Dating as far back as Bob Hoskins in Super Mario Bros. (1993), Hollywood's attempts to exploit the popularity of the video game have largely failed, bar a few very notable exceptions: Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001), Resident Evil (2002), Silent Hill (2003), for example.
But consider the litany and legacy of terrible video game films that came around the same time, thrust into the laps of cinema goers (and bargain bins everywhere), only to be critically panned or largely ignored: House of the Dead (2003), DOOM (2005), Alone in the Dark (2005), Tekken (2009). The history of the game-turned-movie is sketchy to put it kindly, with far fewer wins than losses.
So it's down to Michael Fassbender - critically acclaimed and universally praised actor, making a real play for well-deserved mainstream attention - announced by Variety this past Monday as starring in and co-producing a live-action version of Assassin's Creed, the wildly popular cross-platform video game series.
A hybrid mix of story, stealth, murder, intrigue, action and adventure spanning thousands of years; where players control Desmond Miles (the character set to be played by Fassbender), a lowly bartender who discovers he is the lineal descendant of an ancient order of assassins. Using the mysterious Animus device to see into the past through his ancestors eyes, players can quantum leap into the past to take control of Altair or in later games, Ezio, both master assassins in different eras of history.
It will certainly be interesting to see what level of complexity Fassbender can add to the character of Desmond, as well as what he brings to the table as a producer; with the movie set to be released in 3D as well as 2D, it could be his biggest pay-day to date once the dust settles, both for him and his production company DMC Film. The Assassin's Creed games have sold over 29 million units to date for developer Ubisoft, spanning all current consoles, and a new incarnation of the series - Assassin's Creed III, set during the American Civil War - will release this October in the UK.
Despite the critical failure of Disney/Jerry Bruckheimer's The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (another Ubisoft franchise), the film may not have reached the dizzying heights that were expected of it in financial terms but it certainly made its money back. In light of this, Ubisoft created themselves a bespoke film division known as Ubisoft Motion Pictures, and are producing the Assassin's Creed movie alongside DMC Film.
Originally in discussions with Sony, Ubisoft have seemingly taken the route of producing the film independently, which should be music to fans' ears, given that creative control of the movie's content will now be firmly in the hands of the French publisher. For a possible taste of what to expect from a Ubisoft production, check out Assassin's Creed: Lineage, a series of live action short films based upon the character of Ezio Auditore. Part one can be seen below.
Much like the current trend for sequels and remakes, whenever a game franchise with a pre-existing fan base looks to receive a reboot from the rulers of Hollywood, controversy in the first instance is almost a given; though, with Fassbender on board and Ubisoft steering the ship from a creative point of view I'd say it's so far, so good for Assassin's Creed and its worldwide fan base.