Board game adaptations aren’t new, but we’re going to see more coming over the next few years. How successful the coming movies are as adaptations will depend on how well they depict game play. Not necessarily the mechanics of the game, but what the game represents. Take, for example, the movie Clue, based on the game of the same name. The game Clue had players go from room to room, checking clues to discover who killed Mr. Boddy; essentially, a murder mystery given game mechanics. The movie Clue, while being light comedy, kept to the essence of the game, with a murder to be solved with the iconic characters from the game in the movie. The Week has an overview of board ganes we can look forward to seeing on the big screen. Let’s take a closer look at the titles to figure out if an adaptation is possible.
The classic game of buying, selling, and bankrupting the other players for the whole family. Ridley Scott has been tagged to direct the movie, described as a group of Trump-like greedy wannabe real estate titans. Given the trigger for the 2008 Crash, the popping of the housing bubble caused by real estate speculation, the movie just might work. However, some elements, such as auctions, might fall by the wayside. With Ridley Scott directing, the movie may be well worth seeing, even if the Monopoly name is being used to bring people into the theatre.
This is an odd one. The original game had players marshalling armies across the globe, trying to achieve total world domination. The illustrations on the cards showed infantry, horseback cavalry*, and cannon artillery more appropriate for a pre-World War I conflict, possibly even pre-US Civil War.** Updating the setting to the modern era would introduce elements that aren’t in the game – air and naval assets. Cavalry can be updated to the modern equivalent, since the game abstracts battles for playability. But that leaves the question of the story itself. Will it tell the tale of the men in the trenches or on the front lines? Or will it be about the men at headquarters, having to make hard choices? And will the story focus on battles of key locations, like Indonesia, gateway to Australia, and Argentina, the last line of defense against North America?***
Candyland is usually most people’s first board game. It was designed so that very young children could play it and learn their colours. No dice are involved. The only skill needed is to recognize the different colours. Game play involves drawing a card and moving to the next instances of the colour on the card. First player to the end of the board wins. Other than being in a land made of candy, there’s not much to the game. Wikipedia has the current attempt as being an Adam Sandler project without details of what’s happening in it. The best adaptation for the game, though, seems to point towards a Wacky Races -style race through a land made of candy. Really, there’s not much to the game to hang a plot from.
Jumanji is the odd one out, the thing that’s not like the others in this entry. Originally, Jumanji, the movie, was based on a short story with the same name by Chris Van Allburg. The titular game never existed beyond the fiction of the story. Part of the charm of the movie was not knowing what was happening until the revelation. A remake will lose some of that charm, but strong writing could work around that. However, the original story was published in 1981 with the movie being made in 1995. The movie performed well at the box office and will still be remembered by the general public. And, with the film coming after the popularity of home movies through first VHS and later DVD, people who loved the movie will have a copy and can just pop it into their home entertainment system. The new movie’s crew will have to work hard to improve on the original just to be considered as good due to nostalgia.
As Steve mentioned, Hollywood’s current risk-adverse craze for adaptations is going to run out of major works and will need to find new sources. Games, from classic board games to tabletop RPGs to video games, won’t be ignored. What games would you like to see adapted and how?
Next week, a breather as I prepare a new batch of columns.
* As opposed to modern cavalry (i.e., tanks, APCs) and what the horseback guys became in WWI (pilots).
** My guess of the era – the War of 1812.
*** What players find critical on the board may not reflect what is critical in a real war.