If you’re going to make a video game into a movie, you could certainly do a lot worse than adapting 2K Games/Irrational Studios’ BioShock. It’s got a great, complex narrative capped by one of the best twists in gaming history, all set inside a stunning, crumbling undersea city known as Rapture. With the right script and the right director, a BioShock movie could be the first truly good video-game movie… if only somebody could get the damn thing made.
Well, after being stalled in development hell at Universal for decades, it looks like the BioShock movie might get another chance to reach the big screen at last.
Reportedly a BioShock movie is back in active development at Universal. Previously they had a version in the works with director Gore Verbinski and then by another director, but they pulled the plug on all those efforts back in 2017 and we don’t know how much of the work he did on the movie might end up being salvaged.
The Bioshock Movie’s History Of Development Delays
Originally though, the BioShock movie was going to be directed by Pirates of the Caribbean helmer Gore Verbinski. It had a $200 million budget, was aiming for an R-rating, and could easily have been a franchise starter for Universal if it had all come together properly.
Unfortunately, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen came and flopped and went, and Irrational Games’ Ken Leving eventually revealed that Watchmen’s under-performance had soured Universal on the prospect of an expensive, R-rated sci-fi/fantasy film based on a game that, let’s face it, most mainstream moviegoers have never heard of.
The BioShock movie was then rejiggered into an $80 million flick that was to be directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later). Eventually Levine decided things had gone pear shaped and it was time to pull the plug on the entire enterprise, and so BioShock: The Movie was tucked away in a dusty corner as one of those great “could have been amazing” stories.
If BioShock really is about to get another chance at Universal, it wouldn’t be all that surprising. Marvel has had unprecedented success with its superheroic Cinematic Universe, and YA hits like The Hunger Gamers have been box-office giants, but one type of source material that has yet to be cracked in the film industry is video games. It’s just a matter of time before we get the right mix of source material, passion, and talent, before we see the game equivalent of, say, the first Iron Man movie.
What The Game Is About
In BioShock, players take the role of an unspeaking protagonist named Jack, who, after a plane crash at sea, washes up at a lighthouse and finds his way into the failed undersea utopia of Rapture. Exploring and trying to find a way to escape, Jack learns the tragic history of the city, which is now overrun with murderous, super-powered psychopaths and creepy, genetically modified little girls protected by violent behemoths in diving suits called “Big Daddies.” There’s most definitely the seed of an amazing BioShock movie there.
But while BioShock is easily one of the best video games ever made, there are narrative hurdles to surmount in order to get a successful BioShock movie out of it. For one, Jack is essentially a cipher, a name and a set of hands that serve as the player’s proxy, and while we do learn about his own history and ties to Rapture, he doesn’t really have any personality — that’s by design, but still.
A BioShock movie is going to need to expand Jack’s character quite a bit. It’s also worth noting that the game’s infamous third-act twist, while brilliant, relies heavily on the interactive nature of the story. I’m sure they can find a way to make it work on the big screen, but I’m dubious that it will have the same impact after two hours spent passive in a theater that it did after 15 or so hours “being” Jack.
We’ll keep you posted when there’s more to know about the BioShock movie. In the meantime, here’s some lovely concept art from the aborted Gore Verbinski version, created by artist Tim Flattery.