Taking inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Sony Pictures has today announced plans to launch their own video-game movie adaptation universe called PlayStation Productions – but we’re just going to call it the Sony Cinematic Universe, or SCU, because (a) I like that name better, and (b) PlayStation Productions overseer Shawn Layden is already drawing the parallels himself, saying that “[we] looked at what Marvel has done in taking the world of comic books and making it into the biggest thing in the film world”. In other words, they think they can unseat Marvel at the box-office. Which is fine – but with PlayStation?
Apparently so, and there are over 100 game titles that Layden and SCU president Asad Qizilbash are interested in adapting to the big and small screen. That probably includes best-selling games like Final Fantasy, Gran Turismo, Tomb Raider, and…Crash Bandicoot. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this news follows the success of Detective Pikachu, which became (just barely) the best-reviewed video-game adaptation on Rotten Tomatoes. But the hard reality is that, for the most part, video-game adaptations are massive failures, critically and often financially. They also seem to attract a lot of negativity from the fans they desperately want to please, some of it so overwhelming that film studios feel compelled to cave in to pressure (looking at you, Sonic the Hedgehog).
Why would anyone want to try and build an entire cinematic universe around video-game adaptations? It’s not like this is the first time PlayStation games have been adapted – just look at Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its 2018 reboot Tomb Raider, (oh yeah, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life, how could I forget about that one) all of which were burdened with poor audience scores and staggeringly bad reviews. Even Angelina Jolie couldn’t save the franchise from a solidly “Rotten” rating. Ryan Reynolds, meanwhile, has narrowly saved the blossoming Pokémon franchise from a similar fate, but for how long? Detective Pikachu may have offered false hope to all the Hollywood moguls looking to jump on the bandwagon – are we seriously now going to get a Crash Bandicoot movie? Does anybody want that? Anybody?
Okay, well now that we’ve raised the possibility, I probably do want that, but I’m not going to admit it.
So, is the video-game movie curse officially broken with the success of Detective Pikachu? I doubt it. But then again, Angry Birds, a movie based on an iPhone app, garnered millions of dollars at the worldwide box-office – so what do I know? But maybe now is the time to start building a Sony Cinematic Universe: The Witcher video-game adaptation is going to release on Netflix later this year, and a Nintendo Mario Brothers movie is still in production at Universal – that’s something that could easily wipe out all the competition.
I’m wishing Layden and Qizilbash all the luck in the world, but the current track-record – and the curse – give me little hope for the future of their fresh new cinematic universe.