Which board games lend themselves best to Hollywood adaptations?
When Ole Kirk Kristiansen - a master carpenter and joiner from the Danish village of Billund - first established his business making wooden toys in the 1930s, not even he could have imagined that less than 80 years later his company, LEGO, would be the second-largest toy company in the world. Since then, more than 400 billion LEGO bricks have been manufactured - enough for everyone on the planet to own more than 60 - and LEGO’s almost-universal popularity has seen the plastic bricks being turned into board games, video games and even theme parks.
A common occurrence in recent years has been the incorporation of movies and movie franchises into LEGO products, beginning in 2001 with Star Wars and now including a whole range of movie-related toys and games including Indiana Jones, Pirates of the Caribbean and Harry Potter. Last year, LEGO took the next logical step and released its own feature film, The LEGO Movie, due to be released next week (July 21st) in the UK on Blu-Ray and DVD.
Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, The LEGO Movie tells the story of Emmett, a regular LEGO construction worker who discovers he is the prophesised chosen one tasked with saving the LEGO universe from being glued together by an evil mastermind named Lord Business. The 3D, CGI-animated film is voiced by a stellar cast that includes Will Ferrell, Morgan Freeman, Jonah Hill, Elizabeth Banks and Liam Neeson, not to mention a LEGO incarnation of basketball star Shaquille O’Neal being voiced by the actual Shaquille O’Neal.
The film has been a huge runaway success at the box office, topping over $400 million dollars and counting worldwide and making it one of the most successful movies ever to be based on traditional style toys and board games, along with Transformers.
Other attempts to turn toys and games into Hollywood films haven’t fared so well though, with films like Masters of the Universe, Dungeons & Dragons and Battleship all receiving a panning from critics and being roundly ignored by the cinema-going public. So are LEGO and Transformers the exceptions to the rule? Or are Hollywood’s producers just picking the wrong toys and games?
To find out, we thought we’d have a go ourselves, so we’ve picked five board games out of the top 100 best-sellers and come up with film concepts based on each. Let’s see if our phone starts ringing, shall we?
Jon Hamm stars as ‘George’, the name given to a man who has awoken in an underground cell at the C.I.A.’s headquarters in Langley to find he has no memory of who he is or why he is there. Unbeknownst to him or his captors, George is actually Georgiy Kovalev, an FSB spy who bungles a covert operation to corrupt the C.I.A.’s facial recognition database and causes an explosion that leaves him suffering with amnesia. However, despite the accident George actually succeeds in his mission, leaving the C.I.A. no choice but to force him to ask a long and torturous series of questions as they attempt to help George recover his memory and discover his true identity through a process of elimination. Directed by Ron Howard.
The Invasion of Canada
Ben Stiller takes the director’s chair for this modern adaptation of the popular board game, transplanting the action from its original 19th Century setting to the year 2015. When Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper is killed in an unfortunate gardening accident, what begins as an internet prank to influence voters ultimately results in the election of Toronto mayor Rob Ford (Will Ferrell) to the highest office in Canada, where his increasingly bizarre approach to foreign policy soon finds him enraging both the Russian and Chinese governments and bringing the world to the brink of nuclear war. Running out of diplomatic options, President Barack Obama (Will Smith) decides the only option for world peace is to invade Canadian soil and depose the despotic Ford before it’s too late. Also starring John Travolta as Senator John Kerry and Kim Cattrall as Hillary Clinton.
Billed as ‘Swordfish meets Logan’s Run’, this dystopian sci-fi film directed by Brian de Palma stars Keanu Reeves as Rogue, a black hat hacker who is on the run from a totalitarian corporation named The Weyland Consortium. The corporation issues a warrant for his arrest after they frame him for the murder of one of his friends in revenge for hacking into their systems and stealing data to sell on the black market. Rogue must attempt to uncover enough evidence about the corporation’s secretive ‘Mirrormorph’ project and find someone in authority trustworthy enough to hand it to before he is captured and sentenced for a crime he did not commit. Co-starring Martin Lawrence as Easy Mark.
Ticket to Ride: Europe
Rob Schneider directs and stars as himself in this documentary following his life in the wake of Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo. Having seen his latest film bomb at the cinema, Schneider is dropped by Sony Pictures and finds himself hitch-hiking across Europe, taking on a series of menial jobs on his way to London in order to raise enough funds for a trans-Atlantic flight back home to Los Angeles. When he finally reaches London, events take a turn for the worse when a publicity stunt to promote his documentary results in a lawsuit stemming from the actor’s failure to secure permission from the Beatles to use their song ‘Ticket to Ride’ in a promo video projected onto Buckingham Palace. Shot entirely on an iPhone, the film is a bleak and often harrowing account of the brutal nature of the film industry. Also features cameos from Sky News reporter Kay Burley and several members of the Metropolitan Police Force.
Cards Against Humanity
Michael Fassbender stars as Rando Cardrissian, the leader of a shady gang known as ‘The Cards’ who operate in the casinos of Las Vegas, using card counting and other techniques to scam money from the dealers and other players. For the rest of the gang it’s just a way to make a living, but Cardrissian aims to use his ill-gotten gains to fund a campaign to teach creationism in schools. Co-directed by David Cronenberg and David Lynch, the film’s frequent ‘dream sequences’ and non-linear storyline make the plot almost impossible to follow and the film is inexplicably punctuated by a recurring shot of Fassbender staring into the mid-distance while muttering about the second law of thermodynamics.