The Assassin’s Creed movie hits theaters December 21st, and has a chance to finally prove that movies based on video games can be quality entertainment.
Adapted from Ubisoft’s time-hopping sci-fi epic by the same name, Assassin’s Creed revolves around a centuries-old conflict between Templars and the Assassins. Over the course of the video game series, characters enter a machine, the Animus, that thrusts them back through time into the minds and bodies of their ancestors. Seeing through the eyes of their ancestors allows these characters to experience raw, engrossing history that changes them profoundly.
That mixture of action, science fiction, and complex character development might be challenging to convey on the big screen, but I’m cautiously optimistic that director Justin Kurzel and Assassin’s Creed star Michael Fassbender will succeed where previous video game adaptations have filmed. With that in mind, here’s a list of what you can watch over the next few weeks to prepare you for the Assassin’s Creed movie.
Director Justin Kurzel proved with Macbeth that he knows his way around a battlefield combat scene, a skill that’s sure to prove useful with Assassin’s Creed. He understands how to work with silence as well, squeezing tension out of the movie’s moments of relative calm.
Macbeth also features harrowing performances from Assassin’s Creed stars Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. If Kurzel was able to produce similarly excellent acting from them for Assassin’s Creed, it might be one of the best video game adaptations yet.
If you want to see Fassbender go full action hero, you’ll need to take a trip to 2006 and check out the Zack Snyder-directed 300. Fassbender typically favors artistic fare over action roles, but in 300, he’s one of the Spartan gang, cracking jokes and piling up bodies with ease. 300 is a fun rewatch, and it’s satisfying to see Fassbender wade into combat. Watch a few scenes of the actor kicking butt in 300 and you’ll be wholly confident of his ability to operate as an Assassin.
Die Hard With a Vengeance
In Assassin’s Creed, Jeremy Irons plays Templar head honcho Alan Rikkin. If you’re not familiar with the video game series, you can expect Rikkin to be a cunning and informed adversary to the Assassins.
If you have any doubt that Jeremy Irons can pull a villainous role like that off, then obviously you’ve never seen the third installment in the Die Hard series, in which Irons torments John McClane for killing his younger brother. Irons is fearsome, entertaining, and surprisingly relatable in this role.
The Dark Knight Rises
If you haven’t played Assassin’s Creed, and want to be totally surprised by everything that happens in the movie, you should maybe skip ahead to the next film on this list to avoid being spoiled.
Those of us who are familiar with the game probably won’t be surprised if—near the end of the film—Marion Cotillard’s character Sofia reveals that she’s an undercover Assassin. In other words, Cotillard will likely play a double agent in Assassin’s Creed.
Sofia’s potential character arc is reminiscent of Cotillard’s role as the treacherous Miranda Tate in The Dark Knight Rises. In that movie, Cotillard proved that she can switch sides (and personalities) on the fly while still keeping the audience happily engaged in the movie. In other words, if you need a modern actress to go double agent, Marion Cotillard is your best bet.
Thor: The Dark World
I didn’t love Thor: The Dark World as a whole, but the fight scenes were awesome, and The Dark World’s fight coordinator, Ben Cooke, is the man in charge of stunts on the set of Assassin’s Creed.
There’s enough hand-to-hand combat, massively scoped battles, impressive leaps and bounds, and—most important of all—surprises in Thor: The Dark World’s action scenes to convince any fan that Cooke has what it takes to choreograph an Assassin.
The Prince of Persia: Sands of Time
Let’s call this one the expectation-setter.
Folks, the more I talk about how promising Assassin’s Creed‘s cast and creative team is, the more I’m setting myself up for a fall. Just look at the 2010 video game adaptation Prince of Persia. It had three really solid leads—Jake Gyllenhaal, Ben Kingsley, and Gemma Arterton. It had talented director Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Unfortunately, the movie itself doesn’t live up to the source material; it’s a rote tale that relies on gimmick. It also suffered from Disney’s decision to whitewash the main character, casting Jake Gyllenhaal in the titular role.
Though the combined charisma of its leads makes the movie somewhat bearable, Prince of Persia is hard to watch without imagining what could have been if the filmmakers had attempted to tell a well-crafted story before they tried to make sure the movie looked like the game.
For all the excitement heading into Assassin’s Creed‘s high-profile holiday release, let’s all just keep in mind that we should walk into the film with an open, informed mind … and reasonable expectations.