History shows us that the realm of video game movie adaptations is one marred with critical and commercial flops of all kinds. Disappointed fans have often taken their pitchforks to producers and directors alike as Hollywood tries and fails spectacularly time and time again to capture the magic of video games and rework it for the big screen.
It’s safe to say that with the odd exception, these adaptations have been largely unsuccessful, but with a series of video game movies that includes a Tomb Raider reboot on the horizon, could that be about to change?
Step forward Assassin’s Creed.
Anyone with an interest in films or video games will know that there is a huge amount of buzz about the upcoming adaptation of the incredibly successful Assassin’s Creed series. But what makes this one different to the others? What does Assassin’s Creed have that Mortal Kombat or Super Mario Bros. didn’t?
Well, let’s break it down.
1. Ubisoft is really, really serious about making good adaptations
So serious, in fact, that the video game publisher has poured resources into opening a movie studio of their own. Ubisoft Motion Pictures is a branch of the gaming giant that was created specifically to oversee the adaptation of their own brands for television and cinema.
In the past, it was common that video game publishers would sell the adaptations rights to a production company and let them get on with it, which is often looked at as a key reason the majority of these projects flop. The fact that Ubisoft is going the extra mile to oversee the entire production of Assassin’s Creed only means that they’re highly committed to doing it justice.
2. A fresh story
Adaptations are tricky business. In the past, we’ve seen books get completely butchered to fit what is ultimately hours upon hours of reading time into a two-hour experience, and video game adaptations are no different. How can you possibly restrict a twenty-hour game into the average time of a movie?
Well, luckily, Assassin’s Creed is such an expansive universe, that the movie spin-off is free to go into completely new territory, without detracting too much from the core of what originally made the series so popular.
At one point, fans were calling for a film revolving around Ezio, the most likable of all the assassins from the franchise (at least from their perspective) but again, there would have been a tremendous amount of risk in adapting his story for the screen.
With the introduction of a new hero, Callum Lynch and his assassin ancestor Aguilar, the filmmakers are free to explore, write and produce a story that compliments the medium of cinema, as opposed to twisting an already existing narrative to fit the restrictions that film has when compared to video games.
We may be looking at a completely new Assassin’s Creed story, but themes, tones and iconic features of the series such as the leap of faith, and the Assassin’s trademark hidden blades, keep us well and truly anchored in this world.
3. The cast
Never before has a video game adaptation had an ensemble cast as talented as this. Michael Fassbender, a two-time Academy Award nominee, will be leading the line-up of all-star talent as Callum Lynch / Aguilar, and he will be supported by Oscar winners Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, the latter of which will play the boss of Abstergo Industries, a front for the series’ main antagonist group The Templars.
The rest of the supporting cast isn’t something to scoff at either, with Brendan Gleeson, Michael Kenneth Williams and an array of fresh talent completing the esteemed line-up.
4. The director
Anyone who’s seen the latest reimagining of Macbeth will know what to expect from Justin Kurzel in Assassin’s Creed, as the film sees the director reunited with both Fassbender and Cotillard. Kurzel’s extremely vivid style showcased in the Shakespeare retelling is nothing short of mesmerising and judging by what we’ve seen from trailers and clips, he’s looking to bring these visual elements with him to Assassin’s Creed.
The historic setting, sword fights and battle scenes mean that Kurzel isn’t going to be working in unfamiliar territory.
However, the movie has been touted as “predominantly Sci Fi” so it’ll be interesting to see how he adapts the series for screen. Nevertheless, Ubisoft has snapped up one of the most exciting directors working in the industry today.
5. Michael Fassbender really likes the idea of DNA memories
The whole premise of Assassin’s Creed is based on the idea that people are able to access their ancestor’s memories through shared DNA, and live them out in a virtual world.
The first three games saw Desmond Miles, an average guy, find himself tangled up in an age old war because of his ancestry, and this idea has really gotten Michael Fassbender excited.
“There’s a lot of action-adventure films out there at the moment, but what was really unique about this one, what elevated it above other action-adventure fantasy films was the idea of DNA memories. It seems like a very plausible scientific theory, that we carry around in us the knowledge of our ancestors. That’s how we know not to eat that berry, but eat this one. Certain things like when you enter a room and it’s a dangerous one, the temperature drops and you feel something physically. That comes from, perhaps, knowledge from ancestors that’s in our DNA. I thought that was really something that would take the audience on a more immersive journey.”
Of course, the idea of genetic memory portrayed in the series is somewhat exaggerated, but nevertheless, Fassbender’s enthusiasm for the premise of can only mean good things for his portrayal of the characters and the kind of story he wants to tell.
6. Assassin’s Creed isn’t the only product Ubisoft want to turn into a film
One of the other exciting projects being floated around at the moment is the development of the classic Ubisoft title Splinter Cell, a series revolving around highly trained black-ops agent Sam Fisher. Much like Assassin’s Creed, the game is considered one of Ubisoft’s flagship properties but what’s truly getting people excited is that the publisher has confirmed that one of Hollywood’s hottest actors, Tom Hardy is in line to produce and star in the film.
Ubisoft have also confirmed that The Division, Far Cry and Watch Dogs are in line to receive the movie makeover treatment.
This, coupled with the recent news that Assassin’s Creed is set to get a sequel, with reports that Fassbender is eager to continue exploring the adventures of The Creed, suggests that Ubisoft are pulling no punches in their quest to develop successful adaptations of their games. If they manage to pull it off, you can expect the likes of Activision and EA will quickly follow suit.
So there you have it. Six reasons why Assassin’s Creed will be the first great video game movie adaptation.
Assassin’s Creed is expected to hit cinemas in the UK on December 26.
Author: James Pitcher / @_jamespitcher