New Director Found for Universal’s ‘Bioshock’

Universal has found a replacement for Gore Verbinski for the big budget adaptation of the Take-Two Interactive videogame Bioshock in the form of 28 Weeks Later helmer Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. John Logan (The Last Samurai, The Aviator) wrote the script.

The Bioshock film was put on temporary hold back in April when the studio and Verbinski set out to find a way to knock a few million off the inflating budget, which was said to have ballooned to about $160 million. Shortly thereafter Verbisnki dropped off as director and remained the film’s producer through his Universal-based Blind Wink production house. Following the budgetary break, Verbinski’s schedule soon became tight due to his upcoming work on the animated feature Rango for Paramount Pictures with Johnny Depp voicing the lead character. Fresnadillo comes as a result of these circumstances.

Of course, Fresnadillo’s assumed involvement may still be premature as Take-Two still maintains director approval. If movie bloggers have their say it appears Peter Sciretta at Slash Film and Alex Billington at First Showing would suggest a different name. Sciretta writes, “With a pool of talented name brand filmmakers hoping to helm such a project (Guillermo del Toro has been outspoken), its amazing that Universal went with Fresnadillo in the end,” while Billington adds, “There is one and only one reason for this – money.” Both see it as a cost-cutting measure, which it probably is, and I would say that the film now appears to have a much smaller scope in mind after having Verbinski attached following his grand success with the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. This obviously doesn’t sit well with a pair of fans of the game and I wonder what Take-Two will think of the new direction.

Of all the upcoming videogame adaptations it seemed the approach to this one was to remain eternally faithful to the game, which may be reason for the high price tag. The game takes place in an underwater city based on the free market principles of Ayn Rand, but things have gone disastrously wrong. Players control a pilot who crash-lands at a secret entrance to the city, called Rapture, and is drawn into a power struggle during which he discovers that his will is not as free as he’d thought.

Early discussions proved they were going for an R-rating with Verbinski (when he was still attached to direct) saying, “We’re prepared to make it an R-rated movie. I don’t intuitively see it as PG-13. The content and the graphic nature of the story itself is smarter than that. It’s not for young kids.

“The utopian references and the way the characters and world are drawn in that delightfully inspired Jules Verne and Ayn Rand style places the film in a more elevated realm. It’s the realm of a graphic novel. It has to have that edge.”

The strangest thing about all the negativity I am reading is the lack of attention paid to the much loved release of District 9 compared to the big budget features from this summer. People see this as a cost-saving move, but I fail to see the problem with that. District 9 was made on shoestring budget and turned out a worthwhile watch. It is obvious, though, a film based on “Bioshock” (at least based on the images and video I have seen) will cost more, but production budgets are sky-rocketing, and perhaps District 9 was part of the reason Universal went with a lesser-known director in an attempt to use his imagination and work ethic to turn out a film with a smaller budget, as well as a satisfying story.

As I have said in the past, I have never played the game and have no idea what to expect. I have seen 28 Weeks Later and didn’t like it one bit. Obviously, that has nothing to do with Bioshock, so we’ll have to wait and see.

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