‘Assassin’s Creed’ Director Justin Kurzel Talks Practical Effects, Adapting the Game

Assassin's Creed movie

As most know, video game adaptations have often had a poor transition when put onto the big screen. The Tomb Raider films back in 2001 and 2003, Disney’s Prince of Persia, and even last year’s summer flop Pixels all have had very unfortunate outcomes, both financially and critically. But lately video game adaptations seem to be back in business.

This coming June will see the release of the hugely anticipated Warcraft, but later this year there’s a film that could be breaking new barriers within the genre. With the fantastic trailer released just a few days ago, Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed could truly be the video game movie that everyone has been waiting for. Based off the renowned series, the film is a loose adaptation of the games, telling the story of a man named Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) who becomes involved with a secret group that allows him to travel back 500 years to the times of his ancestors – all of whom were notorious assassins.

The film is making an inventive move by taking us back to 15th Century Spain, a period and setting that have not yet been used in the games. And not only that, it’s got a lot of other great things going for it. Kunzel directed Fassbender and co-star Marion Cotillard in 2015’s critically-acclaimed Macbeth, which had stunning visuals and plenty of mesmerizing action. The trailer for Assassin’s Creed seems to be following a similar style. Video game films previously usually have merely gone for the pretty visuals and callbacks to the original source material, whereas this film seems to both maintain that while still adding plenty of new style to it. In a recent conversation with Collider, Kurzel discussed his process of keeping the film grounded by not overloading the action with CGI, and incorporating many practical effects.

“We’re trying not to cut a lot. We’re trying to shoot the action in camera and try to work with the best stunt people. We’ve got some of the best parkour guys in the world at the moment. We’re just trying not to cheat as much. I think that, some of these films, you can get away with creating an action sequence with continuous cuts. I think we’re trying to, I guess, in an old school way, allow action to play out, and for you to be engaged with the action that’s in front of and the sequences that are in front of you before you’re cutting into them. That takes a lot of time and a lot of discipline … Trying to use the actors as much as possible so that they’re involved and engaged. Just trying to do it in a very honest and grounded kind of way.”

This style of filmmaking is something that is rare these days, especially within a genre that is known for doing the opposite. Kurzel also sounds like he just has a very confident mindset for approaching the prized material. He seems to care more about bringing the video games to life, and allowing it to reach a wide variety of audiences. And that’s very clear, particularly in the film’s visuals. The director has partnered up again with cinematographer Adam Arkapaw, the DP behind the glorious tracking shot in the first season of HBO’s True Detective. Kurzel went on to explain what it’s been like in collaborating with him once again.

“Just an incredible artistry. I’m very lucky to have met him at film school and developed a relationship with him. He is a huge, huge part of my films. I couldn’t make the films without him, we both live in each other’s pockets. His understanding of light and his understanding of how to tell a story through movement of camera. He’s extraordinary with performance. I think after True Detective, there’s a kind of classic style that he’s developed now that … A very in camera style, that grounds things but at the same time finds a magic to it that we’re trying to embrace with this. He’s been a huge part of the re-imagining of Assassin’s Creed as a piece of cinema.”

Having people like this behind the film, not to mention Fassbender’s producing credit, helps to showcase what Assassin’s Creed could be. Depending on it success, there’s plenty of potential of where the series could go, going in-and-out of the games’ material, and also with its wide range of character and setting possibilities. Hopefully before the winter release comes, we will be given some more footage to relish over.

Assassin’s Creed hits theaters on December 21, 2016.

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