Last week, Universal announced that they had won a “bidding war” for the rights to turn Atari’s Asteroids coin-op into a feature film. Almost immediately, game pundits and art critics alike pounced on the news, and scoffed at the idea of a Hollywood version of Atari’s classic game. Many of these comments came in the same form: They mostly feared a movie that was literal translation of the game. (i.e. a guy in Spaceship shooting space rocks) Here are some examples:
From Entertainment Weekly:
“…wasn’t that movie already made? You know, Armageddon with Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck flying in a spaceship blowing up rocks from space. Some days, Hollywood just…flummoxes.“
From TechRadar :
“If anybody can make a thrilling and gripping narrative out of a game based on pixelated asteroids and little triangular spaceships, they clearly are a master of their art.“
From The Escapist:
“Concerns that the Asteroids back-story might be a little too thin to support a full-length feature film are perhaps valid but this won’t be the first tough project Universal has tackled: The studio is also in the process of creating movies based on other classic game properties including Battleship and Candyland. “
From NYTimes.com Art Beat by David Itzkoff imagines the movie made by several Hollywood directors including Michael Bay:
“In this $300 million, three-and-a-half hour spectacle, loud and expensive computer simulations of large boulders crashing into one another are briefly interrupted by the hilarious antics of Chip and Gravel, two living rocks with gold teeth who speak in hip-hop slang, and the nonstop shouting of John Turturro“
This is just sample of 100’s of like stories hit have hit the interbaun. Now, to be honest, I agree with most of them. A straight adaptation of Asteroids seem like a rather terrible idea. So, I have decided to help-out the film makers by suggesting my Top-10 “Alternative” story lines for a movie based on Atari’s Asteroids coin-op. Here they are:
10. “Ass-teroids!” In the spirit of Joysticks!: A period-piece teen-sex romp set in Ft. Lauderdale, Spring Break, 1980. The National Video Game Championships are being held that week in Florida, and coincidentally, so is the National Wet T-Shirt Contest. When their home-town orphanage suddenly cannot make the balloon payment on the predatory loan given to them by the evil banker and land developer Wilson Everett Skruyou II, our heroes must spring into action. Asteroids player Marvin P. Martin and his 3 best friends – Buster, 3D, and Danny (the bookish hidden beauty Danielle) must find a way to win both competitions at the same time so they can use the combined prize money ($50,000) to save the day. Standing in their way is W. E. Skruyou III (college-age the son of II) and his Alpha Sigma Sigma fraternity brothers who have also made the trip and are formulating their own brute-force plans to win both contests. Zany antics, R-rating romping, heart-warming realization, spontaneous clapping, and hilarity all ensue. (apologies to 80’s Ending)
9. Kill Screen: Two life-long best friends who also happen to be employees for a crooked, arcade game distributor with mob ties, decide to steal the week’s proceeds (in quarters no less) plus their distribution truck, and head for Mexico. The one game machine left on-board the truck as they make their run for the border is Asteroids. Little do they know that the Asteroids machine they have stolen has a deadly secret: inside the circuits is special code that holds clues to the October Surprise Conspiracy. The clues can only be found by finding someone who can play well enough to make it to the “kill screen”. Soon, the CIA, FBI, the Mob, and Iranian Terrorists are all on their trail in this gritty, ultra-violent and hilarious Quentin Tarantino inspired crime, buddy-picture, road-trip comedy-drama. (apologies to Chuck Vs. Tom Sawyer)
8. Asteroids: The Chosen: A movie in the spirit of Robert Maxxe’s book “Arcade” (and a bit like The Last Starfighter and Close Encounters now that I think about it). The coin-op game Asteroids is sweeping the nation, and kids of all ages are flocking to play it. However some kids, the best players seem a little “too” excited about the game. Soon many of those kids go missing, as they are inexplicably drawn to secret location where, you guessed it, space aliens hook them up to interdimensional “video game units” so they can help fight a remote war against the sentient asteroids that are destroying their home world.
