In 1979 two movies burst onto the cinema screens which would light a flame under the old ways of film making, burning the rulebook to ash and forging a new path for those that would follow them … and there would be many imitators which would follow. None would equal the ferocity of these seminal classics.
In one, Max Rockatansky would seek vengeance for his murdered wife and child at the hands of the Knight Rider and his band of misfits.
In the other The Armies of the Night would seek wrongful vengeance over The Warriors.
Both would go on to win critical acclaim and gain cult status, they remain as watchable today as they were then.
In Max’ case, there would be numerous sequels and an inevitable reboot minus Mel Gibson after his anti-Jew meltdown left him a pariah to the Hollywood elite, leaving the door open for Tom Hardy to take on the legendary role of The Raggedy Man.
He does it superbly.
The case of The Warriors has always been an odd one, after being such a success at the box office one would have assumed a follow up was inevitable. In today’s world it would have been green-lit after the opening weekend.
Its problem was that it actually brought more than greenbacks, as rival gangs fought in theaters across the U.S, life imitating art in the most astounding fashion, and resulting in multiple casualties and even fatalities.
Fast forward to today and both are as beloved now as they were then. Mad Max is a stick on for another movie and The Warriors is set to be rebooted by The Russo Brothers (helmers of Captain America: Civil War) over at Netflix. It’s about time.
What makes these properties so hot that they are still interesting to audiences today?
The visceral nature, the style in how these movies were presented on screen, it was different from anything before it. There were solid performances from the leads, offbeat and outlandish sc-ifi settings … you could go on and on as to why these movies struck a chord with movie-goers.
There’s also this; both remained in the public eye throughout because they were huge favourites at Comic-Cons, on YouTube and at late night screenings. The advent of social media and the creation of a million memes based on them brought them to whole new audiences … but in between times there would be outings on gaming consoles.
Granted, consoles and movies don’t always go together; there have been numerous failures; the most high profile being that of Super Mario Brothers.
From the casting of Bob Hoskins as Mario, John Leguizamo as Luigi and Dennis Hopper as King Koopa it was clear the creators of the movie had no idea what kind of property they had on their hands and they screwed it up to such a monumental degree that it is generally regarded as one of the biggest flops in movie history.
In 2005 the makers of Grand Theft Auto were given the task of bringing The Warriors back into the public eye, and of giving that movie to a whole new generation of audiences via a computer game. Wary of the backlash that is sometimes attached to game to film and film to game conversions, Rockstar invested time and research in the movie before any code was written. It didn’t hurt that many of the programmers were fans of the movie to start with (The Warriors is a beloved film here in Scotland) and Rockstar were pretty ecstatic to be given the license for such a coveted, and well regarded, title.
This was, to put it mildly, a labour of love.
Rockstar had previous experience in launching high profile games to the public, and as a result they were given carte blanche to create a believable rendition of the world The Warriors inhabited. They did so with gusto. It is an atmospheric title, with a vision that was superbly realised. Having done the research and development required, the programmers set about creating the grimy pre-millennial New York and surrounding boroughs we wouldn’t recognise today but were all too prevalent in the seventies and eighties.
All the gangs were there, represented in high res 3D graphical fidelity, their mannerisms and likeness. The rundown streets, storefronts and alleyways The Warriors would roam were captured to such a stunning degree that no other licensed game has ever come close to matching it.
A story line that preceded the movie by two months and captures all that happened in the lead up The Conclave and that fateful night captured the essence of the movie in such fine detail that you would be forgiven for thinking Walter Hill himself had made the game.
Such was its popularity that it was remastered recently for the PS and Xbox 1.
Fast forward ten years, and now Mad Max has made a triumphant return to the big screen with Fury Road.
While Tom Hardy may not have had the same impact playing The Raggedy Man as Mel Gibson had previously, the movie itself was greater than than the sum of its parts.
A story about a group of disparate characters traversing a one way road in one half of the movie, only to travel back down the same road in the second half of the movie, shouldn’t really work but somehow George Miller (director of such monster action movies as Babe: Pig in the City) pulls in a whole narrative that knocks your socks off and reboots the franchise in such a way that not only is Max credible to movie audiences but he became credible to a gaming audience that may not have known him previously, as Max’ last movie iteration was a couple of generations before even the PlayStation 1.
Max’ debut on the PS4 is nothing less than sensational, a fully rendered post apocalyptic wasteland in the style of a GTA map, with factions divided by made up borders inhabited by all manner of nasty mutated freaks.
A list of tasks and an upgrade system makes the game never less than interesting and an origin story that makes Max world believable rounds off a package that far surpasses anything anyone could come to expect from an age old franchise.
It has been fifty years since the dawn of gaming and in the intervening years, from the start til the present, there haven’t been many licensed games that have stood up to the test of time. I mentioned Mario as an example of a movie made from a game which didn’t come up to snuff, but more often than not the real disasters have been those movies they tried to turn into games. A tremendous documentary, Atari: Game Over, proved that the great myth of the E.T burial grounds (a landfill site in Texas), after Atari went bust, was actually a fact, and it shed light on perhaps the most absurd gaming story of all time.
Atari’s crack designer, having been given just five weeks to produce a game from the licence for Spielberg’s classic, rushed it like crazy to make the 1982 Christmas deadline and spewed out one of the most unforgivable games of all time full of bad graphics, little story and no cohesive angle for players to latch onto it.
This led to an implosion at Atari they never really recovered from, they downsized every department.
Eventually, in the nineties, they attempted two failed comebacks, once with the unfortunate Lynx which was a great piece of kit but it was going up against the juggernaut Game-boy and the less successful Sega Game Gear. Then they tried to crack the console market, and again they had a nice machine in the Jaguar but once more they came up against more robust competition in the Sony PlayStation which by then was dominating the market.
At the time, over here in Blighty,we were being given no better treatment in the licensed games department with the likes of Grange Hill, Eastenders and Auf Weidersen Pet failing to shine, but those games weren’t industry enders.
As movie fans and gamers there isn’t much you have to do to hook us in and there are only two things you have to get right in a licensed product; it has to have a graphical representation of the characters within said property have to be on a par with what was on screen and the story line has to; A) Ape the story shown on screen, B) Continue the story line from the end of the movie or C) Have a completely believable new story line.
Both games had these qualities in abundance. They continued their respective franchise honourably and gave gaming fans a new outlet to enjoy their favourite movies.
That’s the kind of thing that will keep the love of gaming and the love of movies flowing through our veins.
It’s a strong recipe for success.
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