The recent release of Assassin's Creed (2017) leads me to discuss another concept that is important when thinking about characters and the worlds they live in. Remediation.
Remediation is defined by Bolter and Grusin (2000, p. 273) "the formal logic by which new media refashions prior media forms". It is basically the form of taking one media type and changing the media it is presented in. In the case of Assassin's Creed this was taking a game and making a film based on it. This is not a new concept, games have been remediated into films in the past, often with little success.
Kinder points out that some transmedia adaptations of games into film such as the, very early attempt, Super Mario Bros. (1993) have been disappointing (Harries, 2002, p. 119). This is a trend that continued into the 2000’s with films like Far Cry (2008) being received with much the same negativity. Assassin's Creed hasn't done much to alleviate the trend of bad game movies but the success or failure of this movie isn't relevant right now.
When discussing character and worlds, how do you go about setting things up in a script or film when the world and character already exists. You don't need to worry about creating the lore or character traits, you need to worry about how to portray that in your chosen media, in our case film. To be successful in the pursuit you need to make sure the world and characters you present in your film match up with those in the games, books or whatever else you are remediating. The dialogue, scene settings, character motivations, story arcs and anything else that you transpose over has to be near enough to the original to not perturb or anger the fans of the original media. You have a certain amount of leeway due to the fact you are changing the media so that will inherently require some change. However changes can cause problems if it's a major deviation. If we stick with Assassin's Creed for a moment, the new movie has the problem of changing too much. On the face of it, it appears to stick to the game narrative. A man is taken into the Animus and his family history is probed through his D.N.A. However the film sets this up for sequels but entirely destroys the machine and traps the narrative in the present.
The games are set in the past for the majority, whilst some elements of the present are included they are not the focus. Yet in the film the majority is set in the now, the focus is on the individual whom is in the Animus. It sets up the Assassin guild in the present and traps the story there for the time being. It presents it as being the majority of the story, whilst there is elements of history the film doesn't focus on them.
This is a betrayal of the original material and will immediately alienate the original fans, which will be a lot of the target audience of the movie. This can be seen if you look at the critical reviews and also ratings for the movie. As of writing this post the Rotten Tomatoes rates it at 17% with an average of 3.9 out of 10. In contrast to this take another remediated work, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001). Taken from J. R. R. Tolkien's original works and adapted to film, there are a lot of differences between the book and the film but still the movie received overwhelmingly positive responses from viewers and critics a like. Rotten tomatoes rates this at 91% with an average of 8.2 out of 10. Whilst changes were made to the original content, some of them major, the essence and main narrative driving force was included. Elements were carefully weighed up before they were cut out to as to avoid taking away from the central premise.
It's not an easy balance to find, and many have stumbled trying to achieve it, but if you can take a world or character that already exists and has a following and adapt it right your film has a ready made audience to sell to.
Bolter, J.D. and Gruisin, R. (2000) Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge Massachusetts/London: MIT Press.
Assassin's Creed (2017) Directed by Justin Kurzel [Film]. United States: 20th Century Fox.
Harries, D. (ed.) (2002) The New Media Book. London: British Film Institute.
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Directed by Peter Jackson [Film]. United States: New Line Cinema.