THQ’s Red Faction: Armageddon is set for release Tuesday, June 7. In the meantime, fans can sate their cravings for the Red Faction universe with a Syfy Channel movie, airing Saturday night, June 4, at 9 p.m. ET.
The screenplay’s writer, Andrew Kriesberg, told VidThru.com through a conference call interview: “Red Faction Origins isn’t a specific adaptation of a video game. It’s a brand new original story that takes place in the universe of Red Faction and there are plenty more stories to tell.”
The story for the movie follows Jake Mason (Brian J. Smith), son of a rebel hero on Earth’s colony on Mars who helped drive off the Earth Defense Force two decades ago when it was enslaving Mars’ miners and running experiments on them. Since then, Mars has been in the control of the rebels, but survival is difficult. Jake embarks on a dangerous quest to bring justice to the enemies who killed his mother and kidnapped his sister. He has discovered, 12 years after his sister’s capture, that she is still alive. He goes to find her, only to find that she’s joined the ranks of a new enemy attacking the planet; she’s become a soldier sworn to destroy the Red Faction.
“One of the reasons ‘Red Faction’ lends itself so well to adaptation is that I don’t think the video game people at THQ started from a place of, how can we make a really cool video game? They started from a real place and character. These are very strong characters that we’re just taking to the next level, and probably taking to a place a little bit more dramatic than you could get to in a video game. But it all starts with them and it starts with the world they created. And it’s a great, fun world. It’s a rich world filled with great characters whom you can take in just about any direction,” Kriesberg said.
In writing the plot, Kriesberg took as a starting point the reunion between Jake and his sister Lyra (Tamzin Merchant), and focused on the relationships within the story. He said, “What would you say to someone you thought was long dead if you got the chance to talk to them again? …It has very little to do with video game stuff and all the strokes of the game – ships, the explosions, the location, the amazing weaponry. That’s all added on. That’s the sprinkles and the sauce. The core of it was just a basic human story.”
The movie, which was filmed in an ice-cold Bulgaria, stars Brian J. Smith of “Stargate Universe,” Robert Patrick of “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and “The X-Files,” Kate Vernon of “Battlestar Galactica,” Danielle Nicolet and “Torchwood”‘s Gareth David-Lloyd. It was directed by Michael Nankin, who claims his awareness of the game was nil before he came onto the project.
Rather than try to copy the experience of gameplay, Nankin went to THQ and got the concept drawings and design elements, and attempted to re-create what he considers to be the core themes the game was based upon.
Nankin said, “We couldn’t compete with the game on the level of destruction and production. They have such a larger canvas to paint on, because they don’t have to build anything. I knew that I couldn’t create an experience that’s like the game. So I went back to the core of what the game was about – family, characters, politics, Mars – and we created a movie based on the same elements that they created the game about. There are things that we could do that they couldn’t do, which is, [adding] humanity.”
The stars of the TV film include some with long histories in scifi screendom and plenty of geek cred. Kate Vernon, for example, best known for her turn as a Final Five Cylon on “Battlestar Galactica,” plays the Matriarch, the leader of the tribal, reclusive and bloody Marauders sect, who allied with the Red Faction to push the Earth Defense Force from Mars back in Jake’s father’s day.
Vernon said about the script, “The relationships are so rich. There’s so much potential and it’s like…a Shakespearean drama where everybody’s related and there’s six degrees of separation. And the more layers that are unveiled, the more inside you get into these characters, and the more you want. And I think a lot of it is because the people are really likeable. But they’re also fighters. They’re also warriors. So there’s a real mix of action, and heart, and humanity.”
Brian J. Smith, the “Red Faction” hero, starred as Lt. Matthew Scott on “Stargate Universe.” He, too, expressed his belief in the characters, adding, “They’re all fighters. There’s not a victim in the dramatis personae of this show. Everybody really goes after what they want and they don’t give up and they’re not going to stop until they get it. And I really, really find that incredibly fun to play, but if I’m going to watch television, those are definitely the kind of characters I would like to spend time with.”
Naturally, the challenge with any such adaptation is trying to keep hard-core Red Faction fans while drawing in new ones who might pick up the game if they like their first on-screen exposure to the universe.
Nankin said, “We knew we had a fan base. I would say we knew that no matter what we did there would be people who would embrace the differences. And there would be people who would be mortally offended by what we did.”
But this situation poses the type of challenge that screenwriters are ever more willing to take on – so much of Hollywood’s content is based on adaptations of other media these days, after all. Kreisberg said, “I actually found it kind of a fun challenge to see how much of the game experience I could keep in the movie everywhere along the way - where I could find a weapon that was used in the game, or be able to site a location from the game or site a character from the game. It actually made me excited to know that I could help continue that experience that a gamer would have from playing Red Faction: Guerrilla, taking it through.”
Helping the cause is the fact that Gareth David-Lloyd, known mostly to TV audiences for his turn as the ill-fated Ianto Jones from “Torchwood,” played chief villain Adam Hale of the White Faction both in the movie and in Red Faction: Armageddon. This connection is one solid link between the game and the movie, along with the timeless motifs of loss and reconnection, and parenthood, and humanity’s indomitable spirit.
Kreisberg said, “All the themes and the problems that people are dealing with, whether it’s survivor’s guilt or alcoholism, those are universal themes that play whether it’s the 1920s, whether it’s the present day, or whether it’s 300 years in the future on a terraformed Mars.”
Well, that’s nice and all, but how close is the movie really to the game? How did the collaboration between Syfy Channel and THQ really work? Can fans of the game expect something they’ll really be able to get behind, or is this just a token branding expansion effort?
Kreisberg said, “The original story proposal was developed by Paul DeMeo and Danny Bilson, who are the creative heads at THQ. They wrote the movie ‘The Rocketeer,’ and ‘The Flash’ television series, so I’d actually been a big fan of them. We talked initially just about the world and the characters. Then after that, they really sent me off and really put a great deal of trust in me, which I was very grateful for – having expansive [freedom] in letting me sort of run wild with it. And then, all along the way, they would chime in with, ‘Hey, here’s a good idea,’ or ‘That didn’t quite fit in the game mythology,’ but it was really a great partnership. They were very supportive, very open to new ideas, and yet they have a really keen sense of what makes Red Faction work. And I hope that I’ve inherited some of that keen sense.”
Should that be the case, Red Faction fans might have reason to be pleased with the results of the THQ-Syfy collaboration, especially since all the creative types involved agree there’s more story to tell. It sounds like a real possibility that if the movie performs well, it could act as a back-door pilot or spur additional movies.
“The way that the film ends really seems to beg some kind of continuance with the storyline,” Smith said. “It does a really great job of wrapping up what the film is about, but also asks a lot of questions about what could possibly happen next. And of course, there’s still some ground to cover between the way we end the film and Red Faction: Armageddon. It would be interesting to see what happens.”
Yes, it certainly will. But who has the final word? The rest of us, of course. Kreisberg said, “Whether we get to tell [more stories] through a further movie or a possible television series – that’ll all depend on the fan base hopefully watching the film.”
For more information about “Red Faction: Origins,” visit www.syfy.com, where you can also access the official Red Faction: Armageddon site.
What do you think of movie adaptations of video games? Are you a fan of Syfy Channel? Will you tune in tomorrow night (Or TiVo it, anyway)? Sound off in the comments!