Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Do You Owe Something to the Source Material?

So, as a proud XBOX owner, I have never played Uncharted, or any of it's sequels. Not that I haven't wanted to. It's a game franchise that has such a great reputation, I've considered buying a Playstation to get on board. It's a modern-era adventure/treasure hunt game, much in the vein of Indiana Jones.

One of the enduring legends of the development of the game was that the team were huge fans of Firefly, and based their lead character, treasure hunter Nathan Drake on Nathan Fillion, and his performance as Captain Malcom Reynolds on that show. Now, as I said, I've never played the game, but apparently the character bits are obvious and all over the place. Nathan Drake just IS Nathan Fillion, and the folks at developing company Naughty Dog have been pretty open and upfront about it.

Now, the idea of adapting a game like this, with a decent plot, proven premise (See Indy Jones), and bit action set pieces, into a movie seems like a no-brainer. David O. Russell is set to direct, at this point. Yep, the guy that gave you I Heart Huckabees, Three Kings and Flirting With Disaster is gonna give a big-time action franchise a whirl. I have no problem with this. I feel like sometimes, the oddest choices in filmmakers give us the most interesting takes on the material. Apparently, Marky Mark Wahlberg is on tap to play Drake, with Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in supporting roles.

With the character so connected to an established actor like Fillion, you know the fanbase would want to make their desire to see the guy actually play the part known. Hence, you get this video:

Now, I am not one to ever think that fans should be dictating the direction of the franchises/games/movies/TV shows they are fans of. I think that fan influence, more than anything else, has led to the "fanfictionalization," and ultimate downfall, of things like Star Trek. For example; Enterprise was a fantastic premise, and could've been the best Star Trek since the original. It was totally ruined (which is not to say there weren't problems beforehand) when the scripts obviously started trying to curry favor with the fanbase that was quibbling about the show.

No, Nathan Fillion doesn't HAVE to play Nathan Drake. Not at all, Russell has to make the film he's happy with and proud of. Mark Wahlberg is a decent actor, and I think can do a respectable, fun and involving job. The fan that made that video expressed his opinion in a direct and pretty respectful way, in my opinion.

That doesn't change the fact that this video makes David O. Russell look like a bit of a douche.

I would expect the guy making the movie version of this video game to have heard of the Nathan Fillion connection, one of the biggest elements of the fan lore of the game. He doesn't even seem to know who Nathan Fillion is. That would actually be fine, and understandable, if he wasn't working on this property. It seems to me if you do just a tad bit of internet research about the game and the Fillion connection, lots of info will come up.

Now, let's be fair. Fillion isn't a STAR! He's not a name to open a wide release picture. He is, however, a draw for a pretty damn devoted group of people. He's a pretty popular TV star on a fairly popular show (finally!). He's not Mark Wahlberg, ok, granted, but that "not a big deal" line? It's, getting down to brass tacks, and in Russell's defense, probably a true statement, but it's also not exactly kind. Acting like this kid is trying to push some utter unknown on to him? Like somebody walked up, and gave him my headshot? Douchey.

Even as I write that...I think about the utterly painful exchanges I have witnessed between talent and fans in "controlled" environments like conventions. I understand that, as a person of some renown, Like Russell, you have to have your guard up at all times. If I was in his shoes, in this situation, the guard would be way up. So, yeah, the dismissive tone is understandable, to a point, but the kid is not crazy, insulting, or threatening (at least not on the video, which can give a false impression).

That said, look, Mr. Russell, that guy is the core on which the success of this film your making will be built. He bought the game, loved it, and bought all the sequels. That's why you're getting to make the movie. Maybe you might be, for research purposes, interested in what it was that connected him to the game so much? A connection so strong he's go out of his way to talk to you about it?

I guess what it comes down to, for me, is that this video feels like Russell doesn't know, or care much about the game, outside of the "modern Indiana Jones" pitch.  In contrast, when I read stuff from Michel Gondry about The Green Hornet, I feel like he does know the property, and is still doing it his way. Which, of course, feels too comedic for the uber-serious wing of the fanboy brigade.

Of course, it all could've gone much, much worse.

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