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Grand Theft Auto Already Has The Perfect Template For A Movie

Hollywood has video game fever once again. Thanks to recent critical and commercial successes such as "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" and "Mortal Kombat," it's likely that the movie biz will continue to look toward large franchises to turn into motion pictures. A new "Silent Hill" movie is on the way, as is the long-gestating "BioShock" adaptation and even a take on "Gran Turismo." As Hollywood searches for the next big IP, it's only a matter of time before we get an attempt at bringing "Grand Theft Auto" to the big screen.

After all, it almost happened a couple of decades ago, shortly after the release of "Grand Theft Auto 3." Though Rockstar Games eventually passed on the proposed adaptation — which would have starred Eminem at the height of his powers — the franchise's continued dominance makes it a natural choice for the big screen. After all, if "Grand Theft Auto 5" is one of the best-selling video games of all time, it stands to reason that a movie could do gangbusters at the box office. 

If and when Hollywood comes calling, Rockstar shouldn't think too hard about the best route to take when bringing its beloved series to theaters. One game in particular offers the best story, lead character, and big dramatic set pieces that moviegoing audiences are after. If "GTA" were to ever become a movie, it would be hard to do better than an adaptation of "Grand Theft Auto 4."

Niko Bellic's story is perfect for a Grand Theft Auto movie

"Grand Theft Auto 4" has one of the most compelling stories in the franchise, focusing on a former soldier named Niko Bellic, who comes to America after a series of traumatic events have soured him on the human condition. This being a "GTA" game, he participates in various criminal activities to try to make a better life for himself, always with the intention of eventually going straight. It's not an easy road, however, and his violent past eventually catches up in more ways than one. 

That right there is already a compelling framework upon which the right studio could hang an extremely fun movie. Unlike many of the other protagonists in the "Grand Theft Auto" series, Niko doesn't exactly revel in the violent acts he must commit. It's much easier for a mainstream audience to root for Niko — a guy who wants to better himself, even if he has to crack a couple of skulls along the way — than it is to cheer for a monster like Trevor from "GTA 5."

As noted by Screen Rant's Deven McClure, "Niko still has redeeming qualities, too, like his sharp wit and his strong sense of loyalty, that make it hard for players to truly dislike him even at his worst." It would certainly make sense for that high regard to translate to movie audiences. A movie adaptation might even be able to smooth out one of the biggest glaring problems with "Grand Theft Auto 4": The fact that Niko's characterization seems to be at odds with the gameplay loop of the "Grand Theft Auto" series. 

How a movie could even improve on GTA 4

In "Grand Theft Auto 4," Niko mostly seems like a well-intentioned guy. He has his scary moments, but he's written strongly enough that some of his actions outside of the main narrative — the kind of free-roaming open world chaos the series is known for — feel totally off. A movie could side-step this by having Niko be the voice of reason and leaving some of the nastier activities to the supporting cast. General audiences would certainly find it a great deal easier to be on Niko's side under these circumstances, as well. At the end of the game — spoiler alert, of course — Niko completes his hero's journey by leaving the mob behind and settling down with his sweetheart. It's a story arc tailor-made to please theater crowds.

We might still be far off from seeing "Grand Theft Auto" hitting the big screen, especially while Rockstar Games is occupied with completing "Grand Theft Auto 6" at some point in this console generation. But if it ever happens, Niko's story is ripe for adaptation. It's full of the series' biggest hallmarks, including heists, gunfights, and drug deals gone horribly awry, but it's the game's significant focus on character that make it truly the right choice. Niko's rise to power is gradual and compelling enough to sustain a television series, if the IP owners want to aim really big. Hollywood loves a gritty, grounded crime story — and that's "GTA 4" to a tee.