Lost in Translation 459: The Sims Film Adaptation Coming

Franchises are a dream for studios. If a work reaches the level of a franchise, it has a built-in fandom that will follow whatever is released. Franchises can occur in all media, from literature to film and TV to video games. With a built-in audience, franchises are like flames to a moth when it comes to adaptation. Not all franchises make the transition well, but those that do see grate payoffs. Examples of franchises adapting successfully to a new medium include Batman, Nancy Drew, Sonic the Hedgehog, and Barbie.

On the flip side, video game adaptations, especially of the major franchises, haven’t gone well. The tide appears to be turning, but the taint of Super Mario Bros. and Double Dragon lingers. Even the aforementioned Sonic the Hedgehog came close to making a franchise breaking error. As more creative types who played video games in their youth get into the movie making industry, the fewer missteps will be taken. Sonic‘s major problem got caught and corrected.

One of the major franchises had a big announcement this past week. The Sims, one of the top ten video game franchises, has taken a critical step towards getting a film adaptation. The game was first optioned in 2007 to Twentieth Century Fox. The option lapsed when Disney absorbed Fox in 2019, but the idea lingered. This past week, news came out that Margot Robbie and Kate Herron, director of the first season of Loki, are working on a script for a Sims movie.

The Sims, at its core, is a life simulation game where players can either choose an existing household or create their own. Being a life simulation, there are many ways for a Sim to die, from mundane, like dying in a fire or of old age, to the weird, like getting struck by a meteor or being eaten by a cowplant. Some players will try finding new ways to kill a Sim; others try for generational play; even others use the game to build houses and businesses. The game has evolved since the original The Sims in 2000. The Sims 2 allowed for children to age into teenagers. The Sims 3 allowed Sims to go swimming without the fear of drowning due to a lack of pool ladders. The Sims 4 is the currently available version, with Project Rene in the works for the fifth version.

A cowplant luring a Sim to a sweet, sudden death. Screenshot from The Sims 4.

Despite being a wide-open sandbox to play in, The Sims does have its lore. There are legacy families through the game, from the Goths who live in a house similar to the Addamses’, to the Landgraabs, the rich family whose name appears on most successful companies in-game; from the Calientes to the Pleasants. Each family has its own background and problems; the Pleasants in The Sims 2 is set up so that Mary-Sue loses her job in time to catch her husband, Daniel, in bed with the maid, Kaylynn, while Angela is given preference over her twin sister Lilith.

While being set in the suburbs, The Sims has more than its fair share of weirdness. Wizards and witches, vampires and werewolves, even mermaids and mermen abound. Aliens walk among the Sims, with half-alien children very possible. The only limit is the player`s imagination and ability to pay for expansion packs.

This leaves the scriptwriters at a crossroads. Do they create a new character to interact with the existing Sims or do they focus on a specific Sim in the game? What gets included in the screenplay and what gets left behind for potential sequels? What approach does the script take to the game and its setting? The Sims is like playing with virtual dolls, leaving the focus of the play to the players. Yet, Margot Robbie had a success playing as an actual doll where the doll’s owner determines how story lines go. Barbie shows that it is possible to get the feel of someone playing with a doll in a film. Her company succeeded beyond expectations with Barbie. There’s a track record of success. This is a film to keep an eye on; it’s still a long way to go to get the movie in theatres.

Virtual doll playing with dolls. Screenshot from The Sims 4.

(One thing I do want to see on the movie’s DVD is a Simlish language track, dubbed by the actors involved, similar to the Thermian language track for Galaxy Quest.)

This article was originally published at THE REMAKE ZONE.

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