In the wake of Disney’s immense and somewhat terrifying acquisition of 21st Century Fox’s TV and movie assets, Disney has canceled the vast majority of films under development at Fox, including several video game properties – an Assassin’s Creed sequel, a Mega Man film, and a cinematic adaptation of The Sims.
The eradication of Fox’s slate is likely a result of the $170 million operating loss Disney inherited from the conglomerate’s film-making department, and a desire to achieve greater quality control.
“One of the biggest issues we faced in the quarter was the performance of the Fox film business,” Disney CEO Bob Iger said during a recent call with the Wall Street community. “It was well below what it had been and well below what we thought it would be when we did the acquisition.”
The most high-profile casualty relating to video games is a sequel to one of the most notable examples of video game adaptations. Assassin’s Creed was released in 2016 and despite reuniting the creative team behind 2015’s well-regarded Macbeth – Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and director Justin Kurzel – was met with resounding disappointment. Given little news or enthusiasm in the following three years, it is difficult to imagine that a sequel would have been made regardless.
The canceled live-action Mega Man film was announced late last year. Little is known about the production save for writers and directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, responsible for Paranormal Activity 3 and 4, and producers Chernin Entertainment and Masi Oka, creatives behind the Planet of the Apes and television series Heroes respectively. The direction which Mega Man would be taken is unclear, though there are over 50 games worth of content to draw upon.
An adaptation of The Sims was a less straightforward proposition. It is certainly not a film crying out to be made, plans to do so likely hinging upon a desire to attract an audience via an existing and recognizable brand rather than the existence of an irresistible artistic vision.
However, being birthed by a business decision does not prohibit a concept from developing into an imaginative and compelling concept under the care of an enthusiastic and talented creative team – look at The Lego Movie, doubtless born from a desire to sell Lego, crafted into a critically acclaimed, heartfelt and hilarious film by director-screenwriters Phil Lord and Chris Miller. The brand name earned them resources, stars, and recognition, while the lack of an inherent story in the source material gave them a broad canvas, just as The Sims might have. While the cancellation of The Sims film is unlikely to be mourned by many, there is a chance that an inspired film was lost.
Finally, a previously announced Magic: The Gathering film was canceled as well. While this may have had higher potential creatively then something like The Sims, it isn’t terribly surprising given that there is a Netflix series in development now. That being said, it is a shame we won’t see any theatrical rendition of any of the worlds created by Wizards of the Coast for MTG.
Whether any of these films would have eventuated without Disney’s acquisition is debatable – many films, especially adaptations, are caught up in development hell and never escape. Given the lackluster history of game adaptations, perhaps a clean death was the best these projects could have hoped for.
Are you disappointed to hear of these video game properties’ cancellations? How should these properties have been adapted, if at all? Let us know what you think in the comments below!