Pac-Man live-action film raises questions like: What? Why? When?


Game maker Bandai Namco and Wayfarer Studios are launching a film project based on the classic game Pac-Man, according to an exclusive report Monday by The Hollywood Reporter. In addition, the film will be a live-action adaptation. When thinking about how Hollywood can bring to life the most famous yellow circle not named “the sun,” there’s a lot to chew on.

Pac-Man is one of the best-selling gaming franchises of all time and would join a number of other hallowed franchises recently adapted for live action on the big screen. Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog has starred in two films since 2020 and is slated for a third, while Chris Pratt is set to star as Nintendo’s Mario in another upcoming film.

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Still, both franchises have a lot more to offer in terms of storytelling and in-game lore than the hero formerly known as “Puck Man.” Here are some pressing questions that immediately required deep meditation as we pondered a live-action movie starring the beloved, pellet-munching Pac-Man.

Seriously, who asked for this? Though Pac-Man is a staple of classic arcade games and a significant source of video game nostalgia, there were voices calling for a cinematic production centered on a character who doesn’t do much more than she lets on in front of ghosts flee and gobble up points? This isn’t an IP screaming “great source of Shakespearean drama”. Ms. Pac-Man isn’t whispering in Pac-Man’s ear to assassinate “King” Donkey Kong, she’s in a whole different game and has her own heroic twist. It just doesn’t seem like it has to be.

And yet, now that we know it’s in the works… it absolutely has to exist! Why? To answer all of our remaining questions. Start with …

The standard version of Pac-Man, as you may know, is rather minimal. A yellow circle with a “mouth” resembling a missing pizza slice, Pac-Man simply floats the hallways in two-dimensional glory, happily munching on his steady, if monotonous, diet of pixels. Pac-Man is characterized by its simplicity, designed by Game Director Toru Iwatani to appeal to a wide and diverse player base. In the process, Iwatani created one of the most iconic characters – and games – of all time. All of this ups the ante for the character’s visual design in a live-action film adaptation.

How exactly do you bring Iwatani’s version of Pac-Man to life in a 3D environment I like to call “the real world” surrounded by real actors? As The Post’s Gene Park wrote in 2020, Iwatani’s design was inspired by a haiku by Matsuo Basho, which translates to “So quiet is the area that the sounds of cicadas seep into the rocks.” Wie becomes Hollywood’s muse shape the film version?

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One solution might be to use the renderings of the titular character from Hanna-Barbera’s short-lived TV series from the early 1980s. In this cartoon, Pac-Man’s famous maw was accompanied by a tongue, arms, legs, nose and eyes, topped by two rather prominent brows. This feels like a more workable version of the character in a real-world setting, albeit less elegant in form than the original Puck Man.

There is one other wrinkle worth noting regarding character design. According to the Hollywood Reporter, the film is based on “an original idea” by Chuck Williams, who produced 2020’s “Sonic the Hedgehog.” The resulting Sonic movies (which were pretty good) inspire a certain level of confidence.

But before work begins on a four-part CGI Pac-Man along with new facial features or, God forbid, teeth, we all remember the first reveal of Williams Sonic. It was terrible horror at first sight; The original CG protagonist unsettled Sonic fans so much that it had to be completely reworked. Hopefully, any Pac-Man styling doesn’t add nightmare fuel or material for a spoof in a sequel to Disney’s Chip ‘n’ Dale: Rescue Rangers.

Pac-Man’s original source material is devoid of compelling drama. Where does the tension arise in a possible plot? Could it be a 90 minute chase of our dear hero dodging the scary ghosts? Maybe only if Michael Bay is attached to the project. But maybe we’re thinking too literally about it.

What if the Pac-Man plot is more metaphorical? Imagine the Dickensian aspects of the game! A humble everyman pounding the pavement, doing a thankless job, trapped in a maze of social and economic constructs, forced to succeed or die trying – all the while plagued by the ghosts that haunt us all. From time to time, our hero, buoyed by confidence, turns the tables and sends them back to their lair, only to see his fleeting power ebb, contemplate his mortality, and see these spirits as strong as ever to return. Like life!

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With Pac-Man in production reporting Monday, the film appears a long way from ending up in a theater (or streaming service). According to the Hollywood Reporter, only the producers are currently known, with Justin Baldoni, Manu Gargi and Andrew Calof producing on behalf of Wayfarer Studios, in addition to Williams and Tim Kwok for Lightbeam Entertainment. It’s safe to say that Pac-Man fans will be hungry for more news whenever it comes. In the meantime, one last question…

5. Did someone record the pitch meeting?

Please please please say it exists. If only to hear the sounds that fill the room after someone says, “Two words: live action, Pac-Man!”

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