Dir.: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson and Jeremy Irons
Having been a substantially massive fan of the video game series about folks dressing up in ostentatious white robes while upholding a clandestine ancient dogma to preserve human liberty by way of killing people with style and finesse, a part of me was genuinely curious and a little optimistic about seeing Assassin’s Creed take a stab (huur) on the big screen. Not only that, but given the magnitude of talent in front of and behind the camera with Kurzel’s Macbeth was easily in my Top 10 along with a reliable cast and a gorgeous aesthetic flourish we saw in trailers.
While firmly aware of the fact past adaptations of polygonal fare have mostly been met with disdain due to various and legitimate factors, I was still holding on to some luminous beacon of hope. Given Warcraft was the last major bash at game-on-screen and it too had a reliable director, there was that nugget of solace.
Assassin’s Creed was by no means eye-gougingly vile or incompetantly made. It was just boring. Kurzel and the writers had SO much to work with in terms of concept, story possibilities and character exploration and yet they didn’t take that Leap of Faith when the sky was truly the limit. A ceaselessly fascinating historical epoch (the freakin’ Spanish Inquisition!), a solid yet flexible foundation of lore to build further upon, some potentially compelling characters, all of the ingredients were there but rather than soar through the air, it landed flat on its own face because it had little confidence in itself. To me, in order to properly adapt a video game into a feature film, you need to do a few things:
- Know the material. It’s not simply enough to read the back of the cover or watch a few hours of gameplay. When David O. Russell was looking to boost Naughty Dog’s marquee title Uncharted on the big screen, he said what he loved about the series in the following quote:
“I think if we take that family dynamic that we have in The Fighter, and put that in terms of a grander stage, with a crime family that metes out justice in the world of art and antiquities. If you’re the head of a museum, or head of state, you’ve got to deal with them, and they’re badass. They’re like the Sopranos in some ways, but they have great taste, and they have a sense of justice.
Later in the interview, Russell cited that his “kid loves playing it, I love playing it. I just want to create a world that takes it to another level, that’s another amazing world that’s more cinematic.”
I don’t think you HAVE played the games, Mr. Russell and your little passive-aggressive swipe at the games being kid-friendly is incredibly off the mark. Jerk.
2. Don’t fear the material. Display caution, but investigate further into the series. In something as complex as Assassin’s Creed‘s lore, there is a vertible playground to explore. It’s a matter of picking the right story elements and emphasizing them for the consumption of a film-going audience. A few lovely nods to the fans here and there are beautiful, but never forget to make your product accessible. Not everybody has a console.
3. Committment and faith. Commit and have fortitude in what you are doing. There is nothing worse than showing uncertainty while facing an ambitious project such as this. If you have considerable skills, allow them to boost your confidence. I can only advocate for myself, but I like seeing a film succeed, regardless of the genre.
Assassin’s Creed could have had a shot, it could have batted a home run for video game movies with all of its ideas and creative lease, but it was misguided in its design and nervous in its abilities. Quite a shame.