Given that this year brought us the release of a film called Pixels, built on the concept of aliens embodying classic video game characters like Donkey Kong and Ms. Pac-Man, it might not come as a surprise that Hasbro and Lionsgate have reportedly teamed up to launch a movie based on the classic board game Monopoly.
This was actually rumoured a couple of years ago, but the idea seemed so outlandish that it appeared to disappear without causing much more than a ripple. Now, however, the reports look to be legitimate. Deadline explained earlier this summer that the previous effort had actually been based on a concept developed by Ridley Scott (who’s incidentally making waves with the impending release of highly anticipated space drama The Martian), but it was scrapped by Universal. The current project has been green-lit by Lionsgate, with The Truman Show screenwriter Andrew Niccol attached as the head writer.
So, in what certainly appears to be an increasingly common maneuver for Hollywood, we once again have a popular gaming franchise being adapted for the cinema. Unlike Assassin’s Creed or Warcraft (both scheduled for film adaptations in the coming years) or even the recent Hitman: Agent 47, the Monopoly film will not be based on a larger-than-life video game that already has built-in cinematic appeal. In fact, the idea of basing a feature film on a beloved board game is almost unique in the modern cinematic era.
According to Variety, Hasbro claims that Monopoly, which was first released in 1903, has been played by over a billion people across 114 countries and 47 different languages. And those numbers, though it’s not expressly stated that this is the case, appear to concern only the actual board game of Monopoly. But as many gamers will be well aware, the popularity of Monopoly has long since transcended the world of tabletop board games. In fact, a cinematic version of the game will only be the latest in a string of more modern ways to enjoy the Monopoly concept.
For years now, basic Monopoly gaming themes and images have been used to enhance popular online casino games. Really, it’s a pretty natural fit for a game that already involves so much in the way of financial transactions and fortune. Gala Bingo describes one such game, rather cheekily, as a “hot property,” and explains that there is even a community chest bonus within the casino game. It’s not quite the same as moving your piece around the board and building a property empire, but it doesn’t take much to turn an ordinary slot machine into an arcade experience deeply reminiscent of the classic Monopoly.
There have also been more exact replications of the original Monopoly game in modern video game formats, with the most accessible being EA’s exceptional mobile app version. The iTunes description of the game discusses owning the “famous holdings of the Monopoly board” and indeed, when you download the game it feels just like the original, only in digital form. All the same properties, game pieces, chance and community chest cards, etc. can be enjoyed, though the app also takes advantage of what we’ve come to expect in modern mobile gaming by facilitating multiplayer competition as well.
Other video game adaptations of Monopoly have actually also been popular in recent years. EA’s app is its closest thing to a pure version of the original game, but the company also released a version for the Nintendo Wii, various spin-off app experiences, and even a Monopoly game for the Amazon Kindle.
All of this is to say perhaps a film based on the board game isn’t as weird or surprising as it initially sounds. According to the reports cited earlier, the plot will concern a humble boy from Baltic Avenue (one of the original game board’s cheapest properties) looking to make his fortune in the world around him. But whatever the plot ends up looking like, whether it’s a fairy tale board game played out in live action or a real-life drama using only elements of Monopoly, it won’t be a shot in the dark. The way modern video game industries have already brought Monopoly into a new era, with both creativity and respect for the original content, the film should almost have been expected.