Many of you who read my regular posts about film may have started to notice a theme. Due to limited time I inevitably have to be a little picky in what subjects I choose to write about and I almost always end up dissecting some of Hollywood’s more current negative trends such as remakes or poor choices. Well, with Disney having saved comic book movies (and being set to restore science fiction to some of its former glory as well with the impending Star Wars Episode VII) and Ubisoft working hard to try and save game to film adaptations – suddenly some of those adaptation ideas are looking a little more viable. I expected a studio to take another crack at Halo, Gears Of War or Bioshock; but instead I’m confronted with the news that Rovio Entertainment (the guys behind Angry Birds) are looking to make a 3D CG animated film adaptation of their massively popular series.
It’s true that as gaming has become more mainstream and compatible with the average consumer (mobile gaming is one of the biggest things on the planet right now), Angry Birds has become one of the flagship intellectual properties of this generation. The distinctive and cutesy art style combined with the accessible and addictive gameplay has turned it into one of the planet’s biggest current sensations. Rovio Entertainment have decided that the next big step for the brand should be an animated film. This is a very bold and interesting move, considering that every gaming iteration of the cartoon behemoth has topped the sales charts, both for smart phone apps and video games in general. Angry Birds is a genuine cultural phenomenon and one that, especially with the recent release of the Star Wars themed addition; is hardly about to relinquish its stranglehold on the gaming market. Combine this with the fact that the iconography of the series is now plastered over everything from children’s clothing, cuddly toys and lunchboxes – suddenly you’re hard pressed to find a reason why this would necessarily be a bad idea.
Rovio Entertainment have approached hired David Maisel from Marvel Studios to executive produce (there’s that Disney connection again) the movie, who has now added John Cohen to the project. Cohen is responsible for shepherding franchises like Despicable Me, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Alvin and The Chipmunks, and Horton Hears A Who to the big screen (and box office success), so his inclusion in the project lends it a certain amount of legitimacy.
The two things that are most interesting about this piece of news though is that Rovio Entertainment are choosing to make the movie outside of the Hollywood studio system; instead using Maisel to secure funding and make the film on their terms, before shipping it out to studios for distribution deals. This is interesting as it shows that regardless of how you or I may feel about the intentions behind the project they’re at least somewhat pure, in that they care about their product enough and the “world” that it inhabits that they want to make sure their vision is not compromised. At the same time, making the film on their own terms would mean a larger financial risk, but at the same time, if the film is successful, a much larger reward. Considering the intense popularity of the game franchise it’s a logical conclusion to assume that the movie would more than make back its budget. However, is that as secure as one may think?
When you consider that a large majority of people who play Angry Birds enjoy it so much because it requires little investment in terms of characters or story. It’s a pick up and play game, one that can be dipped in and out of with relative ease. Only people who play it constantly will be able to master it, but that doesn’t improve one’s connection to the characters or the overall “mission”. How will this translate into a 90 minute plus film adaptation? Once you strip away the addictive gameplay is Angry Birds honestly captivating enough? While the visuals are arresting to children and the brand has been able to flourish because of its easy marketability and instantly recognisable eponymous characters. I, myself have never played any of the games or even seen anyone play them, yet I still know what the titular fowls look like, which lends credence to the idea on a purely aesthetic level. Ultimately, what will matter most is whether they manage to write a good script and whether they’re able to craft a compelling story suitable for a film adaptation.
It almost seems like it would be more beneficial to craft a short animated series first, to test audience interaction and whether people are interested in seeing the Angry Birds franchise fill their screens…without the use of their fingers. Something like the compelling Angry Birds Star Wars cinematic trailer, but you know, with less Star Wars:
The most compelling part of all of this is that the film has been scheduled for…2016. Yes, you read that right. Four years is an awfully long time to wait for a film length adaptation of a current cultural zeitgeist. With technology rapidly improving constantly and with the smart phone and app market becoming increasingly competitive and advanced; will Angry Birds be able to hold the public interest for another four years? Do Rovio Entertainment have enough big ideas to perpetuate and reinvigorate their series for another four years; especially to a height that would make all the resources they’ve splashed on a medium that they are unfamiliar and inexperienced in, worthwhile? Will Rovio Entertainment be able to devote enough time in making the best possible film as well as keeping up and staying competitive in the consistently evolving gaming marketplace? Not to mention if something was to go terribly wrong with the film production or they were unable to receive adequate distribution this would be the kind of disaster that would help bury the company – especially four years down the line, when their main source of income may have waned in popularity.
Rovio Entertainment are clearly being incredibly ambitious here, and that can be certainly be admired; but will it all be in vain? Time will only tell if audiences will be seen gathering in their masses to twitch their fingers for Angry Birds 3D: The Film (not actual title) in 2016.