Can Assassin’s Creed Break the Video Game Adaptation Curse?
Can Assassin’s Creed Break the Video Game Adaptation Curse?
Many have tried. Many have failed. It’s a little surprising that a film adaptation of a video game hasn’t been a standout critical success to date. From Tomb Raider and Resident Evil to more recent efforts such as Warcraft, no-one has been quite able to adapt a video game into a film that stays true to its source material while introducing audiences to a story they may not have heard before. There are different reasons why these films fail to capture commercial and critical success but there are signs that the trend could be beginning to change and Assassin’s Creed may be the film to buck the trend.
While some may argue that there’s no real reason to adapt a video game into a film, there are plenty of stories and opportunities in the gaming world that could be told on the big screen. From dramatic, emotional narratives like The Last of Us to atmospheric worlds like Bioshock there’s certainly plenty of interesting material to delve into. One such property is Assassin’s Creed which mixes historical fiction, action and science fiction. Unlike some video game adaptations before it Ubisoft has a large hand in the creative control of the film but shares financial risk with production company New Regency who are co-financing the film.
Assassin’s Creed has an impressive cast including Michael Fassbender as the main character, Callum Lynch/Aguilar, Marion Cotillard as an Abstergo scientist and Jeremy Irons as Alan Rikkin, CEO of Abstergo. Although the cast of a film is by no means a guarantee of success, the calibre of the casting shows that this endeavor has some faith and trust behind it. If the names Callum or Aguilar don’t sound familiar to you it’s because Fassbender’s character is an original creation for the film. The film’s historical scenes will also take place in the Spanish Inquisition, a time frame unexplored by the games. Although it may worry some fans that fan favourite characters such as Altair and Ezio have been overlooked, it’s a wise decision overall because it means there won’t be prior expectations of the story or character and the film can introduce audiences, whether they are fans of the game or not, to a new story.
That said, there are certainly touchstones and iconic elements in the footage shown so far. Most notably the parkour and traversal of the games have been recreated in the film using as many real life stunts as possible. Stunt coordinator Ben Cook has spoken about giving the film a realistic feel:
“We’ve tried to keep everything in-camera to try to keep it as real as possible and to give it a genuine feel.”
“We stayed away from creating CGI digital worlds, although there’s obviously a time and place for that. We’re trying to keep everything — all the parkour and everything like that — [as real].”
Indeed, in the film’s trailers its clear that this also extends to the fight choreography which like the traversal is fast-paced and flows. Other elements taken from the game include hidden blades and the leap of faith, a stunt which was filmed at a height of 125 feet by Fassbender’s stunt double Damien Walters. All this goes to show that the people working on the film take this adaptation seriously and want to keep it relatively faithful to the source material. At the same time, a film has to stand on its own and be an enticing story for non-gamers to be a commercial success.
Fassbender has spoken about how closely the film follows the games:
“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.
“But we’re definitely making a feature film, and we’re approaching it as a feature film, as opposed to approaching it as a video game.”
This is the right approach when it comes to video game adaptations which need to contain enough familiar elements for fans of the series but ultimately work as a feature film, something not every adaptation has gotten right in the past.
Nevertheless, the stunts and action will only carry a film such as Assassin’s Creed so far and its the story, tone and atmosphere that should stick with audiences when they leave the theater. Callum Lynch is a character with more than a passing resemblance to Desmond Miles from the games but he needs to have much more personality and backstory to make him feel relevant. The film has a challenge in that Assassin’s Creed is an isolated, one-man journey so how do you make the rest of the characters feel important and genuine?
Director Justin Kurzel has spoken about making the film feel authentic:
“Assassin’s Creed is based on real history. They spent a lot of time basing it on real characters.
“The details are just completely true to the period. So it’s very important that it feels tangible, the film feels tangible and it feels as though it has existed, but also that it just feels human.”
The project conjures up memories of another Ubisoft property Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time which was adapted into a feature film in 2010. Again, a strong cast was obtained including Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley but the film was all style over substance with the prince’s iconic acrobatics coming across as forced and the plot lacking in any imagination.
Hopefully, Ubisoft can buck the trend of disappointing video game adaptations with Assassin’s Creed. The film certainly has a lot going for it including a talented director, strong cast, practical stunts and less emphasis on CGI and Ubisoft’s involvement to make sure the film is at least true to the lore and certain elements of the games. A show like Westworld has shown video game elements can be done well with the right approach.
We’ll know for sure soon if Assassin’s Creed can be a solid hit both commercially and critically where so many of its predecessors failed when the film releases on December 14.
Do you think Assassin’s Creed will be a success with audiences and critics? What are your favourite video game adaptations to date?
Let me know by commenting below this article.