Could a ‘Minecraft’ Movie Be a Hit?

Fresh off of the success of "The LEGO Movie," Warner Bros. has optioned the film rights to the popular video game "Minecraft." Could a "Minecraft" film actually be a hit?

Mar 1, 2014 at 11:45AM

In most cases, making a feature film based on a video game isn't a great idea. While it's possible to include some iconic features from games in movies, the plot of the game typically has to be cut back and what remains either seems rushed or devoid of the larger elements that made the game great. For games without established plots, making a film is even trickier; it becomes a single story set in the game world, and as such runs the risk of seeming like a quick cash-in on the game's popularity.

Time Warner's (NYSE:TWX) Warner Bros. hopes to beat the odds, however. Following the massive success of The LEGO Movie, the studio hopes to strike gold again with a film based on the massively successful sandbox game Minecraft.

Would a Minecraft movie work?
The biggest problem with creating a Minecraft movie would be the fact that the game doesn't have a central plot that all players follow; it instead provides a world where they can mine, explore, and build just about anything that comes to mind. Unlike other semi-freeform games such as the massively multiplayer World of Warcraft (whose setting will also hit the big screen in 2016's Warcraft from Comcast's (NASDAQ: CMCSA) Universal Pictures and Legendary Pictures), Minecraft doesn't feature specific quests that a feature film could use as part of its plot. Without a rich underlying plot to draw from, will a Minecraft film end up being another box-office flop like Universal's Battleship?

Possibly not. Warner has brought on Roy Lee, the producer who helped make The LEGO Movie into what it was, to handle the Minecraft movie through his production company. It makes sense that Warner Bros. would want Lee involved after the dominating force that The LEGO Movie became at the box office, especially given that LEGO as a brand doesn't have a specific underlying story that ties its different playset lines together. If it worked for LEGO, it might work for Minecraft.

So it'll be CGI, right?
One big difference between The LEGO Movie and the Minecraft movie that Warner Bros. is putting into production is that the latter is planned as a live-action film. It's possible that this could change between now and the film's release, or that a live-action/animated hybrid will be used (perhaps with a live actor in a computer-generated world.) Details are scant right now because the film doesn't have a director or even a writer at the moment. It's said that a wide range of talents are interested in being part of the film, however.

A live-action Minecraft film seems less like a sure thing than a CG film, but whether it succeeds or fails will largely depend on the approach that is taken. If the film is largely unrelated to Minecraft and tries to take itself too seriously, fans of the game could find that it isn't worth their time. If it winds up being self-aware like The LEGO Movie and acknowledges the fans while giving them a fun Minecraft-based adventure, then it could turn into a decent hit for the studio.

Will it actually get made?
Before getting too worked up over the possibility of a Minecraft movie, it's important to realize that not all video game projects actually make it to the big screen. Warcraft, for instance, was originally announced in 2006 but ended up stuck in development hell for years before production started in earnest last month. A Halo film failed to get off the ground several times, and the latest word on the property is that a Halo-inspired streaming television series was being developed for the Xbox by Stephen Spielberg. Just because things are moving forward with a Minecraft film now doesn't mean that the project couldn't stall.

That said, the involvement of Roy Lee hints that Warner Bros. may be trying to capitalize on the popularity of The LEGO Movie and will try to get Minecraft made while a "from the producer of..." tag line would still help draw an audience. If this is the case, the Minecraft film could find itself fasttracked into production once a writer and director are picked from the interested candidates.

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