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12th April 2024

So, uh, who exactly is the Borderlands film for?

Look, we all know that video game adaptations have had a rough history, but nobody really wanted this, right?
So, uh, who exactly is the Borderlands film for?
Credit: Lionsgate

I got to see the trailer for the new Borderlands film adaptation when I went to see Dune: Part 2, and I fear we may be facing yet another terrible video game adaptation. My friend, who is blessedly unaware of the Borderlands franchise, commented on how bad it looked and asked me if it was adapted from anything I had played. I said yes, but that I wasn’t looking forward to it either way. Later, when we left the cinema, I carried a sense of confusion away with me. Not from the film, of course, but from the trailer, because I mean really, who asked for this

Look, I’ll be upfront with you: I just don’t like the Borderlands games. The mediocre shooting, overwhelming loot system, and utterly abrasive writing were all a bit much for me, and I gave up on the series rather quickly. Time passed and the series only seemed more and more outdated, its third instalment in 2019 only doubling down on the qualities I already didn’t like. So, there’s a bit of bias when I say I’m not looking forward to its film adaptation – but, even so, who really cares for the Borderlands franchise in the 2020s?

Obviously, the games industry has famously had a difficult time getting good adaptations. Everyone is so keen to remind me that the 2023 adaptation of The Last of Us was good, and yeah it was – but, like, so what? The Last of Us was almost a TV series already, given the frankly copious amounts of cutscenes in the game, which often were re-enacted word-for-word in the adaptation. It’s not a game whose best points are conveyed through gameplay, which is the thing that’s so difficult to translate to other forms of media. 

Other adaptations of less-cutscene-heavy games in recent years have been just as middling as you’d expect. The Super Mario Bros. Movie from last year might have raked in the cash, but I can hardly call it a particularly good film, nor a film that really conveys what makes the Mario games fun. Likewise, the 2022 adaptation of the Uncharted series was a bad idea from the beginning, and I’m honestly not sure why they picked that series to adapt in the first place. 

From the way things seem now, it looks as though Borderlands is doomed for the same fate. I truly have no idea why it was picked for the industry’s next big adaptation; many of its ideas, chiefly the emphasis on gun progression gameplay, are pretty much impossible to translate to the big screen. 

Credit: 2K Games

More generally, however, it’s also a floundering series that, by now, feels entirely outdated. I mean, let’s face it: Borderlands’ late 2000s sense of ‘quirky’ internet humour, where its characters just can’t shut up so they can express just how different and weird they are, has not aged very well. Nobody seems to like it anymore – I genuinely can’t find anyone who looks back on that series particularly fondly because of how abrasive the humour is. So why pick this series, over any other?

Indeed, the misguided humour has me worried about some of the casting choices, chiefly that of Jack Black as Claptrap. He’s always been an irritating character and one who was immediately overshadowed by Portal 2’s Wheatley (the obviously superior robot companion). I understand that Black’s performance in The Super Mario Bros. Movie might have pleased the same people who thought Big Chungus was really funny, but his inclusion in this film has alarm bells ringing in my head. 

Likewise, I can’t for the life of me express the horror I feel when watching Cate Blanchett constantly put on that obnoxious forced smirk whilst wearing a red wig. This is obvious miscasting, and I don’t know what made them settle on Blanchett for a role that she’s clearly not suited for. The absolutely stacked cast really implies that they’re going for the big bucks with this film, too, and yet not a single one of them feels well cast, or that they will have good chemistry with one another. It appears the target audience for this, then, is the general public, not fans of the original games – but why? There’s nothing about this film seemingly that would distinguish itself from any other average action-comedy with annoyingly ‘self-aware’ humour. 

The film’s already apparently had a rocky time getting on its feet, as well. Work on the film was announced in 2015, a whopping nine years ago. During its supposed time in post-production hell, its co-writer Craig Mazin (writer for Chernobyl, and, more relevantly, The Last of Us) willingly removed his name from the project. The film was also sent in for reshoots, which were taken over by an entirely different director. Not a great look.

Look, maybe this film will turn out well and exceed everyone’s expectations, and I’ll have to admit that I was wrong. But, as of right now, I just don’t like its odds.

Anna Pirie

Anna Pirie

she/her games editor for The Mancunion, literature student, and professional olive eater

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