No, Says The Man In Hollywood: Axed BioShock Movie Art

BioShock could have made a wonderful movie. But realistically it would never been a wonderful movie, even if plans for a Gore Verbinski-helmed adaptation of the Irrational’s opus hadn’t been abandoned. It could only have been an overload of CGI that sacrificed depth and tone for a visual onslaught. I’m sure of that, and I’m glad the movie didn’t happen. But the real reason it didn’t is that backers Universal were spooked by the commercial limpness of the Watchmen adaptation, taking it as a sign that there wasn’t enough of an audience for an R-rated sci-fi movie at the kind of budget Verbsinki demanded; he then wouldn’t agree to a much a lower one. A later attempt at a cheaper movie by 28 Weeks Later director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo was nixed by Ken Levine, who told Eurogamer that “I didn’t really see the match there.”

The movie did at least make it to concept art stage, a few examples of which have recently emerged, and depict new areas of Rapture planned for the big screen.

The images by concept artist Jim Martin (whose portfolio also includes assorted Matrix, Pirates of the Caribbean, Riddick and Star Trek instalments) shows both familiar and novel views of Andrew Ryan’s doomed attempt at an undersea utopia, and broadly speaking suggests a more imposing and sombre take on Rapture.

Whether any of this would ever have been made cinematic flesh is unknown, but glimpses of the construction work and foundations beneath the city are fascinating to see, as are hints of a more inhabited city. The shot atop this post implies an increased focus on horror too, plus more of a look on how Big Daddies are made and maintained.

There’s much more on Martin’s site – no big reveals, but certainly a sad sense of what might have been.


  1. CookPassBabtridge says:

    What’s wrong with writing a nice book? People sometimes read books.

    • Turkey says:

      Books are rad.

    • wazups2x says:

      There’s already a book. I would have loved a movie.

    • pack.wolf says:

      If video game books only weren’t as bad as video game movies…

      • taalas says:

        Read the Myst books and be amazed…

        • boyspud says:

          Oh no, I’m not falling for that again. It took me six weeks to get out of the last Myst book I opened. Theres very little food in those places!

      • SillyWizard says:

        “If writing in video game books only weren’t as bad as in video games…”


    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      They could make a really good book, that people read and go “Ooh, now that is a really good book”. Then a man in Hollywood might go “Do you know what Stephen? I think we should make a movie of that book which is a book of a game but we shall make it about the book which is good”.

      And then a movie that is not shit will be made about a book which is about a game which is about a book with a man who has like a big globe on his back and after which many 1980’s companies named themselves including the wonderful Galt toys I presume.

    • Lone Gunman says:

      What you need is the game to be based off of a book.

      • CookPassBabtridge says:

        Right I’m off to look up a country in some form of paper compendium of countries.

        With a man called Charles. Charles Something.

  2. elmuerte says:

    The art gives off a Dark City vibe.

  3. timocracy says:

    I wonder why they felt that had to commission concept art significantly less exciting than the original Bioshock video game stuff?

    Hes clearly been told to go for something muted and washed out but for me rapture is glorious Technicolor and dizzying contrast (in colour palette and character). Glad it didn’t go ahead.

    • Xocrates says:

      Yeah, this looks seriously washed out (har har) doesn’t it?

      It looks a lot more fitting for something along the lines of 1984 under the sea as opposed to the decadent excess of Bioshock.

  4. MajorManiac says:


  5. SanguineAngel says:

    Hey, new found respect for Ken Levine

  6. Artea says:

    The Bioshock universe always felt like an incoherent mess to me, favoring cool superpowers and laughably simplistic moral dilemma’s over anything of substance.

    Now, a System Shock movie on the other hand…

  7. Syme says:

    I think a drama following the lives of various characters in pre-fall Rapture would have been far more interesting. Kind of like Boardwalk Empire set against a pretty underwater backdrop. Trying to make a straight adaption of the game would be a fools errand.

    I also have an idea for a Bioshock Infinite adaptation set after the events of the game where Elizabeth and the Luteces travel across time and space solving problems like Doctor Who.

    System Shock 2 would probably make the best straight adaption but it’s too similar to lots of other classic sci-fi movies.

    • Echo_Hotel says:

      My Idea was a shortly pre or mid fall storyline centered on some guy rescuing his daughter who had been abducted to be a little sister, that gives you the options of 2 good set pieces a big daddy chase and a cracking dome give it to roland emmerich.

  8. ErraticGamer says:

    Excellent work picking exactly the right headline. Bravo.

  9. Dudeist says:

    Uwe Bool is ready! Movie will be amazing!

  10. xcession says:

    Looks a bit Batman Under The Sea

  11. womp says:

    “Universal were spooked by the commercial limpness of the Watchmen adaptation, taking it as a sign that there wasn’t enough of an audience for an R-rated sci-fi movie at the kind of budget Verbsinki demanded…”

    Man. I guess that’s what you’d extrapolate from that data if you just didn’t consider any other factor surrounding the Watchmen movie -_-

    • The Random One says:

      There’s no way to measure quality, so as far as execs are concerned it doesn’t exist.

      • Arglebargle says:

        The Hollywood execs pretty much have no clue. They wouldn’t recognize quality — or a good idea — if it bit them in the ass. They pretty much just follow whatever someone else did that made money.

        The folks who make the decisions are dim bulbs.

        • KenTWOu says:

          I could say the same thing about typical moviegoers.

