Some thoughts on Assassin’s Creed – the movie

Ubisoft Motion Pictures and Sony recently finalized a deal to fund and distribute their upcoming adaptation of Assassin’s Creed.

This is the first major motion picture project for the new studio, which was estalished specifically to create film and television properties based on the Ubisoft game franchises. New Regency has agreed to finance the production and distribution of the film.

“This is the perfect intersection of what we have been trying to do, and that is to work with top quality talent like Michael Fassbender,” explained Regency CEO Brad Weston. “We see this as our first big commercial action franchise property. Fassbender just did 12 Years A Slave with us, and he is as good an actor as there is right now. The storyline we are pursuing has a great narrative and because Ubisoft’s games are so character- and story-driven, Assassin’s Creed lends itself perfectly to our goal to re-brand Regency as a filmmaker-driven company.”

Micheal Fassbender, whose most recent, very visible, role was in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, has been tapped to play the primary parts of Altaïr and his descendant Desmond.

It’s a role that could net him a lot of work considering that the sequels also deal with Desmond and his further ancestors, and in the games, they are all depicted with the same basic character model, so Fassbender will likely also play the parts of Ezio and Connor if Assassin’s Creed II and III also get made, which they surely will, if the first one has even a respectable showing. As one of the most popular video game franchises in the world, with the third game in the trilogy releasing later this month.

Fassbender has also put his own money on the line for the project, having signed on to also co-produce the potentially long series of films.

Interestingly, part of the deal that Ubisoft made with New Regency is that Ubisoft will retain primary creative input on the film, ensuring that it won’t become over adapted. Of course, with the plot of the game being much longer than just a couple hours, they’ll still have a lot of tough decisions to make about the plot-line and lore.

I think that this is the most important piece of news. Typically, the film rights to a video game property are simply purchased by a production company who would team up with a studio to get it made and distributed – which is what makes so many video game adaptations go awry. Meaning, Hollywood starts with a compelling property with built in fans, but then they twist the property however they feel they need to to make it fit the typical mold.

With Ubisoft in, at least partial, control of the way the property is getting adapted, we’ll hopefully not see any of this Hollywood twisting. The story will make it to the screen with the intended vision of the people who made the game. Of course, the people on the creative team are not exactly the same crew who made the game, so I suppose the quality of the adaptation will come down to how well and closely Ubisoft is managing this film division. If they just hired on a bunch of people with Hollywood experience, but who don’t care about the property anymore than anyone else in Hollywood, then we likely wont get anything any better than the typical video game film.

I’m going to try not to get my hopes up, but it’s going to be difficult, as Assassin’s Creed is my favorite video game narrative. Whatever happens, however, it’ll have to be better than Doom.

There is no official synopsis for the film yet, but the premise of the first game, if you’re not familiar, is thus:

In the near future, bartender Desmond Miles discovers that he is descended from a long line of important figures in an organization called simply the Assassin’s, which have been waging a war with The Templars (now called Abstergo Corp.) for the freedom of the world.

Throughout history, the Templars have been making moves to take over the leadership of the governments and religions of men, in order to fulfill what they see as their grand destiny to lead mankind to a golden age. The Assassin’s stop them the best way they know how, by killing them swiftly and quietly from the shadows.

The fight has waged back and forth for centuries, and Desmond finds himself at a key moment. The Templars are searching for a powerful artifact; a Piece of Eden, a small hi-tech device left on earth by an ancient civilization which came before man.

To find it, they developed a machine, the Animus, which can analyze the genetic memories of an individual, and allow them to explore the events in the lives of their ancestors. That’s where they need Desmond. One of his distant Ancestors, Altaïr ibn-La’Ahad hid the Piece of Eden from The Templars hundreds of years ago, and they’ve never been able to find it. They force Desmond to explore the memories of Altaïr to try to discover where the artifact is hidden. Desmond must play along with the project, living Altaïr’s life in the machine, while trying to find a way to escape Abstergo in-between sessions.

No production or release dates have yet been announced for Assassin’s Creed, but if I’d say a good guess would be for primary photography to begin in the fall of 2013 – after Fassbender is done with the X-Men: First Class sequel – and a theatrical release in the blockbuster season of 2015.