For a few years now, Rick and Morty fans have been hoping that the creators of the popular animated sci-fi series will make a live-action version of the otherworldly adventures. From the entire concept of the show being inspired by the Back to the Future films, to Adult Swim teasing fans in 2021 with a series of live-action Rick and Morty clips featuring Christopher Lloyd and Jaeden Martell, the hope that the franchise will go live-action remains strong.
Because the show is so character driven, it’s easy to see how witnessing the live-action versions of those characters is so appealing to those that love the series. While the advancements in graphics would easily allow a live-action storyline to effectively bring the world (or worlds) to life, there are a number of other things that will likely be affected by transitioning the story to a live-action format.
Aside from the obvious differences that would come about as a result of the story transforming from animation to live-action, like variations in the actors’ physical appearances and movement, there are a lot of details that would be difficult to translate to reality. Perhaps the biggest examples are the intense gore and even some of the more sexual content. While graphics and makeup can easily achieve the visuals, presenting them in a realistic form changes the weight that they have in the story and can change the story’s tone. For example, if an alien were decapitated and sprouted a new head in the animated series, it would be easier to depict as comical, because the animation creates a sort of separation between the story and reality for the viewer. On the other hand, in a live action medium, that would be a much more grotesque and likely more disturbing thing to see. Seeing gore in a live-action format almost always gives a story a darker tone than seeing it animated, which could be the case for much of Rick and Morty’s content.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the graphics could translate poorly with the aliens and make them look corny. Because many of the alien creatures in the animated show are outlandish and even raunchy, trying to make them look realistic could ruin the effect that they bring to the storyline. The same concern could be applied to the visuals of the alien worlds that the characters visit. In short, though graphics have made exploring science fiction concepts easier, the absurdity of the universe adds another layer of difficulty when bringing it to life.
Rick and Morty creators have discussed making a movie and have considered live-action for a few years now; however, still, nothing has been confirmed. It’s possible that the difficulties with transitioning from television to film format, and from animation to live-action, are part of the reason that nothing has been made definite yet. Regardless of what’s holding them up, it seems that the push for a live-action version of the show isn’t going away. If creators have plans — at any stage — of actually creating it, they will need to consider these issues with visuals and maintaining their tones from animated forms to CGI forms.
A live-action Rick and Morty television series would be a lot of work, and honestly, kind of pointless since there’s already a series exploring that format in the universe. A film makes more sense for a live-action adaptation. A movie format would condense the number of characters that would need to be explored, which would help avoid alien characters or worlds that might look bad in CGI.
So far, the series of short live-action Rick and Morty videos, starring Lloyd and Martell, have been successful because their brevity allows them to focus more on the characters than the world, which avoids a lot of the problems with graphics. The miniseries has released several episodes and possibly has more to come, which again, the brief length allows. While the short episodes were meant as a treat for fans, they instead fueled fan interest in a live-action feature length, which is simply a structure that may be too dense for the live-action version of the world to be successful.
James Gunn, a filmmaker of works like Guardians of the Galaxy, is a known fan of the Rick and Morty franchise. That said, while he is experienced with creating live-action versions of alien beings and worlds, even he has expressed having no interest in adapting the Rick and Morty universe into a live-action format. This is because of the difficult task that’s created when translating certain parts of the show because their tonal presence is assisted by the animation.
Even many of the jokes and character flaws that contribute to the specific humor of the animated series would be altered by switching to live-action. A good example is Rick constantly being drunk around Morty and pulling him out of school for adventures. Again, the animation creates a buffer for these darker tones in the humor. Seeing such things in live-action might feel too real and make the viewer uncomfortable, taking the humor from being satirical and reflective to just feeling dark and cynical.
If Rick and Morty creators decide to go through with making a live-action Rick and Morty film, they will have to pay careful attention to how they approach the visuals, tone, and elements of the world. Beyond adding another unique quality to the layers that make the series an enjoyable show, the animation in Rick and Morty allows it to explore concepts and characters that simply wouldn’t make sense in our world. Though adapting the universe to a live-action format could easily ruin the story, if carefully considered and approached correctly, the film could potentially be a memorable success as a live-action science fiction film and could illustrate the true genius of the world it’s set in.