Ubisoft

According to a press release from Ubisoft, the video game company has partnered with New Regency to develop their Assassin’s Creed movie. The project is moving forward quickly because of one reason: Michael Fassbender. The actor has moved fluidly between the mainstream world (X-Men: First Class), the indie world (A Dangerous Method) and the niche indie world (everything he’s done with Steve McQueen), but taking this role might be the first major opportunity for him to headline a big film without an ensemble at his side. Which is excellent. Fassbender is unarguably skilled, and it’s been amazing to see him bob and weave with success around a filmmaking landscape that’s difficult to navigate. There’s still a long way to go with this thing, but the game is popular, and the basic concept should translate easily to a movie that involves a lot of action and violence. It’s easy to see how Fassbender would be the right actor for the job.

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It could be a frustration with the qualitative output of video game adaptations over the past decade, but it’s far more likely that Ubisoft’s decision to open up a film division has more to do with the cha-ching of cash registers. They no doubt saw what came of a mediocre adaptation of their Prince of Persia property — $327 million dollars worldwide — and thought “hey, that’s a lot of money.” So they’ve opened up Ubisoft Motion Pictures, which according to Variety will be led by Jean-Julien Baronnet, former CEO of Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp. There’s no doubt that they will begin working to secure funding for adaptations of their biggest properties, namely Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell, and we can only hope they do so intelligently, with care and with co-financers. Because no one wants to see a $20-million dollar indie presentation of Assassin’s Creed, am I right?

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The answer is yes. It’s funny how video games have gotten more and more cinematic, while video game adaptations have still been mostly awful. According to Cinema Blend, Ubisoft has sent out a survey to its loyal customers that asks them several questions about movies, including whether they’d like to see Rainbow Six and Assassin’s Creed. It even asks which characters they’d need to focus on. Big studio pictures are edited by focus groups, but here’s a situation where a big company is thinking about getting into the film business by getting a big focus group together at the front end. That’s not a terrible idea. Think of the movies that could have been avoided (and the money saved) if studios has just asked people whether they wanted them or not. Both of these titles would translate impeccably well to film. Rainbow Six would be an action film done in the Tom Clancy tradition, focusing on an elite counter-terrorism team. Assassin’s Creed might get a little too Prince of Persia‘d, but it has the appeal of an elite assassin team killing powerful bad guys in a rustic European setting. They are both high concept with some decently developed characters, and there’s no reason why they wouldn’t work on screen. Hopefully those survey-takers agree, and we’ll be able to see these projects move on to the next steps.

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