Heralding the coming apocalypse with all of the studio cynicism that only Hollywood can muster, a film adaptation of iPhone game Angry Birds is in the works and looks to be gaining a lot of ill-deserved momentum. The announcement that former Marvel Studios chairman David Maisel has been recruited to guide their prospective movie to greatness has lent what at first seemed like a comically ambitious project some much needed commercial gravitas. Gravitas that looks set to catapult game creators Rovio onto the animated studio scene for some time to come.
Maisel’s reasons for coming to the project include the abjectly ludicrous suggestion of an “emotional connection” between the players and the irate birds with which they spend so much of their time. In his initial statement to the press he focuses heavily on this, with much time devoted to lauding how the connection is experienced worldwide. Never does he mention that last month the game reached 250 million downloads and that subsequently the worldwide market place seems to be throwing money at Rovio’s executives in a grotesque display of the scope of a simple addictive idea. But then again, that would surely be a much too callous approach for such a nuanced, visionary project. Creativity be damned.
During the last few months I have actually played Angry Birds once or twice and whilst it was passingly entertaining (and oddly compulsive) arcade fare I think I emoted about as little as Michael Bay presumably emotes in any situation whatsoever. Why are the birds so angry you may ask. Well, apparently a group of evil pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs and so they exact revenge in the only way they know how; by slingshotting themselves into numerous precariously built structures in which these pigs seem to reside in splendid isolation. So far so facile.
But isn’t that the point? Angry Birds (no matter how many casual adult players it ensnares) is primarily aimed at children and as such the virtues of a film adaptation are surely lost on a young adult such as myself. Well that may be so, but it still leaves the fact that Rovio are seeking to win a commercial film hit based solely on their humongous player base. No one could legitimately say that the game is begging to be transferred to a narrative driven medium, no matter how much they empathise with the plight of their pixellated feathered friends.
It is indeed telling that their largest step to success as of yet is the hiring of a man who managed to secure $525 million to help push Marvel’s film division into the big leagues. Rovio are making a bid to become the next Pixar, just without the creative genius and presumably lacking any semblance of pride in their final product that isn’t prefixed by a dollar sign. Who knows, Angry Birds could turn out to be the next Toy Story and Rovio CEO Mikael Hed the next John Lassiter. Ok, all of this is about as likely as Lassiter actually helming this project, but the fact remains that since there isn’t actually any characterisation, storyline or plot beyond the egg revenge framing device, the film has the potential for pretty much anything.
However, all of this talk of finance and commercial success seems to be indicative of the hollowly commercial stance that everyone involved seems to be taking. Not in any of the press releases or interviews that I have read has a script, director or any creative input of any kind been even mentioned in passing. I know it would be generally accurate to say that children are easily pleased, but surely they deserve better than this.