The process of adapting popular video game titles to big screen movies has a lengthy, yet problematic history. Titles such as Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter and Doom are practically royalty when it comes to their legacies as video games, but as movies they didn’t quite deliver in the same way.
Even early efforts at making the leap from consoles to cinemas weren’t especially promising. Actor Bob Hoskins once famously described his time spent as Mario in Nintendo’s 1993 Super Mario Bros. adaptation as “…a f***in’ nightmare.” The movie itself was a huge failure, despite the immense popularity of the Mario Bros. games at the time.
Regardless, Hollywood continues to try for that ever-elusive video game jackpot with more upcoming titles, one of which is Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed. Now that shooting has completed, things are beginning to gain momentum, with Michael Fassbender – who plays Callum Lynch – revealing to Empire (h/t Gamespot) a few enticing particulars, such as the film’s connection to 1999’s blockbuster, The Matrix.
"I've always thought about The Matrix when we've approached this. This idea of DNA memory elevates it from a basic fantasy genre [piece], because you have something an audience can actually believe in. Then the journey becomes so much more elevated, because you're on board in a different way."
The story of Assassin’s Creed deals with Callum Lynch’s discovery that he is a descendant of Aguilar de Nerha – an Assassin from 15th century Spain who fought the organisation known as the Knights Templar. When Callum unlocks genetic memories that allow him to experience these 15th century adventures as Aguilar, he uses this knowledge upon his return to present day in order to battle the still thriving Knights Templar.
Though Fassbender has confirmed that Assassin’s Creed is violent, he’s up front about the film not being “too crazy violent” - and that rather than blood and carnage, the truly impressive experiences here are the film’s real sets and locations at which the action sequences take place.
“We're not trying to make it too crazy violent. Although obviously there is an element of that, but what is really cool is that our action sequences are on real sets and real locations."
The promise of real locations is a nice touch, particularly because productions of this magnitude typically rely on a great deal of green screen work for their stunts and effects. Fassbender’s descriptions of what has taken place in terms of practical effects and stunts sounds quite stirring and could very well help to create a much more immersive experience for viewers.
"There's very little green screen in this, which is highly unusual in these films. We have stunt guys jumping across buildings in [Maltese capital] Valletta. We've got [stunt man Damian Walters] doing a 120-foot leap of faith, without any rope, into a bag, so it's pretty incredible to see."
Despite the somewhat stormy history of video game adaptations, Assassin’s Creed is starting to look quite promising. The film’s noteable cast - which includes Marion Cotillard (The Dark Knight Rises) and Brendan Gleeson (In Bruges) – as well as solid direction from Justin Kurzel (Macbeth), real locations, real stunts and a huge built in audience, could very well lead to a hit. Whether or not it can duplicate the box-office success of The Matrix, however, is another story altogether.
Assassin's Creed opens in U.S. theaters on December 21st, 2016.