Some things are storytelling tools rather than stories themselves...
How can they make a Minecraft movie? The thought popped into my mind one afternoon as I scrolled through blog feeds from a few gaming news sources. The Minecraft movie is a definite, real project and is currently expected to come out in 2019. The whole idea of a Minecraft movie is as puzzling to me as the story mode that came out recently. I was entirely unused to the idea of having named characters with their own motives and personalities in the Minecraft world. Why the disconnect?
In short, Minecraft is not conducive to set storylines; it’s a storytelling tool. In a world where gamers have taken over the likes of Team Fortress 2, hacked Mario and Sonic games, and a multitude of skins and mods to make games their own, something like Minecraft clearly exists as a place to project stories onto rather than something to talk back. When I was younger, I had a fair number of dolls. Barbies, off-brand barbies, even Bratz dolls. They interacted with action figures, stuffed animals, and weird yarn-and-paper creations to have their own stories. Something like a Bratz movie or a Barbie movie seemed unthinkable to me; these dolls were mine, damn it, why would I want to listen to someone else’s story when I can craft one of my own?
That’s the puzzle of a Minecraft movie, an echo of the distaste I had with the Lego movie. The entire point of these environments is to be a sandbox. The person gets to take these blocks and stack them as they will, regardless of anyone else’s ideas about what makes a good story. The whole idea lead me to a further digression on stories and story-telling tools. I came upon two fandoms, if it were, usually similar in their Anglophilic devotion but diametrically different in their role in stories.
So...fanfiction, right? If the term is new to one’s perspective, that is easily remedied. Fanficton exists to explain, fill holes in, extend, or entire diverge from a completed story. It’s been around since stories have been around, especially since before copyright determined legal ramifications for taking characters from, let’s say, Wuthering Heights and putting them on a space station in the year 3714. While the most-written-on properties vary depending on popularity and access to internet environments these days, two have been fairly persistent: Harry Potter and Sherlock Holmes. Both are British male characters, both from very well-established times and places and situations. Both, however, offer different storytelling tools to fans.
Harry Potter offers a universe, a Wizarding World. Take any beloved characters or even entirely new characters in any situation, and they can be squarely put into the Wizarding world. There are particular rules to Harry-Potter-esque magic, there is a Wizading society, education and history is established. There are set ideas of morals, set illnesses and conditions and dangers, set creatures, set wars and timelines. It is comfortable yet inherently magical for anyone reading it. I could stop right now and ask the reader to look up a handful of well-known characters (Spock and Kirk, the Avengers, characters from Game of Thrones) and odds are someone has figured out their Hogwarts house, Patronus, animagus. While the characters, somewhat unfortunately, have very clear stories already done, the entire world is a playground. This aligns the universe closer to that of Minecraft. Sure, we could hear about Harry’s children or the past of the Marauders, but the true freedom just lies within the grounds of Hogwarts itself. The possibilities are near endless.
The second fandom, far older and more scholarly, is that of Sherlock Holmes. While their original setting, Victorian London, is oft-explored in fiction, the real beauty of Sherlockian possibilities lie in the characters. Take Dr. John Watson and detective Sherlock Holmes and plop them down anywhere, in any time or place or situation, and there bubbles a story in the making. Unlike the fairly set timeline of Harry Potter characters, Holmes and Watson are perpetually dancing around each other and their enemies and always a dynamic duo. Their shadows lie in stories already. Dr. House and Dr. Wilson. The analysts in Lie to Me. Spock, Kirk, and Bones to a degree. There is always a brooding and somewhat dangerous genius and a stable, war-worn doctor type. And it’s always 1895.
So to the original question, how can there be a Minecraft movie? There can be one because of money, exploitation, the ease of pumping out computer-animated movies. But don’t be annoyed if a beloved universe is tarnished with generic characters and weak plot filler; that’s what the fanfiction is for.
*AU: Alternate reality from the original story. For example, a James Bond story set in the Star Wars universe or a reality in which a character did not die.