Asteroids film resurrected once again

Universal Pictures has hired a new writer for the languishing property.

Video game adaptations seem very much in the Hollywood zeitgeist right now, and especially after the great success that was Wreck-it Ralph, every studio is going to be pushing forward with whatever video game franchises they happen to have around.

Thus it comes as little surprise that Universal has put Asteroids back on the front burner, hiring The Last Legion writer Jez Butterworth to rewrite the script for the film.

Basically, Asteroids is an arcade game which is considered part of the ‘golden age’ of the medium, when games were simple, points oriented, and cost a quarter to play.

The in-game story is simple, with little backstory. The player controls a small triangular ship which has been tasked with breaking up an asteroid field into small pieces, so as to make it safe. That’s it. Shooting an asteroid breaks it in half until the pieces are each about the size of the ship, at which point shooting simply destroys them. When the level is clear of rocks, the player is sent on to a more difficult field. This continues until the player is given a field they cannot handle, and the story ends and points are tallied.

A lot of gamers groan at this kind of stuff, but I actually think that adapting these classic titles makes a lot of sense. Since they have no backstory and no established characters, there really is nothing to screw up.

Indeed, unlike Tomb Raider and Hitman, Asteroids simply cannot be “wrong.” As such, the writer and director are both free to adapt the concept in really original ways. This is what happened with the adaptation of the story-light boardgame Battleship earlier this year – which was surprisingly good – and used the elements of the boardgame in clever ways.

It will be most interesting if the film is able to depict the essentially futile nature of the destruction of the asteroids. Every game of Asteroids, like most arcade games of the eraultimately ends in failure and death. Most likely the hero of the film will survive through the end, however.

Asteroids is still in development, and there are no dates yet announced for production or release.