INCE BOB HOSKINS FIRST brandished a sink plunger in 1993’s Super Mario Bros., video-game adaptations have been an unsightly blemish on the face of modern cinema. In two decades, not one game, irrespective of quality or following, has turned out a truly great movie (though 2001’s Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was a hit), but we’d bet all the gold coins in Bowser’s castle that 2016 is the year that will finally change.
Following Duncan Jones’ Warcraft (see page 93), Assassin’s Creed is the second member of gaming’s royal family going from monitor to big screen over the coming months. Reuniting Justin Kurzel with Macbeth leads Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, it’s an adaptation of Ubisoft’s roof-hopping murder franchise, known for its cinematic storytelling and striking recreation of classical periods.
Kurzel’s film takes the game’s intertwining-timelines approach, placing Fassbender in both the contemporary garb of protagonist Callum Lynch and the cowled robes of his 15th-century ancestor, Aguilar. Set against the backdrop of a centuries-old feud between the secret order of Assassins and the equally shadowy Templars, the film has Lynch re-living the exploits of his Assassin forbear thanks to a DNA-probing VR machine called the Animus.
The set-up may be heavy on sci-fi hokum but the framing device allows for parallel tales with contrasting aesthetics: near-future technology set against the brocaded finery and Renaissance architecture of Inquisition-era Spain.
And then there’s the action. The franchise is famous not just for stealthy wetwork but precision-choreographed battles and dizzying acts of parkour. Assassins flow across rooftops, bounding from steeple to spire before diving back to earth (often via a handily placed pile of
THE FREE-RUNNING ACTION SPECTACULAR SET TO BREAK THE VIDEO-GAME MOVIE CURSE
Above: Michael Fassbender as 15th-century Aguilar Left: Fassbender as modern-day Callum.
hay). It makes for exhilarating gameplay and has the potential to make a similarly breath-catching spectacle on the screen.
Though it’s the second Ubisoft game to be adapted (after Prince Of Persia in 2010), Assassin’s Creed is the first from the newly formed Ubisoft Motion Pictures. Taking a leaf out of Marvel’s playbook, the developer has extended creative control over the project to ensure it doesn’t suffer the same ignominious fate as its predecessor. But with Jeremy Irons and Brendan Gleeson also in the talent line-up, a director and his leads fresh from making one of the best-ever Shakespeare movies, and the most cinematic game series around as its source material, this has more than just a concealed blade up its sleeve. In the fight to prove that games can cross the interactive divide, Duncan Jones leads the charge, but Kurzel looks set to strike the killing blow. jd
IN CINEMAS: DECEMBER TBC
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