Stray, the post-apocalyptic puzzle-platformer about a cat, a drone, and a bizarre city populated entirely by robots, is being made into an animated movie that Annapurna Animation head Robert Baird said will be “the first and greatest hopepunk movie that’s ever been made.”
Not being familiar with the term, I immediately assumed that Baird was making up some nonsense ‘-punk’ subgenre in a bid for attention. As it turns out, I was being hasty and unfair: Wikipedia says “hopepunk” was coined in 2017 by fantasy author Alexandra Rowland, and it’s essentially the opposite of grimdark. “Works in the hopepunk subgenre are about characters fighting for positive change, radical kindness, and communal responses to challenges,” the Wiki page says.
I’m honestly not sure how well Stray fits into that particular definition. I haven’t played it, but the intro, at least, doesn’t sound very hopeful: It’s set in a world where humanity has gone extinct following the failure of its last desperate bid to survive the destruction of the planet. All that’s left are bored robots and curious cats, who—let’s be honest with ourselves here—will probably do a far better job with the place than we ever did. And maybe that’s the “hope” part—not that humanity will survive, but that someone else will eventually take over and clean up our mess.
Despite that bleak outlook, the concept of humanity plays a central role in Stray, according to Baird, who told Entertainment Weekly that it’s “a game that’s all about what makes us human,” even though there are no humans in it.
“It’s a buddy comedy about a cat and a robot, and there’s such a hilarious dynamic,” Baird said. “So, there’s comedy inherent in this, but there’s not one human being in this movie. I think it’s one of the reasons why the game was incredibly popular, that you are seeing the world through the point of view of an adorable cat. How did they pull that off, and how are we going to pull that off in the movie? We will, even though sometimes it feels impossible, but we know that’s the essence of the game and the key to telling the story.”
Studio executives are apparently looking at other Annapurna Interactive games for possible movie translations, but Annapurna Animation co-chief Andrew Millstein said they wanted to start with Stray because “it is just wildly popular.”
“People engage in the game for a variety of reasons, and I think for us at Annapurna, working with different creative people, it’s a puzzle. What is it about this game that is so popular?” Millstein said. “Then the question is, how do you adapt a game into longform storytelling that is incredibly respectful to the game itself and the audiences, but then also is film worthy? The process of that is always part of the challenge.”
It’s obviously very early in the process and so there’s no sign of a possible release window or cast, but I have to say that this doesn’t strike me as a terrible idea. The mismatched buddy comedy potential is obvious, and while puzzle-platforming gameplay doesn’t translate very well to the big screen, a Stray film will have room to grapple with some of the game’s bigger ideas, too. Cats are also cute as hell, especially when they’re wearing adorable little backpacks and accidentally frightening silly-looking robots, so that’s not a bad place to start either.
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