Earlier this month, Ubisoft announced that it had taken the next step in leveraging its cache of video game titles into major feature films, in the form of an adaptation of Tom Clancy’s The Division, the developer’s best-selling, online-only open world shooter. The developer-turned-movie studio added another bonus to the news, by announcing that Jake Gyllenhaal had been tapped to both star in and produce the film.
Home to some of the most popular game titles on the market, Ubisoft has made no secret of its desire to bring its house products to cinema and television. In fact, five years ago, in 2011, the developer opened Ubisoft Motion Pictures, an arm of the studio devoted to doing exactly that. While UMP hasn’t released a big screen adaptation yet, their first attempt is coming down the pike. In December, Michael Fassbender with suit up alongside Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons for Assassin’s Creed, a new tale set in the Universe of Ubisoft’s eponymous flagship series.
While Ubisoft Motion Pictures is, as yet, an untested and unproven commodity, the latest move from the studio shows it’s very serious about making sure its adaptations are taken seriously.
It Needed To Be ‘The Division’
Ubisoft, as a game maker, has been in a bit of a slump. It began in 2014 with the underwhelming release of Watch Dogs, the studio saw more misses than hits when it came to releasing triple-A titles. FarCry 4, though solid, also got it’s fair share of critique for playing it safe in terms of it’s format and plot. Then, the Rainbow Six reboot Siege failed to catch on with gamers. Finally, and perhaps most disastrous of all, after two rough launches and mediocre reviews for its two previous Assassin’s Creed games, Ubisoft decided to take a year-long hiatus from publishing the title.
In short, at the beginning of 2016, Ubisoft needed a little bit of goodwill on its side. That landfall happened with the release of The Division, Ubisoft’s ambitious open world shooter. On release, Digital Spy hailed the game as, “the best open-world that Ubisoft has ever created, while the gameplay is consistently entertaining and cohesive.”
Even better for Ubisoft, The Division broke developer sales records in a mere 24 hours and scored more than $330 million in its first five days, earning it the title of the most successful first week ever for a new video game franchise. In other words, from Ubisoft’s perspective, The Division has the most potential theatrical juice of any title in its library.
And honestly, The Division is a sick idea for a movie. The game sets players in the shoes of a sleeper agent who’s awoken when the island of Manhattan is devastated after a viral outbreak. The task is to find the source of the virus and restore order to the island, which has completely broken down amid the chaos. Even if the viral plot doesn’t resonate with viewers, a big-budget action flick that plays out like a run and gun mystery is sure to grab people’s attention.
Jake Gyllenhaal Deserves a Second Chance
Obviously, in the minds of video game fans, Jake Gyllenhaal is just the teensiest bit … poisonous. Way back in 2010, Gyllenhaal led the adaptation of Prince of Persia, which was treated tepidly by critics and viciously attacked by fans of the video game series.
While Gyllenhaal has never shied away from appearing in big budget films, his roles in them have never really connected (I bet you forgot that Source Code even existed, didn’t you?). In the years since the Prince of Persia disaster, Gyllenhaal has received most of his acclaim for a string of haunting, brilliant indie roles in films like Prisoners, End of Watch, and Nightcrawler. The actor has doubled down on his early career indie cred, only recently beginning to creep his way back into larger budgets.
That shift toward more notable fare is a good thing for movie fans, because Jake Gyllenhaal is a damn good actor, more than capable of nailing down whatever Ubisoft has in mind for translating The Division to the screen.
If you’re having any doubt about the indie star’s ability to acquit himself when the shit hits the fan, just check out this clip from last year’s Southpaw:
He’s remarkably believable as a man who can not only handle himself in a fight, but thrives on the violence. As an agent on the wrong side of enemy lines, Gyllenhaal would be able to make the action not only fun to watch, but a part of the core of his character.
While there’s still a lot of ground to cover before we can feel well and truly comfortable about the movie’s quality (they don’t even have a scriptwriter yet), the film’s potential is tantalizing enough to start getting excited.