Filmmaker Albert Hughes Reveals Why He's Exploring the Video Game World of 'Crysis 3' (Q&A)
When "Motor City" stalled, the director turned to Electronic Arts and game developer Crytek to helm an original web series.
Albert Hughes was all set to film his dream movie, Motor City, when the plug was pulled. So the director decided to explore the video game world for the first time. Hughes has been working with Electronic Arts and developer Crytek, helming a new short video series, The 7 Wonders of Crysis 3.
The director has utilized CryEngine 3 technology to essentially create seven cinematic shorts that explore the upcoming shooter’s seven interactive worlds. The February 2013 release for PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 is set in a future New York City, which has a giant nanodome covering it. Gone are the streets of Gotham and in its place is a veritable urban rain forest complete with swamps, fields and canyons. Hughes talks about how he approached this project and offers his thoughts on how far gaming technology has come in this exclusive interview.
The Hollywood Reporter: Can you talk about The 7 Wonders of Crysis 3 and what gamers will be experiencing with this web series?
Albert Hughes: I hate to use this analogy, but it’s like when you see good 3D. When it’s really done well, you’re immersed in the world. That’s what I took from Crysis 3 when I saw what they were doing over there. You just feel like you’re in there and it’s a real world and you’ll able to move everywhere. There are no limitations to your point-of-view, and that’s mostly what amazed me because I’ve seen first-person shooter games all my life, just like everybody else. I’ve seen amazing graphics from the past, but nothing on this level. Also, these environments are so rich and lush with this overgrown rain forest inside of a future New York. The challenge was to do this series of shorts and let the audience know what the first-person view looks like in reality. We’re not doctoring anything up. It’s like what you see in the first-person can actually happen in the game. The third-person is more cinematic, so that was the real challenge of melding those two styles together. But when I saw the world, I realized there was an abundance of riches here to use.
THR: What are your thoughts as a filmmaker on the potential for a Crysis Hollywood movie?
Hughes: It’s like any kind of translation -- sometimes the movie inspires a video game and most likely it’s vice versa. To me, it doesn’t matter what the source is as long as the scripts are good and it’s a great story, it’s going to work. If it’s not handled well, whether it’s Super Mario Bros. or Crysis 3, it’s not going to work well. They have a very complex storyline in this game. The script was the first thing they sent me. I had to read it three or four times, and some of this I didn’t pick up on because you have to know the jargon of the game and the world. The developers are so close to the game that they know it inside and out. I think even fans, when they come into it, there’s a learning curve that takes place. It takes a while to get what’s going on with technology and the terminology and things like that because it’s so dense. In the end if I were to make a Crysis 3 movie, I think it’s great material to start from. Basically, it’s all about the writer, but that’s the next page.
THR: Electronic Arts has been busy with video game movies like Need for Speed and Dead Space. Why do you think so many past video game movies haven’t translated well?
Hughes: You’ve also seen comic book movies not translate well, like Green Lantern. And you’ve seen Battleship, which was a board game, not translate so well. If it’s done really well, it doesn’t matter the source. Of course, Hollywood is going to clamor to the video games because games now are grossing more than movies. They think, "Hey, we have a built-in audience here, and everybody already knows the title. It’s a brand, let’s exploit it." There’s nothing wrong with that. What gets to be wrong with it is that they rush it, thinking that if they spend $150 or $200 million on something, they’re going to make $500 million or a billion back worldwide. And that’s not really the way to go. I don’t know how I feel about it because everything is changing so much in Hollywood. It’s like everything is a tentpole, so it’s a very weird time right now, and they’re clamoring for anything familiar. They’re not about what they used to be about, which was trying to get original material. That bodes well for the people out there that do want to make movies out of video games.
THR: We’re starting to see more video game web series, with Mortal Kombat and Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn. What are your thoughts about web series as a new form of creative entertainment?
Hughes: Any kind of entertainment is a good thing, if it’s done well. It doesn’t matter the medium to me. I’m at a film festival right now, and this woman was having this big debate with me about kids watching movies on iPhones and iPads instead of in a theater. I said, "We have no control over that. That’s that generation." It’s just like the generation that’s watching web episodes on the computers. You have to now design for the audience. If it’s a good story, it’s always going to show through. I’m at a cinematography festival, and cinematographers don’t want to hear that. I’m sure that the people who do all the great work over at Crytek that put all that effort into the detail of a game like Crysis 3 want it seen in a proper format on a big HD screen at home. These web series are great, and these computers are amazing nowadays. You can get HD quality on your computer screen, but it’s not like a full-blown cinema screen. In the end it doesn’t matter the format, whether it’s short-form or long-form or web-based or iPhone or iPad. If it’s a good story, that’s all that matters.