Growing video game developer and publisher Ubisoft formed its own film production house back in May. Titled Ubisoft Motion Pictures, the studio’s primary goal is to get to work on the beginnings of three potential film franchises based on their core video game series: Assassin’s Creed, Ghost Recon and Splinter Cell, the latter two of which spawned from Tom Clancy novels.
Assassin’s Creed is the hottest property Ubisoft is running with at the moment, with its fourth major release in four years occurring in under two weeks. Seeing the buzz, the sales numbers and potential of the stories and cinematic nature of the games, several movie studios vied for the chance to work with Ubisoft and distribute the film adaptation, but Sony won in the end. According to the heads of competing studios, perhaps they didn’t really win…
According to Vulture, the deal Sony signed with Ubisoft is unlike any other in that it grants Ubisoft Motion Pictures nearly full creative control as well as approval over the script, casting decisions, budget and release date. Like we’re beginning to see with a lot of major video game franchises, the creators are rightfully worried of filmmakers ruining their brand and this is why we’re seeing so much hesitation and uncertainty on films including Call of Duty, Gears of War, Grand Theft Auto, Halo, Metal Gear Solid and Uncharted.
One of Vulture’s insiders describes the deal as something not even Spielberg could get land as a director and Spielberg’s DreamWorks was one of the first studios to pass on Assassin’s Creed movie. Spielberg isn’t shooting down the movie as many are over-dramatizing; DreamWorks is avoiding the restrictive situation that comes with it. When it comes to licensed properties there’s a very tough balance between the director’s creative control, the creator trying to protect their own work and the studio whose primary goal is to maximize the revenue by making the film as accessible and wide-reaching as possible.
According to Vulture’s multiple studio sources, there’s a long of angst about the existence of such a deal where the movie studio has what amounts to be little creative control over the project. This ended up being what took Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures out of the running.
“It’s [Ubisoft’s] billion-dollar brand, so I get that they’re protective… But they’re not moviemakers, and the only way to make sure it’s a bad movie is to undervalue what movie studios do — and this is a deal that totally undervalues what movie studios do.”
By “what movie studios do,” said studio exec must be referring to the likes of Hitman, Prince of Persia, Max Payne and Wing Commander. Clearly, they got the right idea when it comes to managing and running with video game projects. Seeing as how in reality nearly all video game movies suck – even the ones with massive budgets – perhaps it’s best to try something different with Assassin’s Creed. The more control Ubisoft has might just be for the best.
Says one studio chief who of course, didn’t get the Assassin’s Creed deal for his studio:
“They want to be able to pull the plug on the whole movie’s development if they decide to. It’s ridiculous.”
No, the Doom adaptation was ridiculous. Someone needed to the pull the plug on that.
This isn’t as extreme as some are making it sound since Ubisoft is actually going to be financing a heavy portion of the project and this is why Sony was satisfied with the deal. Ubisoft is simply fearful of what a movie studio would do with Assassin’s Creed if they weren’t fully involved and who can blame them after what Disney did with Prince of Persia and a $200 million production budget.
There’s actually a deep and complex story behind the Assassin’s Creed games with a wide variety of wonderful characters. The potential for a long-term film franchise and merchandising is limitless but it all comes down to it being made right. That’s what Ubisoft is aiming to do and good for them – perhaps it can be the movie to turn the tide for the genre and bring the quality that some of these major video game franchises deserve on the silver screen.
What the other studio execs are really worried about is this deal actually working out and the movie not only hitting it big at the box office, but among critics. What happens with the industry and deals with video game publishers going forward? Uh oh. Let’s just hope Sony and Ubisoft can work together on this one and get the right people involved.
For an idea of the visual style Assassin’s Creed can offer, you must watch the Assassin’s Creed Revelations E3 2011 trailer at our sister site, Game Rant. Also check out episode 11 of the Screen Rant Underground podcast where we also discuss the Assassin’s Creed film.