The video game industry is huge, being the fourth biggest entertainment market in the world, larger than movies, even boasting the most successful worldwide entertainment product of all time with Grand Theft Auto 5. However, we haven’t seen ANY successful video game adaptations in Hollywood. It should be a sure way to make an easy buck, taking advantage of a wealth of superb source material, as well as a titanic sized established audience. So what’s going wrong?
First and foremost, there seems to be a basic misunderstanding of how to handle video game properties in the movie business. There are some truly great narratives within video games that should be ripe for the picking, given the right creative presence is at hand, yet we are seeing sub-par, lazy films like Hitman and Doom being put into production. These are GREAT video games but they aren’t suitable for a film adaptation. They rely on their phenomenal gameplay rather than interesting characters or narrative.
Hollywood seems to be honing in on the overly violent aspects of the video game world, because they think that people only play video games for the gratuitous violence. Hitman is a successful video game because of the non-linear ways of approaching certain objectives, as well as its penchant for imaginative assassinations. How are you supposed to translate these aspects successfully onto the silver screen? You can’t. Well, you can try but you end up with a forgettable, sub-standard CGI heavy, action film that barely grossed £82 million. Video games are a multi billion dollar industry, their movies need to be doing a lot better.
But not all hope is lost. At the end of this year, Ubisoft are releasing an adaptation of their flagship property, Assassins Creed. A film that boasts a fantastic cast of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson as well as a young talented director with Justin Kurzel. Fassbender portrays Callum Lynch as he explores the memories of his ancestor and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, discovering that he is a descendant of the secret Assassins order.
Immediately, Assassins Creed dodges the problem that would plague most video game adaptations, in that it won’t be directly adapting its source material. Instead, it takes the great ideas presented by the video game series and seeks to build upon it in a way that is appropriate for a movie. In the video games, the stories of Altair and Ezio are told over the course of 8+ hours, which would be a nightmare to cut down to an acceptable movie runtime. By choosing a new time period and brand new protagonist, Ubisoft can tell a corehent story that isn’t arrested by the video games, which will also surprise veteran fans of the series.
Michael Fassbender has even stressed the importance of staying relevant to the source material as well as being original, stating, “You know, we absolutely want to respect the game. There’s so much cool stuff in the game that we’re actually spoiled for choice in terms of what we can use and what we can’t, but we also want to bring new elements to it and perhaps our own version of things that already exist in the game. But we’re definitely making a feature film, and we’re approaching it as a feature film, as opposed to approaching it as a video game.”
And with Ubisoft themselves leading the film, there seems to be a synchronisation all the way through production, from the studio head to the director to the star, who have respect for Assassins Creed, as well as a deep understanding of how to properly adapt it for the average movie going audience. A very similar synchronisation that was apparent with the recent Deadpool film, which is enjoying runaway success, because the creative powers behind the movie were allowed to fully realise their vision.
Could Assassins Creed be the spark that sets hundreds of video game adaptations in motion? We will have to wait until 21st December to find out.