Writer of Traffic and Syriana to film The Division

“Do not march on Moscow,” said Field Marshal Montgomery, “and do not make a videogame movie.” Wise words that continue to be ignored by the titans of this ridiculous industry. Ubisoft, as you might have heard, aren’t marching on the Kremlin but they are making another videogame movie, this time based on Tom Clancy’s The Division [official site]. Today they announced that Stephen Gaghan, screenplay writer of Traffic and director-writer of Syriana, will be writing and directing this too.

“The game has been an enormous success,” said Gaghan in a press release, “in large part due to the visual landscape they [Ubisoft] created, their vision of a mid-apocalyptic Manhattan. It’s immersive, wonderfully strange, and yet familiar, filled with possibilities.”

Actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain are already on board to star in the crumbling apocalypse of New York City. Things they may do in the film include dying in the cold because their temperature meter dropped too low, or getting murdered by hackers in the Dark Zone as they try to extract loot.

Ubisoft are confident that hiring an Academy Award-winning director is a strong move. Previous acclaimed directors involved with videogame films include Duncan Jones of sci-fi hit Moon. He did Warcraft. Ubisoft themselves have made other movies based on their franchises, including Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, which was badly received, and more recently, Assassin’s Creed starring Michael Fassbender, which was also badly received. Here’s a further list of movies based on videogames, all of which were badly received.

I’ll wish some good luck to Mr Gaghan and co, because it would be nice to finally have a black swan to point at whenever videogame movies get mentioned. But I’ll also say that I’m baffled by Ubi’s insistence on chasing the Hollywood scene, after so many obvious failures. Hasn’t anyone ever brought this up? I can think of at least one person at Ubisoft who can tell them the definition of insanity.


  1. Angel Dust says:

    While obviously not at all a sure thing this has potential. Simply because I can easily see how The Division’s version of the apocalypse could be co-opted into what ever story Gaghan wants to tell whereas the likes of Assassin’s Creed and Warcraft have way too much convoluted backstory. As a consequence the adaptations have become bloated, incoherent messes.

    However, my interest in this film would actually be from a “Gyllenhaal and Chastain in a post-apocalytpic film from a solid director” perspective rather than any connection to the game.

    • Jeremy says:

      Definitely… I could this being successful from that perspective. The “plot” of The Division seems very easily removed from the source material, and an actual good movie could be made. Lore heavy games just don’t transition well at all.

      • Anti-Skub says:

        That might have been the case if it wasn’t for the fact that virtually the only bit of backstory the game gives you is the painfully stupid structure of the titular “Division”.

        “New York has been attacked with a chemical agent”
        “Don’t worry, we have sleeper agents in the populace”
        “How does that help?”
        “We’ll have people on the inside!”
        “The inside of what? It’s a terrorist attack. there’s nothing to infiltrate.”
        “But they are inside the quarantine zone!”
        “A quarantine zone which we are enforcing and wouldn’t in any way stop us from sending in actual special forces and not part timers who presumably have no actual experience in any relevant field”
        “…but they have cool, one strap backpacks with logos and lights on them that make them immediately identifiable as the shadowy, secret militia.”
        “How did you get this job?”

        The movie is NAMED after one of the dumbest plot concepts ever conceived. Either they’re going to stick with that idiotic set up, or they are going to abandon it…and with it, virtually every aspect of the plot.

    • jasta85 says:

      The division’s “plot” will be easy to do. Just have someone narrate the backstory for 10 minutes at the start of the movie with some flashback scenes, then have a squad of 4 division agents go from location to location in the city killing everyone in their way and stealing all their clothes and candy bars. The movie finishes with them shooting down a helicopter and saying they saved the city. Then they can start shooting the sequel where they go underground heh

      • lglethal says:

        Narrate the back story for 10 minutes? The game gets it across in the space of 30 seconds with the cut-clips. They could pretty much take the first 2 minutes from the game directly over to the film and your back story and set up for taking back New York is done! :)

  2. Kushiel says:

    That headline isn’t correct, given that Gaghan didn’t direct Traffic.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      No kidding, I saw the headline and wondered what Stephen Soderberg has done to deserve this.

      • Kushiel says:

        While I wouldn’t wish a video game movie on any director, Soderbergh’s done enough weird stuff in his career that it wouldn’t shock me if this was something he’d decided to do, and it’d likely result in being the first good video game movie if he did.

        But reading the article, I was disappointed to learn that A) he’s not working on it and B) he’s not secretly Stephen Gaghan. (Nearly the same first name and everything!)

    • Brendan Caldwell says:

      Whoops! Thanks, have fixed the headline now!

