Even though it's an original property (in the loosest sense of the word, since zombie games are anything but original these days), Dead Island has made a bit of a splash in the gaming world, an industry usually driven by sequels and remakes, just like Hollywood. Dead Island has sold a few million units in the first few weeks of release, which some people attribute almost entirely to the highly evocative initial trailer, which depicted a zombie attack using Memento-styled time manipulation and was, if we're being fair, ridiculously well-made. It's that trailer, we suspect, that made the game such a hot property in Hollywood, since essentially it boiled down the developers of Dead Island saying, "See? We know how to make a video game movie. Why don't you?"
The rights to Dead Island were immediately snatched up by Jason Brown, Richard Leibowitz, Dmitri Johnson, and Sean Daniel, the producer of the Mummy franchise. But that was back in February, now – after some legal hullabaloo – only Daniel remains on the project, which has just been picked up by Lionsgate.
In a statement to made to Deadline, Joe Drake at Lionsgate had this highly discouraging thing to say: “Like the hundreds of journalists and millions of fans who were so passionate and vocal about the 'Dead Island' trailer, we too were awestruck […] This is exactly the type of property we’re looking to adapt at Lionsgate: it’s sophisticated, edgy, and a true elevation of a genre that we know and love. It also has built in brand recognition around the world, and franchise potential.”
Why discouraging? Because he's only complimenting the trailer, which, it turned out, was not really indicative of the actual video game Dead Island, which has received only moderately positive reviews. It currently has an average score of 71 out of 100 on Metacritic for both the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (which in the world of video game criticism is actually lower than it sounds, although there are a few raves mixed in). The game has thus far been praised for some of its mechanics, but many of the reviews we've read considered it fairly straightforward for the zombie genre, and criticized the game for its storytelling and character development: two things which movies – and narrative video games, for that matter – desperately need to, you know, tell stories and develop characters. Here's a somewhat oxymoronic quote from GameSpot: "If you don't step off the boat expecting a taut horror experience, a masterful gun game, or compelling characters, you'll have a bloody good time." What a diplomatic way of telling us to lower our standards.
Dead Island already has its fans, some of them very passionate, but we'll wait until we see some talent attached before we decide if the movie version has any potential or not.
CraveOnline will be back with more Dead Island news after we watch the trailer again.