7. U.F.O. : The owner of space rock mine in Alpha Centauri has been going about his business for 100s years until one day some malicious a-hole hyperspaces into his asteroid field, and start blowing-up all his precious products. What’s more, the bastard’s space-ship is really f*cking fast, and can shoot dozens of shots at once, while the owner’s slow moving giant U.F.O. fires one shot at a time and flies in a distinctive patterns that gets it blown out of the sky almost instantly. Can our hero use all of his ingenuity to build a better faster, smaller U.F.O. before all is lost? By studying the TV transmissions from a small blue planet 30 or so light years away, he uses his worm-hole transportation device to capture Earth’s greatest T.V engineers: Mike Brady (architect), Mr. T. (unique weapons crafter), McGyver (mechanical genius), .Murray from Riptide (hacker/robotics expert), and Arthur Fonzarelli (for that magic touch) and employs them all to help make a weapon that can save the family business from total destruction.
6. Videoadaptation : The story of a video-game hating, professional script writer who has been tasked with adapting the game Asteroids to the big screen. He tries every angle possible to do it, but writer’s block gets the best of him, and he starts to crack. In his mind he creates a video-game champion alter-ego who is not only a great game player, but who has also a famous and successful autobiography about his personal exploits. The real and fictional versions of himself battle for control in many ways, climaxing with a head-to-head game of Asteroids with the ultimate bet on the line, life itself.. In the end, a filmable script is produced, but at what cost to his mind and soul?
5. Retro Deluxe : In the spirit of Fanboys, a boy with a terminal illness and only weeks to live just happens to also be the biggest fan of the game Asteroids in the world. After finding out from the local arcade operator that Asteroids Deluxe, the sequel to Asteroids will be released in several months, he enlists his friends to help him sneak into Atari Inc. Headquarters in Sunnyvale CA, so he can play the game before he dies. What follows is a funny, true-to-life story about values, expectations, and just how terrible some sequels can really be.
4. Arc Tangent: In the spirit of Darren Aronofsky‘s movie Pi, an aspiring programmer and video game player becomes overly fascinated with the game Asteroids. At first he just wants to get a high score, but as he keeps playing he can’t stop thinking about the angles. physics and mathematics involved in the simple game. As he grows more and more fascinated, he begins to believe that clues to the meaning of life, the God particle, the Quickening, the Convergence, and more can all be found by playing Asteroids, if he can only get far enough to find them. His obsessions leads him to a thrilling heightened reality, and ultimately to a darker place then he ever imagined possible.
3. Citizen Game Designer: The Ed Logg Story : A Serious bio-pic about the life and times of one of the greatest, mostly un-sung game developers of the 20th Century, Ed Logg. Ed was co-developer of Asteroids, Centipede, Gauntlet, and many other great games throughout his almost 30 year career with for Atari Games. As a bonus, Ed’s story parallels the rise and fall of the coin-op business in America. Both stories would be told in interwoven vignettes, until they fatefully collide at the beginning of the 21st century.
2. American Game : A documentary about a wanna-be game designer in America’s heartland, who has neither the skills, nor the resources to make his own arcade game, but does it anyway. His target is to produce his own version of an Asteroids machine (he pronounces it “Ace-steroids”) , and get it distributed to the local University Student Union. After getting his grandmother to finance the game, he enlists his friends from his high school wood shop and electronics classes to help build the unit, while he works on finding a way to actually program the game. With help from the clerk at the Radio Shack and a local pirate radio DJ , he just might make his dream come true.
1. Hyperspace: A gentle coming-of-age story in the spirit of Stand By Me set to the tune of multiple New Wave classics (I Ran, Melt With You, etc.). Two brothers who rely on video games to escape from their turbulent home life, have fallen in love with the game Asteroids. However, the closest machine is miles away at the supermarket in town. On one fateful summer day, they must dodge bullies, armed-robbers, jocks, the local kid-hating motor cycle patrol officer, and other dangers as they walk towards their goal of playing Asteroids. On the way they have intimate discussions about girls, Star Wars, Evel Knievel, and what it means to live in the cold-war nuclear age. They also find out first-hand that growing-up sometimes means making difficult choices. Wait, just a minute, I think I might have an inspiration for this one: http://www.8bitrocket.com/newsdisplay.aspx?newspage=2164 🙂