A decade after Ken Levine personally pulled the plug on Gore Verbinski’s grand ambitions, the wheels are once again turning on a BioShock movie. Netflix announced today that it’s signed a deal with Take-Two Interactive “to produce a film adaptation of the renowned video game franchise.”
“Netflix is among the best and most forward-thinking storytellers in all of entertainment today,” Take-Two CEO Strauss Zelnick said. “We are thrilled that they share our vision and commitment to the BioShock franchise, which is beloved by millions of fans around the world. 2K’s Cloud Chamber studio is deep in active development on the next iteration of the series, and coupled with our partnership with Netflix, we remain highly confident that BioShock will continue to captivate and engage audiences like never before.”
Would you kindly…get excited because Netflix is partnering with 2K and Take-Two Interactive to produce a film adaptation of the renowned video game franchise BIOSHOCK! pic.twitter.com/lUqfaNlbc4February 15, 2022
The deal between Netflix and Take-Two has been in the works for almost a year, according to The Hollywood Reporter, although at this point there’s still no writer or director signed to take the project. There’s also no indication as to whether Levine, the creative director on BioShock and BioShock Infinite, will be involved in the project in any capacity.
As to what part of the franchise is being adapted, that wasn’t revealed either. It could be a retelling of the original game, a prequel or sequel, a tie-in to BioShock Infinite or the new game (BioShock 4 is in the works at 2K, in case you hadn’t heard), or something entirely new—remember, after all, that the possibilities are virtually infinite. There’s always a lighthouse.
“There’s always a lighthouse. There’s always a man. There’s always a city.” Here’s to one of many this #NationalLighthouseDay. pic.twitter.com/PkrraFHaSJAugust 7, 2018
There’s plenty for filmmakers to work with in the established canon—the big New Year’s Eve party of 1958 that precipitated the downfall of Rapture is one obvious option—but whatever direction it ultimately takes, I think it’s unlikely that Netflix would sign up to make a BioShock film that isn’t recognizably BioShock in all the obvious ways: Big Daddies, Little Sisters, Art Deco opulence, corruption, and some lightweight philosophizing about the nature of life and liberty and stuff. The recent fan-made short “The Interrogation of Timmy H” illustrates the perils of omitting those trappings: It’s well made, but if you didn’t know up front that it’s a BioShock film, there’s no way you’d be able to tell—it comes off more like a slice of an overly damp Raymond Chandler knockoff.
The good news for BioShock fans is that we can reasonably expect Netflix to go all-in on making it work. As we noted at the end of 2021, the curse of crappy Hollywood videogame adaptations has finally been broken, and we mostly have Netflix to thank.