So I’m a huge fan of Assassins Creed. I played every single game and still vividly remember playing the first one with a friend on his computer. As I became more and more interested in filmmaking, I started to think about how to turn this world into a movie. How to approach the characters, the stories and the overall vibe of the games, so that they are accurately portrait on the big screen.
Over the time I came up with what I believe is a pretty good outline for an Assassin’s Creed movie. Now I know that they already made a movie, which kind of renders my ideas as useless, but thats why I thought I might just share them with you. I hope you enjoy.
So without further ado, here is my take on:
How To Make Assassin’s Creed: The Movie
Now Assassins Creed is an action game. Everybody knows that. But it’s also a stealth game. So our story sets of in a museum. It is night. Old statues and ceramics show us, that it’s some sort of ancient history museum. Prehistoric daggers and shields are presented in the dark cabinets. Everything is silent and still, apart from…A young girl, all dressed in black is sneaking through the corridors. She is looking for something. Wants to steel something. Carefully she’s looking around another corner. There it is. The artifacts she’s been looking for. The apple of eden. She approaches it carefully. But just as she is about to open the cabinet, a security guard enters frame. He is shining his flashlight into the darkness and then…onto the girl. Without the need to be quite anymore, the girl makes a leap and sprints past the guard outside the front gate. He immediately calls for back up.
Out on the streets the girl starts running. And we notice, that she’s actually pretty good at it. She’s jumping over and sliding under obstacles. But the police is on her toes now. With a lot of skill she starts climbing a building to get to the rooftop.The chase continues with her being on the roof, the police down on the streets. She jumps over a gap and manages to get away for a second until…bam…She runs into some kind of balustrade. She looks down. It’s a 30 feet drop. There is a swimming pool down there, but the girl hesitates. She looks back. The police will be there any minute. She looks down again. And we can see it in her eyes..she’s afraid of heights. Struggling to surpass her fear the girl slowly gets up onto the balustrade. One last look behind her. She’s ready to jump, when…bum. She gets tackled from the side. Black.
Voices. The girl slowly opens her eyes. She is in the back of a transporter, tied to some kind of stretcher. A woman in her 30s is looking over her. Immediately the girl starts screaming. ,Let me go! I didn’t do anything. You are not allowed to do that.‘ The woman looks at her. Amused. ,This might hurt a bit‘ She runs a needle into the girls arm and takes some of her blood. The girl isn’t pleased at all. ,What the fuck is wrong with you? You can’t do that. Who are you guys?‘ The woman puts the blood sample into a device and does some nerdy computer stuff. ,Calm down. We are friends of your fathers. We are with the Assassins Creed‘ The girl doesn’t calm down. ,What the fuck? My father is dead. And what the hell is the Assassins Creed?‘ There is voice from the drivers seat. And now we see the middle aged man driving the van. ,Are you sure you got the right girl?‘ The computer devices turn green. The woman smiles. ,I am.‘ She turns to the girl on the stretcher. ,If you don’t know who we are, I can’t tell you…but I can show you.‘ She lowers a bar over the girls face. It’s some kind of glas plate. The girl isn’t happy about that. She scream and tries to free herself.
It’s the first time that we see the animus. It is the device that helps the people in this world to access their ancestors memories. The most important device in the franchise one might say. But thats just what it is…a device. Nothing less and nothing more. So the animus should be kept as simple as possible. I personally really like the design of the first Assassins Creed game, where it was just a neat glasbar over the persons face. It is slick and it’s simple. And considering that they are in a van it’s probably some kind of self made version anyway. Nothing too fancy, because after all it’s just a device to help us explain the hight-tech stuff in this universe. No need for fancy, extravagant designs. We are interested in story. So let’s move along.
A man wakes up from a nightmare. He looks around in the small, and sparsely furnished room. Next to his is another bed. A young girl is sleeping in it. He smiles and gets up. Across the room is the opening to a balcony. Curtains are flowing in the wind. He steps onto the balcony and looks over the city. It is the same city the girl has been in…but it looks different now. More ancient. Everything is low-tech and unadvanced. The man is squinting his eyes, watching an eagle circling the towers of the city. Then he hears a noice. Someone is running up the stairs. And there are footsteps on the roof. The man turns around as he gets attacked by two hooded figures. He raises his arm to block the first hit, but the second one gets to him. One of the men reveals a hidden blade under his sleeve. He tries to cut our hero, but he puts up a good fight. Fast and aggressively he bashes his opponent into the wall. The other assassin shoves a blade into his shoulder. A small glitch, a scream, but the man continues to fight. He is strong, but the two hoods are better fighters. They attack him from both sides and one of them manages to cut his throat. Black.
A scream. The girl wakes up. She’s still tied to the stretcher. She can’t believe what she just saw. All her energy has left her body. Her voice tumbles. ,What the fuck was that?‘
And now, and only now, we can have our exposition. The woman in the van tells her everything. About her father, who was a modern day assassin, the ancestor of an assassin in the past. She tells the girl about the animus and how it is capable of showing the memories of ones ancestor. And about the apple of eden, that her father tried to find, and died in the process. ,But you already know all about that, don’t you?“ The girl didn’t know. She followed her fathers traces to find out who killed him. The apple of eden was her final lead, but she had no idea what it’s powers were…that her father was an assassin…that she is the descendant of an assassin. At this point it is also important to clarify the rules of the animus. These rules should be simple, and can never ever change.
