Heck yeah! The Assassin's Creed movie is looking to be everything that I hoped for. I always worry about video game movies as they don't have a very good track record, but this looks to be a hugely faithful adaptation of everybody's favourite open world parkour franchise. Though I would like to know what the face tattoos are about -- is that a trend in movie adaptations now?
Watch the trailer below:
Recreation vs. Adaptation
Let's talk about video game movies. For some reason, movies adapted from our favourite button pushing entertainment has never gone so well. Video game movies tend to go all Hollywood on us, changing certain large aspects and ultimately giving us a 'recreation' rather than an adaptation. And when you try to take something that exists a lot of the time, in only a half-fantasy world, trying to ground it closer to reality doesn't always go as planned, and trying to keep that half-fantasy element doesn't always work either.
Simply put, video games just don't translate to the screen that well. Just try to imagine Michael Fassbender desynchronizing after killing a civilian. The same goes for video games based on movies, but with the wall between games and cinema now crumbling, hopefully that'll change sooner rather than later. Will Assassin's Creed usher in a new era of successful adaptations?
Take Max Payne for example. The Max Payne movie had us all very excited. The video game series is one of my favourites of all time and that, along with my love for film noir and neo-noir, had me praying that the film would be good. A neo-noir action thriller starring Mark Wahlberg in a revenge-fuelled story with Mila Kunis is an easy sell, but, well, no.
I enjoyed the style and look of the film, which stayed faithful to the game. But there were a lot of changes and additions that made it feel more like it was inspired by Max Payne rather than a cinematic adaptation of it. The movie was altered from it's source material so severely that it caused Scott Miller, CEO of 3D Realms and producer behind the game, to make a public statement against the film. Miller did not approve of the ambiguous plot; the audience don't know why Max Payne is such a stern faced and serious man until about half way through the film.
Also, the games often reference Norse Mythology, but in the movie Valkyries actually show up. Well, sort of. The beings we see in the film certainly aren't female warriors as they are in Norse Mythology, rather giant winged creatures that "fly over the battlefield" and "reward the people that die in violence" with no real indication of whether they were hallucinations or not. Max Payne succeeded in re-creating the look and atmosphere of the game with some stunning visuals and great action sequences but the illogical plot and over-reliance on said stunning visuals, along with the 'meh' performances of its cast, stopped it from being as good as it could have been.
Max Payne, along with Far Cry, Hitman, the countless cheesy Street Fighter flicks and the long running Resident Evil series (which I actually find pretty enjoyable), just haven't given video game flicks a good name. There are some exceptions, however. Not because they're particularly good but because they provided some enjoyable popcorn entertainment that didn't have you confused or struggling to follow a plot that didn't know where it wanted to go. These include 2001's Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and its sequel starring Angelina Jolie as our favourite treasure hunting badass (maybe second or third in some people's lists). These adaptations of the long running adventure platformer were faithful to its source material and provided some good entertainment as advertised.
One that comes to mind in particular is Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The game series began back in 1989 as a side-scrolling swashbuckling adventure platformer for the Apple II. It wasn't until Ubisoft got their hands on it that it would become the fantasy adventure franchise that we know and love today. The Sands of Time trilogy on the PlayStation 2 still holds up as some of the best video games ever made. Eventually taking a back seat to its spiritual successor Assassin's Creed, Prince of Persia remains one of the most beloved franchises in modern gaming.
Sometime between 2004 and 2006, Jerry Bruckheimer Films (producer of Pirates of the Caribbean) acquired feature film rights to The Sands of Time and it was released in 2010 by Walt Disney Pictures. This movie shares visual similarities with the Assassin's Creed adaptation, both being similar in tone and setting. Much like Assassin's Creed is doing, PoP created a new story with altered characters, taking place in the same universe. Perhaps the biggest alteration is that the film gave the Prince a name. Much like Hitman's Agent 47, the Prince has always been a nameless character; but of course Hollywood needed to give him a bit of a backstory, and I guess a real name is part of it.
The film delivered a mostly faithful adaptation of the video game (the lack of wall running upset me), with the time travel element used very well. Jake Gyllenhaal's perfect English accent, stunning visuals, time bending effects and action, with a great supporting cast made up in part of Ben Kingsley, Gemma Aterton and Alfred Molina make Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time not quite the best movie, but a very enjoyable fantasy swashbuckler and probably the best video game movie to date.
That brings me back to Assassin's Creed. Whilst watching the trailer, it felt like all that was missing was a controller in my hand. It appears that Ubisoft has decided not to change too much and stick to a familiar formula. The plot is seemingly almost identical to that of the first game in the series, where Desmond Miles is taken against his will and forced to take part in Abstergo's Animus project, much like Michael Fassbender's character, Callum Lynch. As time progresses, Lynch begins to gain the skills and knowledge of his ancestor necessary to confront the Templar Order of the modern day, age-old enemies to the Assassins. Marion Cotillard stars as Sophia Rikkin, daughter of Alan Rikkin who is CEO of Absergo Industries. Rikkin appeared in the first AC game, but was never really fleshed out so hopefully Jeremy Irons brings something to the so far one dimensional villain.
Michael Fassbender, who is also a producer of the film, had this to say,
You know, we absolutely want to respect the game. There's so much cool stuff in the game that we're actually spoiled for choice in terms of what we can use and what we can't, but we also want to bring new elements to it and perhaps our own version of things that already exist in the game.
As the action moves into the past, we visit medieval Spain during the Spanish Inquisition and meet Callum Lynch's Assassin ancestor, Aguilar de Nehra. All of the AC goodness is here, from wall running and parkour, to hidden blades and air assassinations. Even the leap of faith is included, as Aguilar jumps off a ridiculously tall building. It's everything we could want from an AC movie. The film also appears to be sharing elements with the most recent entry in the series, Assassins Creed: Syndicate, by introducing a female Assassin (played by Ariane Labed) to fight alongside (I think) Aguilar de Nehra.
This actually isn't the first time that Assassin's Creed has had the movie treatment, though. If you recall, in 2009, as part of the promotional campaign for Assassin's Creed II, Ubisoft produced three short films centering around Giovanni Auditore, father of protagonist Ezio Auditore de Firenze. This portion of the series took place during the Renaissance in Rome. In addition to promoting the game, this was an attempt for Ubisoft to make its first step in the film industry. The look and feel of Assassins Creed: Lineage has definitely carried over to the this movie, and it's clear to see Ubisoft's influence and direct involvement in the production of this film, which gives me high hopes that this'll be the most faithful adaptation of a video game we've ever seen on the big screen.
Watch part one of Assassin's Creed: Lineage below.
In addition, it has been confirmed that the movie will indeed be a part of the main continuity already established in the video game series.
This suggests that Assassin's Creed really will keep true to the games and if the story and direction are done right and well, then Assassin's Creed could be the video game movie that we've been starving for.
Assassin's Creed also stars Michael Kenneth Williams and Brendan Gleeson, and is set for release on December 21st 2016.