‘Assassin’s Creed’: Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot On Why Video Game Movies Don't Need to Suck

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Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Kerry Brown / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

In the world of Assassin’s Creed, heroes work in the shadows while villains live in the light, creating a gray area of morality. What’s not so gray is the history of video game movie adaptations. They suck.

Some of them actually make money, but most get shredded by critics. There’s 1993's Super Mario Bros. starring Bob Hoskins as Mario and John Leguizamo as Luigi that was comically awful, earning a 15 percent rating on movie review site Rotten Tomatoes. Tomb Raider, inspired by the video game created by Square Enix (formerly Eidos Montreal), raked in $274 million at the box-office worldwide, but critics gave it a 24 percent rotten rating.

Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot aims to break the bad luck streak by taking a different approach to adapting the company’s hits to other platforms. To tell the complicated Assassin’s Creed video game narrative of two groups fighting to restore order in a world filled with violence, Ubisoft refused to give up creative control to Hollywood and created its own film studio, Ubisoft Motion Pictures. Keeping the project in-house gave the creators the power to turn the game into a cohesive vision for a feature film.

“When we decided to make the film, the goal was to make sure we controlled the script,” Guillemot tells Newsweek. “We would recruit the [production team] to have control of the process. At the same time we made it clear in all contracts everything that was created would be owned by Ubisoft, which meant if we want to we can have the [movie] characters in our games. The goal is to enrich the Assassin’s Creed universe.”

Assassin’s Creed, starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, follows the story of Callum, a man whose bloodline contains the clues to finding the Apple of Eden, a tool the Templars want to control humanity. The premise might be confusing, but the tension between Templars and Assassins plays out well in the games. Assassins believe the world needs freedom to survive. Meanwhile, Templars have created the Animus to search DNA memories in hopes of achieving their version of world peace.

Films based on video games tend to be bad because the stories are densely packed. In the Assassin’s Creed game, side missions help explain the connections between characters, and players can hack into a computer system to read the history behind the Templar order and other background. Ubisoft Motion Pictures worked closely with Aymar Azaizia, head of content for Assassin’s Creed games, to help introduce the story to moviegoers.

“Getting sure that the movie was consistent was my creed,” Azaizia tells Newsweek in an email interview. “We started by overwhelming the movie staff with tons of game bibles and references to feed them, and we were involved in script development, set creation—production designer Andy Nicholson was the first staff member hired and spent a week with us in Ubisoft Montreal before pre-production even started—and I was lucky enough to visit the team on location many times.”

Many Ubisoft game developers played a big role to preserve authenticity to the game in the movie. Game players will recognize the signature intense parkour action sequences, the infamous Leap of Faith where Assassins survive jumps from the tallest buildings and references that tie real historical figures to the dueling groups. Guillemot’s team enjoys reading the fan forums found on sites like Reddit that dissect the game’s story. Guillemot also encourages moviegoers who aren’t familiar with the Assassin’s Creed lore to discuss the film with gamers who have played the titles.

“When you get out of movie we want you to discuss it. We want you to have questions, most of which we hoped we answered between the film and people who know the video games to help you interpret the movie,” Guillemot said. “We want the Assassin’s Creed movie to be open enough for everyone to build on this story and share it with other people.