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Friday, July 13, 2012

Assassin's Creed: The Movie -- Staying in the Shadows

In case you haven't heard, Assassin's Creed is being turned into a movie. This is a bitter-sweet revelation for anyone who has ever played a video game and gone to a theater to see any video game's film adaptation. The list of good video game movies is as follows:

The list of bad video game movies is as follows:

All of them.

One issue to address is the "why" factor. Why, when there are so many well crafted video game stories, are there so many horrible adaptations? First of all, you have to understand that movies are a business. There is a pitch, a business plan, and projected incomes based off of merchandising and star power/fan interest. Unless the movie is independently funded, creative control is never fully in the hands of the writers/directors. For a clear example, look at Spider-Man 3 (but not directly at it, for it was terrible).

From what we have seen with video game movies, it is clear that the producers and directors that have been hired onto the construction of said media are out of touch with their audience, and product. Max Payne was famous for its implementation of bullet time, and the movie had that. Once. In an extremely poorly crafted action sequence. Tomb Raider was known for its action-adventure and Lara Croft's boobs. The movie had action and adventure, and boobs. That's about it. No real narrative substance other than a nice introduction for American's to Daniel Craig. This is because (I'm guessing) most production studio heads have no idea what a video game is.

However, because it is a business, a studio would be idiotic not to try and cash in on an entertainment industry that makes more money than both film and television combined on an annual basis. Hence the constant efforts. With that in mind, here are a list of watch-outs and don't-dos for the new Assassin's Creed movie.

Make the protagonist like the alien from Alien.

Remember Alien? How you never really got full glimpses of the creature, and the way it clung to the shadows; always giving a sense of fear and anticipation? Remember Batman: Begins, and how you always got the criminal's point of view when he was assaulting a group of people? Batman remained in the shadows. He was a predator, a shadow in the night, and he was scary because of it. This is what Altair/Ezio needs to be in order to show the true spirit of being an assassin.

There have been recent pictures of what appears to be an onset photo from the film in development.

This is why I say Altair or Ezio, because it hasn't been revealed yet which of the two assassin's Michael Fassbender will be portraying. Personally, I would like to see Fassbender play Ezio. Michael is a fantastic actor, and has played roles that require a lot of bravado and personality. Altair was a bit one dimensional for my tastes, but perhaps Fassbender will choose to expose more of this character that wasn't presented in the game. It would give an actor to craft a unique character that doesn't really have a precedent attached to it, while at the same time working with a history that he can pull from.

Unfortunately, this picture was from a set of stills from the short films taken during the lead up to Assassin's Creed II. If you remember, these introduced Ezio's father and their family's legacy. They were pretty entertaining, and a wonderful lead in to the series.

Secondly, leave out Desmond Miles. Most of you who played the games probably won't think back to your favorite parts being in the Animus lab, listening to Kristen Bell argue with the old doctor. The best parts were the moments right before the kill. They were the moments when you thought you might be spotted, and the realization that you were only a leap away from burying your wrist blade into your enemy. Now, I'm not saying leave Desmond out entirely. Merely hint at him.

Through out the movie there should be little glitches, or moments that take the viewer out of the period piece aspect and add a sense that something isn't quite right. Whether it be someone's voice skipping, a pixelated bird or merchant, or hearing someone's questioning voice in the background, Desmond Miles shouldn't be introduced until the very end (I'm thinking an after credits thing like the Marvel movies). Keep it subtle so that the people who know the franchise will recognize it and smile, while those who haven't seen the movie will wonder and hopefully be surprised by Desmond's reveal at the end.

Thirdly, don't add characters to try and appeal to demographic research. I realize this might be one of the hardest things to try and fight against in a film. Studios are going to want evidence and variables to add into a money equation to try and make as much money as possible. I get this. But don't add in a female that's just as much of a badass as the protagonist just with a set of cleavage and plenty of ass shots in the movie posters. The entire point of these films is to overturn a radical organization trying to use the powers of the apple for their own purposes. It's not to eventually see the main character get laid.

Finally -- and this might seem insignificant at first -- but refrain from using witty quips and one liners when the action kicks up. The one of the major themes of this franchise is to show the effects and seriously of taking someone else's life. Leave the sly remarks for the social interactions and coercions. This is something Prince of Persia failed on. When you take the seriousness out of death for the sake of the hero's ego/confidence then you eliminate the seriousness of any death in the film. This is also a played out device from the 80's action era, and said device just doesn't fit the tone of these stories.

Will the movie be good? I certainly hope so. Will I go see it in theaters? You better believe it.

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