Made-in-Canada games head for the big screen

Wide Screen

Canadians are some of the biggest consumers of video games anywhere. And though you might not know it, Canada also has one of the largest video game industries in the world. Developers from coast-to-coast are producing some of the most successful and critically acclaimed games currently on the market, and it's a trend that is not likely to let up any time soon. Two such "Made-in-Canada" games -- "Assassin's Creed" from Ubisoft Montreal and "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" from Eidos-Montreal -- will soon be headed for the big screen, but not in the way that many expected.

In light of decades of sub-par game-to-film adaptations ("Super Mario Bros."? Any film by Uwe Boll?), an interesting schism has developed between Tinsel Town and the makers of these triple-A video games. Naturally, not wanting to see their multi-million dollar brands damaged by a film studio's terrible movie adaptation, these game developers are now taking matters into their own hands. With video games now out-earning movies in North America, game companies like Microsoft and Ubisoft don't have to go through the major movie studios any longer. With the vast resources and multi-disciplinary talent that they have at their disposal, these game companies have the capability to produce their own blockbuster films almost independently.

And that's precisely what they plan on doing.

After negotiations broke off between Ubisoft and Sony last fall over a potential "Assassin's Creed" movie, the French game publisher decided to make good on its plans to produce its own film version of the property. Pushing ahead without the studio seemed like a risky undertaking, but Ubisoft's gamble appears to have paid off. Yesterday, Variety reported that "X-Men: First Class" and "Prometheus" star Michael Fassbender has signed on to star and co-produce the big screen version of "Assassin's Creed." Fassbender is one of the hottest actors in Hollywood right now, and as a result, his involvement in this decidedly non-studio picture is a huge coup for Ubisoft.

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Part sci-fi and part historical fiction, the "Assassin's" game series follows Desmond, a man who learns he is the descendant of a long line assassins who battle the sinister Knights Templar. In order to uncover the Templar's plan and learn how to become an assassin in his own right, Desmond relives the experiences of his ancestors through an advanced device called the animus. It sounds crazy on paper, but works extremely well as a video game.

But the Fassbender news wasn't the only big video game movie story to come out of Quebec this week. Just up the street at Eidos-Montreal, the creators of the widely acclaimed "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" made a similar announcement about the silver screen future of their own game franchise. According to Variety, Square Enix -- mother company of Eidos-Montreal -- just inked a deal with the recently-founded CBS Films to produce a film based on the dark cyberpunk action game.

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"What makes this agreement so special and credible is that it truly is a partnership — CBS Films is committed to working closely with the team here at Eidos-Montreal . . . in making a film adaptation worthy of the 'Deux Ex' brand," said Stephane D'Astous, General Manager of Eidos-Montreal. Along with noted producers Roy Lee ("The Departed") and Adrian Askarieh ("Hitman"), it appears as though Eidos-Montreal will have an almost unprecedented level of input on the "Deus Ex" film adaptation.

Set in the year 2027, "Deus Ex: Human Revolution" put players in the role of Adam Jensen, a security expert for a biotechnology company that specializes in cybernetic augmentation. After a mysterious attack on the firm leaves his Jensen close to death, he is resurrected and rebuilt "Six Million Dollar Man"-style and must track down those responsible. A prequel to 2000's "Deus Ex" -- widely considered one of the greatest games of all time -- "DX: HR" had big shoes to fill, but was both a critical and financial success.

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With compelling sci-fi elements, tonnes of action, and great characters, both franchises are well suited for the big screen treatment. And thanks to bold moves by the companies behind "Deus Ex" and "Assassin's Creed," gamers may finally get video game movies that are true to their source material. It's about time.