  3. Turkey says:

    I can’t even think of a video game with less personality than the division.

  4. pelwl says:

    Ubisoft did not themselves make Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. It was a Disney movie. Assassin’s Creed was their first foray into cinema, and while I’m sure it was shit it was also a box office hit, grossing $186m worldwide, so their idea of what does and does not constitute failure and insanity may be slightly different.

    Stephen Gagham actually wrote the story for Call of Duty Ghosts as well, which might be of some interest to gamers.

    • UKPartisan says:

      “Stephen Gagham actually wrote the story for Call of Duty Ghosts”

      Damn…The worst COD story campaign of all. Hardly bodes well?

      • Kestrel says:

        I’m sure it’s more complicated than that. Gaghan did brilliant work on Syriana. I haven’t seen Traffic but his work there has received similar accolades.

        It’s a little strange to me that he’s doing a video game movie though.

      • Kushiel says:

        Different disciplines, though. Saying that Gagnan’s crap as a filmscript writer because he wrote for a bad game is like claiming that Michael Jordan was crap at basketball because his baseball skills weren’t up to snuff.

  5. El_MUERkO says:

    Assassins Creed wasnt as bad as everyone made out, but when you have Fassbender in a movie you expect more. Ubi need to learn to let go of the story elements that are less likely to work in a film like the Apple of Eden. Which gives me hope for The Division, it’s story and setting definitely could work in a film, the setting in particular.

  6. Jerkzilla says:

    If Tom Clancy were still alive and we somehow still had The Division, there’s be some cause for optimism. I guess they could also just reimagine Apocalypse Now in the game’s setting, if they can’t come up with anything better.

  7. jasta85 says:

    Assassin’s creed (the original game) has a cool setting, interesting plot, decent characters and plenty of cool action set pieces and they couldn’t even get that to work. Now they’re taking a game which has a setting that has already been done to death and expect it to do well because…

    • pelwl says:

      They probably expect it to do well because the game grossed $330m in its first week on sale, the highest ever launch figures for a game. Bearing in mind that the key gamer demographic is the same as that for cinemagoers, and that the opening week generally makes or breaks a movie, then it’s a no brainer really.

      Ubisoft Motion Pictures also have film versions of Far Cry, Watch Dogs, Splinter Cell and Ghost Recon in pre-production.

      • ThePuzzler says:

        Just because people want to play a game doesn’t mean they want to see a movie adaption of it. How many World of Warcraft players cared enough about the story to go to the cinema?

        And even if all the players did go, $330 million of game sales probably translates to something like $66 million in box office, simply due to the difference in price between games and cinema tickets. That’s not enough to justify a big budget.

        • pelwl says:

          Uh huh. Yep. And you get that a certain amount of people will go because Jake Glyenhall and Justica Chastain are in it, and a certain number will go because of Stephen Gagham is involved and a certain number will go because of marketing, etc. The game tie in just guarantees a certain amount of sales which other movies don’t get. Not saying that the movie will be worth watching or anything just that it’s likely to make a profit financially even if it’s shit.

  8. dare says:

    Forget videogame movies. I want to see a big budget HBO drama series based on XCOM. Or X-Com or whatever.

  9. lglethal says:

    Actually I think The Division could make a pretty fine movie. Lets face it the plot boils down to “someone released Virus, Virus kills lots of people, Undercover agents find cure, save City.”.

    Easily boiled down to a 2 hour film. No different to countless other Action films. So long as it just focuses on being a Tom Clancy Action film, then it can be a success. Forget any side stories, or lore, just focus on the Tom Clancy side and it will work out fine…

    Assassins creed is lore heavy and getting that across whilst still making a good Action Film in under 2 hours, well no wonder it didnt work out that well…

  10. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I really enjoyed Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, so haters can get stuffed. On the other hand, I had no prior experience of the franchise.

    That DOOM film with The Rock and Karl Urban wasn’t so bad either. The FPS section was only irritating because the movement speed was too slow, so it looked really awkward (like somebody was playing it with a gamepad rather than m&k :trollface:). Again though, I have very little experience with the Doom franchise…

    I’ve never played a buttcreed game either, so maybe I should go and see that one before it bombs out of the cinemas?

  11. gabrielonuris says:

    Actually we’re seeing a lot of movie adaptations from awful books and novels, which, in my opinion, are worse than any video game movie adaptaion.

    And The Division can actually be a great concept for a movie, maybe even better that it was for a video game itself (although I actually love the game, the best cover shooter I’ve played in ages).

  12. 2helix4u says:

    A movie about secret police death squads sent to save the world after money kills everyone by shooting “looters and thugs”.

    Its certainly fits the times.