Assassin’s Creed is an award-winning and fan favorite video game franchise currently consisting of eleven main games, seventeen spin-off games, several short films, a major theatrical release, and various transmedia projects. Each of the main games has also spawned novelizations which adapt and add to the story of their respective game. The entire franchise is developed primarily by Ubisoft Montreal and is published by Ubisoft. In September of 2016, the franchise passed over 100-million copies sold, becoming the best-selling franchise for Ubisoft and one of the highest selling video game franchises of all time. However, with all this success in various mediums, the series has yet to see a universally acclaimed live-action adaptation. 2016 saw the release of Assassin’s Creed, starring Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and being directed by Justin Kurzel, which was met with divisive (to put it optimistically) reception from both fans and critics alike. So what is the secret to making a worthwhile and run away success for Assassin’s Creed in the live-action medium? The answer is simple, a high-quality TV series on a popular streaming platform.
With the quality gap between the silver screen and home video content provided by streaming services such as Netflix, HBO, and Amazon Prime constantly shrinking, I think this is where Assassin’s Creed has the potential to capture the attention of the masses. Assassin’s Creed is a wonderful mixture of historical fiction, sci-fi, mythology, religion (sort of), and has even leaned into more fantastical elements in recent releases. The basic premise is that there are two ancient organizations, the Assassin’s and the Templars, who are fighting for control over all-powerful mystical artifacts named “Pieces of Eden” that are left behind by “The First Civilization” (who happen to be Gods from Roman Mythology). This struggle for control extends across centuries and is still taking place in the modern day.
The way the lore integrates history and sci-fi elements together is through the use of a device called the Animus. The Animus exists in the present day and allows users the ability to experience the events of their ancestor’s lives via access to their DNA. This is what ties the present day conflict between the Templars and Assassins to that of their historical counterparts. Both parties use the Animus to relive past lives and gain knowledge of the location of various Pieces of Eden. If this sounds like a lot of story to cover, that’s because it is. Assassin’s Creed has very deep mythology that has had time to develop over many years and games, and this is one of the reasons I think it’s perfectly suited for a live-action series on a streaming service.
One of the main hindrances of the Assassin’s Creed film is the runtime, there is just simply too much story to fit effectively into two hours. With the use of a season, the story would be given room to breathe and every element properly explored. This would allow the main focus of the season to take place in a past setting because let’s face it, the past settings are without a doubt the coolest part of the franchise, while still giving the present day story time to develop over the course of not just one, but multiple seasons. My preferred method for storytelling in this instance would be for the showrunners to pick a past historical setting for each season, with the present day storyline being the connective tissue between each season as the series progresses.
Imagine having one season set in the Holy Land during the Third Crusade, another taking place in Italy in the 1400s, one during the American Revolution, another in Paris during the French Revolution, one set in the Carribean during the 18th century and the Golden Age of Piracy, another in Victorian London, one in Ancient Greece or Rome (or both), and one in Feudal Japan. Yes, for the most part, I just listed the settings of most of the games, but that’s because they’re all incredible settings and fascinating time periods that offer great storytelling possibilities and would allow each season to stand apart from another. Making each season essentially it’s own period piece would keep things fresh and give fans something new to look forward to at each seasons end.
Along with the historical settings, having the present day story be the overarching narrative would tie the series together and keep fans invested in the bigger picture. This would be tricky, but I think with the right minds behind it could be handled exceptionally well. It’s important to have some sort of end goal in mind because as nice as it is to think of something epic going on forever, the best stories have an ending. While not all the details would need to be worked out, having some idea of where you generally want things to go can keep the story from getting too convoluted and tripping over itself. As I mentioned previously there is a LOT of mythology and lore in the Assassin’s Creed, and while every media for the franchise so far has been connected to the main canon I think a live-action series should be completely its own thing.
Giving the creators the freedom to mold the mythology and universe as they think is best for the series without worrying about anything that’s already happened in previous games, books, and movies would be the most beneficial. Having a present-day story that takes advantage of the best elements of the lore, incorporates the sci-fi in an engaging way, and keeps the overall plot moving forward are key. Achieving this while having the period piece settings for each season taking the main focus would create a great contrast. Giving the characters in the past a season-long (10-13 episodes) story arc would give relatively immediate satisfaction to viewers while also not drawing out their stories for too long.
The last big bonus for having the series on a popular streaming platform would be the budget and marketing. Netflix, HBO, or Amazon Prime would be perfect homes for an Assassin’s Creed series. Netflix already has a handful of period pieces and sci-fi dramas, and this could be a combination of the two. While HBO is also of course known for their stellar programming, and all three companies would be able to give the show a healthy budget. It wouldn’t need to be ridiculously expensive (like Game of Thrones Season 8) but it would work well with something on the level of earlier Game of Thrones seasons, or what I’d imagine the budget for Netflix’s upcoming The Witcher series will be. The budget along with the immediate audience and marketing these services would provide would give the series a huge boost.
Overall Assassin’s Creed would be perfect for a live-action TV series on a major streaming platform. With the focus on the right elements that the franchise has already established, and a solid direction highlighting the drama, action, intrigue, and history the series has to offer can make for an incredibly unique and worthwhile viewing experience. Assassin’s Creed is one of my favorite fictional creations, and I can only hope that someday a live-action version gives the series the justice it deserves.