- The animus allows you to access your ancestors memories at any point in time.
- You can walk around and explore their visions. You have free will, but have to stay in the boundaries of their world.
- If you kill someone that hasn’t been killed or if you get killed at the wrong time, you wake up in the animus.
,Thats why you woke up just then. Your ancestor won that fight. But you still need to train.‘
So thats what our heroin does. We have two storylines. The story of the girl in the present and the one of her ancestors in the past.
The girl quickly decides to finish what her father started. To find the apple of eden and to secure it. She is aware of the templars, that became a huge corporation in this day of age. They want to get the apple to gain power and to rule over the world. To make sure her father didn’t die in vain, she decides to join the assassins. So the three Assassins are driving around in the van to stay unnoticed from the huge cooperation of templars, that is always looking for them and also to get to the places that the girl visits while in the animus. This is crucial to keep the modern storyline interesting and fun. The importance of a moving unit becomes more obvious when we progress in the story. And it helps us to keep the timelines in order. It’s a little trick, that I like to call „Same Place, Different Time“.
What that means, is that we can only ever change one of those things. If we go to a different place, we have to stay in the same timeline. If we switch between the timelines, the two timelines have to take place at the same location. The reason for that is, so that the audience doesn’t get confused over who is where and when. Also it makes for an interesting pattern, because you can always see the building and places in the past and then see, how time has altered them. Maybe the palace is a ruin now, maybe they build a bank where an old tavern ones was. The important thing is, that both timelines equally receive and solves clues that eventually lead to the finding of the apple. Let’s say for example, that the past assassin has buried an old text in a bathhouse. Then the modern day assassins will try to find this location and are looking for the scroll. This helps to keep both timelines interesting, engaging and most importantly connected.
So lets talk about our second storyline, where the ancestor is also looking for the apple of eden. Before we meet him he is an outlaw. A thief for hire. And after another heist for an unknown client, the two hooded figures attacked him. They were in fact assassins. But as soon as they find out, that he is a good fighter they try to recruit him. We follow the ancestor as he agrees to become an assassin and to help them find the apple of eden. They want to secure it before the emperor (or whoever our main villain is), who sided with the templars, is able to get his hand on it. But the motives of our second protagonist are less political. He sees the opportunity in being an assassin to gain money and power. He wants to use that to make a better life for himself and his sister, the girl sleeping in the bed next to him. He has promised to keep her safe and wants to provide her with a good lifestyle. So even though he appears to be the tougher one of the two hero, his motives are actually more emotional than the ones of our heroin. The past assassin also starts to train and at the end of act one both our heroes become proper assassins.
Now when it comes to the villain of the past, we can actually make up a character that is just bad. Don’t get me wrong, I like shaded bad guys, but since we already have two very layered main protagonist, I think we are on the safe side, when we create a character, that is as bad as we can imagine. And it’s also more fun. So let him be a guy of noble status. Let him be wealthy and greedy. We need to hate him. And we will…
The villains in the present are a bit more subtle. Huge corporations are neither fun in reality nor in movies. So our best option is not to show them at all. First of all that lets us connect with the main characters way more, because we can stay focused on their fear of the templars, instead of actually showing the terrifying templars. This approach also keeps the mystery that surrounds the templar order. And since you can’t actually depict a huge organization in a decent way, we might as well not do it at all.
Now before entering the second act, I want highlight a few elements, that are in my opinion crucial to a good assassins creed story. For me personally the Assassin’s Creed games have always been about mood. So these next chapters might be even more important than the actual story. The might seem trivial at first, but stick with me here.
One very important part of the games, especially in the newest installments, is weather. This might seem weird, but while playing in an open world, you constantly get to admire wonderful sunrises, clouded skies, rain and snow. This makes the games so much more immersive and sets up an engaging mood. So instead of just having all blue skies and sun, the Assassins Creed movie should focus on a lot of different time and weather conditions. It definitely helps to set the mood for each scenes and makes the world so much more relatable. Also, imagine our assassin trying to sneak into a bedroom. He is running across the rooftops to sneak through the window. And now imagine the same scene during a hefty and rainy storm. The task becomes so much more difficult. From jumping onto slippery rooftops to dripping water onto the floor of the bedroom. Weather truly intensives every task our assassin has to accomplish and lets us admire his wits and skill even more.
Another thing that makes these games so satisfying is the opportunity to evolve and improve your character. Now obviously that doesn’t transfer well into a movie, but there are still ways to at least slightly capture this feeling. When you are playing as your character and are waiting to unlock a certain weapon or outfit, you already know, what it is that you need and want. So in the movie, the characters (and audience) should always get a glimpse, of what’s to come. For example, the first few fights our assassin needs to face, should be without any gear at all. The assassins want to test him. But they also need to show him very early on, what kind of weapons they normally use. So that when he finally gets a hidden blade, we feel the accomplishment and the new level of skill he has reached. The money our assassin gains over the corse of the movie goes to his beloved sister, who also starts to get active. She not only renovates the house, so that we can see the changes in their lives, but she also starts a society of beggars, whores and thiefs, that undermine the city, gain informations and help out wherever they can. The same principle goes for our present time assassin girl, who gets more and more involved in the mysteries of the assassins and the solving of the puzzles. Soon she is able to operate the animus all by herself and her outfit becomes stealthier with each scene.
