Ever since 1993′s misjudged ‘Super Mario Bros.’ - the first video game to be turned into a movie - gamers have waited patiently for a decent film based on a game. Many have tried and while some have been commercially successful (’Tomb Raider’, ‘Resident Evil’, ‘Prince of Persia’) not a single one has managed a “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Gamers crave mainstream critical recognition of their artform and it looks like this December’s ‘Assassin’s Creed’ could be the one to buck the trend. Michael Fassbender, the film’s star, is so confident they have a hit on their hands he says they’re already planning a trilogy of films.
“We already working on number two,” Fassbender told us on set, “we have very strong ideas about what we want to do in the second one and then a definite outline for the third.”
Can Michael Fassbender and his ‘Macbeth’ director Justin Kurzel succeed where others have failed? Here’s what we learned on set,
Michael Fassbender is heavily involved
Michael Fassbender not only stars as lead Assassin, Callum Lynch, he’s also a producer and he’s helped to assemble a crack team of top notch creatives.
He’s been working on the film since 2011 when Ubisoft called him in to discuss the idea and from that moment Fassbender has been deeply involved from “helping with script, the story, the plot, the characters” and pitching it to Justin Kurzel interested while the duo were making ‘Macbeth’. He also convinced ‘Dark Knight Rises’ star and arthouse darling Marion Cotillard to come on board.
The filmmakers want the fans on board
There have been nine main games in the franchise since Ubisoft launched it on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 back in 2007, and it’s shifted over 70 million units worldwide. The film’s producer Patrick Crowley is keen to please this massive audience, and it’s no coincidence the film’s marketing (see poster below) hasn’t strayed far from the games’ branding.
“Often [filmmakers] don’t spend the money and the time because they think that if you just do the game on screen [fans] will just like it,” he told Yahoo Movies. “Those often haven’t been very successful and we had to really step up. We felt like we had to spend the money so that fans didn’t think it was just a rip off of the game.”
“Every ‘Assassin’s Creed’ fan is going to sit down in their seat and thing that this is never going to be good enough.,” he explained. “How will you please them? The only way to please them is to make them feel that you really care about their experience. We have to make them feel that we care about what they love about the game.”
Everything was run past the game developers
The movie makers have tried to ensure the film sticks closely to the source material by involving the game developers at every stage.
According to the filmmakers we spoke to on set, the team regularly referenced Ubisoft’s ‘Assassin’s Creed’ encyclopaedia for the game to make sure the movie made sense in the world Ubisoft had built. The three hundred page information pack defines every character and how they behave and perform. It also gives details on the different periods that have been visited and the rules in which the game operates (for example, how much of your ancestor’s life you can view).
In addition, Fox invited Ubisoft ambassadors (people who know the game inside out) to review every step of the way. These ‘Assassin’s Creed’ experts got to see the script and were asked to visit the sets to get their perspective on what they were doing.
Having that much input and almost an approval process for the original game’s developer is a pretty big statement of intent from Fox.
It’s not based on an existing storyline
Perhaps wisely, the team behind the movie decided to create a completely original story with new characters rather than adapt one of the existing games.
“There are zero characters from the game,” explains producer Patrick Crowley. “We wanted to have an original script so that it’s a movie based on the game, but not a movie that is the game. The story exists within the rules and the world that Ubisoft have set up.”
With an entirely new plot and brand new characters, it allows filmmakers to reference the games, make it their own and without giving fans a direct comparison. Good call.
Fan favourites WILL feature
Fassbender confirmed that some of the most popular elements of the game will be featured in the 2016 movie adaptation.
He told Yahoo Movies that “Adam, our Director Of Photography and [director] Justin will decide how they capture the great moments from the game like ‘Eagle Vision’, ‘Leap Of Faith’ and all those things”.
Director Justin Kurzel confirms that Fassbender’s character has at least one ‘Leap Of Faith’ (as seen in the first trailer) and hinted at a couple of others too.
The Animus has been completely re-imagined
The first trailer also revealed one of the major differences between the game and the movie. The Animus machine (the device that enables the access of ancestor memories) has been completely transformed for life on the big screen.
It looks as though Fassbender’s present day character acts out the movements of the regression - virtual reality style - rather than just in their mind - ‘Avatar’ style - like we see in the games.
Production Designer Andy Nicholson says this just wouldn’t work in a movie, because “you are basically lying on the couch”.
Nicholson goes on to mention that you need to make it much more exciting “especially if you’re basing 50% of the movie on that moment.”
“It’s completely different. It’s radically different,” says Nichols. “I think it’s one of the most exciting differences that we’ve done.”
It’s an origin story to hit a mainstream audience
For those new to ‘Assassin’s Creed’ there is a whole bunch of ideas and rules to get your head around before you can fully appreciate what’s going on. Therefore, an origins story is a pretty good/obvious idea.
“Those people don’t know anything about the game and might be suspicious about going to see a movie that’s for a select audience,” says Crowley. “You have to make it interesting and attractive for them as well.
“You have to do an origins story movie in which you’re setting up the rules so that people have some idea as to why the Templars are doing what they’re doing and why the assassin’s are doing what they’re doing.”
How this exposition is laid out in the film could make or break it for filmgoers and gamers alike.
We’ll see whether Fassbender et al can impress hardcore fans and mainstream audiences alike when ‘Assassin’s Creed’ hits cinemas on 21st December 2016.
Images: Youtube/20th Century Fox