There’s not much I miss about childhood, contrary – probably – to most other people. Almost everything we did as children we can do as adults, though the only reason we don’t is because as adults we’re more aware of how time tends to slip hastily away, unnoticed and unforgiving – I miss the cavalier attitude I had towards time and the way I used it. Not only am I envious of kids growing up today who have that same exact luxury of time, I’m also wildly covetous of the technological age in which many of them so obliviously inhabit… an age that explores visuals, experiences and immersion more spectacularly than anything we’ve ever seen before.
Video games are a perfect example of how progress made in technology can so naturally fall into place to elevate an experience, no matter the demand.
Is it then appropriate that arguably the most complex and immersive medium continues to be adapted into what might be considered a less capable platform such as film? There must be a reason why – in 33 attempts – video game films have failed to find value or even acceptance?
Mystifyingly, although the best video-game-movie Metacritic score is a lukewarm 50/100 and the most favourable Rotten Tomatoes score is a soft 44%, the Hollywood machine perseveres undeterred, searching it seems for a project to cap off the world’s most embarrassing list of big budget failures. It doesn’t take an analyst to see that there’s something about this genre that just doesn’t work with audiences. Money usually talks, and when the most financially successful video game film of all time is considered a major flop, that should finally send those delayed alarm bells ringing.
Assassin’s Creed is the latest video game heavy-weight to go under the Hollywood knife. It’s due to be released in the US on December 21st and New Year’s Day in the UK.
Originally released on the Xbox 360 in 2007, the already cinematic smash hit earned impressive reviews and raked in copious amounts of cash, selling north of 11 million copies worldwide. Since then, 8 nonlinear sequels have followed almost yearly, posting figures similar to the first game, though some were somewhat erratically reviewed.
Instincts have warned me – and probably most other gamers – not to get excited for video game adaptations, ever, no matter how spectacular the trailer is. The Max Payne trailer in 2008 was the last time I let my guard down, and I vowed never to do so again.
There are, however, reasons why I can see Assassin’s Creed working as a film because of the franchise’s seemingly random, unlinked, nonlinear formula. Most adaptations take, then recreate, but this has the rare opportunity to create something completely new and without ridicule. Each game since the first features a new protagonist with new conflicts and unique motivations and for these reasons alone, a film version of events could quite comfortably sit amongst the games, eventually tying in with the grand vision. In that sense, it’s quite possible that normal video game to film rules won’t apply.
We also can’t forget about the potential pulling power of smartly cast actors, directors and crew. Michael Fassbender is playing the protagonist, along with other heavy hitters like Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson. The crew includes Macbeth and Snow Dogs director Justin Kurzel leading the way and True Detective Season 1 director of photography Adam Arkapaw providing the visuals. There’s a lot to be ‘excited’ about, but we’ve seen this kind of trickery before.
Fool me once…
It’s easy to see why Hollywood so desperately want to crack the video game market. The financial gains of producing something successful could be astronomical – you only have to glance at Rockstar Games’ sales figures or Activision’s Call of Duty franchise. The potential for pocket fattening is staggering.
Unfortunately for Hollywood though, whilst they might get lucky with Assassin’s Creed, video game films might just be a backwards concept, as people will usually opt for more depth, more detail and more immersion. If technological boundaries keep being expanded at the rate they are, the gaming community will never appreciate a film adaptation of their favourite games. Unless, as an adult, the aforementioned time conundrum means you begrudgingly miss out on all the time-consuming immersion, and you’re not that bothered about video games, then you should totally give video game films a try… I guess.