Video game movies are a dicey prospect to say the least, given the genre's track record. This year, for example, Warcraft opened in theaters worldwide to generally weak reviews - yet, has now managed to gross $422 million worldwide (90% of which came from outside the U.S.) and may yet get the sequel that the film very much lays a foundation for. That's all to say: what should we expect when Ubisoft Motion Pictures releases its first video game-based movie later this year, in the form of Assassin's Creed?
Assassin's Creed is directed by Justin Kurzel, who earned much in the way of critical acclaim in 2015 for his adaptation of Macbeth - a film that features Assassin's Creed's Oscar-nominated lead Michael Fassbender and Oscar-winning costar Marion Cotillard, as it were. However, while there is certainly potential there for Assassin's Creed to become the rare critically-acclaimed video game movie adaptation (given the talent involved), Ubisoft isn't necessarily banking on the film being a massive commercial success, too.
A firm budget for the Assassin's Creed movie has not yet been revealed, though estimates place it within the vicinity of the standard cost for big-budget tentpoles nowadays (between $100-200 million). Ubisoft's European head Alain Corre is quoted in an article published on MCV as saying that the company doesn't expect the film to be all that profitable - but that it should have other benefits, for the Assassin's Creed brand in general:
“We are not going to earn a lot of money from it. It is a lot more a marketing thing, it is also good for the image of the brand. Although we will make some money, it is not the purpose of this movie. The purpose is to bring Assassin’s Creed to more people. We have our core fans, but what we would like is to put this franchise in front of a lot more people who, maybe, will then pick up future Assassin’s Creed games.”
If Assassin's Creed is the critical success that many fans are no doubt hoping for, then it could indeed serve to boost the popularity of the Assassin's Creed property in general (like Corre says) - regardless of its box office performance. Corre's comments could also be interpreted as an encouraging sign that Kurzel and his collaborators on the Assassin's Creed film are being allowed a fair amount of creative freedom - since the primary purpose of the project is to benefit the brand's appeal, as opposed to drawing in as large an audience as is feasible. In other words, Assassin's Creed (in theory) doesn't need to concern itself with appealing to as many demographics as possible; rather, it can just focus on being a creative and innovative moviegoing experience (even one with niche appeal), in its own right.
Assassin's Creed may yet manage to carve out a decent-sized slice of box office pie for itself all the same, but it will face some serious competition. The film arrives less than a week after Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hits the scene and will also have to face-off with such movies as the buzzed-about sci-fi/drama Passengers (starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence), among others. So it might be for the best that the future of Ubisoft's motion picture production arm (and developing films like Splinter Cell and Watch Dogs) won't live or die depending on how profitable a venture Assassin's Creed proves to be.
Assassin's Creed opens in U.S. theaters on December 21st, 2016.