Hollywood’s long quest to mine video games and exploit other brands as potential film properties is far from surprising. It has continued for the better part of the last two decades with middling to mediocre success. The Tracking Board reports that Vertigo Entertainment and Prime Universe have licensed the Thief video game for a live-action feature film, and both companies are developing the property. Adrian Askarieh, whose only previously released credit is the 2007 flop based on the Hitman video game franchise, and Roy Lee (Oldboy, The LEO Movie) are attached to produce the film project. Again, it is not surprising that Hollywood wants to mine video games due to a distinct lack of originality and an over-reliance on existing brands. But my question is, why of all things, Thief?
To be clear, deals such as the one above are reported all the time and quite frequently. None of these reports actually mean a movie will get made. Movies such as Thief with ambitious concepts, alternate worlds and big set-pieces generally demand huge budgets. Studios will spend amounts in the low seven figures to license a property, but when push comes to shove, you do not see too many studio heads ready to give the Hollywood greenlight to a $200 million Metal Gear Solid film. Not even Peter Jackson was able to get the Halo movie off the ground, and he is an Academy Award-winning director, writer and producer. How producer Askarieh was able to get a Hitman movie reboot, entitled Agent 47 and due out in 2015, is a complete mystery to me.
However, I just do not understand the interest in the Thief movie. Sure, it has a cool setting and a visually intriguing antihero. But, the new Thief was not even that big of a hit. It has basically come and gone. Going by the sales data at VGChartz, Thief appeared to perform decently sales-wise, but it was not a huge breakout hit. The game was not especially well-reviewed either. The Thief game does have some history going back to 1999, but it is not generally seen as a beloved ongoing saga like, say the Metal Gear series. Maybe it is just the idea and visual world of the game producers were attracted to.
Now, why does anything get made in Hollywood? To make money of course. However, where is the lucrative goldmine in a Thief movie? In the history of big budget Hollywood video game-based movie adaptations, only one film broke $100 million domestically: Tomb Raider in 2001. The 2010 Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time film managed to make $336 million worldwide; however the film was seen as a disappointment and failed to ignite a film franchise for that series. Of course, the less than stellar results have not kept Hollywood from trying. Universal and Legendary Pictures have already begun production on Warcraft, which is due out in 2016. Fox apparently has an Assassin’s Creed picture lined up for August 2015. I have no idea how that is possible, considering we are well into July; although to my knowledge, while there is a director in talks for the film, he has not officially been signed and principal production has not even started.
History is not on the side of these movies opening well and finding an audience. So what chance does Thief have? I imagine Thief will be yet another existing IP sitting on the shelf for years with no actual movie to show for it. For the fans of the Thief games, when you look at the results of video game-based films produced by Hollywood, the very dregs of quality, that is probably a good thing.