“Assassin’s Creed” is the latest video game to be turned into a movie, and yet it’s gotten poor ratings from the critics. “Assassin’s Creed” suffers from the source material. How do you turn a video game into a compelling story when the video game is all about action with no character development whatsoever?
The answer is that screenwriters consistently focus on action and ignore character development because that would require making something up that’s not part of the original video game. It’s one thing to plop a character in a apocalyptic world of zombies or nuclear disaster, but it’s an entirely different thing to craft a compelling story around it.
That just shows you the huge gap between action and story. You can have all the action you want, but if it never makes sense or it just gradually escalates in increasing difficult levels, then it’s just empty movement. A story is about change and it begins with an underdog hero trapped in a dead end life based on his or her own flaws. The story is about the hero overcoming his or her flaws to become a better person.
In other words, think of how a hero can change and then craft the action around that hero to make the hero’s task of changing as difficult as possible. In “The Truman Show,” the hero must learn to trust himself and stand up for himself to pursue his dreams. Stopping him is the world of reality TV that he’s trapped in.
In “The Hunt for the Wilderpeople,” the hero is an orphan who wants to find a family. Opposing him is social services who want to take him back after he finally finds an adopted family who loves him, but the mother dies. Every story is about a hero struggling to achieve a goal and living in a world that’s making that goal hard to achieve.
Every story is about action (the hero achieving a physical goal) and change (the hero changing into a better person). In “Harold and Maude,” the hero’s physical goal is to embrace death, but he really wants to live life to the fullest. Opposing him are his mother and his world that tries to make him conform. Helping him is his mentor, Maude, a lady who really does live life to the fullest.
The story is really about the emotional change the hero must undergo to change, and the action supplements the story. In video game adaptations, the action is the centerpiece so the story is shoved in the background or ignored altogether. That makes video game adaptations consistently and predictably dull, boring, and completely awful.
If you want to see what a movie looks like when it only centers on action, just watch “Assassin’s Creed” or any video game adaptation. You won’t be disappointed, or rather, you will be disappointed and that’s the whole point of studying video game adaptations for how not to write a screenplay.