The Bioshock Movie Got Canceled Because Zack Snyder’s Watchmen Bombed

By David Wharton | Updated

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Of all the would-be game-to-movie adaptations that have been in the works over the years, the failure of the BioShock movie is one of the ones that stings the most. Aside from being an amazing game, BioShock created a rich and detailed world that would have been amazing up on the big screen.

Given that truly great video game movies were tough to come by for so long, it’s no real surprise that the BioShock movie eventually floundered. But what specifically caused the BioShock movie to crumble? Believe it or not, it mostly all came down to Zack Snyder’s Watchmen. And how bad that movie bombed.

A few years back, the BioShock movie looked like it might actually come together in an amazing way. Universal had given the project an impressive $200 million budget, and Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski was at the helm.

But just as things were looking promising for the Bioshock movie, Verbinski backed out of the project, and it all collapsed in on itself soon enough. At the time, Ken Levine, co-founder of Irrational Games, spoke with Edge Online sharing his insights about why BioShock fell apart.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan

He said, “There was a deal in place and it was actually in production at Universal, and Gore Verbinski was directing it. And what happened was — this is my theory — it’s a very big movie …very dark…a ‘hard-rated’ horror film — an R-rated film with a lot of blood. Then Watchmen came out… but it didn’t do well for whatever reason and the studio got cold feet about making an R-rated $200 million film.”

Snyder’s Watchmen had an estimated budget of around $130 million and though it has gone on to earn $187 million worldwide, it still spooked Hollywood about the prospect of throwing that much money into a “grown-up” genre project like a BioShock movie. That kind of return on investment isn’t anywhere close to what a studio needs to back similar projects. It’s a money loser at the end of the day.


Although Universal brought in another director for the Bioshock movie after Verbinski bailed, Levine didn’t think the new guy was a good fit for the project. When offered the chance to put the kibosh the project by BioShock publisher Take-Two Entertainment, Levine killed it. He tells Edge that he didn’t want the project to go forward “in a way I didn’t think was right.”

Eventually, Universal let the rights lapse to the Bioshock movie. At the time of this writing, Netflix had the rights to make the film. Whether it ever gets made or not, we can always blame Zack Snyder for screwing it up the first time around. We just needed Watchmen to perform a little better and we would have already been watching the Bioshock movie for the the third or fourth time (presumably).