First off, let’s try and get that ‘video game movies are bad’ mantra out of your head. Ok, there’s been a little too much Uwe Boll and yes, I know the Resident Evil movies aren’t even close to the games, and oh God we won’t even talk about Silent Hill 2 but – and this is a seriously big but – this time things are different.
Unlike other video game movies Assassin’s Creed has specifically been created by its own developer, Ubisoft, which has created its own motion picture brand. Plus, it has one of this generation’s most wanted actors, Michael Fassbender, in not one but two starring roles. Oh, and he’s producer too. That surely has to count for something? Here’s our breakdown of everything you need to know about the Brotherhood free-running onto cinema screens on December 21 this year in the US (and five days later on December 26 for the rest of the world.)
The key to the Assassin’s Creed movie having any sense of new identity is that this isn’t a direct adaptation of any of the games. The joy of the series is its ability to jump through historical time periods with the Animus, a handy machine that lets modern day dwellers revisit the memories of their genetic ancestors. This means that while the adventures of Assassins Ezio, Edward, Connor, Arno et al can all still be true, Eagle diving into a different time period is entirely permitted and means more ways to forge something interesting and break new ground.
Director Justin Kurzel therefore has a whole new world to play with in 15th century Spain and can focus on making that his own. Of course, while Assassin Aguilar and his future-dwelling descendant Callum Lynch are entirely new, we can still expect to see all the hallmarks of the Brotherhood. The first shots of Fassbender as Aguilar clearly show his hood-wearing game is on point, we’ve seen his hidden blade (shhh, you snickering at the back) and Fassbender has already said that the leap of faith will be making its silver screen debut via some non-green screen stunt work.
But what’s the plot? From what we’ve seen, modern day Fassbender, Callum Lynch, starts out in prison before heading into the Animus and learning the skills of his genetic ancestor, Aguilar, who is fighting the Knights Templar. “He is an outsider. He’s been institutionalized from his early teens. He’s a little bit of a lost soul of sorts,” Fassbender told The Wall Street Journal back in January. “He starts to identify [his] lineage and where he comes from in a way.”
There’s also going to be plenty of Abstergo action – y’know, the modern day evil corporate front of the Templars – who are headed up by Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons). There’s already been images teased of the inside of modern day Abstergo with traditional Templar weaponry: One with a Templar cross and one with the head of Hugue de Payens, the very first Grand Master of the Templar order.
— Azaïzia Aymar (@AymarMtl) November 4, 2015
The official plot says that Callum learns from his ancestor, so I’m guessing that the Bleeding Effect is taking place. In the games, this sees Desmond Miles in the modern day learning from his ancestor Ezio after long stints in the Animus. From assassination techniques to Eagle Vision (ultra good eyes for taking in targets,) Desmond learned it all by sitting in the magical chair. This sounds exactly like what will happen between Callum and Aguilar.
Fassbender, too, has highlighted the importance of the Animus, saying that it reminds him of certain red/blue pill related sci-fi movie. “I’ve always thought about The Matrix when we’ve approached this,” he said. “This idea of DNA memory elevates it from a basic fantasy genre [piece], because you have something an audience can actually believe in. Then the journey becomes so much more elevated, because you’re on board in a different way.”
While Fassbender is obviously front and centre on Assassin past and present duty, there’s plenty of other talent on screen. Jeremy Irons will be chewing up the scenery as Abstergo head Alan Rikkin – check out his evil voicemail I recorded back in December below – and Marion Cotillard will be joining the present day crew. Also on board is Brendan Gleeson and his son Brian, but it’s unclear whether they’ll be in the past or present day. Joining Aguilar as fellow Assassin Maria is Spanish actress Ariane Labed. We don’t know much about her character, but we do know she’s got some great facial tattoos to match Aguilar’s.
So, who is Justin Kurzel? Kurzel came immediately from last year’s excellent Macbeth into working on Assassin’s Creed and he brought his stars, Fassbender and Cotillard along for the ride. Prior to Macbeth – which made Shakespeare even bloodier and cooler than ever – Kurzel directed intense drama Snowtown.
In a breath of fresh non-popcorn scented air, Kurzel’s definitely no Michael Bay. He focuses on characters, themes and drama. If he can bring that to Assassin’s Creed without losing any of the excitement, he might just bring a heart to what could previously have just been a leap of faith from one sword fight to another. With his desire to shoot as much as possible without green screen, this really could be, as Fassbender recently told The Wall Street Journal, “something special.”