"We work in the dark, to serve the light. We are… filmmakers." Tim Bustin discusses the difficulty of converting video games to the silver screen.
When adapting an epic franchise, especially that based on a video game no less, criticism is easy to attract no matter how passionate the filmmakers are behind the scenes. The first Assassin’s Creed trailer has therefore garnered a mixed response of genuine excitement along with some natural scepticism. In fact, the only real hatred portrayed was for its use of the Kanye West track I Am A God. The second trailer solved this problem by removing Mr.West, but the issue stills remains that there has never been a popular video game that has truly been translated successfully into film.
Impressions from the trailer are that this film will be an intense experience. Overall, it delivers a promising blend of sci-fi and ancient action; and that gorgeous cityscape shot of the Spanish Inquisition breathes just like the game, as does every shot in fact. It looks genuinely beautiful at times. We see a story develop, as Michael Fassbender’s convict character is first declared legally dead, then secretly stolen before being led to a futuristic facility, guiding us watching through an increasingly escalating mystery. The Animus machine, that allows Fassbender to access and relieve the memories of his long dead assassin ancestor, is like an upgraded version of the Matrix: he performs in the real world what he taps into from the past, leaping, fighting, blending into the shadows, striking with the iconic hidden blades. The blurring of past and present, later increased by the scenes themselves starting to merge, is known as 'The Bleeding Edge' effect: where Fassbender retains the skills of his ancestors at the cost of multiple personalities and memories in his mind. Needless to say this will likely create some rather interesting personality issues within Fassbender's character - just don't expect an action adaptation of Me, Myself, & Irene.
Considering all this, the film is an oozing vat of potential; there are a dozen different intriguing directions it could take; the cast includes Jeremy Irons, Marion Cottilard and more; and it’s going to be action-packed in a fresh way. Who can forget the Leap of Faith shot, actually performed, where a man jumps from 125 feet unassisted and lands safely?
But, good or bad, trailers can only say so much and insiders are warning us about raising our expectations too high. Screen Junkies reported that, of the footage they’ve seen so far, the film appears muddled and unsure of its tone. With real fans behind the cameras this may turn out to be more of a Warcraft: fans will eat it up but there will be problems.
It may seem petty to just pick up on Kanye but a fan-edited trailer that swapped in music from the actual game manages to open up striking new avenues on rewatching; suddenly it’s genuinely thought-provoking and the scale is stretched as epically as that cityscape shot. Making changes in an adaptation is hardly a novel concept, but sticking to the themes of the source material is the most important thing in my opinion. It doesn’t help that there’s a lot of cringey, generic dialogue either. Though one could argue this is one facet that hasn't strayed too far from its original source.
With so many videogame adaptations slated for the next few years we desperately need one that's at least half-good. The next proper chance of a successful adaptation in my books, discounting Tetris and Fruit Ninja because apps are rubbish, won't be till 2018 with the gritty Lara Croft reboot. From the numerous details seen in the elegant blades and weaponry, or just the feel of the past in the trailers it’s obvious that the team behind Assassin's Creed are fans of the source material and it’s hoped they’ll remember the philosophy and themes of the game are just as important in a decent adaptation.
Of course, being a fan unfortunately doesn’t naturally follow that you will a make a film great. Warcraft proved you can successfully adapt a videogame into film; now Assassin’s Creed needs to prove that everyone can actually enjoy it too.