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Assassin's Creed fans were, more likely than not, drawn to Jeff Marchiafava's post about the planned Assassin's Creed film and what Ubisoft and company need to do to avoid a box office flop. Jeff certainly makes some fine points in his feature, but I hold one major point of contention regarding his ideas. Unfortunately, at least from my perspective, that one point is enough to render his remaining suggestions moot, with the exception of his final topic. Rather than write a blog length comment in the original post I figured I'd just write a blog.
#1: Do Not Retell
Jeff Marchiafava's feature works on the premise of the film being a recreation of the original game's plot. I, however, believe that retelling the tales of Altaïr or Ezio would be just about the biggest mistake Ubisoft could make in regards to this movie. The stories are certainly worthy of a Hollywood adaptation, but even in a game with the barren narrative landscape of the original Assassin's Creed there is far too much to tell in a 3 hour span. Games do not often contain the same level of offhand exposition that is usually cut from adaptations of literary works. We rarely see the narrative equivalent of hobbits wandering through a forest or Harry Potter sitting in a Potions class carrying on idle conversation for ten to twenty pages.
Those working on the film should seriously consider telling a tangential tale. Especially considering that the last thing they want is a legion of fans posting a Mass Effect: Deception style dissection of the movie. On top of that, Altaïr was never very interesting and as entertaining as Ezio is, I think his character has been perfectly laid to rest from a narrative standpoint. No one needs to see either of them again for this movie to have a compelling story. If they really feel the need to draw from already established lore, then look in the direction of something like Assassin's Creed: The Fall
(Let's be honest though, they probably wouldn't have chosen Fassbender as the lead if they planed to make this movie about Altaïr anyways.)
#2: Don't Cut The Sci-Fi
Find a way to meld it into the narrative. The last 3 chapters in the Assassin's Creed narrative toy a good deal with the intermingling of Ezio's Renaissance era Italy/Constantinople and Desmond's very near future. At different points Desmond's reality bleeds into Ezio's, and conversely as Desmond gains physical prowess thanks to his time in the Animus. Altaïr even makes a spectral jump forwards to the aged Ezio's time for Revelations. Besides, without the divine plans that appear to surround Desmond there's really no need for the "Ancient Civilization" sub plot to surface in any meaningful way. It's possible for our new, stab happy avatar to chase down a Piece of Eden without the story becoming helplessly convoluted. The Sci-Fi angle is an important part of the series and the nature of the Animus already lends itself to advancing a substantial present day companion story without having to jump out of the historical setting.
#3: Careful References
With the story set elsewhere it becomes important to tie the film back into the Assassin's Creed lore beyond just a consistency of elements. At the same time, making careless references to the narratives of the first four or five games is an easy way to send those who haven't played them spiraling into a pit of confusion. The concept of Pieces of Eden and the names Ataïr, Ezio, or Desmond mean nothing to the larger audience. Those people need to be eased into the larger Assassin's Creed universe. The key to making this movie a faithful addition to the Assissn's Creed lore and box office success simultaneously lies in just how it incorporates the already established fiction. A quick introduction to concepts and simple context for references can make a world of difference.
#4: The Script
The script for the Assassin's Creed film should wind up reading more like that of a spy movie or thriller than an action movie. In the words of Jeff Marchiafava himself, more political intrigue and tension, less "stabbing dudes in the face". I know that might sound crazy to fans of the series, but a movie is a different monster. Focusing on what makes the games fun to play in a feature length film is a perfect way to suck anything cerebral out of the Assassin's Creed lore. I want to see how the implied network of Assassins plays out, a story about the kind of things that go on behind the scenes in this society; not a Resident Evil style degeneration into mindless action scenes.
The combat and violence shouldn't dominate the movie and when they are placed at the forefront, should be presented in a tonally consistent manner. That means not having a character who is supposed a master of stealth engaging in prolonged confrontation. The streets of Florence ran red with Templar blood because I was too lazy to try an escape, but that doesn't mean our new Assassin should be laying waste to hordes of enemies every few minutes. He should be the professional that we'd assume Ezio was if our idiot brains weren't the ones controlling him. It should feel like the Patriot or Casino Royal, with the action being payoff for what the story has set up.
#5: The Setting
With a step away from Italy and the Medieval Middle East it's time to pick a new roost for our hawk like brotherhood of Assassins. This could be a perfect chance for the film's creators to carve out their own little niche and give to fans some of the things they've been asking for. I would personally love them to look into late 18th or early 19th century Russia, since that's a time in history not often touched on. Similarly, a game set during the French Revolution or in early 19th century London would create some interesting dynamics. While I'd love to see Shogunate-era Japan, I can't see Fassbender fitting into a role there that doesn't ape heavily on The Last Samurai. Not to mention Ubisoft and company have already ruled out feudal Japan as an option.