24 Frames

Movies: Past, present and future

Category: Dead Island

Dead Island takes big step to the silver screen

September 27, 2011 |  8:56 am

Dead Island
"Dead Island" was one of the most exciting trailers to hit the Web last year, and it wasn't even for a movie -- it was for a video game. Now it looks like that will change.

Lionsgate announced Tuesday morning that it has acquired the film rights to the zombie title and will begin developing it as a feature. There are no writers yet on what is essentially a film in very early development, but producer Sean Daniel ("The Mummy"), who was reportedly involved with a "Dead Island" movie project early on, will produce it, Lionsgate said.

When the trailer hit last February, reports that Daniel had come on board were dismissed by the publisher, as several of the parties affiliated with the game appeared to be in disagreement about who had the right to negotiate on the property's behalf.

Published by Deep Silver, the game was little known at the time the trailer hit, and in fact didn't even have a release date. But in the wake of the viral sensation, "Dead Island" landed a date, coming out to mostly positive reviews earlier this month, although some fans said it didn't live up to the promise of the trailer.

When it hit the Web, the trailer for the first-person action title nearly sparked a riot. Essentially a short film in all but name, it took a melancholy piano score and ran it under a battle between a family on vacation and the zombies who have taken over their resort. The piece had a sharp visual style, a heartbreaking moment and a devilish structure, all of which had fans calling for a film.

Lionsgate on Tuesday said in a statement that the movie will be "an innovation of the zombie genre because of its focus on human emotion, family ties and non-linear storytelling. "

There's still a big question, of course, as to of whether a three-minute trailer can be stretched to a 90-minute movie and still retain the spare power of the trailer. And we won't even get into the issue of how you then cut a trailer for that film that stacks up to the original spot.


Dead Island: The best trailer in years?

Will Dead Island make a good movie?

Dead Island publisher: We haven't sold rights to a Dead Island movie

-- Steven Zeitchik

Photo: A shot from Dead Island. Credit: Deep Silver

Dead Island publisher: We haven't sold rights for a Dead Island movie -- but we are talking to name directors

February 22, 2011 |  7:46 pm

Few trailers in any entertainment medium have gripped the Internet the way the trailer for the zombie video game Dead Island did last week. So feverish was the reaction that a number of stories claimed that a set of Hollywood producers had bought film rights that the game's publisher, which controls those rights, said they never bought.

We caught up with Malte Wagener, the Munich-based head of global business development for said publisher -- Koch Media and its Deep Silver label -- to find out exactly what was happening on the movie front. Will Dead Island, which comes out as a game later this year, become a film, and what shape will it take if it does? Read on...
24 Frames: The Internet was abuzz this past weekend that that you had sold Dead Island film rights to 'Mummy' producer Sean Daniel and the financier Union Entertainment. Did you?

Malte Wagener: There are a lot of different stories out there but the bottom line is that neither Union nor Sean Daniel has ever talked to Koch Media. Richard [Leibowitz, of Union] and [game developer] Techland agree there was never any rights. There was some misrepresentation on Techland's part about what rights they have and what they can organize, but Richard confirmed in an e-mail that these were just talks and he doesn't have the rights. [Leibowitz declined comment.] To be honest, I'm surprised that someone of Richard's caliber would even go out there and say this, if he did say it.

So where does that leave a Dead Island movie?

MW:  We've had a lot of inquiries, not only from Union but from other major players for film adaptation. The talks are very early and there's no deal whatsoever. Right now I'd say it boils down to three or four opportunities. Some are studios, not just bonders [financiers] like Union. We'd rather go with a big studio that can bring the creative side.

Do you have firm studio offers, and what do they look like?

MW: We had a couple of big-name directors come to us. One of the top directors in Hollywood sent a studio his link to the trailer and said he was interested in this, and the studio contacted us. There are different opinions of course in how to do this. The first is that you find a producer and then he brings in a creative team. The other is to find a director first and he'll bring people along. My feeling is we should find a director first.

Would casting be a key component of a Dead Island film?

Continue reading »

Will 'Dead Island' make a good movie?

February 18, 2011 |  8:46 pm

When we wrote this week that someone in Hollywood should drop what they're doing and develop "Dead Island" as a feature little did we -- or anyone else -- realize that someone was already doing that.

The Wrap reported today that "The Mummy" producer Sean Daniel is part of a group that acquired rights to the as-yet-unreleased video game  back in 2009.

The trailer is, by almost every online account, among the best in years of any medium (a rare case of nearly everyone on the Interwebs actually agreeing). So there's a lot of hope that the aesthetic on display in the trailer could be turned into a great film. (You can watch the trailer again here.)

Daniel is, incidentally, a producer of some pedigree. Although he's known mostly as a commercial genre producer (he does, unfortunately, count the flop that is "The Wolf Man" as a credit) he also showed a different side with seminal slacker film "Dazed and Confused."

But to capitalize on the strengths of the trailer, he and his Union Entertainment partners will need to bring in not just writers and directors capable of telling a good zombie story, but creators with a soulful sensibility, which is what makes the trailer so heart-shatteringly great in the first place.

An even bigger question is whether this small gem can be made better when it's made bigger.  As strong as the "Dead Island" trailer is, it's a zombie mood piece. That works in three minutes, but will lose its impact in 100 minutes. Making "Dead Island" work as a movie will require extrapolating from a series of fight scenes full-bodied characters and story lines -- without losing what made some of those fight scenes special in the first place.

And then there's the biggest question of all:  Once you do make a "Dead Island" movie, how do you possibly cut a trailer for it?

--Steven Zeitchik


Photo: 'Dead Island.' Credit: Deep Silver.


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