After two previous scripts failed to capture properly the dramatic tension inherent in Asteroids—no doubt causing Transformers producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura to hurl them across the room, screaming, "WHERE IS THE NUANCE??!!"—Universal is trying again with its long-in-the-making adaptation of the classic Atari game, bringing in Jez Butterworth to draft a third attempt. In addition to being the sickly heir to a black treacle fortune, his rumpled waistcoasts perpetually stained with petit-four crumbs and cowardice, Jez Butterworth is also a respected English playwright, whose award-winning Royal Court productions such as Mojo and Jerusalem were deeply indebted to Butterworth's mentor, Harold Pinter. Since then, Butterworth has written the Nicole Kidman film Birthday Girl and 2010's Valerie Plame dramatization Fair Game, and he will now apply his sense of creeping menace and quiet desperation to the story of a triangle shooting rocks in space.
Indeed, like the plays of his hero Pinter, Butterworth's Asteroids will surely deal with the unsettling ambiguities of being a triangle shooting rocks in space. The question, never answered, of how that triangle got into space. The futility of its being called upon to shoot rocks, over and over, when more rocks will just spawn to replace them. The identities and source of those flying saucers that periodically traverse the screen, seemingly just to taunt the triangle. (God?) The crushing inevitability of the triangle's fixed place in the universe, as it tries to escape in one direction, only to find itself hurtling, again and again, back to the middle of those damned rocks.
After all, what is Atari's Asteroids if not an 8-Bit Theatre of the Absurd, revealing all of life to be a pointless, Sisyphean exercise—where instead of pushing our boulders, we blast them with tiny lasers? Are we not all simply triangles imprisoned in our own endless space? Will Asteroids be not the mirror held up to the existential hopelessness of our lives? Will it have hyperspace jumps?
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