Hollywood has a difficult relationship with Games.
Many a gamer has lamented the end result when producers make films from beloved games series and contrive to deliver a product which neither satisfies the core audience who know the property nor the wider demographic who treat the movie as just another action/sf/horror/thriller at the multiplex on a Friday night.
Many film critics generally use the term ‘like a video game’ to decry the kinetic, negative qualities found within a studio actioner – inevitably setting off an orgy of eye-rolling in any half-awake gamer who knows that Hollywood only sees the surface patina in anything and rips-off the new hotness and it’s stylistic innovations with tiresome irregularity. A relationship, of course, which goes both ways, as anybody who saw James Cameron’s “Aliens” and then played Bungie’s “Halo” games will wryly attest.
As though to try and ensure that Hollywood doesn’t have things all their own way when it comes to adapting lucrative video games franchises into potential trans-media behemoth cash cows, Ubisoft’s recently announced plans to get into the film business on a larger scale (they already own a digital effects studio) are to bear fruit in the form of proposed “Assassin’s Creed” and “Splinter Cell” movies.
Though the first entry in their ambitions to get into the film business, Summer 2010’s moderately accomplished and just-about-successful “Prince of Persia” did reasonable box office, it was far from the launch of a new, bi-annual film franchise. If it did anything best, it perhaps convinced studio execs and producers alike that you don’t have to jettison everything about a games series and start from a blank slate in order to make a movie which scores on a worldwide basis. There was enough of the game’s DNA present in “PoP” to appeal to anybody who ever played a game in the series – that said, it’s a DNA so in debt to the Douglas Fairbanks/Michael Curtiz/swashbuckling adventure films of the 1930’s that a film version seems more of a foregone conclusion than with any other game-to-film adaptation.
Both current Ubisoft properties have the germs of a successful, character-based series of films – in Desmond, the “Assassin’s Creed” games have a Neo-esque hero caught in a Science Fiction conspiracy thriller storyline of mouth-watering complexity, with lots of action, characters, time periods and a strong visual identity which would lend itself happily to film.
Really, I think the key is to adapt games wisely, and not do so just because a producer has the rights to a story which already worked in one media sphere and so can be translated, relatively cheaply, into another realm and deliver a primed, ready-made audience who’ll turn out on opening weekend and swell the coffers before a swift transition to dvd and the home viewing platforms.
As for “Splinter Cell”. I have but one recommendation: