x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Star power gives promising start to Assassin's Creed film

Assassin's Creed is the latest video game to be made into a film, and with Michael Fassbender in the starring role, it has the potential to succeed where others have failed.

Michael Fassbender will star in Assassin's Creed.
Michael Fassbender will star in Assassin's Creed.

The news that Michael Fassbender is attached to a new film is about as unsurprising as tomorrow's weather forecast across the UAE. But last week came an announcement that even the most up-to-speed movie aficionados didn't see coming.

The German-Irish actor, currently starring as the somewhat sinister android David in Ridley Scott's Prometheus, is set to take the lead role in the cinematic adaptation of Assassin's Creed, the hugely successful series of video games from the France-based developer Ubisoft.

Unsurprisingly, given that Assassin's Creed has sold in excess of 38 million copies since it first emerged in 2007, it's not the first time there has been talk of a film. Sony was rumoured to be in negotiations last year, but a deal never emerged.

What makes this new move interesting is that Ubisoft appears to be going it alone, under its newly formed Ubisoft Motion Pictures arm. Speaking to Variety, the Ubisoft chief executive Jean-Julien Baronnet said that the company would be "open to rediscuss with the key studios once the production package is finalised", but there are signs that the company is looking to maintain full creative control of its prized asset.

The last time Ubisoft gave away one of its titles to a studio, it resulted in 2010's less-than-favourable Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, a situation it clearly doesn't want to repeat.

The story of Assassin's Creed revolves around a family line of assassins and an ongoing battle with the Knights Templar, the mystery-shrouded real-life military order given far wider influence for the purpose of the game.

Across five main titles, this third-person action-adventure has taken players across Crusade-era Middle East to the Italian Renaissance and, in the last Assassin's Creed: Revelations, a Constantinople recently acquired by the Ottoman Empire, with real historical figures playing important roles across numerous missions. For added intrigue (and confusion), there's a science-fiction element thrown in as well.

Aside from the news that Fassbender is on-board as the lead and will also act as the co-producer, few details of the actual film have been revealed, leaving rather a few questions for fans.

Who will Fassbender play? The game has so far introduced a number of main characters - a barman called Desmond Miles, plus his more exciting ancestors, namely the 12th-century Palestinian assassin Altair ibn-La'Ahad and the Renaissance man Ezio Auditore da Firenze. The next instalment, due out in October, is set to introduce a completely new figure altogether, this time set in the US in the midst of a bloody civil war. Will he play all of them, or maybe even none, with an entirely new story created for the film? And will Ubisoft focus on just one historical era and stretch out a series of films, or perhaps try to cram them all into one?

There's also the issue of rating. The games are, by and large, extremely violent. After all, you do play a professional killer. Aside from vertigo-inducing leaps from towering minarets and athletic scampers across red-tiled Venetian rooftops, much of the game involves stabbing baddies to death. Will Ubisoft maintain the bloodlust in the film or ease off a little to up the audience figures? After all, it's probable a lot of the game's players are under 18 and wouldn't be allowed into the cinema, depending on the rating.

These are all questions that should be answered in due course once someone has been signed up to direct. The biggest concern is that Assassin's Creed: The Movie doesn't join a long list of truly terrible video game-to-film adaptations. Having Fassbender already on board is likely to diminish such fears. He may be in everything at the moment, but - by and large - he doesn't get involved with complete rubbish.

 

Cinema killed the video game star

A few nuggets from Hollywood's largely unfavourable plundering of the video game world.

Super Mario Bros (1993)

Two dungarees-clad Italian plumbers jumping on mushrooms might be cute and cuddly in chunky pixel format, but in live action it's just weird (and a box-office bomb). Bob Hoskins has since claimed it was "the worst thing I ever did", and he was in Garfield.

Streetfighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (2009)

With the first eye-wincingly bad Streetfighter movie clearly not enough to convince filmmakers to steer well clear, along came this monstrosity that focused on its spinney-kicky Chinese fighting lady. Fingers crossed a US$38 million loss will ensure nobody goes near it again.

Doom (2005)

The game was genre-defining; a landscape-changing alien-blasting, first-person shooter that has been named the Greatest Game of All Time. The film adaptation featured The Rock. Apparently, a sequel was dependent on the box-office success of the first. Thank you, world.

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

OK, so they haven't been all failures. Angeline Jolie's donning the shorts and vest top might have been met with disapproval by the critics (she was nominated for a Golden Raspberry), but was a box-office success, spawning an equally profitable sequel.

aritman@thenational.ae