Released in 1987, Contra was an arcade game for an age of pumped-up, Reagan-era action films. About a pair of muscle-bound heroes, Lance and Bill, and their fight against enemy forces on a tropical archipelago, the run-and-gunner launched a series that, to date, contains 11 sequels and spin-offs.
Thirty years after its initial release, Konami’s classic is set to stage a come-back from an unexpected angle: a Chinese production company has announced that it’s making a live-action movie adaptation and a TV series. We even have a first teaser for the project:
Aside from a slight change in location, the plot sounds broadly the same as the original game’s back-story. Here’s the official synopsis:
“In 1988, a huge meteorite lands on an uninhabited island in the South China Sea. Chen Qiang and Li Zhiyong investigate but come up empty handed. 29 years later, Chen sends commandos Bill and Lance into a combat mission there to neutralize the villainous Red Falcon Organization, but end up facing a different enemy altogether.”
We love that the movie retains the names of the characters from the Contra arcade machine. Like the rest of the game, Contra‘s steeped in ’80s history and pop culture. Bill and Lance’s full names are Bill Rizer and Lance Bean – a mash-up of actors’ names from James Cameron’s Aliens (Paul Reiser, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, and Michael Biehn) – while their likenesses are evidently based on Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone.
The game’s imagery was also inspired by the bio-mechanical stuff in Aliens, while the title was taken from either the Nicaraguan Revolution or the Iran-Contra affair, which both hit headlines in the mid-80s. This is largely why Contra was sold under other, less politically sensitive names in different territories, with alternate titles including Gryzor, Probotector, or simply C.
As well as a brilliant – and incredibly difficult – game in its own right, Contra is therefore something of an 80s time-capsule, which is why we’re fascinated to see how this Chinese movie adaptation will turn out. Will they hire two actors as beefed-up and macho as the ones on the game’s cover (plainly modelled on promo photos from the film Predator)? Will they keep the Giger-esque alien designs? And when the going gets really, really tough, will Bill and Lance unleash the famous Konami Code?
We’ll bring you the answers to these questions as we get them.