Videogame films are always stuck between a rock and a hard place: make a movie that focuses on what the fans want and you might end up with something so dense it’s almost impossible to sell to a mainstream market. Make a film that strays too far from the source material in an attempt to appeal to that mainstream market, and you risk losing what made the game a success in the first place.
In the past few years we’ve had adaptations of action-adventure Prince of Persia, bullet-time game Max Payne, first-person shooter Far Cry and survival horror Resident Evil. The highest score any of those have achieved on review-amalgamating website Rotten Tomatoes is 36% – but many of them take hundreds of millions of box-office dollars.
This year’s glut of adaptations is set to begin next week with The Angry Birds Movie, an animation for kids, and in June, Warcraft, directed by Moon and Source Code’s Duncan Jones. That adapts the notoriously heavy source material of World of Warcraft for the big screen, in a bid to make trolls cool.
World of Warcraft could turn into a hit – but it’s Assasssin’s Creed that looks like it’ll sit most easily on the boundary of critical and commercial success. Here’s why:
1. This level of acting talent is unprecedented in a videogame movie
The two leads are Oscar-nominated actor Michael Fassbender and Oscar-winning actor Marillon Cotillard. It also stars veterans Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson. The closest other films have got to such celebrated talent was Prince of Persia, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton.
2. Its director has experience with the actors
Justin Kurzel directed Cotillard and Fassbender in 2015’s gritty Macbeth adaptation. Ok, this isn’t going to be Shakespeare, but the experience they share on set together won’t hurt.
3. The source material means it doesn’t have to be faithful to the game
Assassin’s Creed is about Desmond Miles, a man taken by an evil company called Abstergo to undergo an ongoing experiment that sends him back into the memory contained in his DNA, to relive his ancestors’ lives and details about mysteries that have been lost. Let’s be clear: the premise is utter bullshit, but once you get past it, it allows the game’s creators to craft immersive worlds set in the past, and the great thing for the film is that anyone can use the ‘Animus’ technology.
Fassbender plays brand-new character Callum Lynch, and his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, who lived in 15th-century Spain – meaning none of its storyline will interfere with the ‘canon’ set down in the story of the games so far. Unless they try really hard, fans might struggle to voice problems with this film’s story.
4. The action will satisfy fans
As anyone who’s played the games will attest, the film looks like it’s staying very true to the mix of parkour and hyper-violent, martial arts-level swordsmanship (this includes those iconic little ‘hidden’ wrist blades) that define Assassin’s Creed. In the trailer, a lot of that action-based stuff looks a little overblown for film, but hopefully those moments will be spaced out a bit more. A bit of unglamorous grit wouldn’t go amiss, either.
5. The visuals are amazing
The panoramic, dusty views of 15th-century Spain are genuinely stunning, and there’s some slow-motion work that looks great in the action sequences too. There’s also a nice palette divide between stuff set in Abstergo’s laboratory (blue) and stuff in them olden days (orange).
Bonus round: Kanye
It takes a bold film to Kanye’s ‘I Am A God’ in the trailer. That’s what’s called a statement of intent, and even if the film doesn’t quite live up to those expectations, it’s showing itself as bold and brash – something this film needs to be if it’s to succeed.