The Problem with Video Game Movies 2 – Electric Boogaloo

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As we’ve mentioned before here on the Fanbot, video game movies might seem like a good idea, but generally are not. The game you plan to adapt probably already has a massive fan following and you’ve got a very clear example of the general style and character likeness you can work towards.

Despite this, though, video game movies have a history of…Well…Let’s call it a history of not being very good and leave it at that, because otherwise this article would just be twelve paragraphs of profanity and the occasional movie title.

As mentioned last time, generally the fact that these movies suck is because the people making them have no real understanding of the franchise or the fan base behind it. What doesn’t help is that they keep choosing franchises that are either obviously unsuited for a movie adaption or that just don’t deserve it because the story is poor at best. The last article on this matter dealt with the upcoming Uncharted movie (Click here to read that), so what drew our attention this time?

The Assassins Creed movie.

…We were actually kinda hoping it had quietly died.

There is some potential for a good movie in the AC franchise. You’d probably get a good action flick out of it, what with the parkour and the sword fighting that the games rely on. We doubt you’ll get anything better than a standard popcorn movie, though.

Let’s start with the small issues and work up to the big ones.

First of all, the premise. Right…The premise…Uhm. Yeah, we actually don’t know a lot about this movie yet. Between delays and a rather worrying lack of information, it’s kinda flown under the radar for a while now. IMDB tells us that the movie basically follows AC 1’s plot, with Desmond Miles being kidnapped by Abstergo Industries to relive the memories of his ancestor, Altaïr Ibn La’Ahad.

That’s good news, because at least they picked a good point to get in on the franchise. The only other option that wouldn’t hurt the plot is to write an original story and, at that point, why would you bother getting the rights to AC for that?

Still, what points they gain for picking a good starting point are immediately lost when we really think about the overarching plot of the franchise. Let’s ask a few simple questions.

Who here actually likes the plot of the AC franchise? Keep in mind that we’re asking if you like the plot in general, with all assassin, templar and space god business thrown in.

We imagine very few of you raised your hand there. While the individual adventures of the ancestors you play in the series can be fun, the plot has only gotten more confusing as we got more and more sequels.

Now, who actually likes Desmond as a character?

To the four of you who raised their hands, shut up, no you don’t. Normally we’d respect your opinion, but in this case you’re just plain wrong. Desmond was fine as a blank page the player could project themselves on to, because he took in the stranger things of the world around him with the same wonder and confusion that the player did.

As a character, though, he had the misfortune of only developing a personality somewhere between the end of AC2 and AC Brotherhood. Sadly by that point it was far too late, because we’d already gotten to know our new player character and Ezio Auditore was a thousand times more charming than Desmond.

You know you love me

You know you love me

Now of course there’s a good chance the movie will simplify the story and leave most of the background out. Considering there has been no closure for this in the games, this is probably the best option. However, that doesn’t change the fact that Desmond spends the entire first game without a personality and that’s what they’re basing the movie on.

Can they write in a personality based on his growth in later games? Sure, but that doesn’t help much, because even then his personality was barely there.

Like last time, though, what drew our attention to this movie was the statements of the people behind it. Well, one person this time. The director, Justin Kurzel. Justin hasn’t been involved with too much you’ll have seen or heard of, but he recently directed a movie adaption of Macbeth which scored quite a bit higher than the 6’s he got for his earlier work.

This is what he had to say on why he felt the Assassins Creed franchise would make for a good movie.

“Because I think there’s so much underneath it. I don’t think it’s your typical shoot-em-up game. I don’t think it’s your typical one-dimensional game. It has a heart and a history to it.”

“The whole idea of memories and the whole idea of we are made up of who comes before us and within us we carry the DNA of our ancestors and we have access to those ancestors and they somehow speak to who we are now–that is just an incredibly strong, human kind of curious thing, so I think that there is something there that’s really original and really fresh and it’s no wonder it has 90 million players.”

“There’s got to be something more than just the fun of playing it. There’s definitely a culture to it that people really respond to.”

He starts off alright, but then he keeps going and you can almost hear fans around the world face-palming in weary resignation. When he starts going on about the link between the person we are now and our ancestors and the deep implications it all has, you know there’s no point in continuing to pay attention to him.

Once again someone without any understanding of a franchise got hired to make a movie about it.

Look, yes the AC franchise introduced the concept of exploring an ancestor’s memories and yes that’s a very intriguing idea. However, the franchise is not nearly as philosophical about it as Justin seems to be. There’s a very simple reason for it too, there’s more fun things to do in the games than sit there and ponder the whole thing.

As many people have already pointed out, the way he words it also makes it seem pretty clear that this is the only thing Justin really knows about Assassins Creed with any certainty. Saying that AC is “Not your typical shoot-em-up game” is so blindingly obvious that it’s something you’d only do if you browsed the Wikipedia page for a few minutes, looking for things to say about it.

Whatever was left of his credibility goes into an incredible nosedive with his last statement. Why does there have to be something more to a game than the fun of playing it? If he’s talking about storytelling, then sure, that’s important. However, proper storytelling general adds to the fun of playing a game.

We’re really not sure what he means by that. Video games were made to be fun. That’s the entire point. It honestly sounds like he’s saying that simply being a fun game clearly wouldn’t get you 90 million players, which is idiotic.

And of course he makes references to making the movie appealing to a wider audience, at which point we decided it was time to stop reading and get a stiff drink.

Why?! For fuck’s sake, why?!

Yes, money obviously, but come on already. We assign genres to a movie so people know what to expect and who it is intended for. Considering this, shouldn’t a video game movie focus on games first and foremost? The only thing making it more appealing to a wider audience will do is stomp on the bits that make it unique, thereby making it just another bland action movie.

That’s almost worse than it actually being a bad video game movie. We’ll take bad over boring any day.

We get that this is kind of a hipster argument, but please just leave videogame movies in their little niche. The general audience will see ‘adapted from  a video game’ and instantly stop giving a shit. How about you focus on the 90 million who liked the franchise enough to buy the games first?

In the end, what has always carried the Assassins Creed franchise is gameplay. Mainly because the story simply became confusing after a few sequels. It’s fun to explore grand historic settings, climbing on incredibly tall buildings and planning the best way to introduce your target’s face to your hidden blade.

It’s immensely satisfying when the guards turn around to find that their employer suddenly has a hole in his neck he probably didn’t have a second ago, while you slip away unseen and unheard.

Alternatively, if you screwed up the first few times and just want to move on, it’s also fun to run around in the open, shooting people with poisoned darts, throwing bombs at them and then sword fighting whatever poor fools remain to the death.

A movie simply isn’t going to give you the same feeling because you can’t do anything but watch. It then has to fall back on the story, and they picked a point where the story is least present as the starting point for the movie.

We’d love to see at least one really good videogame movie, but this certainly doesn’t seem like it’s going to be the one.

It should be clear by now that we are expecting this movie to blow, but what about you? Do you think it could still be good? Let us know in the comments!

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