Can a BioShock movie capture the experience of the games?

The Bioshock Collection
(Image credit: 2K Games)

The big news that came to light today is that Netflix will be partnering with 2K’s parent company Take-Two to create a film set in the BioShock universe. 

If that idea sounds familiar it’s because there was talk of something similar over a decade ago with Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verbinski, only to have it fall through somewhat unceremoniously. 

"It's an R rated movie,” Verbinski said in a Reddit AMA back in 2017. “I wanted to keep it R rated, I felt like that would be appropriate, and it's an expensive movie. It's a massive world we're creating and it's not a world we can simply go to locations to shoot. We'd be building an entire underworld universe. So I think the combination of the price tag and the rating, Universal just didn't feel comfortable ultimately."

So far little is known about the film with some of the biggest mysteries around its writer and director, but Netflix says more information will become available soon.

Analysis: BioShock has certain… difficult obstacles that are tough to overcome

As Verbinski already stated, the BioShock franchise has a number of obstacles that will be tough to overcome - even for a company with deep pockets like Netflix. 

Not only is the scenery an integral part of the story - one that really can’t be avoided to have it truly feel like it’s a part of the BioShock universe - but the special effects budget would have to be massive as well. All three BioShock games had either Plasmids or Vigors that gave you special powers that included shooting lightning, setting people on fire or shooting a swarm of insects from your hands. None of that sounds cheap to reproduce on film.

Of course, that’s only the financial difficulties. There are also difficulties around the plot to create something with enough of a twist to keep audiences guessing. 

(Warning: spoilers ahead!) 

In the first game that twist came in the form of the phrase “Would you kindly…” as a code phrase that forced the player to obey the underwater city’s leader while in BioShock Infinite we saw the multi-verse that hides behind the curtain of reality.

Having big bombshells like these are hard to pull off and easily ruined by rumors and leaks - two issues a BioShock film would have to contend with as it’s filming.

Also, certain video game adaptations haven’t been great.

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It’s also interesting that Netflix is announcing the news of a BioShock film just a few days before the Uncharted film makes its debut in theaters… a film that so far critics (including our own Axel Metz) haven’t liked all that much.

If Netflix was hoping to be buoyed by the success of another video game movie adaptation, Uncharted looks like it was the wrong horse to hitch its cart to.

The case for Netflix having a role in the film’s production and distribution is that it’s one of the only services to make some actually decent video game adaptations in the past. There’s no denying the success that is Netflix’s The Witcher, but the streaming service has also done wonders with lesser-known hits like the Castlevania adaptation and Arcane, an adaptation of League of Legends starring some of its most familiar faces.

At this point we’re not going to dismiss any attempt at creating a video game adaptation based on how things have gone in the past, but it is worth acknowledging that a BioShock film has a long road ahead of it - and it’s going to take more than a few utterances of “Would you kindly” to make it happen.

Nick Pino

Nick Pino is Managing Editor, TV and AV for TechRadar's sister site, Tom's Guide. Previously, he was the Senior Editor of Home Entertainment at TechRadar, covering TVs, headphones, speakers, video games, VR and streaming devices. He's also written for GamesRadar+, Official Xbox Magazine, PC Gamer and other outlets over the last decade, and he has a degree in computer science he's not using if anyone wants it.