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We Don’t Need a BIOSHOCK Movie, Thanks to WESTWORLD

We Don’t Need a BIOSHOCK Movie, Thanks to WESTWORLD

Editor’s Note: this is a spoiler-heavy post, both for HBO’s Westworld adaptation and the entire Bioshock video game franchise as a whole. Obviously, obviously, obviously stay away if you don’t want anything ruined!

Like many of you, would kindly love see Bioshock up on the big screen. It’s an elaborately detailed and beautiful world set in an impossible location and filled with characters that are thin stand-ins for much bigger political and economic concepts. It’s like a college term paper but with more people bursting into flames, which is okay, because they’re often SUPER racist. You get what I’m saying: The Perfect Movie.

The Bioshock movie found its way into production at Universal Studios a few years back, under the title Rapture Rising (this was the first time I realized that maybe Bioshock is a meaningless term to people who needn’t connect it to the System Shock universe). Unfortunately, a hefty production cost, shifting directors, and a focus on doing an R rating wound up sinking the shoot.

Then we got Westworld.

westworld-dolores-gif

Much has been written about how the creators of Westworld went to Bioshock’s creator Ken Levine for advice about creating a video game world — including how to manage NPC’s on such a large scale — but in the final few episodes of the series, it becomes obvious that they borrowed much more than that.

The character of Bernard is forced at one point to murder a character he loves, and then later to murder himself, all while his master reminds him that he has no control over his choices and that he can forgive himself when he makes piece with that. For anyone who ever went golfing with Andrew Ryan, the comparison seemed obvious.

A man chooses. A slave obeys.

But later, Westworld also asked the Bernard character to reconcile his identity versus the identity of a character he thought he was pursuing through time and memory. This engineer, who is also a person of color, must then face the difficult realization that he is the same person whose footsteps he’s been walking in.

Minerva’s Den from Bioshock 2 hinges on an ending twist that C.M. Porter, an engineer of color whom you’ve been pursuing the entire game, is actually you. In back to back weeks, HBO’s show seemed to be directly re-purposing the clever devices that made this game series such an incredible hallmark of interactive storytelling.

I went into the season finale prepared for Bioshock Infinite to be mined for similar effect, especially since Dolores was dressed almost identically to Elizabeth from that game. Luckily, we mostly dodged the bullet there, but the damage / effect of this is impossible to take back. Because it would be impossible to make a Bioshock movie now without audiences comparing it unfavorably against the most watched TV show of the year. For better or worse, most of the gaming series’ best hands have already been played on such a large scale, that it effectively dooms any further adaptation.

Now, is that the worst thing? Absolutely not. To me, this seems reminiscent of the changed twist in Zack Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen where the big ending was changed but the ideas were effectively communicated to the audience, albeit in a greatly altered format. In many ways, the Westworld adaptation of Ken Levine’s ideas is actually a better fit than an actual film, since the season long television format allowed for the kind of world/character building on a time frame more comparable to a AAA gaming experience instead of a compact 100 minute version of the same thing.

Point being, when you step back and take a look at what Westworld has accomplished in storytelling about fate, and gods, and awareness, the checklist is pretty complete. Between the bridges burned for non-fan audiences now and the deep-dive that the Nolans accomplished in only ten episodes, it seems like making a Bioshock film at this point would only serve to be redundant, unless you really need to see men shoot bees out of their hands.

What do you think? Does Westworld scratch your itch for the entertainment version of the weird philosophical nightmares that Bioshock dabbled in? Or do you still really want to see the sunken city up on screen? Sound off in the comments.

Images: Irrational Games

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