Splinter Cell producer Basil Iwanyk gives a status update on the video game franchise’s movie adaption

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In news that’s extremely well-timed seeing as I literally – as in literally literally, not metaphorically – just started playing Splinter Cell: Double Agent last night, Splinter Cell producer Basil Iwanyk (John Wick, Sicario) recently spoke to Collider about the status of the video game movie adaption that’s been in development for quite some time now – and yes, it’s still alive.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, Splinter Cell game franchise falls under the Tom Clancy brand of video games despite the famed author not having any input in its creation. The franchise first saw the light of day in 2002 with Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell, and last with 2013’s Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Blacklist. It put the player in the skin-tight tactical suit of Sam Fisher – an elite spec-ops operative working for a clandestine US agency tasked with intelligence gathering and anti-terrorism operations. Players would be tasked with infiltrating locations to complete objectives including the likes of information retrieval, sabotage or assassinations, all heavily stealth-based.

It was way back in 2012 when Tom Hardy was confirmed as donning Sam Fisher’s iconic trifocal goggles in a feature film adaption of one of Ubisoft’s most popular franchises and Eric Warren Singer (American Hustle) was tapped to write the first script.

The scripting stage is basically where it’s still where it’s still stuck, although Iwanyk is hopeful that the latest draft is essentially the final one and that production will move forward shortly, saying:

We’ve got a script. It’s a little long, but it’s the best script we’ve had. Now that I’m back from Mexico City, we’re going in there to figure out how to cut some pages and give it to [Tom] Hardy. This draft kind of addressed Tom’s notes. We’re going to give it to Hardy in the next couple of weeks and hopefully try to get it done this year.

The script has traveled a very long road, with all of the above-mentioned Singer, Sheldon Turner (X-Men: First Class), Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity, and while he was still attached to direct), Frank John Hughes (Dark Tourist) and Tom Hardy working on it over the years. Given his very high workload over the last few years, I think it speaks highly of Hardy’s commitment to the role and the character that he’s remained attached to the project for so long, is still actively working on it, and really wants to get it right.

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Assassin’s Creed was the first of Ubisoft’s major franchises to hit the big screen following the formation of their movie and television production arm, Ubisoft Motion Pictures, back in 2011. It followed in the footsteps of many video game movie adaptions by being… okay. You can catch our review for it here. While not a flop at the box office, it also wasn’t the hoped-for multi-million blockbuster. That’s something which can see additional pressure being brought to bear on the next in line to do better, but it’s not something Iwanyk is concerned with:

They’re separate kind of things. The story of the financial success of Assassin’s Creed is yet to be told because we do live in an international world; it’s still rolling out. Assassin’s Creed had a very specific world to it and a very specific storyline, character, all that stuff.

Splinter Cell really is a first-person shooter game. And so the challenge of making Splinter Cell interesting was we didn’t have this IP with a very specific backstory. That allowed us to make up our own world and really augment and fill out the characters. I don’t think one applies to the other because I don’t think our movie will feel like a movie that came out of a video game, I think it’ll feel like a badass, Tom Hardy action movie, which is what we wanted.

Whoa, whoa, WHOA! Slow your roll there, buddy. Splinter Cell is not a first person shooter, it’s a third person stealth/action franchise – they’re very different things. I suspect fans of the franchise don’t want to see straight action movie with tons of explosions and all guns blazing, that’s what BroForce fans would want. It’s not John Wick or The Expendables, it has a much slower pace and has far more in common with movies like Zero Dark Thirty and The Hurt Locker. Further, while I understand what you’re trying to say when comparing the two franchises in terms of character and story when it comes to linearity, seven games and seven novels worth of character and backstory still exist and should be taken into account before you start inventing stuff.

I suspect this misconception about what the franchise is about is what’s causing all the delays. Hardy is said to be a big fan of the character and as such would want to remain true to his essence, with Iwanyk going on to say:

He is a gamer. He’s also a guy who has a lot of friends in that world, not the gaming world but the Special Ops world. He wants to play this character really, really badly. That’s what makes it exciting for all of us because Tom playing this character is an event.

Iwanyk was also asked what kind of story or locations we could expect to see in the adaption:

It’s more of what we’re digging away from. The good and the bad news is that, obviously, the Bond movies have had a resurgence and the Jason Bourne movies are the Jason Bourne movies, so we’re trying to stay away from those movies in terms of tone, in terms of bad guys, in terms of settings.

What’s a world that we haven’t seen yet? What’s an area of the world and a conflict that we haven’t really touched upon in movies in a long time, to make it feel fresh?

Which if I think about it rules out the Middle East, all of Europe and Russia and leaves us with Asia, Africa or South America?

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And finally, Iwanyk was asked if the movie was going for an R-rating:

No, but we’re definitely going to make it a hard PG-13. No, it’s not going to be like [John] Wick, but it’s going to be badass.

I’ve always been of the opinion that movies usually fail when they try too hard to be badass or cool because it’s something should flow naturally from the story and characters. When it’s forced it comes across as false.

Many video game movie adaptions have been rightly criticised for moving too far from the core concepts of the characters and worlds that have made the video games so successful. To be perfectly blunt, Iwanyk’s answers in the interview didn’t really inspire much confidence in me that this adaption will finally, finally, be the one where fans of the game can say they’ve got a really good movie based on their beloved franchise. A Michael Ironside (the definitive voice of Sam Fisher) cameo would help.

What do you think?

Last Updated: February 1, 2017

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  • miaau

    Heres the thing: I get asked to work on a project, I do not know or understand one of the principle details, I research. I think about it, I learn it and about it.. You know, like parenting. Cause that is a project. (um…, moving on)

    This is a shameless cash in attempt where the director does not understand the role. Failure of producers as well, dammit. At least one of the creative forces seems to be focused on getting this right.

    *Edit – Movies from games an be great. For example, Warcraft. WHY go over the plot from the first game? They could have done literally ANYTHING, in that universe, and kept to the inspiration and types of characaters. Have a story, show human soldiers that look like in the game, battling Orcs that look like in the game, arguing about a dood-dad from somewhere in the game, and make it a character driven story. Could have worked.

    • Original Heretic

      Failure is predicted on this movie. Tends to happen when one focuses on the money instead of the project.

  • Hammersteyn

    I bet Ubisoft is gonna turn Splinter Cell into a MP version of itself like they did with Rainbow 6

  • Admiral Chief

    I like my Division splinter cell hat

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