The Burnt Offering

Shakespeare in Wrist Blades

You feel compelled to support great writing…


The Burnt Offering is where Stu Horvath thinks too much in public so he can live a quieter life in private. 


This is a reprint of the letter from the editor in Unwinnable Weekly Issue Fifty-Nine. You can buy Issue Fifty-Nine individually now, or purchase a one-month subscription to make sure you never miss an issue!


Hi there,

I finally got around to watching the trailer for the Michael Fassbender/Marion Cotillard version of Macbeth, in theaters this December. It looks magnificent.

I have a bit of trouble deciding whether “Hamlet” or “Macbeth” is my favorite of Shakespeare’s plays. “Hamlet” likely has the better story, the grander psychodrama, but, oh, does “Macbeth” have the lines:

“By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes!”

“O, full of scorpions is my mind!”

“Methought I heard a voice cry, Sleep no more! Macbeth does murder sleep.”

“We have scorched the snake, not killed it.”

I am keen to see Fassbender, so fierce and desperately coiled, and Cotillard, so softly  dangerous, sink into their famously vile roles. And the direction, by Justin Kurzel, is overripe with a kind of metaphysical dread. Despite its somber palette, it seems almost psychedelic to me, so much so that I was sure Ben Wheatley’s name (of Kill List and A Field in England fame) was going to be in the credits.

It is the sort of trailer that just oozes goodness, that feels comfortable and challenging all at once. I saw it and knew immediately that I would see it in theaters on its release.

There’s a curious thing about Macbeth, though. Or rather, about Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Justin Kurzel.

They’re all working together on the 2016 Assassin’s Creed movie.

What a contrast, right?

When I first heard there was an Assassin’s Creed movie in the works, I couldn’t have been less excited. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Assassin’s Creed games. I love them, but I also recognize what a mixed bag they are. There is nothing in that bag that assures me this movie won’t be another Prince of Persia. In fact, I’d say this flick has about as much chance of being good as Macbeth had of being a loved and long-lived king of Scotland.

How could three enormously talented people make something that looks so fantastic, then turn right around and work on something that seems so obviously ill-fated? Was that the price of Macbeth? We’ll give you the bard, but then you give us the parkour?

I could be wrong, of course. Macbeth may well be awful. Assassin’s Creed could be some kind of improbable masterpiece. I don’t care. I know this probably sounds dreadfully snobbish, but I find it impossible to do more than raise a skeptical eyebrow at movies like Assassin’s Creed. I think they waste the precious time and energy of creative people who could be making something new and exciting and lasting.

I know what you’re thinking – after several centuries and countless performances, “Macbeth” is hardly new. If you were to call this latest interpretation a remake, I couldn’t really argue with you. There isn’t anything inherently wrong with the idea of remakes  (my favorite horror film of all time, John Carpenter’s The Thing, is a remake, after all).

Nor am I saying that middle or low-brow culture pales in comparison to the lofty heights of high culture like that fellow in The Guardian, who accused Terry Pratchett of being mediocre without having read a single novel by him. I’ve never read a Terry Pratchett novel either, but I’d sooner pick one up than have to read any of the dusty old crap my high school teachers insisted were literary masterworks.

No, what I am saying is that I love that fact that Terry Pratchett wrote over 60 Terry Pratchett novels during his lifetime. No movie novelizations. No licensed novels expanding the universe of an established franchise or intellectual property. Just his own creative work.

It kills me that Rian Johnson is busy with Star Wars Part Ugh instead of something of his own, something out of left field, like Brick or Looper.

I am glad Terry Gilliam abandoned his adaptation of Watchmen because A. it would have sucked, and B. it would have robbed the world of The Adventures of Baron Munchausen.

Every creator has only so many projects that can fit into a single lifetime, let alone in their prime years. Shakespeare’s life was 38 plays long. The incredibly prolific director Billy Wilder’s was 60 movies long. Spielberg, prolific by contemporary standards, is at 31 (one of which was Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), the Coen Brothers at 16.

I don’t want to live in a world where maybe their 17th will be another Fantastic Four reboot.

* * *

This week, we have the next installment in our Epic-sponsored series of features on the recipients of Unreal Dev Grants. This time, I talked to Jason Edwards and Greg Meeres-Young, the gentlemen behind the forthcoming film Outlaws. Why did I talk to them? Because they are making their movie with the real time rendering of Unreal Engine 4.

Our cover story this week is a reprint of a paper by Ansh Patel, a musing on life, death and game mechanics. Matt Marrone riffs on games that play themselves. Finally, Gus Mastrapa’s Dungeon Crawler gets a new chapter.

Have a good weekend!

Stu Horvath,
Jersey City, New Jersey
September 3, 2015

Books, Burnt Offering, Games, Letter from the Editor, Movies, Unwinnable Monthly