Netflix Take Note: How to Make the Best ‘Assassin’s Creed’ Show Possible
With Netflixannouncing an Assassin’s Creed series on the 27th of October, much of the discussion on social media was tentative at best and downright mournful at the worst. After the release of the 2016 film adaptation was met harshly by both fans of the series and non-fans alike, people seem hesitant to get their hopes up for another live-action adaptation of the long-running video game series. Honestly, they can’t be blamed. For being such a beloved franchise, the Assassin’s Creed series doesn’t have a great batting average. About half the games are completely average (with some coming dangerously close to below average) and only a few really rise to be great. However, its incredible historical storytelling can still suck people back in game-after-game. Let’s take a look at how the show can make the most of that.
Give the people what they want
The first step for Netflix should be to take a hard look at what went wrong with the film adaptation and make sure they avoid those same mistakes. The most glaring problem the series needs to absolutely avoid is the overbearing use of a present-day setting. The film fell into the same trap that the worst Assassin’s Creed games did: the overuse of an utterly uninteresting time period. I don’t know a single person on this Earth who would say to me, “Boy that modern-day part of Assassin’s Creed sure was neat.” I firmly believe this is because no such person exists. (If your favourite part of the Assassin’s Creed games or film was the modern stuff feel free to @ me). So, having established that no one is interested in the present-day doldrums of whatever loser character is forced upon us, what should Netflix do instead?
Well, my dear reader, the answer is obvious: they give the people what they want. And what the people want is a historical adventure! Netflix is no stranger to historical shows. They have countless on their service already. Knightfall is incredibly popular and The Crown was one of the best shows around for a while. But overt politics don’t have much of a place in Assassin’s Creed. Instead, the focus should be on the assassins themselves and the world they live in.
Avoid getting bogged down in mythology
I have played at least a bit of each Assassin’s Creed game and finished each game since Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. But there is not a chance in hell that I could explain the mythology to you or anyone else. If I had a gun to my head and had to choose between explaining the Assassin’s Creed canon or why Nicolas Cage chooses the roles he does, I’d probably die. But at least I would have gotten a little closer to understanding the madness of Nic Cage.
If a man who has played most of the games can’t explain what the whole story is, there is almost no chance of Netflix being able to adapt that story. Besides, not many people care about the overarching story in these games. Instead, have the show focus on a single Assassin who only plays a part in what is a much larger, only alluded to, story. Of course, the outline needs to be explained: Assassin’s are the good guys who want people to keep their free will. Templars are bad and want to take that free will and rule the world. Other than that, keep it elusive, shadowy, and very much in the backdrop of the series.
What Netflix needs to do
The best way for Netflix to make this a successful show is to simply take the good ideas that already exist and apply them to this new IP they’ve acquired. The first step to creating this perfect show is to get a setting that people will find interesting enough to watch for a season. To do this we have to look at what has been successful in other media, as well as the games. Other than my deep personal wish to see anything even tangentially related to a Western, there are some obvious choices here. With the success of Netflix’s The Witcher, a medieval setting could be popular among fans. This setting also hasn’t yet been employed by the games.
I think that is one thing the film adaptation got right. If the show is set in a time and place that hasn’t been seen in Assassin’s Creed yet, it will make fans eager to see what exactly an assassin would look like in that setting. Another possible setting could be a less western country, like India, China, or Japan. While the smaller side releases have explored some of these places, the mainline games have never ventured far from western civilization. An option like this would also allow Netflix to bring in a wider array of viewers and break out of the somewhat niche market that the games have. Besides, diverse stories are always needed to keep something interesting. The series should do its best to avoid previously covered settings and characters.
My final and possibly most important note for this series is this. If the series is to continue past a single season I believe Assassin’s Creed is the property that was practically made for an anthology series. The later games have been just that. Since Assassin’s Creed III, each main character has been almost completely unconnected from the last. Anthology series have also been some of the best TV shows in recent history with True Detective and Fargo being the standouts among them. A historical anthology The Assassin’s Creed series has the perfect chance to adopt this approach and go further back. It would be a terrible shame if they pissed that chance away.
My last note for Netflix is this: please put some effort behind this. I truly believe it has the chance to be great. Get some money behind it, get a good cast, get directors that know what they are doing and allow them to do it. And please for the love of all things holy, keep the present-day stuff to a minimum.
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