Adaptations of video games live and die by a double-edged sword. Thanks to the source material, films such as “Resident Evil,” “Silent Hill,” “Doom,” “Mortal Kombat,” “Tomb Raider” and “Max Payne” already have built-in audiences. However, those same fans can also be unforgiving — and vocal — about what ends up on the big screen, which is why director Aleksander Bach hopes to break the genre’s bad track record with “Hitman: Agent 47.”
The movie chronicles genetically enhanced Agent 47 (Rupert Friend) and his mission to find Katia (Hannah Ware), the daughter of the man responsible for the original Agent program, and who may hold the key to creating an army of elite assassins.
SPINOFF spoke with Bach about building a better adaptation, finding the video game’s DNA, recasting Paul Walker, and extreme stunts.
Spinoff: There aren’t a lot of successful movie adaptations of video games. What makes the genre so tough to get right?
Aleksander Bach: There’s a reason for this question, because there are a lot of very bad movies out there coming from game adaptations. The most important thing is you need to concentrate on the characters and you need to respect the game. You need to bring it to the next level because the game and the visual world of the game are not enough. You need to have a great story and characters you care for. This is a general rule of filmmaking. When you concentrate on the action and the visual world of the films and you don’t care, then you are going to have a bad movie. I knew that from the very beginning, and that’s why I had a huge respect in bringing this to life.
Agent 47 could be this soulless killing machine. What did you want to inject into the character?
That was exactly what was so fascinating for me about Agent 47 — is that he is so cold. He’s a badass assassin. He’s a clone, but how much humanity is possible in this character? He’s like a classic antihero. Agent 47 is prepared for everything, for every single move he’s doing to fulfill his assignment. For me, the challenging part is how much of the humanity is left. This is exactly what is happening with the character Katia, who is saying, “I don’t believe you can genetically get rid of love and fear.” She’s asking these questions. This makes it interesting. The most challenging part of the whole movie was not to make it cheesy. I think what is also super-important is 47 is a character you don’t love. You don’t hate 47, but what you do is understand him. That was really important to me.
Paul Walker was originally attached to the project. How did his tragic death change things for you?
When Paul was attached to it, at the time, the other cast was not attached. In this case, when Rupert came in, we built the cast around him. We knew that was going to influence everything. It doesn’t make sense to start the casting when you don’t have the lead role. What I wanted in general was a very young and fresh ensemble. I was hoping to have this great energy, which, at the end, I really had from all the three main characters.
With the video games and first movie at your disposal, how are you building on the “Hitman” universe?
I’m not building on the first movie at all because I think it was a bad movie. I didn’t like it and I think it needed something else. I was studying the game so much and really trying to find the DNA of the game. It’s easy to say, “I want to make it better” but that was definitely the challenge. Because the project is a complete reboot, I left this behind me. It doesn’t have anything to do with the first movie at all. That’s the reason why there’s a new cast. For me, personally, this is the first “Hitman” movie. That’s how the studio saw it. I told them I’d love to establish my own look. That’s an honor for me, that I can establish the look of a possible franchise.
How would you describe the triangle between Agent 47, Katia and John Smith (Zachary Quinto)?
All these characters are influencing each other and that’s what I like. That’s also the reason why you, as an audience, are able to care for the characters. Katia kind of has the reverse story of Agent 47. He is the killer, but she’s a lost girl looking for her roots or identity. She doesn’t know she’s an assassin. We follow her journey and that’s what makes it so interesting. In between, there’s John Smith, who suddenly shows up and is saying, “I’m here to protect you.” We’re playing a lot with expectations.
The trailer features some pretty insane action sequences. Did you want them to be sleek, hyper-real or grounded?
I definitely wanted to have it grounded in the pushed world. I’ve been practicing judo for many, many years. I have a black belt and I wanted to create something in the stunts that was gritty and real. I wanted to smell the dust when the guys were fighting. I wanted something really intense, but in a pushed reality. Everything that we’ve done with the fight choreographers, I wanted you to feel that [the characters] are physically hitting each other. I wanted this physicality between these characters because they are quite often fighting. Of course, there are other stunts in a push reality. I would say it’s a fresh approach because I tried to have it more grounded, but at the same time, we’re still based on the video game. We’re inspired by the game but not copying it.
Which one really put you and the cast through the wringer?
For Hannah, it was definitely the ropes. She had to figure out how to get out of the ropes and that was very difficult. There are so many set pieces. I can’t really answer which pushed us to the limit. The whole movie was pretty challenging.
How important was it servicing the gaming community while making the story accessible to moviegoers?
That was exactly the challenge from the very beginning. On the one hand, you want to please the gamers, but gamers are very skeptical because of the past. I understood this and respect this. At the same time, you want to create a movie and to make people feel and create a story and characters you care for. Hopefully, you like the movie even if you don’t know the game. We have such a strong female role here. We learned from the previews a lot of women really like this movie because Hannah is playing a very strong, beautiful role.
In what ways, if any, have you laid the foundation for future “Hitman” movies?
We’re going to wait to see how people like this one and then we’ll think about something else. At the moment, there are no plans yet.
“Hitman: Agent 47” opens today nationwide.
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