Fortnite may be a great video game but it would make a pointless movie | Movies

If there is a financial shoo-in more likely than the prospect of Fortnite: The Movie making hundreds of millions of dollars at the global box office, it must be a rare thing indeed. One can easily imagine Peely, the giant banana-shaped soldier of digital fortune who is a popular playable character in the game, with his eyes lit up at the prospect of all those V-Bucks (Fortnite’s in-game currency). This is a title with more than 350 million players worldwide. It is a behemoth that constantly reinvents itself in ways that encourage players to keep spending money, and has become so confident in its own financial weight that its creator, Epic Games, is currently going mano a mano with Apple over fees the latter charges for enrollment in its App Store.

A big-screen version, it is rumored, is moving closer and closer. And it would no doubt be a tremendous success. Fortnite players, even if Epic could not coax them into the cinemas, could be lured into virtual multiplexes within the game itself, a trick the company has already begun pulling off with DJ appearances and live concerts. The games studio could bypass the Hollywood machine, just as it is attempting to circumnavigate Apple. When your product is this addictive, you have a worldwide user base, and you also control the medium by which your audience accesses the good stuff, the result should be like one of Fortnite’s own magical treasure chests. Knowing Epic Games, it will probably find a way to sell virtual popcorn to players at 1,000 V-Bucks a pop.

Watch a trailer for Fortnite.

But should Fortnite really do as others have done before and move into the Hollywood arena? It worked for Lego, the Danish company that found a way to conjure up the joy of childhood playthings while also managing to get Gandalf, Batman and Han Solo in the same movie – no mean feat. It hasn’t really worked for many other games companies in the past – some of the most infamous failures being Duncan Jones’s misfiring Warcraft and Uwe Boll’s execrable efforts at adapting Postal, BloodRayne and In the Name of the King. Why risk damage to your brand from critical derision when you have a seemingly invincible product in its original medium?

I have played Fortnite. It got me during lockdown, when my preteen children convinced me to join them in battling 99 other players in hopes of being the last competitor standing, once everyone else has been gunned down, blown up or burnt to death by the ever-encroaching storm wall . Movie buffs would probably recognize the format as a cartoonish take on Kinji Fukasaku’s Battle Royale, or its Hollywood cousin The Hunger Games. It is fiendishly enticing, as the player is dropped off on a constantly shifting island, battling digital enemies and fellow players alike for the final “Victory Royale”. (I won one ounce – it was like having one’s entire bloodstream replaced with pure, electrified sugar syrup for five seconds.)

The difference between Fortnite and more old-fashioned games is that the online multiplayer setup means you figuratively see the whites of a very real human opponent’s eyes during each mini-battle to the death. There is nothing like the excitement of shooting down some five-year-old kid from Guatemala at 2.30am (when the only thing you have to get up for the next day is to check that your furlough payment arrived) to really get the pulse racing .

Fortnite’s character design – which, like the island itself, is constantly shifting – is fabulous. Epic needs to come up regularly with amazing new digital costumes and concepts so it can encourage its (often very young) players to spend real money on playable versions. If you have never experienced the clamour for V-Bucks on the day, every few months or so, when a new Fortnite season drops and there is a chance for players to purchase a brand-new Battle Bundle of costumes and assorted kit, then you probably don’t have children under the age of 10. Or were wise enough not to let them play the game in the first place. By the way, participation in Fortnite itself, a little like a drug dealer’s first sample, is free – you only pay for the upgrades.

Unfortunately the Fortnite experience is completely impossible, like that of most video games, to translate to the big screen. For a start, it is designed for people with an attention span that needs constant feeding with violent, cartoonish thrills and spills. No matter how wonderful the character and game story design, there is no way Epic is spinning this into a two-hour adventure with a sensible three-act structure and feelgood finale. Anyone who truly loves this game is about as likely to sit quietly through 120 minutes of exposition, dialogue and smart plot twists as Peely is to become the next president of the United States of America.

That is, of course, unless multiplexes go against every rule in the book and allow the audience to bring their phones and Nintendo Switches into the auditorium and snap back into battle mode as soon as the movie begins to drag.

Frankly, they’ll be lucky to make it past the opening credits.

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