Well, it happened. After much speculation about how the Michael Fassbender led and produced Assassin’s Creed would look, we finally got our first peek at the trailer. But this isn’t the first time an UbiSoft property has been reimagined as an on-screen adventure.
The 2010 Prince of Persia movie has gone down in history as a capable, if forgettable romp through the historical fantasy realm of ancient Persia and its surrounds. While the story may have been basic, I thought it was an above average film that filled the swashbuckling void left by the ending of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. However, just like John Carter, it fell flat with audiences and critics.
Pirates of the Caribbean was a massive success, so what went wrong with Prince of Persia? Both were high-concept adventure films with highly bankable stars, a comely female lead and were anchored by veteran actors and they even had Jerry Bruckheimer producing. If there’s one man in Hollywood who knows how to make a summer blockbuster, it’s Jerry Bruckheimer. So, if the power of Disney and Jerry Bruckheimer couldn’t spin UbiSoft gold, what will it take to build a successful Assassin’s Creed franchise?
On the surface, Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed have so much in common they may very well be the same game. Both have parkour-inspired movement with a fantastical twist in the story. If you want to nitpick, Assassin’s Creed may have one foot into science fiction while Prince of Persia is in fantasy, but they both arrive at the same destination. A deeper dive into the lore of the respective games and the gameplay elements highlighted within tell a different story.
Prince of Persia is light-hearted, romantic fun. I don’t mean that just because of the ever-present love interests, either. The heroes of Prince of Persia are young, full of youth and optimism, and always strive to do the right thing. The main hero of the Assassin’s Creed games is Desmond Miles; a bartender who finds himself in way over his head with Abstergo Industries. As he trips through his lineage, his alter egos include a ruthless assassin, a selfish Italian aristocrat who becomes a ruthless assassin at the drop of a dime, and an impoverished youth who becomes a ruthless assassin just a quickly. While the princes of Persia fight and quest for an ideal more related to in youth, the assassins typically have deeper motivations. For Altair, it is a deep sense of duty and faith that drives his blade. Ezio seeks to avenge his family while caring for his mother and sister. Connor, again seeking to avenge his family, must come to grips with his shared heritage; not only as a half Mohawk/half British man in the midst of the American Revolution but also as an Assassin whose father happens to be a high-ranking Templar.
The Assassin’s Creed games typically draw on the deeper conflicts of its characters instead of relying on simple, broad strokes across its narrative. One look at the casting of the upcoming Assassin’s Creed movie reflects that same ethic. Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and Brendan Gleeson are all critically acclaimed actors with decades of credentials from around the globe and the Globe Theater. Not only are these talents capable of bringing gravity to fantastic sceneries and plots, they do it with aplomb. I have no doubt that the leads of this film will bring the audience into the various exploits of their characters easily by capturing the human side of their individual roles. But, as we’ve learned from Prince of Persia, having a talented cast doesn’t guarantee crowds. The first look that the public gets at a film is its trailer.
The trailer/the movie looks amazing. First of all, the framing of the action scenes makes sense. Since we live in a post-Bourne world this is important. During Captain America: Civil War there were many times that the Greengrass-esque film style simply left me wondering what was happening during a fight. This does not seem to be a problem for Assassin’s Creed as it is opting for the more sweeping, epic tone of a Pirates of the Caribbean or Lord of the Rings. I take this as a clue that this movie is meant to be a tentpole film. After all, this is Hollywood in 2016, everything has to have a cinematic universe. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as UbiSoft’s properties have long been believed to inhabit the same world and if we are building a connected universe to include a Watch Dogs movie one day, this is definitely the way to go about it.
On the whole, this movie feels very high-concept. The future and past have different color palettes (blue and beige respectively) but are bound by similar aesthetics. Everything is very open and slick down to the movements of the actors. It appears so far to be a very well put together and thought out adventure film without any of the pulp trappings of say Indiana Jones or Prince of Persia. All in all, the trailer has me excited to see what the scriptwriters pulled together.
We’ll have to wait until December to find out if Assassin’s Creed has what it takes to go head to head with another high-concept adventure film: Star Wars: Rogue One.