10 Dec 2016

Assassin's Creed: Why the Movie Should Succeed


There's a weirdly big overlapping issue within the videogame and movie industries; adaptations. A film studio sees a popular game franchise and says "hey, we could make a movie out of that". Generally, big-screen adaptations of videogames have never received amazing reviews, and mostly performed poorly at the Box Office. The 1995 Mortal Kombat movie, for instance, was based on one of the most popular fighting games of the time. It did receive $118 million in revenue, almost ten times its budget, but review scores rate the film at an average of 34% on Rotten Tomatoes. For years, gamers have laughed off the idea of film adaptations, accepting that it'll never be done well, but it seems that the subgenre has been given a second chance in Assassin's Creed.

My first exposure to these types of movies came in the form of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider starring Angelina Jolie as the eponymous action heroine. Albeit quite a fun movie, it suffered from an illogical plot with no emotional impact. Jolie was a perfect fit for the role, which at the time was a hyper-sexualised teen male fantasy which she embodied in the 1990s. It has a 19% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

The problem with movies based on videogames is that many try to emulate the same feeling players may have had while playing them. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider and Mortal Kombat both used conventions, expectations and artistic styles that were familiar within the games themselves, such as silly action sequences and eye roll-worthy dialogue, but did not translate well to big-screen adaptations. To put it simply, games have plots that suit games, not movies. More recently, we've seen games that take influence from other forms of media; games made by Naughty Dog such as Uncharted and The Last of Us feature set pieces and cutscenes heavily inspired by movies.

One movie adaptation that I believe nailed it was Silent Hill starring Radha Mitchell and Sean Bean. While the film itself isn't really anything special, it did however evoke the same atmosphere as the games did. The soundtrack was reused from the first three games and the setting was largely similar - it felt like a nice nod to the fans and was suitable enough for the horror genre.


Disney's Prince of Persia film wasn't so bad, but it didn't get great critic reception
After years of these terrible adaptations, videogame fans have been given a new chance to start afresh. Assassin's Creed releases in the United States on the 21st of this month. Produced by and starring Michael Fassbender, the film is set alongside the games and is supposed to feature a similar plot, where the story flashes between the modern day and a historical period (in this case, the Spanish Inquisition). The film also stars Marion Cotillard and is directed by Justin Kurzel, two individuals that Fassbender collaborated with in 2015's Macbeth.

I didn't really enjoy Macbeth that much per se, but it was brilliantly directed and felt epic enough as a historical drama. It holds 80% approval ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. If Assassin's Creed has any much of that same tone, it should also do quite well with critics. There isn't a lot that can go wrong with this, and while this film might not seem as important as it is, think about it for a moment. This could be the moment high-budget, well-received videogame movies become mainstream. Imagine going to see a movie based on Red Dead Redemption and it isn't total shit? Imagine it getting over 60% in metascores. It would be brilliant for gamers!

That's why Assassin's Creed needs to do well. Studios may see the videogame market as incredibly desaturated and start pouring money into it. Ubisoft's game series has sold over 100 million copies worldwide, which leads me to believe many fans will go to see it. But can the film grab non-gamers? We'll have to see.

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