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If audiences aren’t familiar with Michael J. Bassett, they won’t be able to avoid him soon. After an extended delay, Bassett’s adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s Solomon Kane arrives in theaters September 28, and is quickly followed by not one but two other projects: Strike Back, a television series for Cinemax, and Silent Hill: Revelation 3D, the second film in a series of video game adaptations.
Following presentations for Silent Hill and Solomon Kane at Comic-Con in San Diego, Bassett spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about his work on the upcoming video game adaptation. In addition to reflecting on the mixed success of past video game adaptations, he offered insights about what will set his film apart from its predecessor.
The Hollywood Reporter: What do you think video game adaptations lack that is necessary for them to connect with audiences?
Michael J. Bassett: Story, story, story, character, character, story, character. I mean, it’s the only reason you go to watch a movie. You don’t remember how big the explosion is later, but you remember the moment Bruce Willis said “Yippie ki-yay mother—er,” because you remember the context of the character doing that thing — or, Rutger Hauer’s incredible speech at the top of the building at the end of Blade Runner. Those are the things you remember. The visual wraparound is amazing, but your takeaway from a movie is always how you resonate with the characters. And nobody’s seen Silent Hill yet so it may be to the contrary, but what I wanted to do was give you the story of a girl that you relate to and understand within the environment of the computer game mythology and the landscape that’s been created for it.
I suspect as video games are getting better, and they’re getting better written and better directed, the synthesis of the two is going to be so sort of flawless that you won’t be able to tell where one begins and the other one ends. I mean, if you place Dead Space, which is a fantastic game and you have these animated movies that go with it as well, the movies let the game down. So it’s the other way around. Or like God of War; if I, please, got a chance to make a God of War movie, how the hell do you better the graphics there? I mean, even the performance of the character is pretty good. But it’s hard for the film business and Hollywood in general to take a game and make something better than the game – because they’re an incredible, immersive way to experience adventure.
THR: With Silent Hill, there was a mixed reception to the first film.
Bassett: There’s always mixed reception to every movie – I mean, unless you made The Dark Knight.
THR: Is it freeing that some people were lukewarm about the first film, or does that put more pressure on you to deliver a great follow-up?
Bassett: No, I think you’ve got to raise the game. You’ve got to make a sequel that’s better than the original – that’s the point, that you’ve learned from what was good and what was bad. And with Silent Hill, I brought back quite a lot of the team from the first one from the bits that I liked. I think the film is artistically very successful; I think it’s not so narratively successful. The story trades so much on the arcane mythology of the games that perhaps the mainstream audience didn’t get it. I wanted to make a movie that was more scary, more intense, and the 3D element, though obviously it’s a gimmicky thing now, when you’re doing a computer game adaptation and you’ve shot it in 3D – no post-conversion, we had the cameras on the set and we did the thing – when you’re trying to draw the audience into this alternate world, it really is a fantastic tool to have at your disposal for that. I can reach out to you, and I can also draw you in a little bit. So it was kind of a fun experience to play with this technology.
How long it stays around is anybody’s guess these days in the same way that I’m very much looking forward to the 48 frames per second that Peter Jackson is working on. Because on paper that’s going to work, but aesthetically, are people going to respond to it? And I don’t know; mostly I’m just a fan and I want to see what they’re doing. With Silent Hill, I was a gamer – I played the games, and it was an opportunity for me to go, “dude, I’m going to make a computer game adaptation.” So I’m a sequel, an adaptation and a standalone movie, and that’s the tricky thing to balance.
THR: Is there an advantage in having two movies released effectively simultaneously?
Bassett: I will only be able to answer that question after that release has happened, but yeah, it’s interesting – because of the delay of the release of Kane over here, and the fact the bulk of the industry that makes these kinds of movies is in the U.S., they’re saying, “let’s wait for the movie to come out before we talk to Michael about whatever.” And the fact that I’ve got two movies coming out within, I think, four weeks of each other, and they’re both different movies – one is a huge wide release at Halloween in 3D that’s an adaptation of a computer game, and the other one is this kind of slightly classical, measured adaptation of literary piece of pop fiction. They will be able to choose which bit of me you like. And the very bizarre thing is that I’ve just been shooting a Cinemax/ HBO TV show called Strike Back which has guns and blowing stuff up. It’s about a Special Forces operative, which is enormous fun to do, and that actually gets broadcast in between the two movie releases –- so you’re not going to be able to get away from me.
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