Assassin’s Creed, and the curious case of videogame adaptations
Before I kick off my review of Assassin’s Creed, I’m going to ask a favour – suspend all your preconceptions of the film. Just trust me – and, with that being said, I’ll kick off by saying Assassin’s Creed isn’t the film that shatters the awkward transition of Game to Film, but, with that being said, in my opinion, it’s actually a really good movie!
Assassin’s Creed follows the story of Cal Lynch, a criminal nomad who is just about to be executed for unknown reasons, when he awakens in a scientific facility, Abstergo where upon the mysterious puppeteers’ goal is to ‘unlock his past’ from his ancestor, Aguilar who is locked into a battle between Good and Evil during the Spanish Inquisition – in order to find the Apple of Eden, the key to controlling Humanity. Cal is forced to make a decision, to bend to the desires of Abstergo, or to fight back, and realize his destiny as an Assassin.
Assassin’s Creed’s main downfall is the fact that it takes itself a tad bit too seriously. Justin Kurzel is an amazing director, but his forte is intense storytelling, and EPIC visuals, and while every shot is incredibly stunning – unfortunately, Cal/Aguilar’s story’s potential is never fully realized. The only thing I can think that may have derailed the film is the lack of some source material fans, like gamers that have lived the Assassin’s Creed experience. Fassbender and Co. Are incredibly respectful to the games throughout the film, and you can tell that they have an immense amount of admiration for world and lore that Ubisoft have created – but there’s a bit of a disconnection, tonally, and I think it’s down to the fact that there was O.G. Assassin’s Creed fans in the higher-uppers during production.
Otherwise, the film is a gem – it’s stunning to watch, and the score is absolutely incredible, which really elevates the ‘weaker’ points of the film. Honestly, the film has an amazing amount of promise for a franchise – Fassbender, as always, is charismatic and engaging, and Marion Cotillard makes for an amazing foil. Assassin’s Creed is a good film, it’s a very good film as long as you take it at face value. It’s not a great video game adaptation because it misses the nuances that make the games great, nor is it a bad film just because it misses the mark in some circumstances. It’s definitely worth the watch, and I found that I enjoyed the second viewing more than the first – and it looks amazing on Blu-Ray, which is always a plus!
So, why hasn’t there been a successful and critically well-received Video Game film adaptation yet? From Tomb Raider, to the likes of Resident Evil, Doom and Mortal Kombat – what is it about the story telling and transition to Game to Film that causes the disconnect? Resident Evil has been the most financially successful Game-to-Film franchise of all time, but has been consistently critically panned. Resident Evil started off as a homage to the original material, but has taken a life of its own in recent years, which hasn’t gone down too well with hardcore fans, yet it always smashes figures at the box office? Is the key to take the general gist of a story and translate it as the film demands, or is it possible to carry over the nuances of a video-game’s story telling to get the full picture? Even though they are two separate beasts, I feel like film and game story telling are becoming more and more alike, as technology advances.
Whereas Doom and Mortal Kombat are two classic examples that absolutely take the bull by the horns, and proudly boast their heritage (to an extent, and you’ll soon see why!) – Mortal Kombat is widely regarded as one of the best Game-to-Film adaptations, because it embraces its zany origins which makes it such a fan favorite. However, Doom isn’t as lucky, the classic shooter is aggressively adored by legions fans around the world, but the fact that the film ignores the game’s history and lore by excluding Hell and it’s Demons, replacing them with generic viruses and infected personnel to appeal to the masses– let’s just say, it didn’t go down too well. It keeps the aesthetic and badassery that makes the games great, and as always, Karl Urban steals the film as Reaper (‘Doomguy’), and they’re probably the film’s only saving graces with the fans.
So that begs the question, where is the middle ground? Will we ever get the videogame adaptation that we so deserve!? Why is there such a bad track record – We shall not speak of Street Fighter.. all I know is that I want to hadouken the guy who cast Kylie Minogue as Cammy. Is it a case that Paul W.S Anderson has the right idea with the likes of Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat, or will Justin Kurtzel come back fighting with an Assassin’s Creed sequel that has found the ultimate balance? My final thoughts are that you need to watch Assassin’s Creed because it’s actually awesome, and that there’s nothing better than chilling out and watching a game adaptation, regardless of quality, and particularly the older ones. They’re my go-to guilty pleasure – can’t beat the classics!