The recent news that Michael Fassbender has agreed to star and co-produce an Assassin’s Creed videogame was surprising, to say the least. Although we’d heard rumours that Ubisoft was attempting to put a movie together based on its hit series of historic rooftop slaughter games, we didn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing one – after all, movies based on such titles as Gears Of War, Halo and World Of Warcraft have all been discussed, but never got beyond the planning stage.
With a name like Fassbender’s on board, it’s far more likely that an Assassin’s Creed movie will actually see the light of day. And with his and Sony’s involvement, it’s just possible it’ll be a decent adaptation, too – better, we hope, than Street Fighter II at least.
At any rate, the Fassbender announcement has inevitably left a few questions burning in our minds – so here goes…
In the videogame, we’re introduced to the humble barman Desmond Miles. His humdrum, boozer-dwelling existence is radically shaken when he’s kidnapped by a shadowy organisation called Abstergo Industries, a corporate arm of the Knights Templar. Miles is then plugged into a machine called the Animus, which sends his consciousness back in time, effectively placing him (or in reality, the player) in the shoes of one of his ancestors.
In the first game, Miles was reintroduced to Altair, a former assassin living in the Holy Land of the 12 century. Assassin’s Creed II introduced another relative, the Italian, Ezio. Both had a penchant for running around the roofs of cities and occasionally dropping down to kill various unsuspecting victims – usually crooked members of the ruling elite.
The unfolding story across the games is extremely convoluted, and takes in numerous sci-fi conspiracies, along with the possibility that the world might end this very year.
Our question, then, is what role Michael Fassbender’s likely to play. Presumably, he’ll play Desmond Miles, though he looks very little like him. Assuming the game retains the same Animus-time-travel concept (which it surely will), whose ancestral consciousness will he drop back into?
Our next question, given just how important settings are to the Assassin’s Creed games, is an obvious one: where will it be set? Will the movie follow the chronology of the videogames, and begin in the 12th century? Will it go more up to date, and head to Colonial-era America?
It’s equally likely that, with Ubisoft’s oft-repeated mantra, “History is our playground”, the Assassin’s Creed movie will have an entirely different historical setting. This way, the movie would have a better chance of standing on its own feet, rather than being endlessly compared to the events in the videogame.
Ubisoft has ruled out the possibility of an Assassin’s Creed game set in World War II, Ancient Egypt or Feudal Japan – the most commonly requested settings, apparently – so presumably they’re out of the question for a movie, too.
This was one of the foremost questions that came to us when the Assassin’s Creed movie was announced. The games are violent. Very violent. This is, after all, a series based almost entirely around the concept of sneaking into secure buildings, swan diving dramatically off a length of guttering, and stabbing a dignitary in the neck.
Okay, so the Assassin’s Creed titles aren’t as horrifyingly bloody as some videogames, but they still have their gory moments, and there’s no getting away from the protagonist’s murderous job description. Presumably, the movie will have to ease off on the violence a little to get a PG-13 rating – the certification choice for most modern films that aren’t Prometheus or a bawdy comedy.
Does this mean that its protagonist will have to tone down his use of various maces, swords, daggers and hidden blades? Or will the film’s makers go for a harsher tone more in line with the games?
The Assassin’s Creed games are sumptuous, expensive affairs which revel in the recreation of period detail – or at least a fun, vaguely believable impression of it. Few who’ve played Assassin’s Creed II will forget the experience of crouching, Batman-like, at the top of the Florence Cathedral and surveying the landscape below.
Such sequences aren’t cheap to create in videogames, and they’re not cheap to produce in movies, either. The presence of Mr Fassbender implies that Assassin’s Creed won’t be a tawdry, straight-to-on-demand affair directed by Uwe Boll, and we assume that, with the combined coffers of Ubisoft and Sony behind it, the film will have plenty of financial heft behind it.
An important one, this. Because with Fassbender in place, we already have the makings of a movie with a rock-solid dramatic centre. The Assassin’s Creed games have always been, first and foremost, about atmosphere, high-wire tension and widescreen spectacle. (The writing, if we’re being honest, has long been a secondary concern, even if the stories are fun in a pulpy sort of way.)
To translate well to the big screen, an Assassin’s Creed movie needs a director who can recreate the best elements of the games in a non-interactive form.
The sneaking around, free-running, combat and conspiracy in the videogames provide some fertile ground for the right filmmaker to pick from, as long as they have the imagination and the artistry to make a proper movie rather than a slavish recreation of the games’ stand-out scenes.
Its director needn’t be an expensive, big-name talent, either – although its plot was painfully generic, we thought the Swedish director Daniel Espinosa (who previously made the fabulous Snabba Cash) made a thoroughly decent job of directing the material he was given, filling the various fist-fights and chases with raw immediacy.
If Assassin’s Creed: The Movie is to end up as something more than just another second-rate videogame adaptation, it needs great people on board. With Fassbender, it’s already some way there. Let’s hope some decent filmmakers are hired to go alongside him.
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