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Ubisoft in talks to bring Splinter Cell to the silver screen

Is it any surprise that Hollywood would want to make a film based on a Tom Clancy property starring a conflicted, hard-bitten super spy who spends his days protecting America’s foreign interests by snapping the necks of every ambiguously ethnic bad guy who gets in his way? If anything, it’s baffling that we have yet to see a film adaptation of Ubisoft’s Splinter Cell series.

Thus, Deadline’s report that Ubisoft has been meeting with major Hollywood production companies to discuss the possibility of a Splinter Cell feature film is less “exciting news” and more “information that we’d have expected to receive half a decade ago.” Still, it’s news, so here’s the scant, pertinent details:

I’ve heard that in recent weeks, Warner Bros had engaged in talks, but now, the conversation is with Paramount Pictures, which is the frontrunner to land the project. The studio would not comment other than to say there is no deal.

The Deadline piece then goes on to explain why Paramount might want to back this film, citing the 22 million games sold in the series to date, and the wealth of films the studio has already created based on other Tom Clancy properties such as 1990’s The Hunt For Red October.

While Deadline is generally optimistic about the idea — or, more accurately, diplomatic — we’d like to take a moment to point out the two key reasons why a Splinter Cell movie is an utterly terrible idea. First, protagonist Sam Fisher was designed as a pastiche of borderline-superheroic spy tropes which, as a whole, create a compelling gameplay experience. He has personality traits (most of which are loosely lifted from the big book of antihero cliches), but all of them are overshadowed by the purpose for his existence: To offer players a cool hero they can identify with while stealthily jamming a huge knife through a terrorist’s throat. He’s less a character, and more a cipher — unlike James Bond, who exists as the quintessential example of a fictional super spy specifically because he is most readily defined by his charisma and style (as opposed to his wealth of multiplayer gameplay options).

Granted, this hurdle could be overcome if Paramount were to cast the right actor in the role, but that brings us to problem number two: Michael Ironside. Until recently Ironside was the voice of Sam Fisher in every Splinter Cell adventure, and his gruff vocals are an essential aspect of Fisher’s personality. Ironside does not appear in the upcoming Splinter Cell: Blacklist, and we heard more than one critic complain about that oversight during Ubisoft’s E3 presentation. Unfortunately, Ironside is a bit too old to play Fisher, so the film’s casting agents would be stuck attempting to fill the role with an actor who looks the part, but doesn’t sound it, or the one actor who sounds right, yet doesn’t work aesthetically.

Bottom line: We aren’t terribly optimistic for this theoretical film, assuming it does end up in production.

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