Checking in on the Biggest Upcoming Video Game Movies of 2021…and Beyond
Subnation | Scott Bernberg | January 19, 2021
Those of us who still believe in the potential of video game movies don’t have it easy. We have lived through tough times, seen things we can’t unsee, and gone to bed dreaming of a Peter Jackson-helmed Halo, only to wake up to the cold reality of a Paul W.S. Anderson “imagining” of the Monster Hunter universe. But we’re not immune to hope either. Positive thoughts helped us stick with the genre after a “can’t miss” Assassin’s Creed project turned out to indeed miss badly, then be rewarded month’s later with a gift from the casting gods that deposited Ryan Reynolds smack dab at the center of Detective Pikachu.
It’s been a wild ride. And the next couple of years look no different, with more game adaptations hitting Hollywood than ever before. Which makes it a great time to check in with the current status of several high-profile video game adaptations that have been announced, and see how they’re shaping up.
Borderlands (Release Date: TBD)
If the movie is half as good as the cutscenes and VO work found in every installment of the hit Gearbox Software franchise, we may have a sleeper hit on our hands here. Horror-master Eli Roth is at the helm and Cate Blanchett has been called in to play popular heroine Lillith. Kevin Hart is going to be in there somewhere as well, as he moves from board game-adaptation to the video game movie space. Let’s just hope there aren’t more writers attached to the project than guns that can be looted in the games.
Mortal Kombat (Release Date: April 16, 2021)
If the game can reinvent itself after multiple iterations from the 90’s, then why not the movie version? When Mortal Kombat rebooted in 2013 across multiple platforms most of the kids who played it originally were married with children— well past their prime when it came to disembowling opponents with a well-timed finishing move. But the graphics looked great and the fighting was unapologetically brutal — and a hit was (re)born. Now it’s the movie’s turn, with a 2021 edition that sports an “R” rating and a hot young director named [checks notes]…Paul W.S. Anderson? Oh dear.
Metal Gear Solid (Release Date: TBD)
Not much intel on this one yet, except that there’s a director on board; Jordan Vogt-Roberts of Kong: Skull Island 2 fame. Oh, there may be one other enticing thing we know about the project…
Oscar Isaac. The man held an entire Star Wars Trilogy together single-handedly, so taking a Metal Gear movie to another level should be a breeze. The man can do it in his sleep. Which, coincidentally, is exactly how Ben Affleck played Batman in Justice League.
Seriously though, we love Isaac and all, but have always thought we’d see The Terminator’s Michael Biehn in this role. He is on the original NES box art after all. Wait. What the hell? They ripped off the actual Terminator movie on that box! Didn’t anyone notice this? Somebody call Jimmy Cameron.
The Last of Us (Release Date: TBD)
The HBO series has us pretty stoked right from the jump, since the company only turns out blue-chip content. OK, there’s True Detective Season 2, but they can’t all be winners. Like The Stand or The Walking Dead, the post-apocalyptic source material is character driven, filled with unrelenting tension and is 100% movie-ready. Buzzed- about Russian indie director Kantemir Balagov (Beanpole) should bring a fresh eye to the genre, but can we please cast Viggo Mortensen as Joel? Or is he still scarred emotionally from working on The Road?
Call of Duty (Delayed Indefinitely)
Oh, what could have been. A script penned by The Joker’s screenwriter Scott Silva and directed by Stefano Sollima who was behind the lens of gritty stories like Gomorrah and Sicario 2: Day of the Soldado. But then Activision said the film was not a priority. And that was before the success of Warzone and the rise of COVID. Mind you, nobody has officially cancelled the project, but it would be fair to say…
Uncharted (Release Date: July 16, 2021)
Fun Fact: Mark Wahlberg plays friend/rival Sully Sullivan here, but was originally cast to play Nathan Drake when the movie began development in 2010.
Nathan Drake has more charisma than the average video game protagonist, so casting his live-action feature film counterpart would require a harmonic mix of wit, screen presence, grace-under-pressure and — ah, just go get somebody who’s awesome in everything. Remember shoppers, look for The Tom Holland Seal of Quality, wherever great movies are shown. Except for Dolittle. Yeah, about that…
Detective Pickachu 2 (Release Date: Late 2021/Early 2022)
It’s a misnomer that the disembodied voice of Ryan Reynolds- AKA the casting coup of the decade — salvaged the first Detective Pikachu. It was actually a pretty great film on its own merits. But Reynolds was the comedic cherry-on-top who gave the Pokemon flick star power, made it appealing to an older, male-skewing demographic, and most importantly drove interest in a sequel. Just inject it straight into our veins!
The Division (Release Date: Early-to-Mid 2022)
Not to be outdone by HBO and its Last of Us series, Netflix has greenlit The Division and is bringing Jake “Don’t ask me about my last video game movie” Gyllenhal along for the ride. The fallen Prince of Persia will be joined by Jessica Chastain, who’s last video game movie was a little too dark for our tastes. What? Zero Dark Thirty wasn’t based on a game? Well then.
Just like the game, the series will be set in New York City and revolves around a deadly virus spread by paper money. We liked the title Dead Presidents for the project, but evidently that was taken.
Keep reading Subnation on Medium for more news about these, and all the other upcoming video game movies you can expect to see in the years ahead.