Look, I can’t be unbiased when it comes to Mega Man.
As I told the story in the introduction to my Disneymoon posts, the Blue Bomber is woven into the fabric of my life to an incredible degree. More than just a fond memory from my childhood, it’s quite literally the reason I met my wife. I discovered a passion for writing by scribbling hundreds of hand written pages to a Mega Man novel in junior high(which I actually sent to my wife when we were still half a country apart, with specific instructions to not read it, lest she lose all respect for me). And when I dreamed of graduating film school and becoming a director, a Mega Man film was my dream project.
Now someone else is getting the chance and I can’t lie, I’m nervous but also incredibly excited.
It doesn’t seem to be a common opinion, at least not in the community of Mega Man fans. Despite the news of a film, a television show, a game co-starring Mega Man X and one of the most successful franchises in history and a virtual tsunami of new merchandise, the lack of a new video game has been a source of great frustration.
It’s also no secret that film adaptations of video games have been less than stellar. From the bizarre dystopia of Super Mario Bros to multiple failed Street Fighter films, there have been enough flops to fill a Los Angeles Clippers highlight reel(sorry, that was the Thunder fan in me talking). There have been few commercial hits, and a quick glance through Rotten Tomatoes suggests artistic success is even more elusive. Mega Man’s not just fighting against Dr. Wily, but a virtual expectation the film won’t be good.
However, I don’t think fans should despair yet. In fact, I’ve got a couple of reasons to be optimistic and yes, even excited over this film.
The involvement of Chernin Entertainment Group. Founded in 2010, CEG has produced a handful of films under the guidance of its CEO and namesake, Peter Chernin. By and large, those films have been of tremendous quality, including last year’s Best Picture nominee, Hidden Figures. But perhaps most notable to Mega Man fans should be their involvement with the highly successful reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise. Expectations for the reboot were relatively low, but they have shepherded the films to critical acclaim and there’s early buzz for War for the Planet of the Apes as a possible Best Picture nominee as well.
Fox has been after these rights for a long time. According to the Hollywood Reporter article that broke the news, Fox has been pursuing the rights for at least two years, and quite possibly longer, as Fox originally registered the megaman-movie.com domain at the end of 2014. It suggests the studio is really serious about the franchise and will treat it with care. It’s worth noting here that Mega Man is part of an expansive universe that includes a number of spinoff properties. While it’s far too soon to start talking about a Mega Man Cinematic Universe, it’s hard to deny that might well appeal to Fox.
Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman are an intriguing choice to helm the film. While people have loved to tout the connection of Joost and Schulman to Catfish(a film, it’s worth noting, that boasts an 80% score on Rotten Tomatoes) or their work on the Paranormal Activity franchise, there’s some great precedent for giving up and coming directors a shot at a potential franchise starter. Marvel Studios has had tremendous luck with directors like Jon Favreau, the Russo Brothers and Jon Watts, who had never directed major tentpole films prior to their MCU assignments.
Before I sat down to write this, I watched one of the duo’s last films, 2016’s Nerve. It’s a pretty entertaining film, particularly impressive when you consider the film’s reported budget of $15 million. The film’s visually interesting and shows that the pair have the chops to direct the sort of action Mega Man would call for. The film’s visual style and unique direction feels like a solid fit for bringing the world of the video games to life. While they didn’t write the screenplay for this particular film, I finished the movie really excited to see how their take on the Blue Bomber will look.
Joost, Schulman and producer Masi Oka are the right age to have grown up playing the games. One of the biggest factors in the success of an adaptation is a passion from the creative team for the material. While there haven’t been any official statements yet from any of the team, it’s worth pointing out that Joost and Schulman are both in their thirties, and Heroes star Masi Oka, who is attached as a producer, is 42. That means they grew up in the NES era, and quite possibly played the original games. Joost’s first comments on Instagram included the promise “we will make you proud,” which suggest he’s aware of the responsibility they’re taking on. Either way, there’s reason to think this will be truer to the source material than the R-rated Mega Man film producer Adi Shankar proposed(even though he’s not involved with the project), and that’s a good thing in my book.
It’s going to be good for the Mega Man brand, no matter what. For the past couple of years, there has been a trend to refer to Mega Man as a “dead brand” given there’s been no announcement of a new game beyond the Legacy Collection compilations of the original games. However, with both a television series and movie coming(along with a new toyline from Jakks Pacific), it would be foolish for Capcom to not capitalize by releasing a new game. For fans of merchandise, it will be even more plentiful than it is now… and given Mega Man merchandise is already showing up in stores like Walmart, Target and Toys R Us, it’s already started.
Even in a worse case scenario for fans who don’t like the movies, it’s a potential revenue stream that will allow Capcom to take more chances with the brand. You need look no further than Hasbro for an example. It’s hard to imagine the company releasing the highly detailed Masterpiece figures in the United States, or tackling the risking proposition of producing multiple toys priced at over one hundred dollars, without the revenue steam the films provided. Simply put: If you want new Mega Man games, then you should be hopeful this film will succeed.
Past failures have no impact on the movie. While Mega Man might be facing an uphill battle for commercial and critical success, there’s a simple solution: The production team needs to make a good movie that both honors the games yet appeals to a wider audience.
…okay, that’s not a simple task by any stretch of the imagination. But the failures of past video game films won’t impede this film’s success. Prior to the first X-Men and Spider-Man films, Marvel’s track record on the big screen was abysmal. Just this year, Wonder Woman proved the “conventional wisdom” that a female-led super hero film would be a tough sell wasn’t true. Look to Planet of the Apes for that matter. There was very little buzz over Rise of the Planet of the Apes when it was first announced. It’s now a commercial and critical smash. Expectations can be difficult to overcome, but they’ll mean very little if Joost and Schulman produce a solid film.
A lot of things could happen between now and a potential release date. Joost and Schulman could walk. The film could get stuck in development hell. There could be issues with casting or locking down locations or problems with any of the hundreds of factors that need to come together to make a film reality. But it’s worth pointing out that no one sets out to make a bad movie, and we should withhold judgment until we get more details. There are probably still a few entertainment sites that regret the headline “Send in the B Team!” when Marvel announced they were turning Iron Man and Thor into films.
For me, I’ve wanted to see this almost since I first put the rented Mega Man 2 cartridge into my NES all those years ago. The mere fact that, in a few years I’ll get to walk into a theater, see the lights dim and the title Mega Man to appear on the big screen, and that’s exciting to me. I could rattle off my hopes for the movie… I’d love for them to stick to the first six Robot Masters in the first film, I hope Dr. Wily gets developed beyond the mere mad scientist stereotype and I’d like them to find a bigger role for… um… Roll.
But the film’s as much about expanding the Mega Man brand and finding a new audience as it is about satisfying long time fans. The characters will undoubtedly look different and there will be changes from what we’re used to. We still don’t even know if the movie will focus on the classic character, opt to adapt one of the spinoffs or create a fusion of several different universes. But no matter what, I’m looking forward to the journey.
And one final note.. this is the Mega Man adaptation I grew up with:
They’re going to have to work really hard to disappoint me more than that.