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Pixel to Projector: Ghosts ‘n Goblins

By  · Published on September 22nd, 2010

The first time I uttered a curse word was when I was eight. Perhaps these days that would make me a late bloomer (you kids with your snap bracelets and Ace of Base, amirite?), but back then it was a pretty big deal, and it was attached to a big event – the unfettered hatred of my first self-purchased game – Ghosts ‘n Goblins for the NES.

To say this game was a [email protected]*ker is a monumental understatement. Capcom’s Ghost ‘n Goblins is widely considered one of the most difficult early arcade titles of all time, and I’ll readily admit that I could only get so far before throwing the controller and screaming myself out – my mother finding me in the fetal position; a mass of burning tears and snot.

Ghosts ‘n Goblins is the story of Sir Arthur, a knight that has the distinction of fighting the least period-related battles, ever. No jousting, sword duels, or archery contests here – it was all, well – mostly throwing shit at ghosts, ‘n freaking goblins.

Your job was to side-scroll your way through various painfully difficult levels fighting zombies, killer crows, spitting plant monsters, and more to save Princess Prin Prin, who seems to be your date at the start of the game. Also, an aside – you’re having said date in your underpants. Score.

If you manage to battle your way through every stage and beast (they do throw some dragons your way, I’m guessing once they realized they needed a tenuous connection to anything related to Middle Age European folklore), you’re met with the ultimate showdown to win back your lady – with Satan, “King of Demon World”. Of course, anyone who managed to get this far and actually defeat that sonofabitch is then treated to the following:

You might figure this isn’t so bad – until you realize that not only is the room an illusion – the entire game is, as you’re sent back to the start to then go through the entire process again “for real”, this time on a double über-difficult setting. I have few positive memories of the game, most of them consisting of Sir Arthur hopping around platforms, barely dodging bats in his underwear.

My renewed appreciation for the game comes not from anything the actual gameplay content of GnG provides, but the interesting twist that the story would provide on the big screen. What’s better than knights swinging swords, saving fair maidens, and slaying dragons?

Those things, plus zombies – and Satan. It’s a genre mashup that’s too much of a blast not to try to will to life on the big screen, and thus – I do it here.

What it needs to make it film worthy

The biggest problem with some of the older games we loved (or sort of hated), was the weak narrative. Satan’s minion steals the girl from your underpants picnic, and you’re off to the races. Still, I think this could be used as a strength in this particular application of game to film, as I’d love to see this further mutt-ed via an injection of grindhouse-style gore, and Evil Dead camp. With a simple story, there is plenty of room for Sir Arthur to hack his way through hordes of undead, giant dragons, and underworld lackies.

Sir Arthur is buff, slick, and fearless – Princess Prin Prin is ridiculously hot, and a badass in her own right – Satan is larger than life, snarky, and probably more cool than anyone in the film.

Who should make it?

Writer: A lot of folks may balk at my saying so, but I think there is a lot to be said for the writers that brought us Gamer and Crank – both catering to the ADD monkey in us all. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor have always been known for their dark, balls nailed firmly to the wall writing style, and for the explosion of gore, fire, boobs, and gore-filled fire boobs (that explode) – these two are just what the Dustin ordered.

Now, all they need is a gigantic budget to work with, finally…

Director: Michael Davis has brought some incredibly awful film fare into this world, but I will unapologetically say that I dug the hell out of ‘07’s Shoot ’Em Up. It was so unwaveringly broad and fearlessly unrestrained, almost to the point of parody – but not quite; and man; it was just plain fun. Davis plus Neveldine/Taylor is almost too much for one screen to contain, which is why I want to see it happen.


Jason Statham as Sir Arthur: Come on, did you think I was going to throw a curveball on this pick? Statham is equally at home playing the suave asskicker as he is playing the human battering ram.

…and, you know what fellas? You just might get your girlfriends to go too. They’ll pretend to be humoring you, but they’ll really be looking to get a gander at Sir Arther rocking chain-mail skivvies.

You won’t mind, however – because you’ll be too busy checking out –

Mila Kunis as Princess Prin Prin: Listen – I think she’s adorable; that’s half the reason she gets the nod – and honestly I can think of three dozen others that fit the bill just fine, but I think even in such an over-the-top venture as this, she’d bring something a little more unique to what would otherwise be a role that only serves the function of moving the plot. She’s cute, but almost naturally sharp-tongued, moving from sweet to slugger with ease. Forgetting Sarah Marshall is a good example, but I’ll lend more to her ability to be the only thing about Max Payne that didn’t make me want to self-mutilate.

Billy Connolly as Satan: What did I tell you? Cooler than anyone else in the film? Damn skippy. I always imagined Satan as a mischievous Scot anyhow, so hey – I was halfway there. Connolly can play big, brash, and he’s damn funny. Satan has to be hilariously, but deadly evil, and for his limited resume, I think Connolly’s natural skills as a wordsmith, comedian, and his pedigree as slightly above b-movie champion place him firmly in the number one spot as King of the Demon World. Also, Connolly is pretty ripe for practical or digital effects help in the looks department, as he already looks like a wildman to begin with – all that has to be done is see that physical presence tuned up to eleven.

Will it be made?

Unless an established writer has some cash to throw around for the IP, there is pretty much zero chance. Go watch Army of Darkness – that’s as close as you’re likely to get, which is far from a bad substitution.

Chances of box office success

These films can be hit-and-miss, in spite of their appeal to the adolescent boy that likes blowing up his action figures inside us all – but I think it would have a fair shot at a strong theater showing, and without question would bring in DVD sales to more than compensate for a middle-of-the-road theater outing if that were the case. While it could flop, we’re not talking unmitigated Uwe Boll failure – you have to have that kind of suck in your genetics.

Still, I picked it – so I’m going for successful box office. We’re not talking Half-life money, but it would probably run roughshod over opening week competition, and then some.

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