By John Gaudiosi
Hollywood Producer Avi Arad, 33, hopes the production studio he runs with his father, Avi (former head of Marvel Studios), Arad Productions, becomes the premiere home for game developers and publishers to work with. Having helped turn Marvel comic book franchises like Spider-Man and X-Men into blockbuster film franchises, Arad is now focused on doing the same for games.
Among the games he's bringing to the big screen as big-budget, studio tent pole films are Lost Planet, EverQuest, Mass Effect and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune. Arad attended E3 this year to announce that he is taking Capcom's hit Lost Planet game to the big screen with David Hayter writing the script and Warner Bros. distributing the picture.
"Lost Planet felt really original visually with the huge, snowy planet and the giant insects and the VF suits," said Arad, who's an avid gamer. "I really liked the art design, which made it look like a futuristic Jules Verne creation. There was also a lot of interesting story elements like Wayne, who's almost like a Top Gun pilot. You have a lot of different factions and everyone has a point-of-view. Some of the stuff we're working on with Eisenberg is really close to how he was in the game. But we have to make a credible argument of why he thinks he's right. Having spent a lot of time inside the game, I felt like there were a lot of characters I could build a story around."
Arad said he's played every one of BioWare's games over the years and he's had a great respect for the Edmonton-based game maker. When Mass Effect first came on the gaming radar two years ago he became very interested in it.
"Once I played the game, beyond this massive world, the story's almost structured like a spy movie like a Casino Royale or The Bourne Identity," said Arad. "You have this guy, the first human spectre, and he has all of this pressure on him to deliver for his species. Then he uncovers this plot that he has to chase down because he's a hero. I think that's a good central character for the movie."
Arad has been working with BioWare very closely in developing the story for the movie and has met with founders Ray Muzyka and Greg Zeschuk The game developer mapped out a world that was ripe for more than interactive entertainment.
"Sometimes when we sit down to adapt a game I'll write a bible for it by playing through the game and culling through a lot of stuff online so when I'm talking to a studio or filmmaker I can explain it to them," said Arad. "With Mass Effect I didn't have to do that because they had a bible that was incredibly detailed. Even having played through the game, it really helped me understand the world better. The great thing is that you can never stump them, even if it's not in the game they know this world. They'll be working very closely with us and the filmmakers on this project."
It's taken several years for Arad to nail down the movie storyline for Sony Online Entertainment's EverQuest. He read all of the novelizations of the game and played EverQuest II. The film, which Sony Pictures will distribute, will draw from both EverQuest and EverQuest II.
"It was tricky for a while," said Arad. "I tried to figure out as a gamer what would anchor me to the movie that would make the game more fun to play. For non-gamers, it's just about telling a great story and capturing what's cool about EverQuest. What's cool is the scale of it and the way it looks, but when you get into the mythology and backstory, I thought Innoruuk was an interesting villain. I started to target a lot of the NPCs and build a story around them. It's a complicated world with a lot of different threats and depending on which threat you select as a villain it adjusts who the heroes are in the movie. People who are allied against one villain won't be allied against another villain. So the trick with this adaptation was taking the NPCs that we thought were most interesting and find ways of exploring their stories."
Arad Productions is working with another division of Sony to bring Naughty Dog's PlayStation 3 hit, Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, to the silver screen. Arad believes the game's protagonist, Nathan Drake, stands on his own and isn't just an Indiana Jones facsimile.
"The best thing about Drake is he's not an archeologist," said Arad. "He's not a benevolent guy, but he's certainly not a great guy. Indiana Jones was always a good guy and he relentlessly did the right thing. Drake is a guy who's being hauled over to virtue throughout the game. One of my favourite scenes is when he finally finds Drake's body and he discovers he was out to hide the statue instead of steal it. Suddenly, after all of these excuses he had of being a marauder like his forefather, now he discovers he was a hero. He's required to become a better guy and he does become a better guy. The secret of El Dorado ties into that because he doesn't become a greedy guy and doesn't become a monster."
When it comes to the big screen adventure, Arad said the plan is to mix things up a little bit. In the game, the action moves very quickly to the island, but the film will open things up a bit and add some depth before the island adventure. In addition, the film will explore some of the modern day piracy that's going on today in South America, which is something that Naughty Dog had researched in developing this game.
"I really love playing games and I enjoy meeting all of these developers," said Arad. "I hope we become one of the premiere Hollywood game production studios because we really want to live up to what these guys have created. We know they've spent two to three years creating these games. We want these movies to not only expand the audience of these games but expand the worlds of these games. These are all babies we're taking care of."