While video game publishers stumble time and again to bring their most successful properties to the big screen, it appears that French publisher Ubisoft is pressing forward with a clear goal in mind. First came the news that they would be bringing Assassin's Creed to audiences with the help of Michael Fassbender. And now, Splinter Cell fans have a seriously promising bit of news as well.
With Tom Hardy (Inception, The Dark Knight Rises) set to star as the covert operative 'Sam Fisher' in the video game adaptation, it seems the studio is finalizing a deal to bring Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, Edge of Tomorrow) in to direct.
The news comes courtesy of THR, claiming that Liman is entering "final negotations" with New Regency and Ubisoft to take the helm of the project; he'll also produce the film with partner David Bartis as well. The film will be based on a screenplay written by Eric Singer (The International, American Hustle) and is set to begin production this August, with an expected 2015 release. And in case it wasn't obvious already, Ubisoft is taking some promising strides in adapting their most successful properties.
While the most recent video game movie to hit theaters - EA and Dreamworks' Need For Speed - was a vast improvement in terms of cast and quality over those of past adaptations, it is still a far cry (forgive us the Ubi-pun) from what Ubisoft is assembling. Any video game or genre movie fan knows that the task of adapting a series to film is a challenging proposition; but when we listened to Hollywood writers and producers discuss the process at SDCC 2013, no representative from either Ubisoft or their filmmaking partner New Regency were present. Clearly, they're escaping many of the problems their colleagues are struggling with.
Doug Liman's experience is a strong sign for the overall film, as not only director of The Bourne Identity and Mr. and Mrs. Smith - action movies with broad appeal for both men and women - but also the upcoming sci-fi Tom Cruise vehicle Edge of Tomorrow - one of our most anticipated films of 2014. The fact that Liman was even approached is a strong sign of what direction the studio is taking, and the architect of one of the most influential spy films in recent years seems the perfect person to bring one of the most iconic espionage video game franchises to the big screen.
So with a star in place, a screenwriter with some serious credentials, and now a director who helped blaze a trail that modern action films are still traveling, it's possible Splinter Cell might have taken Assassin's Creed's place as the publisher's most promising project. Until they roll out their next batch of adaptations, that is.
What's completely clear is that the studio's demand for final approval is proving not to be the obstacle many had assumed it might. After all, Michael Fassbender had never even played one of their games, but was convinced by Ubisoft to dedicate his talents and time to the film anyway.
Only the finished films will show whether Ubisoft's uncompromising control over protecting their properties will result in better films, but the talent they're gathering is sure to turn more heads as development progresses. It is possible that a successful video game movie won't just attract more proven writers, director and actors, but perhaps the kind of control Microsoft desired to get a Halo movie off the ground will seem a little less unappealing to major studios in the future.
Does this news seem encouraging for the world of video game movies? Even if you're not a fan of the game in question, does the involvement of Hardy, Liman and Singer pique your interest? Share your thoughts in the comments.
Splinter Cell is expected to release in 2015.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.
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