After setting up three films at Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros., Ubisoft Motion Pictures is ready for phase two.
Company recently packaged big screen adaptations of “Assassin’s Creed” and “Splinter Cell” at New Regency. Fox has already planted a flag on Memorial Day 2015 to release the “Assassins” film, which will star Michael Fassbender. “Splinter Cell” will star Tom Hardy. Both actors are also attached as producers. This week, Ubisoft announced that Michael Bay will develop “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon” into a potential film franchise at Warner Bros.
In the cases of “Watch Dogs,” “Far Cry” and “Rabbids,” Ubisoft will once again maintain creative control of the projects as they’re developed into movies. That means the division, under the direction of UMP CEO Jean-Julien Baronnet, will hire screenwriters, directors, cast and choose the production shingles and studios it wants to work with. Ubisoft will finance the development of the scripts.
By doing that, “no one can tell us you have to do the movie a certain way,” Baronnet said.
Company is currently in talks with Frank Marshall (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” the Jason Bourne series) and Basil Iwanyk (“Wrath of the Titans,” “The Town”) to serve as producers on “Assassin’s Creed” and “Splinter Cell,” respectively.
While “Far Cry” and “Rabbids” are already established tentpole game franchises for Ubisoft, “Watchdogs” has yet to be released. Game launches Nov. 19, but has been generating considerable buzz among the gaming community since last year’s E3.
■ “Watch Dogs” is a stealth game that lets players hack into people’s phones and other devices, as well as the city’s infrastruscture to carry out missions and stop criminals.
■ Each game in the “Far Cry” series has been different, with the first following an ex Special Forces operative who searches for a missing journalist on a mysterious island when the sailboat they were traveling on is destroyed by mercenaries. “Far Cry 3,” which was released last year, revolves around American tourists who are abducted by pirates on an unmarked set of islands, and must try to survive in the jungle as they’re hunted by an insane drug trafficker. The game was a hit for Ubisoft, selling more than six million units. Game already was the basis of a low-budget 2008 actioner directed by Uwe Boll.
■ And the more kid-friendly “Rabbids,” a spinoff of Ubisoft’s “Rayman” games, features an animated group of hyper rabbits know for causing mischief. They’re essentially Ubisoft’s version of Universal’s Minions. Nickelodeon will air “Rabbids Invasion” as an interactive TV show sometime this fall, which will let viewers play mini games featuring the characters using the Xbox One’s Kinect.
Plan is to produce “Rabbids” as live action film featuring the mischievous bunnies in the game as CG characters, similar to “The Smurfs” or “Alvin and the Chipmunks.”
As opposed to other gamemakers who see a film as a marketing tool to sell more games, Ubisoft is treating its movies as standalone titles that feature new plots. They’re not meant to be retellings of what gamers have already played in the past.
“These are not adaptations,” Baronnet stresses. “We will create a brand new story. Always.”
To do that, Ubisoft Motion Pictures is working closely with Ubisoft’s various game studios to make sure there’s no overlap, while maintaining the DNA of the franchises, and helping them grow across various platforms.
That includes the marketing campaigns, with Baronnet planning on launching campaigns 18 months before a film’s release “to create bridges between the game and movie,” he said.
While it now has six game-based movies in development, Baronnet said he has no plans to adapt Ubisoft’s entire portfolio.
“Not every game will make a good movie, and for others it may be too early to turn into a movie,” he said.