Twentieth Century Fox has invested in what it believes is a brand-new superhero franchise. But rather than basing Chronicle
on Marvel superheroes like the studio’s X-Men
films, this franchise came from the imagination of Josh Trank. Fox liked Trank’s idea, about three kids whose lives spin out of control when they gain mysterious powers, so much that they gave the 27-year-old the reigns of his very first film—which went to number one at the box office.
Trank is one of a growing number of Hollywood creatives who grew up gaming. He offers his thoughts on why many videogame movies have failed at the box office and explains why Sony’s Shadow of the Colossus could be the next Jurassic Park in this exclusive interview.
Fandango: As a self-professed gamer who is now working in Hollywood, why do you think we have seen so many failures in turning hit videogames into feature films?
Josh Trank: I think the same issue occurs when you try to turn a movie property into a videogame. Because videogames are so inherently influenced by movies, to take a movie and literally create a videogame out of it, you’re immediately setting limitations and expectations on what that game can be. If it were a videogame influenced by that movie, it would be called something else like Metal Gear Solid, which is a perfect example of a totally movie-inspired videogame that redefined videogame making for an entire generation of people. That movie might as well have been called Escape from New York, directed by Michael Bay. That’s what the game really was, but with the sort of depth and complexity of political thriller like Syriana.
Fandango: What are your thoughts on the dwindling number of games based on movies like Harry Potter or James Bond?
Trank: With games we take something that already is a movie where we know the storyline, we know the characters and their arcs in the resolution and we’re attached to these characters…when you have the game version of it, there’s only a few routes you can really go. You can create a game that follows loosely the narrative thread from the movie so you’re reintroduced to things you saw in the movie, but in the videogame level context, and then you walk away from it like, "Wow, that was a nice little companion to the movie." I think The Matrix game was a pretty fun and harmless game that made you feel like you were in The Matrix a little bit and that was cool. So when it’s just something like that and it’s not [trying] to be anything more, I think it works. But when you take something very specific and try to make it a standalone, it’s not really doable.
Fandango: Is there a game that would work on the big screen?
Trank: I think Shadow of the Colossus would be a really, really interesting movie if approached the right way. There is something really amazing in that game that reminds me if you take the kind of Jurassic Park approach. There are those moments when you come across the Colossus and you can really feel the scale of how huge they are compared to the character that you’re controlling.
It’s like that moment in Jurassic Park when they roll out to the Bronchiosauruses and Dr. Grant gets out of the jeep and they have that low angle shot with the giant foot coming down and he’s just looking up at it. That’s a cool movie moment. I can see that in a movie and feel like, "Okay, now Dr. Grant has to climb up that thing’s leg and then stab it in the head and kill it."
I think it would be pretty hard to do Metal Gear Solid, but I wouldn’t stand in anybody’s way to attempt it.
Fandango: Is there an example of a movie that you feel has translated well to the gaming space?
Trank: Knights of the Old Republic is a perfect example because it’s an already existing universe that began in the film world and allows the players to become participants in the universe. We’ve seen in the last 10 years MMOs [massively multiplayer online games] really grow and grow and grow. I actually don’t play any MMOs. The idea of it freaked me out because I was a loner when I was a kid, so I really like playing console RPGs where it’s just me and the experience is similar to reading a book. MMOs always felt like I was reading a book, but there were 5,000 other people standing over my shoulder reading with me and arguing with me.
Facebook is like an MMO. And the way that movies are now being advertised through Facebook and through different online media portals, we’re going to start to see a Mark Zuckerberg form of transmedia that’s going to figure it out. It’s going to be the next version of how we digest our entertainment and it’s going to include everything. Who knows what it’s going to be, but we’re maybe not even halfway there yet.
Fandango: What are your thoughts on how social media is impacting entertainment?
Trank: I really am lucky to be in this new, very interesting time when everybody – the film studios and all of these emerging media outlets -- are just figuring out how to take the movies and the games and the art that we make and put it into the very new world that we live in. We’re still figuring things out in this post-Facebook, post-MySpace thing. Our grandparents are on Facebook now, so there’s just something very different about the world right now that we’re living in. All I want to do is make movies, and on the periphery be a part of this cool thing that’s happening. I’m along for the ride with you and everybody else.
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