So recently the gaming world just had another of its favorite franchises mutilated by Hollywood for a second time. This time in the form of the recent action flop Hitman: Agent 47. Starring Rupert Friend and released August 21, 2015, this film directed by Aleksander Bach is currently sitting at a rather deserving 9% on Rotten Tomatoes and has fans of the franchise, such as myself, scratching our heads wondering what the heck went wrong. Well, that’s why I’m here. As a fan, I naturally know more than the people actually put in command of making these really awful decisions. So let’s take a look, shall we?
It’s not as if Agent 47 is a difficult character to understand, we’ve had plenty of movies over the years depicting near emotionless action heroes who function as one-man armies. We’ve had many great characters that are troubled and torn between who they are and who they want to be, and we’ve certainly had plenty of characters who balance action with character development and have meaningful story arks over the course of a movie. Nevertheless, we now have two separate Hitman films and neither of them accurately portray what should be a simple character the way he was intended to be portrayed. I’m going to go through my opinion of the character and where I think, the films fail. I might even have an idea of what can be done to give the character that so many people love the justice he deserves. What if I said the answer to the problem just might be inspired by Rod Serling? Hang on though, let me make my arguments.
First of all, the movies focus way too much on the action hero aspect of Agent 47. Yes, 47 is a genetically enhanced super bad ass that can clear a room with a pencil if he wanted to, but that isn’t what makes 47 such an interesting character. In the games, in any given mission, 47 are given a target, a loose explanation of why the target needs to be taken down, and then he is set loose in a playground of options.
Yes, 47 are more than capable of taking his signature weapons, his ballers, and fighting his way through a multitude of guards to take out his target like the macho man the movies like to portray him as, but that misses the point entirely. 47 is an artist. He is a professional. A title of one of the games gives you everything you need to know about the character in that title alone. He is the Hitman: Silent Assassin.
When 47 are set lose in an area with a target, it is the player’s job to explore, to learn about their surroundings and the patterns of their targets. The finest way to assassinate someone is not to leave any trace of an assassination, making the death look like a complete accident, which is usually the best win state of any level of the games. The fact that you can go in guns blazing and still “win” is not the point of how the games are meant to be played, and the fact that the films have portrayed 47 in this manor is the reason I feel that they fail so badly.
That being said, it might make for a rather dull (boring) film to follow 47 around as he knocks out a guard, takes his uniform, then explores the area studying his target for hours on end before he finally drops that bit of subtle poison in the target’s bottle of Ensure… but that’s how 47 works. Quietly. Silently. 47 is a ghost and any attempt to make him a bald Rambo isn’t going to work. We’ve learned that twice now.
So how do we get around this? Well, two things. First, Hitman would work better as a television series, not a movie, Secondly, you have to make the targets the main focus of the story, not the Hitman. Think of Agent 47 as the Narrator from the Twilight Zone series (aka Mr Rod Serling, taking out the ‘focus’s on his target). Let’s say, for example, the target is the head of some corrupt business, and he works with shady people. We’ll call this human stain Bob. Bob has a bit of a well-armed entourage around him all the time, so he’s a bit difficult to get at, but through something called “character development” and “plot” ( You know, those things that Hollywood loves to leave out of its stories ) We come to find that this corrupt businessman is going through health problems, let’s say diabetes, and have to take regular injections, or he has other personal habits that would make him vulnerable.
We follow the story of Bob and what he does, what he goes through, we learn about him, his character or lack thereof and all the while as the story goes along you see hints of how the Hitman could take him out. Not only does Bob take regular injections, but he likes to go out on the balcony for a smoke. He takes regular bathroom breaks, or he can’t resist the impulse to go fridge raiding at 1 in the morning. He could even have a Corvette he likes to park under a tree to keep it cool in the shade. You see 47 here and there as the story goes along. With him always in the background, studying his prey never giving himself away, thus, he doesn´t get any attention. You might even see him pass by Bob as he’s walking toward the camera so you can get a nice view of the back of 47’s head and that lovely bar-code he has as he walks past.
47, being the narrator of the story, would give us more history about Bob or his family, letting the audience know why he needs to die, but what we see of Bob in the story makes him almost sympathetic. Bob could be even likable if he wasn’t really a bastard … you know, that character development thing I was talking about. Better yet, 47 wouldn’t have to say much at all because actions speak louder than words. In the end, when the moment is right, 47 steps from the shadows and Bob gets what’s coming to him then, as quietly as he comes in, 47 slips away as if he was never even there. The story would end with a news report talking about how Bob died in a tragic accident and 47 giving us some lovely morality lesson about how power corrupts, and in the end, nothing can save you when your number is up.
The story of the Hitman is more a story about the twisted world around him. It’s the story of evil, powerful people and corrupt organizations. It’s a world of espionage and murder, brutal and cold. 47 is the perfect assassin for this world because of the way he was created, to be colder and more calculating than the people he disposes of. The Hitman is a scalpel, a precise instrument used carefully to cut out a cancer who is killing the system for two movies now we have been seeing him portrayed as a brutal club as Hollywood still desperately clings to the 80s and 90’s action hero cliché that is not what makes Agent 47 the character that fans adore.
I’m not saying that you can’t have situations where 47 have to cut loose and go “full action hero”, but that should be the exception, not the rule. Times where he has to use guns or his other weapons should be unavoidable situations that happen rarely instead of being the majority of “the plot.” As I previously stated, I’m just a fan. If you put together everything, I truly know about the decisions that led to two disastrous Hitman films, you might have enough information to fill a fortune cookie. All I really know is that Hollywood keeps butchering video game characters while they keep buying up the rights to make even more films about them. Without fans speaking up and making their opinions known, little will ever change.
It may be too late to save the live-action Hitman, but it’s not too late to save Assassins Creed, The Last of Us, Borderlands, Minecraft and all the other gaming worlds that Hollywood is about to stand over with their pants down. Speak up. Stand out. Make your own fan ideas as I have and put them out there. It just might be your favorite character you end up saving.
This is a personal opinion of the writer, and it doesn’t necessarily represent the other writers (nor The Gaming Ground´s) opinions.
The Gaming Ground
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