        • bill says:

          Not really. They are about making money, and they have become very good at it. They might not recognize something artistic if it bit them on the nose.. or then again they might, but they might still say no if they didn’t think it would make money.

          I heard that back in the 70s/80s about 50% of movies lost money, now about 90% make profits, and almost all break even. There are very few big flops these days, and even ones that do ‘flop’ (like Lone Ranger) actually make a profit in the end.
          That doesn’t sound like the work of morons. It sounds like the work of shrewd businessmen. (not artists). Not only that, but they’re managing to make movies that make profits globally, with global appeal.

    • Shadowcat says:

      womp: I’m curious about what you’re referring to. I thought the Watchmen adaptation was superb; I would have preferred that the script had kept to the original ‘threat’, but in pretty much all other respects I thought they did an absolutely incredible job. I’m sorry to hear that it didn’t do well, so any insights into that would be interesting to read.

  12. Nikita "Hot Stuff" Khrushchev says:

    Let’s face it, there’s never really been a good movie adaptation of a videogame (aside from E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial).

  13. coppernaut says:

    Kinda hard to see the difference between video game art and movie art these days.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Not that it’s easy to see difference between video games and movies this days – most praised games this days would be unplayable without those hours of cutscenes.

      Can you imagine text-less To The Moon? Or how much fun there is in The Wolf Walking Among Dead when you’re not talking?

  14. Viceroy Choy says:

    Well I liked Watchmen.

  15. fish99 says:

    I don’t really get the game-to-movie thing. It never seems to make good films, and as someone who enjoys the Bioshock games, I just don’t feel I need to watch a movie of them, so who are they for? Also unless you do the same story (which would be pointless because everyone knows what happens), there isn’t a lot there to work with.

    No big loss then.

  16. bill says:

    Bioshock would have made a pretty great movie, IMHO. So much of it is the unique setting, visuals and atmosphere, and that could be transferred pretty much directly.

    You’d have a problem with the ‘lone protagonist’, as movies tend to need other people around to talk and fill the screen, and ending the whole thing with a dumb fight would need to change, but other than that it seems one of the easier games to translate to the screen.

    But I am never sure if we NEED movie adaptions of games. Most people who’d watch it have already played the game, and know the story, and so you have the trap of either the movie being too similar to the game (and boring) or too different (and people complaining).

    I’d probably have watched it though.

  17. The Random One says:

    That concept art seems to be less for a movie and more for a 1995 adventure game.

  18. Listlurker says:

    Agreed. Bioshock would’ve made an intriguing movie, in theory — but the way Hollywood makes so-called “blockbusters” these days, it would’ve almost certainly ended up a mess of a movie in reality.

  19. Ham Solo says:

    They would have just added some retarded love story, because lol hollywood.

  20. Ostegonation says:

    Yes Hollywood, keep making your Grown Ups 2, your World War Z, your Fast and Furious 6, and your heavy handed Elysium. As a gamer I can at least say that I have witnessed the majesty of Rapture and have experienced the truly deep (pun intended) immersion of the world of Bioshock.
    I too am glad of it! I too am relieved that you have not spoiled the wonders of Bioshock with your Michael Bays and your M. Night Shyamalans!

  21. Slinkusss says:

    I kinda wish people would stop trying to make movies out of our favorite game franchises. It always smells to me like they’re trying to squeeze money. After all why do we need a movie? Bioshock (for example) was an immersive interactive game that required my active participation (as do most of the games we keep trying to make into movies), it required me to decide to go left or right, to look up or down, and it gave me the ability to look at what I wanted to look at, and for how long I wanted to look at it. Movies are passive, you just sit and stare, and the onus is on the filmmakers to give me a character I can identify with and care about. In games I care about the character because it’s me, and I care about me quite deeply.

    Even if there are a few examples of successful franchises being made into successful -read GOOD- films (please reply to this if you know any because I can’t think of a single one, but don’t say Transformers), I don’t understand their appeal. Mass Effect is the obvious one to make into a movie, but dammit, I am Commander Shepard, not Hugh Jackman or whatever. The hitman movie is a perfect example. The story behind the hitman franchise has always been a confused mess of nonsense, but it was there as a thinly veiled peg upon which to hang the gameplay. As a properly written story, the hitman movie has actually been made hundred times, it just was not the Codename 47 flavor. The big wigs at Hollywood must surely know this because they are not stupid. But I think they think we are.

    So why would I want to re-experience the world of bioshock in this passive way? Why don’t they just make another bioshock game? If Hollywood wants a slice of the gaming pie why don’t they just buy shares in a game production company, start their own or pick up and fund all the awesome games trying to get made through crowd-funding ventures? Paradigms and competition is my answer, and I don’t expect that to change in my lifetime, but at least leave my favorite games alone, and stop trying to invade my personal game experience with your half-assed script, actor du jour, and exorbitant budget dedicated to COMPUTER GRAPHICS! If you’re going to throw money at graphics why not attach a programmer and a tester to the whole thing and just make a damn game!

    Ok…. I think I’m done with my rant now. Thanks for posting this article to provide me with soap box…. du jour.

  22. Shadowcat says:

    Levine’s no stranger to Hollywood, having started his professional life working as a screenwriter before getting a job at Irrational where he would go on to make System Shock 2 and BioShock

    I bet that was a tough job interview, what with Ken being a co-founder of the company. Someone is getting Looking Glass and Irrational confused, perhaps?