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John Woo Exploring 'Metroid' Feature Film

by Rainier on April 7, 2004 @ 1:58 a.m. PDT

John Woo has optioned Nintendo's video game franchise "Metroid" for the big screen. It's the latest move demonstrating the director's commitment to interactive entertainment properties because it comes as Woo is developing three original titles at his Tiger Hill video game studio using Hollywood talent.

Woo will produce the sci-fi movie and has the option to direct. Terence Chang and Brad Foxhoven will share production responsibilities. Lion Rock Prods.' Suzanne Zizzi also is attached to the project.

Foxhoven said the plan is to release the first film before 2006. "Everyone involved is looking at this as a big-budget picture," Foxhoven said. "We see a tremendous opportunity to launch a film franchise with Nintendo as a partner."

Nintendo's "Metroid" has appeared in various incarnations since its introduction in 1986, with cumulative worldwide sales of 10 million-12 million. Each gives fans the chance to experience the suspense, mystery and excitement of space exploration.

"We are very fortunate that there is such an extensive amount of material to draw upon for the film due to there being so many iterations of the game over the years," Woo said.

The movie will center on the origins of the game's female protagonist, sexy bounty hunter Samus Aran, and relate her adventures battling the insidious life-sucking Metroids and their controlling force, Mother Brain.

"We have to assume the mainstream audience is unfamiliar with the property," Foxhoven said. "As for the rest of the film, we will stay true to the game and have Samus battling the Metroids and Mother Brain in a fight for control of the galaxy."

Chang emphasized that the popularity of these video games not only provides great source material for the film but helps with the awareness factor when the film is distributed overseas.

"Gaming is huge in both Europe and Japan and is starting to gain momentum in China -- so we are not only going to see interest domestically but also on a worldwide basis for these films," Chang said. "These properties are really going mainstream."

Woo added: "This type of story has a proven track record of success with film audiences."

This is the second attempt to bring Samus to the big screen. Warren Zide and Craig Perry of Zide/Perry Entertainment optioned the film rights for "Metroid" in January 2003 but let them expire. Tiger Hill stepped in and optioned the movie from Nintendo when it became available again.

Nintendo will unveil its eighth "Metroid" game, "Metroid Prime 2," at its E3 press conference May 11. As is typical of the video game industry, the company will be distributing limited versions of the game (referred to as a playable demo) to select industry professionals before the game ships for the GameCube platform in November.

The first "Metroid" product was on the now-defunct Nintendo Entertainment System. Realizing the value of owning such a recognizable brand, Nintendo relaunched the "Metroid" franchise with the high-profile release of "Metroid Prime" in November 2002 on its GameCube platform. Other titles, all of which have been best sellers, maintained the franchise's reputation for impressive 3-D graphics and engrossing battle scenes.

Tiger Hill is overseeing development of three original games, the first of which will ship in late 2005, with the remaining two hitting shelves in late 2006. Woo will direct the games' cinematics, oversee the story and voice talent, supervise motion capture and manage the character designs.

"We are bringing in top-notch Hollywood talent to our games due to John's influence and connections," Foxhoven said. Referring to "Max Payne" and "The Getaway," among others, he added, "Many games have already borrowed from John's films, so it was a natural progression for John to work on video games himself."

Tiger Hill has a multiyear first-look deal with Sega and is developing a game for the publisher but also is developing at least one additional game for another publisher. Details on two of the games are expected to be unveiled at E3.

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