So our two assassins are well on their way to finding the apple of eden. They gathered clues and intel and despite a few set backs, it all seems to go pretty well. Up until the midpoint of the movie, where it seems, that they only need one final clue to find the artifact. And it is at this moment, that our evil main villain is executing a devilish plan. Of corse he knows about the new assassin, that quickly climbed the ranks of this secret society. He himself as hired him once two steal a thing or two. So in order to crush him and to show, that he is in fact the villain he kills the most beloved and innocent characters of them all. Our hero’s sister. This devastating act is a major set back in our heroes journey, because it not only crushes the lonely brother, but also our young girl in the present.
This might be a good time to talk about why I chose these specific main characters for the story and why they are who they are. Now first of all, it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever to have the character in both timelines to be played by the same actor. It’s neither part of the games history, nor does it follow any sense of logic. So if we have two main characters, we might as well make them as different as possible. This makes for a very interesting dynamic between the two and helps us highlight the deeper aspects of their personalities. The fact that we have a young girl, that is suddenly put into a strong male body, doesn’t only make for a quick laugh, but also opens up a very intriguing storyline of self discovery. Here we have a young girl, that in her core is a tough bad ass, and there is the strong protector, who literally has a very light and young core. As time progresses we start to see more and more similarities between the two characters that seemed so different at the beginning. And as the young girl starts to spend more time in her ancestors body, she starts to feel more comfortable with each passing second. There she is, fighting the real fights, living the real live, instead of just driving around and solving clues. You could say that she get’s a little addicted. And when the emperor kills..well…her sister, she is devastated. She starts to spend more and more time in the animus, completely abandoning her own life. Totally forgetting about the apple, she has only one goal in mind. Revenge. She has to kill the emperor. He took what mattered most to her and he should feel the pain for it.
The two friends in the van get more and more concerned, but since the girl is very capable of operating the animus on her own, there is not much they can do. And as the girl gets closer and closer to the emperor, the quest for the apple fades away. Until she finally kills the bastard….and wakes up. She’s back in the present. Something is wrong. What is wrong?
,I told you. You can’t kill someone who hasn’t been killed by your ancestor‘
The old assassin hasn’t killed the emperor. He didn’t do anything about the killing of his sister. The girl is devastated. How could he just live on?
,When your father died you didn’t seek revenge. Instead you tried to finish what he started. You stayed true to the mission. And so did your ancestor.‘
The truth hurts and the girl realizes, that her little vendetta has cost them a lot of time and act three is arriving rapidly.
Luckily there aren’t many clues left to solve. And after a little readjustment they are back on track. The ancestor is very close to the apple of eden. It is hidden in an old cave. He approaches the golden artifact. A device, that is created by the gods, capable of showing the past, the present and the future. With raw emotions he reaches out and touches the apple. Faded memories of the past circle him. Ancient assassins that interacted with the apple. And then there is another memory. One that he doesn’t understand. Can’t understand. It’s a young girl, that is reaching for the apple. And right when she is about to touch it, she gets stabbed in the back. The assassin is confused. He doesn’t know who that person is. But our girl does. She wakes up in the animus and the fight begins. Her saviors, the two assassins in the van…they were templars. They used her to get to the information. Now that they know where to find the apple, the girl is useless and they try to kill her. But the girl is now highly trained. All the time spent in the animus has left her with a strong mind and the power to kill. In the final battle, that takes place in the present, she defends the apple of eden. The animus gets destroyed in the process, but the girl is able to kill the templars.
With a sense of remorse, the weight of knowledge and a nostalgic heart the girl climbs the city and sits on the rooftops looking over the world. Not afraid of heights anymore. Changed forever. Her mission is finished…or has it just started?
An ending that gives the audience a sense of fulfillment but also leaves the opportunity for a sequel. (As you do these days). And that is another good thing about our two protagonists. We are now able to keep what worked and change what didn’t. We can revisit both of our characters. Or we can have the girl visit another ancestor of hers, or some other modern day assassin visits the same assassin in the past. Whatever suits us best, whatever the audience desires. Because just like the games, the movie should be able to capture fans for years on end.
Well and that is pretty much it. Obviously it’s just a very rough outline, not even mentioning all the historic facts and storylines that need to be woven in by the amazing Ubisoft team. But since this is a story arc, that would work with any time period I decided to leave that part up to someone else….
Please let me know if you like this concept and if you would watch that movie. If you didn’t like it, let me know what you would have done differently. How does your perfect Assassins Creed Movie look like? Do you think it’s possible to adapt games into feature films? I’m looking forward to your comments. And thanks for sticking around until the very end.