How a GRAND THEFT AUTO Movie Could Work

 

Grand Theft Auto V made a billion dollars in three days.

Holy crap, guys.

Why haven’t they made a movie out of this franchise yet? Primarily it consists of Rockstar’s reluctance to make a movie out of its most famous property when so many other video game movies have failed spectacularly. Understandable, but a film with intense action and a heavy wallop of satire is exactly what the film industry needs.

Financially, it’s one of the surest things out there. It’ll make money the same way the games did: by being the most controversial kid on the corner. These games sell like hotcakes, so will a movie based off of the games.

Consider the fact that Grand Theft Auto is heavily inspired by films to begin with, and its masterminds Sam and Dan Houser have a heavy role in creating the game. Making a movie based off a game that combines the best of Hollywood is another sure thing.

Add in the fact that the characterization has always been great and the characters themselves have always been memorable, and that makes a movie set in this world one I’d very much like to see.

How will this movie work? This is my attempt to figure that out for myself, and for anyone reading this.

Make an Adaptation of Grand Theft Auto V

I’ve already played the game itself, and it’s already my favorite of the series. That’s not to say that CJ from San Andreas and everyone’s favorite vaguely Eastern European gangster Niko Bellic aren’t great characters on their own, but the most recent game has the most compacted story. Generally, the games consist of a series of disjointed missions with vague connections to each other, which is entirely forgivable in a video game but not in the streamlined world of film. Michael De Santo, Franklin Clinton and Trevor Phillips all have a primary goal, and their goals are united, making for a film that would get straight to the point. This is the ultimate Grand Theft Auto story as of the present moment. Until the sixth game, with every main character from every game being playable.

Center the Movie Around The Heists, But Don’t Forget The Characters

Jason Voorhees, Ghost Rider and a monkey walk out of a bar…

The heists in Grand Theft Auto V were easily the most fun out of the oodles of stuff to do. Switching between the characters on the fly, collecting the right people for the job, and being constantly chased by police made it some of the most thrilling experiences I’ve ever had playing a game. For reference, I’ve only owned the game for a few days. Centering the movie around the heists and the greed of the three main characters, and mostly ignoring the side quests, is the way to go here. Not to say that taking pictures of celebrities and towing cars wasn’t fun, but it was separate from the main experience.

Getting into that any more would spoil the game for anyone who hasn’t played it yet. But the main story itself flows in a perfect way for a film adaptation.

 

The Main Character Has to Be Michael

Although all three characters have equal billing in the game, it’s primarily Michael’s story. Despite being the most cliched of the three, he distinguishes himself from the other two by being a ruthless criminal who’s fallen behind the times, no longer understanding how modern crime works. His desperation to connect with his stuck up family and survive the various obstacles thrown at him makes him the easiest to relate to.

This isn’t to say that Franklin’s quest to find his identity and Trevor’s pure animal malice are less important. But Michael has the most emotional story, which will give the film a push over its mostly brainless counterparts.

 

There MUST be Satire

Simon Cowell’s gonna be so pissed.

What distinguishes Grand Theft Auto from every other gangster movie or game out there is its insistence on brutally making fun of every aspect of American life. It’s a game in which no one can lie, and therefore you have celebrities openly admitting how awful they are and politicians not even trying to hide their agendas from the public. The intense violence of the games would be even more controversial without this crucial element. Michael, Franklin and Trevor, much like every other character, wants the American Dream, and so does every character in the game. There needs to be a lot of dark humor in this game, or else it’s going to be needlessly violent. It needs to be the gangster version of The Cabin in the Woods.

 

Eliminate All the Needless Misogyny

The single giant flaw with the game is how badly it treats women. The series has always gotten flack for portraying women as strippers and prostitutes only, but Grand Theft Auto V actually gets worse by not having a single redeemable female character. This needs to go if the film wants to truly become more than yet another dumb summer popcorn flick  (we’re looking at you, Star Trek Into Darkness). While Michael’s family is somewhat justified in the fact that along with his cheating wife and his fame-obsessed daughter, he’s got a son who’s twice as repulsive as the other two put together, other female characters like a radical feminist neighbor or a federal agent who tortures Arabs for no reason (not a spoiler) need to not appear in the film. This isn’t the best solution, since it still has the film fail the Bechdel test bigtime, but it’s a start. Of course, modern Hollywood’s definition of a feminist character is any woman who’s got a bow and arrow (hello there, Brave), so maybe that’s the wrong way to go.

I’d like to defend Rockstar a little by presenting  its western video game Red Dead Redemption as the sole video game to not have this issue. It’s interesting why they haven’t replicated that with the new game.

 

Have Dan Houser Write the Script 

He’s not the only writer of the games, but as far as I’m concerned, there’s no one better at nailing just the right tone for the movie than the guy who’s been writing the games for years. Even better, his video game scripts are film worthy, and he clearly understands how a screenplay works. If writers from BioWare can be given movie deals, then so can Dan.

Author
Palmer Rubin is a filmmaker. But he's also a journalist, and while he's making his movies, he's also writing about pop culture and stuff on everyone's favorite website. He's a lucky boy, he is.