The Division is officially going to be made into a movie staring Jake Gyllenhaal and Jessica Chastain. Looks like Ubisoft is on a roll with film production this year! Indeed, they seem fairly sure of their success with all these game movies coming out and I certainly don’t blame them. It helps when it isn’t really Ubisoft making the film, it’s New Regency. But does that ensure that The Division will make a good film? No, I think what ensures that The Division will be a good film is that it’s going to be based on Tom Clancy’s book universe.
That’s one of the best things this film will have going for it. If you haven’t read his books, that’s fine, neither have I. But it’s fairly easy to see the wild success of the films based off of Tom Clancy’s universe, some of them on specific books. The Tom Clancy universe has quite the record of critically acclaimed movies: The Sum of All Fears, Clear and Present Danger, Patriot Games, and The Hunt for Red October are but a few examples. All films have had a variety of directors, so we can’t place all the blame of quality on a particular director. Thus, it must be the stories by Tom Clancy that make them so good.
Because of this, The Division will be a unique case in the video game movie genre. The source material for both game and movie is a book universe – something that has been fleshed out and detailed throughout decades. It’s like if we made a movie from Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor ; there’s a whole book universe attached to it that directors and producers can glean necessary details from that the game doesn’t provide. Who Sauron is, for example, is not entirely explained in the game, but it is in the books.
What The Division film does not have going for it is that it is yet another medical thriller. If you remember the movie Contagion , that’s essentially the definition of a medical thriller. Contagion documents the spread of a virus transmitted by fomites, attempts made by medical researchers and public health officials to identify and contain the disease, the loss of social order in a pandemic, and finally the introduction of a vaccine to halt its spread. The Division is simply more focused on the militaristic aspect of the thriller rather than the medical.
The plot is beyond predictable, so New Regency will have to work hard and make the journey to each plot point as intriguing and fun as possible. What Contagion did to make itself stand out is the use of the multi-narrative “hyperlink cinema” style. This is when a film uses elements of “playing with time and characters’ personal history, plot twists, interwoven storylines between multiple characters… the characters or action reside in separate stories, but a connection or influence between those disparate stories is slowly revealed to the audience” ( Film Comment ). The Division movie could definitely use this method to distinguish itself. It would be easy to use the main stories of, for example, Dr. Jessica Kandel, Captain Roy Benitez, and Paul Rhodes. Each have a story within the game that would be much better told in a hyperlink cinema style than by conversation with the player’s character.
If The Division movie does not use hyperlink cinema style to tell the story, there are plenty of other creative ways of doing so. It feels naive, but I have faith that New Regency will able to tell The Division ‘s story in a distinct way, as it is supported both by Ton Clancy’s extensive book universe and other films in the same vein.