We’ve waited an awful long time for a truly great video game adaptation to emerge.
More often than not, when our favourite gaming characters and experiences have been brought to the movie screen, the results have been genuinely horrendous.
Super Mario Bros, Max Payne, this year’s Hitman flick. The roll-call of dreadful adaptations goes on and on. And while it may be tempting to point to Silent Hill and the first Resident Evil as ‘good video game films’, that probably demonstrates just how low our standards and expectations have become.
The forthcoming Assassin’s Creed movie, however, may be about to change all that. There’s reason to dream that it could even be the first bona fide great video game movie.
And that’s because…
1. It’s got one of the most exciting new directors around
Justin Kurzel may not yet be a household name – but he’s certainly one-to-watch.
Many video game adaptations get lumbered with an unproven or uninspired studio hack or stooge. Kurzel, by contrast, is an independently-minded critical darling who is wowing the cinematic establishment.
The Australian filmmaker attracted universal acclaim for gritty crime drama Snowtown back in 2011, and is currently stunning movie-goers with his epic version of Macbeth.
Having beautifully handled themes of historic vengeance and violence with the latter, he seems perfectly suited for taking the Assassin’s Creed subject-matter and elevating it into true art too – if his knack for capturing violent battles and executions in a visually awesome way is anything to go by:
And speaking of Macbeth…
2. It’s got a top-notch cast
With his rare blend of gravitas, charisma and vulnerability, Michael Fassbender is one of the finest leading men working in Hollywood today – and having starred in Macbeth he’s re-teaming with Kurzel for Assassin’s Creed. The movie is even something of a passion project for the Oscar nominated star.
We can’t wait to see Fassbender pull on that iconic hood and leap into the fray, but he’s not the only exciting name involved.
His Macbeth co-star, the equally talented Marion Cotillard (who has her own litter of glittering prizes behind her), is also on board, as are Omar Little himself Michael K Williams, the irrepressible British character actor Jeremy Irons, and the simply wonderful Brendan Gleeson – who never fails to dazzle in whatever he’s in.
We think Irons and Gleeson will be right at home in the film’s medieval setting too.
3. It’s got considerable money (and expectation) behind it
This isn’t some cheap, cynical cash-in or scraped-together Uwe Boll project. This is a major tent-pole movie with a LOT of blood, sweat, tears and hard cash being invested.
The budget is pushing $200 million according to reports, while insiders have suggested that much more is riding on this than a one-off bid to spin a few bucks.
There have been suggestions that the industry is aiming to make video game adaptations the ‘next comic book blockbusters’. If that is indeed the case, what Hollywood really needs is an awe-inspiring, commercially and critically-successful hit that not only proves films based on video games can work, but that they can do big business too.
With its hefty budget, intriguing arthouse-style director and strong cast of character actors, there’s interesting similarities between this and one of the noughties blockbusters that helped kick-start the comic book craze.
And that’s probably why…
4. It’s got some lofty inspirations
Whether it ultimately justifies the hype or not, the creators are certainly aiming high.
They’re looking for a movie with the scale and visual splendour of Blade Runner, and the narrative arc of Batman Begins.
Considering how extraordinary the former is as a piece of world-building, and how sensational the latter stands as a near-perfect origin story, this gives us hope that both the producers and filmmakers have a very credible aim for how they want this adaptation to look and feel.
They’re not looking to pander to the lowest-common denominator. They want a film that could be mentioned in the same breath as Ridley Scott’s sci-fi classic and Christopher Nolan’s defining superhero tale.
The thought of Fassbender learning his assassin’s kills with similar grit, power and emotional potency to Nolan’s caped crusader rise, sounds exceedingly cool to us.
5. It understands the games – but it’s not simply trying to ape them
Video game adaptations usually do one of two fundamentally flawed extremes. They either stray so far from the source material that they end up with a nonsensical mess of fan-destroying garbage (hello Super Mario Bros), or they stick so rigidly close to the source material that the adaptation has no room to breathe in its own right.
Assassin’s Creed looks to buck that trend.
It seems sensible for a video game adaptation to try and capture what was so special about the game/s in the first place, while also doing something fresh and film-appropriate with the idea. And that’s what the people behind AC are doing.
The movie will feature its own unique storyline – with the historical action revolving around the intrigue of 15th century Spain rather than Renaissance Italy, the French Revolution or the Crusades – but it will retain the free-running action, murky conspiracy and animus concept (whereby a modern-day character is transported back into the experiences of an ancestor).
It’s got its own original plot and characters, but the central themes, ideas and action should be fundamentally Assassin’s Creed.
6. Ubisoft are intimately involved – and they seem to know what they’re doing
The lack of involvement from the people who previously worked on the game/s is a big reason why so many video game adaptations struggle to re-capture the magic.
Here however, Ubisoft are directly co-producing alongside regular Spielberg cohort Frank Marshall and 20th Century Fox, meaning that they have a great deal of creative input into the process.
That said, they don’t seem to be over-zealously demanding that certain things from the games be awkwardly shoe-horned in (see above) and, more importantly, previous short Assassin’s Creed films backed by Ubisoft have actually been genuinely thrilling.
Check out Lineage below – and then imagine that kind of thing with top actors, an incredibly promising up-and-coming director, and huge production values.
Assassin’s Creed will hit cinemas in 2016.