Assassin's Creed Aims to Make a Killing in Hollywood
Films based on video games have a checkered history, but New Regency is gambling that Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed will reach beyond gaming fans to attract the same sort of audience that propelled movies like The Matrix and Inception to the top of the box office. Having Michael Fassbender in the starring role of Desmond Miles shouldn't hurt.
10/23/12 9:45 AM PT
The mysterious video game assassin Altaïr was able to perform a variety of incredible moves in his efforts to take out his targets in the medieval Holy Land, but he could soon be facing a far greater challenge -- bringing that action to the big screen.
New Regency and Ubisoft said Monday they would be partnering on a film adaptation of Assassin's Creed and that the project was being fast-tracked.
Michael Fassbender was tagged to star in the adaptation at this summer's Comic-Con.
The Ubisoft game was a smash hit when released in 2008 and has since spawned multiple sequels that continued the story in Renaissance Italy. The latest title in the franchise arrives later this month, with the story taking place during the American Revolution.
Each of these characters is thus a set of memories accessed by Miles in the not-too-distant future; thus the gameplay is a virtual reality dream sequence.
New Regency and Ubisoft did not respond to our request for further details.
The biggest question to ask is whether Assassin's Creed can score big when so many movies based on video games have resulted in fans saying "game over."
"It really depends on your definition of 'good,'" said Scott Steinberg, principal analyst for TechSavvy Global. "Many of the films based on games range from the awful to the 'please god make me forget it.'"
Given that Assassin's Creed could be dredging up past memories almost seems ironic, but 'good' remains very subjective. The most successful game-to-movie franchise to date could be Mortal Kombat, which earned mixed reviews, punched its way to the top of the box office in August 1995, and eventually went on make US$122 million worldwide.
"These things are judged by their financial success," said Billy Pidgeon, senior analyst at Inside Network. "These movies are unlikely to achieve any critical acclaim. But part of the reason is that movie critics typically don't like video games."
Assassin's Creed could even succeed where Tomb Raider, Mario Brothers and so many others have failed in that the genre-blending backstory actually could draw in movie viewers with varied tastes. The story is similar in some ways to virtual reality hit The Matrix, or dream-control smash Inception.
If the movie can get viewers thinking -- and more importantly, talking -- it could assassinate the competition at the box office.
"It has two layers, the tech and into-the-mind layer and then the stealth action and historical element," said Pidgeon. "And it could work, as movies that feel like game constructs, such as Inception and Looper have scored with audiences. This setting gives them carte blanche to do any historical era."
What remains to be seen is whether the filmmakers can deliver as big an epic as the games have provided. In past titles, players have been able to take in sweeping vistas of cities while setting in motion a series of Rube Goldberg-like chain of events, rather than just stabbing the bad guy. Can a film recreate that level of action and eye candy?
"It could be done right with the appropriate budget," said Steinberg.
Green screens have worked with historical dramas such as 300 and more recently the Starz original series Spartacus. Even game-based films with more limited budgets, including most of director Uwe Bolle's direct-to-video titles, have been successful financially.
Given that Ubisoft had higher hopes for the Jake Gyllenhaal vehicle Prince of Persia, it apparently is looking to retain control of key elements in the movie's creative direction.
"Ubisoft has an actor in Michael Fassbender, and now they have a production company signed on," said George T. Chronis, editor of DFC Dossier.
"We basically know nothing to warrant an opinion of whether this will be a gem or a dud. On balance, every motion picture qualifies as a big risk from an investment standpoint," he told TechNewsWorld. "Unfortunately, there is no evidence to suggest whether an Assassin's Creed film will be any less or more risky than the average comic book or novel adaptation."