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C'mon Hollywood: Why haven't you made a Twisted Metal movie yet?

05.02.2017

As a kid, I remember popping TWISTED METAL 2 into my PS1, entering the code to play as Minion, and then going out of my way to destroy Paris and any fool who got in my way. It was good times. Honestly, while I’m not much of a gamer in general, I loved TWISTED METAL. It was fast-paced, intuitive, and – above all – fun. Even more importantly, like MORTAL KOMBAT and STREET FIGHTER before it, I adored the characters. They were colorful, unique, and actually had thought put into their backstories. The games even got more in-depth when the company that made the first two entries (we’ll pretend 3 and 4 never happened) created TWISTED METAL: BLACK for the PS2, adding a layer of tragedy to the mythos by changing the narrative to be about broken souls given a second chance through their involvement in the TWISTED METAL tournament.

And as a fan of the TWISTED METAL games, I’ve always wondered why they never made a movie about it?

Admittedly, videogame movies haven’t had the best track record (minus a MORTAL KOMBAT or SILENT HILL), but recently it looks like videogame adaptations are finally getting out of the B-movie ghetto. Now, it’s true ASSASSIN’S CREED wasn’t great, but it still amassed great talent in front of and behind the camera, and the upcoming TOMB RAIDER reboot seems to as be doing the same. But even if that film fails (and honestly, I kinda liked the Angelina Jolie ones), we also have THE DIVISION with Jake Gyllenhaal, Joe Carnahan’s UNCHARTED, the CALL OF DUTY cinematic universe, and many others on the way. What they all seem to have in common is that they’re taking steps to not fall into the same traps as previous videogame adaptations - namely getting big writers, directors, and actors attached, while also putting real money behind them. Not saying Hollywood hasn’t done that before (including Gyllenhaal’s own PRINCE OF PERSIA), but it’s now becoming the norm, rather than the exception.

But what does that mean for TWISTED METAL? While videogames may be hopefully escaping the B-movie ghetto, TWISTED METAL – as a property – pretty much revels in it. In fact, Dave Jaffe, one of the creators of the game, even said that they made it pretty much solely because they loved car chases and explosions, and not much else. Which makes sense, as the game borrows liberally from things like DEATH RACE 2000, MAD MAX, and all their various imitators. It’s basically a game that’s all about fun characters, in cool-looking vehicles, crashing and blowing each other up. And who doesn’t love watching cars blow shit up? Just look at the box-office for the FAST AND THE FURIOUS series, or the critical reception of MAD MAX: FURY ROAD! Hell, car chases have been a mainstay since the invention of film!

Frankly, that’s why I think this could be a successful film franchise. It’d basically be, for all intents and purposes, a heavy-metal infused version of FAST AND THE FURIOUS: rawer, grittier, brutal-er – especially with the rise of profitable R-rated films like DEADPOOL, LOGAN, and JOHN WICK.

Also, like F&F, it has a diverse cast of memorable and iconic characters.  There’s of course Sweet Tooth, the murderous clown with the flaming head (and for a while one of the unofficial mascots of the Playstation console), but there are others as well, such as the badass Mr. Grimm, the mysterious Dollface, the tragic Axel – all with their own backstories and unique vehicles. They’re all pretty over-the-top, sure, but that honestly just adds to their charm. And TWISTED METAL, for all its bluster and attitude, lives-or-dies by its cast of drivers. They are the heart and soul of the game, and why it rose above the - at the time - growing vehicular combat genre it helped create. Without the game's interesting and fun characters, the film would just devolve into a glorified stunt show, and there's a reason those only last fifteen minutes.

Also, with the tournament conceit, you can definitely utilize a BATTLE ROYALE-type narrative, where we’ll root for multiple characters simultaneously, while knowing there can be only one winner. They’d form uneasy alliances, betray one another, sacrifice themselves, etc., until the final – inevitable – showdown. It’d give it an edge that even the similar MORTAL KOMBAT doesn’t have (since that one had a pretty clear delineation between “good guys from Earth” and “bad guys from another realm”.)

What’s also interesting about the franchise – and what makes it something more than just an updated DEATH RACE or MAD MAX riff – is the supernatural element. The conceit of the whole game is that there is a mysterious figure named Calypso, who is a sort of magical Faustian/Devil figure that grants the winner of the tournament any wish they want. Sometimes it’s for noble reasons – like a cop named Outlaw, who wished to be in a world without the Twisted Metal tournament, only for Calypso to send him to space. Other times, it’s for less noble reasons, like when a fame-seeking character named Spectre wanted to have his face seen all over the world, so Calypso literally stretched his face out to fill the sky. And, as you can see, part of the fun is seeing how Calypso will turn your character’s wish against them, in a Monkey’s Paw sort of way, which would be fun to see on film.

The Calypso stuff also alludes to something else TWISTED METAL offers: its (for lack of a better word) twisted sense of humor. In the original games the comedy was pretty cartoony (such as blowing up the Statue of Liberty, while making her big and giving her a bikini in the process), but it got much more messed up (and in my opinion, funnier) in later installments. This includes, among other things, an ambulence called Meat Wagon whose special move was shooting rocket-powered gurneys with screaming patients on them as a weapon. If nothing else, that kind of dark, tongue-in-cheek humor would definitely give the film a distinct tone and point-of-view. Hell, at one point, Brian Taylor (of CRANK series fame) was attached to direct, and whether that's still true or not, the fact is that's the kind of crazy, off-the-wall (but oddly sincere) tone the film needs. 

Let’s also not forget the nostalgia angle! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think nostalgia or the potential for box-office success should the main reason a movie gets made (and in a perfect world, not a consideration at all). I just know there’s a large contingent of people who (like me) grew up with the games, and would kill to see their favorite characters brought to life.

And, honestly, I truly feel TWISTED METAL is tailor-made for the screen. It’s got cool, colorful characters, an interesting premise, a dark sense of humor, and an excuse for badass car chases (which will always be in style). I mean, it won’t convince those skeptical that videogame movie adaptations can transcend being glorified B-movies, but it sure as hell would be a great time at the movies!

Extra Tidbit: So Schmoes, who were your favorite characters? Besides Minion, my other favorite was Mr. Grimm.
Source: JoBlo

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