Could 'Assassin's Creed' Be The First Good Video Game Movie?
Video game movies suck. We all know it. Sometimes we gamers try to force ourselves into thinking a video game adaptation is good. We say things like "Actually, that wasn't that bad" or "Y'know what? It's the best video game movie yet". Sure, maybe that's true, but that's also like saying Pol Pot wasn't the worst genocidal maniac. It's the same with video game movies; even the best ones are still bad. You want some quantifiable data to back up my groundless accusation? Well, no mainstream video game adaptation has ever gained over 50% on Rotten Tomatoes. That's a fact.
But maybe that's set to change? Despite critical hatred, movie executives still want to port pixelated personalities over to live action film franchises. In the coming years a mass of video game adaptations are being loaded up. Seriously, head over to here to take a look. Within that list are games with some brilliantly well-written and well-developed storylines. Obviously, we're talking games like Deus Ex, Half-Life and perhaps most notably, Assassin's Creed.
At the moment Assassin's Creed is perhaps the healthiest looking adaptation. It's still in its early stages but already it has nabbed the BAFTA nominated Michael Fassbender and acclaimed playwright Michael Lesslie. But what would a good Assassin's Creed movie look like? Well, here are some of my suggestions for crafting a truly good video game movie.
Keep Ubisoft Involved
I think for a long time, there was a certain arrogance and superiority in the minds of movie professionals, a belief that only they knew how to craft good stories. However, times have changed. Movie developers need to realize the video game industry is at the forefront of innovative story-telling. I'm not suggesting video game makers should actually write the script, since there is a fundamental difference between the mediums which demands precise expertise, I'm merely suggesting that they should be actively involved in the process. Luckily, it seems like this is the case for the Assassin's Creed movie. Ubisoft Motion Pictures boss, Jean-Julien Baronnet, stated:
If you look at past adaptations of games to movies, none were done by an integrated gaming company that put a movie structure inside of itself. We're not here to just license and we're not here to produce big movies ourselves. We are really in the middle of it.
The mere fact a Ubisoft Motion Pictures unit exists is a pretty positive development. Sometimes this close cooperation can kill a project. We recently reported that Sam Raimi's Warcraft movie collapsed due to disagreements with Blizzard. But at the end of the day, the game developers know their story and their audience best.
Keep The Action Relevant
This is another sticky issue between video games and movies. Even in the more 'high-brow' games you are basically in a constant state of action. Sure, there are periods of down time, but for the most part you are shooting, solving puzzles, or navigating air ducts. In a video game this doesn't damage character development or story much, since the entire narrative can be spread over as much as 30 hours of interaction. In a film, this is different. There seems to the feeling that a video game movie has to be an action movie. It's easy to see that association. Obviously, gamers want to do something, be it nonchalantly climbing buildings or stabbing Spaniards in the neck. Furthermore, the unique selling point of many games is how they reimagine or approach action. This is certainly the case for Assassin's Creed. It was one of the first games to introduce the free-running principle into open-world navigation. Yeah, it's awesome. We all agree on that. But I don't want to watch 100 minutes of Michael Fassbender climbing famous Renaissance buildings. Keep the action relevant to the story, but don't make it THE story. A few months ago we posted a fan made Assassin's Creed video. Again, the action was impressive, but it didn't take long for the constant flipping to get extremely irritating. Just imagine if the movie was like that. Check it out below:
Leave Out The Video Game Stuff
There has to be a fine line to be drawn between referencing the original video game and copying it. Several video game movies have been ruined by merely creating film versions of the game. Instead they should be trying to develop film versions of the games story. Video game gimmicks should be done away with completely. No first version views, no 'eagle vision', no constantly jumping into haystacks and no 'Da Vinci flying levels'. These things were introduced to facilitate and promote gameplay, not the narrative. Sure, they look kind of cool, but they're ultimately superficial, and often jarring to non-gamers. If we finally want a good video game movie we need to dig a little deeper. I'm almost willing to advocate dialing down the costume a bit. The white hooded garb is perhaps the most iconic symbol of Assassin's Creed, but to reproduce it exactly might not work so well in a movie. I think I'd prefer a more realistic reimaging as opposed to a straight up copy. I mean, his uniform is hardly inconspicuous. The film shouldn't try to be the video game, because, we have the video game for that. It needs to be something else.
Pick The Right Characters
Now, this is a contentious issue. Surely, if you're making an Assassin's Creed movie we should start at the beginning with Altair ibn-La'Ahad, right? Hmm, maybe. To be honest, I'm not sure if Altair is a great character for the movie adaptation. Despite being literally 3D, I thought he was a bit of a two dimensional character. Ezio Auditore da Firenze on the other hand? Now, he's got some passion! In the three games in which he stars, we see him develop from a Renaissance playboy to a seasoned assassin. It's a much more engrossing and believable tale.
Furthermore the Medieval setting of the first Assassin's Creed is one we've seen countless times. Been there, done that, got the plate armor. Renaissance Italy, on the other hand, is a much more mysterious and vibrant setting. By basing the majority of the film in Ezio's world we also get to interact with more recognizable characters such as Leonardo Da Vinci, Machiavelli and the Borgia. This provides the perfect balance between the familiar and the exotic. Sure, Altair and Connor can pop up, but I think Ezio has to rule the Assassin roost.
We Need To Talk About Desmond
Any Assassin's Creed game has to involve Desmond. That's obvious. He's what will separate Assassin's Creed from the multitude of other historical action flicks. Without him, the unique story Ubisoft developed is all but lost. But how much should he be involved? Should the historical elements be mere action scenes separated from reality, kind of like when Neo hops into the Matrix? Or should Desmond merely act as bookends to the majority historical drama? Regardless, I think Desmond should mostly remain a passive figure, someone who contextualizes the story without severely detracting from it. Finding a balance between the two worlds will certainly be tricky, and may make or break the entire project.
You've Got Michael Fassbender, Use Him
Michael Fassbender is an acting powerhouse, not some two-bit action star. I still believe the Inglorious Bastards bar scene is one of the greatest pieces of acting and film making in recent history. Fassbender rules that scene and he proves he is a master of tension and dialogue. His name on the marquee will be a big draw for the Assassin's Creed movie, let's not disappoint fans and non-fans alike by reducing him to the role of a glorified action hero in a hood.
Let's squeeze him for every drop of acting greatness. Although the Assassin's Creed games aren't really known for their amazing dialogue, there is certainly a lot of room for maneuver. I particularly liked the scenes from the first game in which Altair would ‘converse’ with his recently shanked targets. It might be a bit difficult to add into the movie version, but it suggests the story has the potential for some great dialogue. Check out one of them below:
So, that's just my two cents towards developing an actual good film adaptation of Assassin's Creed. I'm sure a lot of you will have your own ideas about how to pursue it. Feel free to add them, and rip my argument to shreds, below.