So, here's the news: Deadline is reporting that production company Emmett/Furla/Oasis Films has signed a deal with the intellectual property licensing entity known as Atari to make movies based off of Centipede and Missile Command. The deal has just been signed, so there's no writers and certainly no directors involved at this point, and who knows if these movies will even end up happening. But if you were the kind of person joking that with all of the video game adaptations headed to the big screen, that it was only a matter of time before Pong: The Movie happened... well, you're almost there.
Your first instinct after hearing this news may be to flip a table, or talk about how lame Hollywood is. Flipping tables is fun, and Hollywood is often lame, but believe it or not, I'm actually relatively chill when it comes to the whole topic of companies co-opting every possible brand they can in the interest of gaining some sort of edge on opening weekend. Just yesterday I was talking to a filmmaker about how all the hand-wringing about "video game movies" in general was nonsense, because good stories and characters can be found anywhere. Uncharted — sure! Assassin's Creed — totally! Warcraft - story for days! (Actually years, but you get the idea.) At a certain point, it's just one art form bleeding over into another, like novels and comic books have been doing for decades.
A well-known brand could be the difference between production and development hell
But this is different, you might be saying. There is no story in Centipede, and there are no characters in Missile Command. And you're right. Like Battleship before it, these are simply brands, with only the thin tissue of nostalgia keeping them tied to our collective cultural consciousness. A connection that even aging Gen X'ers like myself will admit means pretty much nothing when it comes to a film or TV adaptation. (We're the ones that had to live through the Pac-Man cartoon back in the '80s, remember?) It's the cynicism of the modern movie industry writ large, but even that isn't as rage-inducing and ridiculous as it may seem.
Because at the end of the day, all of these brands are shortcuts to something magical: the green light go-ahead to actually make a movie. That well-known title could be the different between development hell and going into production, because an executive somewhere feels that pre-existing awareness will be a strong enough excuse to save their job should something not perform. And if people can work that system — if some young filmmaker has a cool idea that can be housed under the name Centipede or Missile Command, and they get a shot to make their movie — hell, I'm all for that. It's really no different than someone getting a chance because their script managed to attract the interest of a well-known actor that's willing to take a risk and a pay cut.
And seriously, just think what it will take to turn Centipede or Missile Command into a movie. If a writer or director can pull that off, they're probably the most creative person on the planet — and that's somebody that should be making movies. Unless, of course, it actually does turn out like Battleship.
Then burn the whole thing down.