But even hewing closer to the source material doesn’t mean guaranteed success. Prince of Persia is the most recent major video game movie to flop, but not because it veered too far from the franchise it was based on: it was just bad. White man Jake Gylenhaal as a Persian with a British accent running around a palace with a sand-powered dagger that can reverse time doesn’t sound like a good movie, or a good game. The games are fun because, even though you’re a Persian with a British accent, you’re killing hordes of undead and doing backflips off of walls and swinging from statues in what looks like the Lost Gardens of Babylon. It’s ridiculous, and the story is secondary. And that’s why it wasn’t the right game to be made into a movie, and maybe that’s been the problem all along: there’s nothing wrong with the idea of a movie based on a video game. Hollywood (and Uwe Boll) is just doing it wrong. The same elements that make for fun video games do not necessarily make for fun movies.
Forgetting that Puala Patton is playing an orc, next year’s Warcraft, directed by Moon and Source Code‘s Duncan Jones, is the most promising video game adaptation on the horizon. The Warcraft franchise has hundreds, maybe thousands of pages of lore to assist the filmmakers, and the earliest, pre-MMO games are structured around narrative-focused military encounters. There is nuanced drama in the conflict between the humans and the orcs, but there’s also built-in action as a result of that drama. The fighting that will be seen on-screen, if done correctly, will not supplant the story, but it will serve it, just as it would in any other successful military drama.
And so perhaps that leads us to the basic problem with video games being turned into films: most successful video games involve running around and killing a lot of people or things for no reason. Sometimes the story that’s shoved in around the killing is intriguing, but that doesn’t matter: if the killing is fun, the video game will be successful. Unfortunately, this just isn’t true of movies. Most of the time. Whether or not it’ll be true for Assassin’s Creed, we’ll have to wait and see.