raider (19%) and the sequel (24%). Even the early reviews of Prince of Persia which opens next week are luke warm at best right now.
One of my favorite video game franchises of all-time, Resident Evil, has found enough box office success to spawn off a series of movies, but I wouldn’t say that the movies are all that great. They’ve received around a 20 – 30% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes. In my opinion, Silent Hill, another survival horror video game was successfully adapted into a movie in 2006. The story wasn’t great, but they definitely got the atmosphere and look just right. (Stay away kids it’s a gruesome R-rated movie) Good adaptations that turned out to good movies are few and far between and many think that it’s never been done. Silent Hill and the first Mortal Kombat movie are the only two that come to mind. Even these movies were panned by critics. See a list of video game adaptations and their box office earnings at Box Office Mojo.
The trick is to do a good job translating a game with good, rich subject matter to the silver screen. There are plenty of big, detailed, story-driven video games these days that could be adapted, but a simulator like Roller Coaster Tycoon doesn’t make sense to me.
What’s Your Take?
What do you think of a possible Roller Coaster Tycoon movie? Leave a comment below.