By John Gaudiosi
Video Game Reviews
5:30 PM EST, January 29, 2014
Hollywood production company Blockade Entertainment has quietly been acquiring game franchises from Sony Computer Entertainment for feature films. The studio has just added "Sly Cooper" to its lineup of computer-generated animated films. "Sucker Punch's" action game joins Insomniac Game's "Ratchet & Clank" and Ninja Theory's "Heavenly Sword" in the CGI production schedule. Vancouver-based Rainmaker is handling the bulk of the CGI work and Blockade is working closely with "Sucker Punch," just as it is with the key developers of each franchise it has acquired to date.
Brad Foxhoven is a co-founder of Blockade Entertainment and executive producer on each of these game-to-film adaptations. He talks about what's in store for "Sly Cooper" fans when the film hits theaters in early 2016. "Ratchet & Clank's" big screen debut is slated for early 2015 and the "Heavenly Sword" movie will be making its debut this year.
How are you working with Sucker Punch on this film?
They have been very supportive during this process, providing creative guidance and feedback throughout. Their support was especially vital since we were altering the look of the characters and world, transforming them all into a full CG environment. With so many games in this franchise, how is the writer introducing a new audience to these characters? This isn't a true origin story of the characters, as the team is already together when we meet them in the film. We are using the games as true source material, and working closely with Sony and Sucker Punch to make sure that the approach remains faithful to the world everyone loves. That said, we are still looking to add some nice twists into the film that will keep the fans on their toes. This franchise also has a lot of characters. Who are you focusing on for this film? We don't want to give up too much at this point, but it definitely revolves around Sly, Bentley and Murray. Carmelita will also be in the film -- but as for the villains, outside of announcing Clockwerk, we intend on keeping that area a secret for now. Can you explain the art style you're adopting for this film and how it will compare to the cell-shaded 3D look of the games? When we began the production, we proposed to Sony that our goal was to give the film a more CG look, but remain true to the artistic style of the characters and world. A style that was a combination between gritty film noir meets bright, colorful graphic novels. There was no doubt we were cautious about this, and made sure that those who were responsible for creating and managing the franchise over the past decade supported this new look. What have you learned from your other CGI video game films that you're applying to this feature? Now that we are onto our third film, the production pipeline is much smoother. We don't have the luxury of the bigger productions to redo or toss out major scenes that are completed. We make every dollar and every day count, so being efficient is very important to us. We now feel like we are hitting our stride. Can you walk us through the creative process in bringing this property from game to film? The launch of "Ratchet & Clank" surely helped! Our intention was to do more than just Ratchet, and to set up a pattern where we were launching films every year into a specific distribution window -- that window being the first quarter of each year, where the bigger companies were not playing just yet. We loved Sly and felt the film would really stand out in terms of both look and story. Once we got past the challenge of how the film would look, we knew we were in a great place for the production. What is it about Sly Cooper that you feel will translate to linear entertainment? Essentially, Sly is a great character. He is much like George Clooney's character in "Ocean's Eleven." He is a thief, but he is a cool, likable thief. With great, likable characters come great stories. Sly is that type of character, and he goes up against some pretty original bad guys. Plus, the relationship with Carmelita, and the tension of their romance, is a great element to have available in the film. What's the release schedule for this movie? Similar to "Ratchet & Clank," we are targeting the first quarter of the year. In this case, first quarter of 2016. How might this film tie into new Sly games? We cannot comment on what Sony does on the game end, but we know they are supportive of the film and all options are available to them. Can you explain how the relationship with Sony Computer Entertainment has evolved since "Heavenly Sword?" As we have continued to prove both our production capabilities, and the potential for success, the relationship continues to grow and evolve. We remain very respectful for this opportunity, and realize that Sony has placed a lot of trust in us, along with our production partner on the film, Rainmaker. We continue to talk about other opportunities within this partnership, and how some of them may expand into other genres and formats. What differentiates your production process from other companies? What we have established on this film, with Rainmaker, is a pipeline that streamlines development and pre-production in a way that allows for more time in animation. With these franchises already being in a CG environment, we can use their assets to expedite pre-visualization and character development. The scripts also come quicker since they are inspired by existing storylines. Other companies would need to create these from scratch, slowing their overall process down -- sometimes considerably. Why do you think CG might be a good format for video game movies after so many live action game-to-film flops? It's an easier transition, for sure. We don't have to think about what actor looks like Ratchet, or what location to place a Sly set in the real world. The fans already know and love these characters. When looking at a live action film, there is so much more to deal with on the franchise. Everyone has an opinion on the actors, sets, storylines. The process becomes challenging, and without the right focus and support from the creators, it becomes a harder hill to climb. Ultimately, the biggest mistake we see is when the film makers don't include the game creators enough. It would be like excluding J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter. You need them involved, helping guide the vision and overall authenticity of the film.
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