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‘Splinter Cell’ movie: Is it happening?

Will Perkins
Wide Screen
June 19, 2012

French video game giant Ubisoft has created some of the most popular game franchises in recent memory. "Prince of Persia," "Assassin's Creed," and "Splinter Cell" are just a few of the studio's big properties, and of those games, the first has already been made into film and a movie version of second is well on its way to the big screen.

As for the third, Tom Clancy's "Splinter Cell," it's about to find a home at a major movie studio.

Deadline reports that Ubisoft has been shopping the film rights for the popular stealth action franchise around Hollywood, first holding talks with Warner Bros. and then with Paramount. Deadline believes that Paramount is currently the frontrunner to land the franchise, primarily because the studio already has plenty of experience with the Tom Clancy brand.

To date, Paramount has produced four films based on books written by Clancy, all of them starring the author's most famous creation: C.I.A. analyst Jack Ryan (played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck, respectively). "Star Trek" actor Chris Pine is set to take on the role in the still-untitled fifth Jack Ryan film, also being produced by Paramount.

The studio has also flirted with other Clancy properties over the years, including an adaptation of "Rainbow Six" (a popular spin-off of the Jack Ryan books) and also a video game franchise owned by Ubisoft. Ubisoft and the military/espionage author have enjoyed an equally fruitful relationship over the years, with Clancy universe game franchises like "Ghost Recon," "Rainbow Six," and "Splinter Cell" all being top sellers for the company. The matching of Ubisoft, Paramount, and Clancy for a "Splinter Cell" movie makes sense for all three.

If you're unfamiliar with the "Splinter Cell" series, here's what you need to know: the franchise chronicles the missions of Sam Fisher (voiced by the most excellent — and Canadian — Michael Ironside), an elite covert operative who "fixes" the United States' problems quickly and quietly (often with a few well-placed bullets). With his trademark night vision goggles and silenced pistol, Fisher travels the world eliminating global threats as they crop up. It may sound like standard military game stuff, but the series' use of stealth and shadow has always set it apart from other games in the genre.

Incidentally, the latest game in the series, "Splinter Cell: Blacklist," is being developed right here in Canada at Ubisoft's newly-formed Toronto studio. "Blacklist," which debuted at the Electronic Entertainment Expo just a few weeks ago, appears to be a passing of the torch. Franchise stalwart Ironside has retired to the role of narrator, while Edmonton-born actor Eric Johnson ("Rookie Blue") is suiting up to play a younger iteration of Fisher.

As revealed by Entertainment Weekly, the new game utilizes a performance capture technology similar to what was used for "The Adventures of Tintin" movie or the game "Uncharted 3." Johnson was hired not only for his acting chops, but also for the physicality that playing the role will require. Johnson won't just be sitting in a cushy studio, recording dialogue.

As for the movie, since a deal hasn't even been signed yet, it'll likely be a while before we actually see a "Splinter Cell" movie, if ever. Hollywood doesn't have the best track record with video game movies. In the wake of the $200 million "Prince of Persia" movie's critical and financial failure, Ubisoft — and studios looking to produce game movies, for that matter - are being extra cautious with these properties going forward. Ubisoft would retain a fair amount of creative control in any movie deal, and some film studios simply don't like being dictated to by makers of games. Even if Ubisoft and Paramount do make a deal, a lot could prevent the "Splinter Cell" movie from ever happening.

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