Netflix confirms Bioshock movie — I hope it doesn’t suck

A Big Daddy in the city of Rapture in Bioshock
(Image credit: 2K and Take-Two via Netflix's Twitter)

Netflix is venturing into the underwater city of Rapture. The streamer has confirmed that it's collaborating with 2K and Take-Two Interactive on a feature film adaptation of the popular video game series Bioshock. 

The news was announced via a social media post which confirmed the project is in development, and nothing else of note. There is no information on attached talent in front of or behind the camera, or any sort of release date. Even the image posted alongside the announcement is just recycled key art from the first Bioshock game. 

The inclusion of this iconic artwork does at least suggest that the Netflix Bioshock movie will be primarily influenced by the first game in the series. Originally released in 2007, Bioshock is a critical acclaimed first-person shooter that is still widely praised for its compelling narrative and unique setting. 

The game takes place in Rapture, a utopia under the sea that is no longer the paradise its founder Andrew Ryan envisioned. When we first see this desecrated city, it is overrun with zombified humans known as Splicers in the aftermath of violent civil war. 

The game was followed by a direct sequel in 2010, and a spiritual successor in 2013 called Bioshock Infinite. While the third game in the series was set in a floating cloud city named Columbia, its two DLC expansions brought gamers back to Rapture. 

There’s no indication if the Netflix movie will also include the setting Columbia. However, keen Bioshock players will know there is a possibility, as the two cities are heavily linked within the game's rich lore. 

Netflix’s plan to make a Bioshock movie is not the first to surface either. In 2008 Universal announced a Gore Verbinski directed Bioshock film, but the project got stuck in development hell and was officially confirmed as cancelled in 2013. Let's hope this Netflix adaptation doesn’t meet the same fate (or maybe we should, see below). 

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Analysis: Can Netflix get this video game adaptation right?  

Bioshock screenshot

(Image credit: 2K Games)

You can literally count the number of well received video game movies on one hand. Going by Rotten Tomatoes scores, there have been just four films (Angry Birds 2, Sonic the Hedgehog, Detective Pikachu, Werewolves Within) with a fresh rating among the whole rotten bunch, and even with those, your mileage may vary.

So, history says that movies that adapt video game franchises almost universally suck. It’s no wonder that the early reactions from fans of the Bioshock series has included begging requests for Netflix to not screw this one up. Count my voice among them.

If a Bioshock movie is going to work, it will first require a sizable budget. Shooting with water is notoriously expensive (it’s why Pirates of the Caribbean 4 is the most expensive movie ever made), and Bioshock is set in a city built on the ocean floor. Netflix will need to dig deep into its pockets if the movie is going to do the phenomenal setting of Rapture justice. 

Secondly, the film has to be R-rated. One of the big reasons the previous Bioshock movie didn’t pan out was that Universal wanted a PG-13 film with mass appeal, and Verbinski wanted an adults only tale that remained true to Bioshock’s pretty bleak central narrative. Hopefully Netflix execs agree with Verbinski, and declare that Rapture isn’t a place for kids. 

Netflix has done some well received work in the TV series space, most notably with The Witcher. Granted that’s a show I’ve personally struggled to stick with despite my love of the video game series. Furthermore, that show takes a lot of cues from the original Witcher novels and it’s second season has come under fire for making unnecessary changes to important characters (*cough*Eskel*cough*). So, it's example doesn't fill me with hope. 

I'll be approaching the Netflix Bioshock movie with scepticism but I'm very much hoping to be proven pleasantly surprised. All I ask: Netflix would you kindly not screw this one up.  

Next: Here's why there's never been a better time to play Bioshock.

Rory Mellon
Entertainment Editor (UK)

Rory is an Entertainment Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on gaming and streaming. When he’s not reviewing the latest games, searching for hidden gems on Netflix, or writing hot takes on new gaming hardware, TV shows and movies, he can be found attending music festivals and getting far too emotionally invested in his favorite football team.