Why Isn't This A Film? - Bioshock and Bioshock 2

What have we got here then?

Bioshock and its sequel (the cunningly titled, Bioshock 2) are multi-platform, first-person shooter, video games. The first was released initially as an Xbox 360 exclusive in 2007 before moving to other platforms in 2008. The sequel arrived in 2010. Both games were developed by the acclaimed 2K studio.

OK fine. What’s it about?

Both games take place in a world known as Rapture - a dystopia founded by megalomaniac Andrew Ryan at the bottom of the ocean. Ryan's vision was to create an aesthetes dream partially based on the writings of Ayn Rand; a world where artists would not be censured and where scientists would not be constrained by ethics. Inevitably, it all went wrong.

Interesting. Is there something more?

In the first game, your protagonist's plane crashes in the ocean, a few metres from Rapture's entrance, forcing him to take refuge in the city and then to subsequently escape from it. In the second, you play a Delta Series Big Daddy - the huge hulking beasts seen on the cover art - with the aim of reclaiming Eleanor, the girl you used to protect before you were betrayed by the new head of Rapture, Eleanor Lamb.

Save me the trouble then – is it any good?

The first is a bona fide gaming classic, of the type that only comes around once every five or six years. Rapture is unique and the individual levels within it superbly created. It works as a first person shooter, as a genuinely scary horror experience and as a collect-em-up alike RPG. The morals of what takes place during the game are complex and disturbing, the background information is almost endless and the play-length satisfyingly long. It's a joy to spend any sort of time in its company. The second is solid, if less spectacular than the first but hey, when you make a game as good as Bioshock, you can't blame the developers for sticking with a similar experience.


There's nothing wrong with the first game, it is faultless. The second however, has a couple of noticeable problems. Firstly, there's an inexcusable bug, which can render all of the spoken audio (a key part of the game) mute. The only way to fix it seems to be to load your last save, which can be time consuming. Secondly, the levels don't feel as individual as in the first game. Arcadia, Fort Frolic and Apollo Heights all felt like very unique parts of the same world, whereas in Bioshock 2, places like The Adonis Luxury Resort feel like slightly tweaked versions of Dionysus Park. The re-design of the hacking mini-game is also an error.

What are its chances of being made as a film?

As reported by Variety in 2008, the film was all set to go. Gore Verbinski was signed on to direct and the article even talks about how the deal put in place between the publishers and Universal was structured to ensure the project made it to the screen. Sadly, that all now seems to have gone South for the time being. Verbinski has talked since about studio concerns over an R-rating, which is probably half of the story. The other half is the fact that the R-rating in its own right would have cut ticket sales, barring the core-audience of video game films from seeing the film. There's also the problem of Rapture: an underwater metropolis which would have cost millions to recreate. Verbinski had talked up the merits of a green screen creation but still, you're talking a very high budget for what would ostensibly be a R-rated horror film and those sorts of equations just don't add up to large profits for studios (see also: At The Mountains Of Madness and Scott Mendelson's analysis here).

But who'd star in it?

Big Daddies would surely be some sort of animated or motion-captured creation so they're out of this discussion, excluding the near-inevitable involvement of Andy Serkis if you go for the latter. IGN completed a similar casting exercise and went for Anthony Hopkins as Andrew Ryan, which is difficult to argue with once you see the photograph comparison. Jack, the protagonist in the first game, could be anyone but it feels like he's slightly older than the average Hollywood heavyweight (he needs to be a believable father figure); could Mel Gibson pull this sort of thing off still? Perhaps unlikely, but it would be interesting to see him try. Studios love Keanu Reeves in this sort of genre flick with Jon Hamm (who seems to feature in Why Isn't This A Film quite a lot) the thinking man's choice. The little sisters would have been tailor-made for The Fannings had they been a touch younger. They're probably out now but an as-yet-unheard-of sister duo would be a good call. Dr. Tanenbaum, a scientist with a German accent, is made for Famke Janssen, Atlas - a duplicitous Irishman - has Michael Fassbender written all over him, Eleanor Lamb - authoritarian, clipped and intelligent - is Kate Winslett although, with her involvement in a video game adaptation doubtful at best - Malin Ackerman could make a decent reserve.

Will it be any good?

This has the best chance of any video game movie yet to be a success. It's stating the obvious that the project needs a good script but 2K have given budding screenwriters all the material they need and more; there's a huge world here with multi-layered narratives, faceless heroes and diabolical villains. If someone messes this up then someone needs to lose their job.

Anything else I should know about it?

The third game in the series, Bioshock: Infinite, takes the game to another dystopia: a city called Columbia, based high up in the clouds. IGN have the first look at it.

Why Isn't This A Film? is a regular Film Intel feature which takes a book (you know... one of those things with pages in, doesn't project on to a screen, makes small rustling noises), comic, video game or graphic novel and assesses its adaptation prospects. One day this feature will get something right and we will win something major and valuable. Possibly.


  1. I must say this may be the first blog post in history to mention Kate Winslet as a solid casting choice only to follow it up with "Malin Ackerman could make a decent reserve." Congratulations!

    I hope to play these games one day but I'm so behind as games are concerned. I still consider Tetris state of the art.

  2. I aim to innovate!

    Tetris is still state of the art! Although, it might not be the best subject matter for this feature, I must say.

  3. Right with you on the games. I gave away my copy of BIOSHOCK to a friend who had never played it. Every so often, I want to revisit the world, and then I remember I can't. It sucks. Never played the second one though. Too much time spent on MASS EFFECT 2.

    I'm with Verbinski on this one though. If it's made, it has to be R. I mean, did you see Andrew Ryan's death in the first game? No way they could pull that off as effectively with a PG-13!

  4. It's definitely one to go back to. I've played through it twice now (after a gap of about a year) and it's really great to revisit and just absorb the plot and the shocks again. I have MASS EFFECT 2 but haven't started it yet.

    I wonder sometimes whether Verbinski's being a bit disingenuous with his complaining. I imagine they've explored doing it as a PG-13 but how do you fit the little sisters into that plot? You've got a child in peril involved with some sort of needle-drug. I bet they (and he) have looked into it but I don't see anyway round that.