Hideo Bruckheimer

Hideo Bruckheimer
Paul W.S. Anderson: Not as Bad as Uwe Boll

Graeme Virtue | 31 Mar 2009 11:46
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While other movie directors may peddle low-rent adaptations of videogames to fringe audiences, Paul William Scott Anderson has taken game-inspired movies directly to the mainstream. The U.K.-born filmmaker has midwifed various money spinning projects - most notably the Resident Evil franchise - as writer, director and, increasingly, producer. Even if hardcore fans don't always appreciate his efforts, he certainly talks the talk. Promoting his most recent film, Death Race, the 44-year-old said, "I think videogames are a valid form of entertainment just as much as books and theater to adapt into films."

But has he been doing it for the love of the original medium? Or has he just cunningly co-opted a huge wellspring of content and off-the-peg characters to exploit for his own ends? After queuing up with other faithful fans to see all of Anderson's videogame-related movies back when they were originally released, my gut feeling was that he was a hack. I thought W.S. was a load of B.S.

Then two things occurred to me that made me re-examine my position: 1) At a time when every other producer in Hollywood is frantically snatching up the rights to comic book properties, Anderson has remained faithful to games, prepping a fourth Resident Evil installment and enthusiastically talking up his whip-crackin' vision of Castlevania on the big screen. Surely that loyalty counts for something? And 2) The critical and commercial success of EA's Dead Space. The idea that a videogame could so cheekily fillet the hellacious look and unsettling tone of one of Anderson's rare non-game movies - in this case, the deep space chiller Event Horizon - tickled me immensely. Now, presumably, Anderson knows how it feels to have something he cared about be appropriated by another medium.

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In order to reassess Anderson's body of work, I arranged to watch all of his videogame-related movies in one intense session - a sort of survival-horror gauntlet, but with popcorn instead of green and red herbs. My inner film snob - the voice that thinks it's genuinely hilarious that Anderson has retroactively added the middle initials "W.S." to his work to ensure no one confuses him with Wes Anderson or Paul Thomas Anderson - would scrutinize the films for recurring themes or notable stylistic motifs. My inner games freak - the part of me that craves finishing moves and game-related Easter eggs - could monitor his devotion to the cause, all in a bid to answer a single question: Is Paul W.S. Anderson one of "us" (a genuine videogame-lover with the keys to the movie kingdom) or one of "them" (a venal Hollywood hack looking to make a quick buck)?

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