Can a Monopoly Movie Win the Game?

Pass go and collect $200 (million) dollars?

Can a Monopoly Movie Win the Game?
Photo by Joshua Hoehne / Unsplash.

Margot Robbie has added new layers to the Barbie franchise in the 2023 film; now she is hitting the board games. Variety reports that she is producing an adaptation of Monopoly. She's going from being wrapped in plastic to choosing a shoe, car, thimble, train, or horse. Lionsgate and Robbie's company, LuckyChap, will produce the project. Can such a film pass Go and collect $200 with each roll of the dice?

Lionsgate gained access to the Monopoly franchise in December 2023 after purchasing the company's eOne film and TV arm, according to the Hollywood Reporter. Future adaptations are brimming with potential as the Hasbro board game portfolio includes the Game of Life, Sorry!, and Trouble. Lionsgate statements feature hopes that a Monopoly film will become a blockbuster.

The irony is that Monopoly was originally a critique of capitalism, how players are incentivized to bankrupt friends and family during a session. Monopoly has grown from its humble origins to a formidable franchise, with game themes including the Muppets, Game of Thrones, and Star Wars. More than 300 versions of Monopoly exist, dating back to 1935. You can even play it on your phone as a mobile app! A film is only the latest installment in such a global icon, that capitalizes on this attempt to expose exploitative practices.

As of April 11, 2024, LuckyChap and Lionsgate have not released information on casting or directing. More information will be forthcoming.

Monopoly Plus for PlayStation consoles. Source: PlayStation Store.

Concerns Beyond "Go To Jail"

Unlike the Barbie franchise, which uses various dolls to tell different stories, Monopoly lacks a plot. The basic premise is that you and other players buy properties, charge rent on them, and attempt to bankrupt your opponents. You win when everyone else folds, thus being the only business left, and becoming a monopoly.

Many board game adaptations have taken to creating plots using the trademarked mechanics. Results can be mixed, as few people remember the 2012 Battleship adaptation starring Liam Neeson and Rihanna. In some cases, when a movie does poorly, like Clue featuring Tim Curry, it may generate a cult following for fans who appreciate the dark humor involving murder. Ouija boards have become the subject of horror, with Jason Blum and Michael Bay producing the 2014 film Ouija and Ben Demaree directing a paranormal thriller called Ouija House. At best, these adaptations get the benefit of hindsight, but most end up forgotten. Monopoly risks the same fate if the director and cast receive a lackluster script.

Some parodies have taken humorous approaches to the idea of adapting the Monopoly premise; the comedy group Half-Day Today posted a trailer in 2012, pitching the game as an angsty business drama. Other parodies featured in shows like Phineas and Ferb depict a rigged version, with every Chance card saying "Conform!" if you land on the square. Even Friday the 13th and SpongeBob SquarePants have referenced the game, and often mock the concept of unlucky players landing in jail. If the player is really unlucky, they may go to a real jail for flipping the board. 

A third option is that Monopoly will apply the same existential crisis that the Barbie film had. Robbie's Barbie had questions about life, purpose, and aging while traversing the real world. We could see a similar premise of Monopoly characters interacting with reality, the businessmen who produce the game, and the consequences of selfish tycoon behavior. If Robbie's production team could pull it off, they may have a powerful story to bring to the screen.

In any case, Hasbro has a huge challenge on its hands. They need to raise the bar from Battleship and show that board games can tell stories. It's doubtful Rihanna would want to get involved again, so they will need to find another celebrity actor as their movie's center.


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