Posted on Thursday, May 12th, 2016 by Jacob Hall
The first trailer for Assassin’s Creed arrived late last night, so you know what that means – it’s time for a trailer breakdown, where we go through this whole batch of footage frame-by-frame and talk about what we find. I’m approaching this as a casual fan of the video game franchise. I’ve played a few and I’ve enjoyed them. I’m also approaching this as someone who thinks Michael Fassbender and Justin Kurzel making a video game adaptation is just plain fascinating. These are not the kind of people who half-ass their movies. There is no way this is just another lousy video game movie…right?
Anyway, let’s climb a tall tower and dive into this trailer…
Ah, a city skyline filled with fog. Take it in, ladies and gentlemen…this is going to be a very familiar image throughout this entire trailer.
Here’s our first look at one of two protagonists in Assassin’s Creed, Callum Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender. This isn’t Fassbender’s first time at the Glossy Studio Tentpole rodeo (he does play Magneto in the X-Men movies, after all), but this is a film in which he’s taken a special interest. In addition to playing the two leads, he’s a producer on the film and that title is, by all accounts, not some kind of honorary title. For better or worse, this is the movie series he’s decided to put all of his weight behind. I bring all of this up because Fassbender looks like his usual intense self in this footage. It certainly doesn’t look like he’s phoning this one in.
Here’s our first look at Marion Cotillard as Sophia Rikkin, a scientist at Abstergo Industries (more on them in a moment) and daughter of Alan Rikkin, the company’s CEO. This is very much a reunion for Fassbeder and Cotillard, who previously starred in 2015’s Macbeth…which was helmed by Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel. It seems that everyone liked working with each other the first time around…
The trailer quickly reveals the basics of Callum’s backstory and it’s a bit of a departure from previous lead characters in the Assassin’s Creed series. Callum Lynch is a career criminal who faces execution, only for his death to be faked by Abstergo and his still-very-much-alive body transported to one of their facilities. This means he has a penchant for violence (and possibly a dark history to atone for), which hasn’t always been present in previous video game storylines.
Naturally, Callum isn’t alone in Abstergo’s prison, which has been re-imagined as…a foggy environment filled with trees? It’s a far cry from the very white, very sterile environments I remember from the early games. In any case, it’s a striking image and an indication that the film will diverge from the source material in ways both minor and major.
That is the logo for Abstergo Industries, a multinational corporation that acts as a front for the Templar Order, a secret society that has attempted to create a “perfect world” for thousands of years. Naturally, their idea of a perfect world involves controlling people and dominating governments and they’re pretty much bad news for just about everyone. They are lifelong enemies with the Assassins, who we’ll meet soon enough.
And this is the point in the trailer where Marion Cotillard is tasked with explaining the genuinely bizarre and entirely implausible technology that this entire series hinges upon. Even coming from her, it sounds ludicrous – using some wacky technology, they can allow people to access their “genetic memories” and relive the lives of their ancestors. Naturally, Abstergo wants to use this tech to learn more about their enemies and their past history and Callum just so happens to be descended from a long line of Assassins. The games never really try to explain how this science could possibly work and they shouldn’t. Any explanation would just come off as silly. It’s best to just roll with it and accept that this is how Assassin’s Creed justifies its blend of science fiction and historical action.
The trailer offers one quick glimpse of the great Jeremy Irons as Alan Rikkin, the CEO of Abstergo and the father of Cotillard’s character. While the bulk of the characters in Assassin’s Creed were created specifically for the film (which is intended to be a companion piece to the games, not an adaptation), Rikkin is a holdover from the video game, having appeared in the first Assassin’s Creed video game. He looked nothing like this in the game, but c’mon, little things like that don’t matter when you can get Jeremy freakin’ Irons in your movie.
Here’s our first glimpse at a hidden blade, the go-to weapon for Assassins that anyone familiar with the games will know all too well. This retractable weapon is strapped to the forearm, where it can be hidden by clothing, and can be released moments before you’re prepared to strike. It seems that this particular hidden blade has survived to modern times and is being strapped to Callum Lynch for reasons unknown. Then again, the whole process of re-enacting the past seems to be far more literal in this film than it was in the games.
For example, take how the film has reimagined the Animus, the device that allows a user to access their genetic memories in the first place. The video game version is little more than a chair or table hooked up to a computer. You sit down, get plugged in, and essentially dream your way into the past. It appears to be a far more, uh, active process in the film, with the user gripped by a giant robotic arm that allows for complete movement as they explore the lives of their ancestors. Perhaps this is why Callum is wearing those hidden blades – to better connect him to the experience he’s having in his mind. Plus, it essentially transforms Callum into a gamer, a cheeky nod to the movie’s origins.
Hey, another foggy city skyline shot! Complete with a hawk! While the first portion of the trailer took a hard turn away from the modern day aesthetics of the video game, this is where the movie begins to strongly resemble its electronic counterpart. This kind of imagery is the series’ bread and butter.
It wouldn’t be Assassin’s Creed unless a substantial amount of time was spent of roofs. A large percentage of any given Assassin’s Creed game is spent performing all manners of activities on roofs and this trailer does not disappoint in that department.
And that brings us to our first look at Fassbender’s other character in the film, Aguilar de Nehra, an Assassin living and working and killing in 15th century Spain. Fassbender gets shaggy hair, a scruffy beard, a cool hooded robe and a face tattoo for this portion of the movie, just in case you were wondering which part of the story was probably more fun to shoot. This is also where the rathe unfortunate use of a Kanye West track begins, but let’s not dwell on that.