If there’s one thing about director Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean, The Ring) it’s that the guy knows how to make a movie look spectacular. Even if the Pirates movies, in spite of the first, turned into a slog of wet tentacle beards, giant crab-chicks, far too much belief in its own make-it-up-as-you-go-along mythology and a briney case of taking itself far too seriously, they all looked fantastic from start to finish.
Of course, all that prettifying stuff takes wallet-splitting gobs of what makes the world go ’round– and while Pirates success guaranteed big fat bags of Disney-stamped cash for its sequels, Verbinksi’s next project, the film version of the video game Bioshock, doesn’t have previous filmic success going for it. And as Max Payne, Doom, Silent Hill… ad infinitum, will tell you, video games have had a rough track record, and when budgets start getting crazy, saaaaaay, $160 million crazy (after all, Bioshock deals with an underwater utopia gone wrong, complete with stomping, drill-armed diver guys, a genetically changing hero and little girls infected by icky sea slugs duking it out in a fully realized art deco underwater city)– studios are bound to get nervous. Just ask Halo.
The studio (Universal) and Verbinski have “paused” pre-production on Bioshock and are now working out a way to get the budget down, which may include shipping the project off from sunshiney L.A. to foggy Londontown. With studios tightening their belts, this kind of thing isn’t uncommon– especially in pre-production, where it’s often start-stop. Its also been reported that both Universal and Verbinski are calling upon the ghost of Halo (sniff- a moment of silence, please) and saying they’re not going to allow that to happen again with Bioshock.
In the mean time, Verbinski will need to become more creative (he dumped a guaranteed paycheck to direct Pirates 4 in order to take the Bioshock project) as he whittles down costs on the undersea horror/mystery.
I like to think the twisty, morally ambiguous Bioshock has more going for it than 100% of many other game to film adaptations, but the more I think about it, the more I get the feeling it could easily become another Silent Hill— a production designed work of art, but ultimately a hollow and unsatisfactory film. Of course, that’s me guessing– Verbinski helped transform a ride into an exciting and charming summer blockbuster. Let’s just hope Bioshock ends up more like POTC: Curse of the Black Pearl than its sequels POTC: Revenge of Squidbeard and POTC: I Think This is About Pirates, But I’m not Sure What the Hell is Going on Any More.