Close your eyes and picture Michael Fassbender in that upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie that Michael Fassbender is making for some reason. Okay, open them back up. What did you see? Probably Fassbender, in a fancy robe/cape/hood of some sort. I’m guessing he was leaping across different chunks of architecture while wielding a fancy-looking knife or two. There may even have been some mention of time travel, if your mind-Fassbender had any dialogue in his general vicinity (mine didn’t, too busy leaping).
Now consider Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. That, too, had fancy robes, edifice-jumping, exotic daggers and time travel. Similar stuff. And it can be difficult to picture two comparable images and not imagine comparable results: that Assassin’s Creed will make a reasonably large amount of money (somewhere around Prince of Persia’s $355m takeaway), but wow a scant number of the people who actually paid to see it.
But maybe Assassin’s Creed will buck the established trend that movies based off video games are all more or less awful. The first thing it’ll need (besides a lead actor like Fassbender) is a competent director. And the film might just have that… maybe. According to Twitch, Fox is looking towards Daniel Espinosa, director of Safe House and Snabba Cash, to helm the film. There’s a hint of promise here, with Snabba Cash a strong demonstration of Espinosa’s action movie abilities. But considering Twitch’s report doesn’t mention anything about deals or negotiations, and only refers to Fox as having “zeroed in on” Espinosa, things don’t sound too far along.
If it turns out that Fox does decide to court a Swedish director known almost entirely for crime thrillers, that’d be terrific. And if it turns out that Fox is actually courting an entirely different filmmaker, they’d be wise to pick someone of similar moviemaking stature. Someone who knows his or her way around an action movie, but also has a grip on the intelligent side of running/jumping/stabbing/shooting/suplexing, etc. A little Gareth Evans here, a little Neil Blomkamp there; someone not known for the biggest explosions, but rather, the most thoughtful ones.
This is something Assassin’s Creed desperately needs. Not just so it’ll be the first halfway decent video game adaptation, but because it’s not the only movie intent on breaking the “video game movies are bad” curse. The other contender? Duncan Jones’ Warcraft. It’s a tough competition, and right now there’s no clear frontrunner. But we can take a look at how the two stack up.
Assassin’s Creed is clearly leading this one. It comes out August 7, 2015, a good seven months before Warcraft’s March 11, 2016 release date, so if Assassin’s Creed breaks the curse, the game’s over. Sure, being a part of 2015’s terrifyingly cramped summer movie schedule might make some worry, but if all those blockbusters cause the film industry to somehow die screaming, the outlook for Warcraft ain’t so good either.
Warcraft has announced way more names than Assassin’s Creed has, for sure. And while the former contains a few under-the-radar greats (like, say, Clancy Brown), it’s yet to add anyone with Fassbender’s unbelievable leading man magnetism. Advantage: Assassin’s Creed.
Clearly, this is Warcraft’s category. Even if Fox goes with Espinosa, it’s hard to look at Moon and not give Duncan Jones- and Warcraft– the edge.
Assassin’s Creed has first-time screenwriter Michael Lesslie on its side, with rewrites by Scott Frank (of Get Shorty and Minority Report). Warcraft has Blood Diamond writer Charles Leavitt and Jones co-writing. Jones co-wrote Moon as well; I have to give him another point here.
This is more or less a toss-up. Warcraft has oodles upon oodles of fantasy backstory to call upon, yet Assassin’s Creed has a story so intriguing that Fassbender was wooed to the project despite having never played the game (and having referred to game consoles as “video game players” much in the way my grandma would). It’s hard to assign a point to either side here.
And that leaves us at two to two. Perhaps one could give a little bit of an edge to Warcraft, if only because of how freely the folks making Warcraft acknowledge that video game films are not even a little good. Duncan Jones admits it.
So the gauntlet was thrown down ages ago: Can you make a proper MOVIE of a video game. Ive always said its possible. Got to DO it now! ;)
— Duncan Jones (@ManMadeMoon) January 31, 2013
And Blizzard, the company behind the Warcraft games, had this to say when Uwe Boll offered himself up as Warcraft director: “We will not sell the movie rights, not to you…especially not to you.” Someone at Blizzard is very aware of Boll’s many contributions to the video game movie world.
Really, though, all that matters is that at least one of these movies turns out ok. Board games have Clue. Theme-park rides have Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Toys have The Lego Movie to look forward to. Somewhere out there is a video game movie people can sincerely enjoy and not revile. And it should really be one of these two- if it’s not, we may be forced to put our faith in Angry Birds: The Movie.