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Michael Fassbender Explains the ASSASSIN’S CREED Movie’s Changes from the Game

Movies adapted from video games have a reputation for being… well, terrible. (Need I remind you of Super Mario Bros.?) But Assassin’s Creed is hoping to break that curse, and they certainly have a pretty good shot at it. Just ask Michael Fassbender, who serves not just as the film’s star but also one if its producers, and who was on hand along with other members of the cast at a recent press day in New York City to answer all of Nerdist’s burning AC questions.

For the uninitiated, Assassin’s Creed is about a war between the Templars, an evil organization that’s been controlling the world from the shadows since the Crusades, and the Assassins, a band of hooded outlaws who thwart them at every turn. Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is descended from Assassins, but doesn’t know it until he’s kidnapped by Abstergo Industries, the Templar’s modern day front, and forced to relive the past life of his ancestor: 15th century Spanish assassin Aguilar de Nerha.

One of the most obvious changes from the source material is the design of the Animus, the machine that Abstergo uses to induce past life regressions in their subjects. Rather than the Matrix-style chair we see in the games, it’s now a giant arm that descends from the ceiling and hooks onto Callum’s back, so that he’s free to maneuver around and do all the same rad parkour moves that Aguilar does in real time.

Fassbender says, “We always wanted that connection between Cal and Aguilar, so Cal is learning in present day through the Animus from his ancestor and realizing that he belongs to this lineage. So it was important that we had that physical connection. That was one of the reasons why we changed the animus. We didn’t want Cal to be an inert passenger on the journey while Aguilar is reliving it.”

Assassin's Creed

In that same vein, the film spends much more time within in that present day framing device than fans would probably expect. While Assassin’s Creed has dabbled with modern protagonists in the past (Desmond Miles, you are gone but not forgotten), the overwhelming majority of your time is spent exploring the past lives of other Assassins. Because who cares about the real world when you’re literally climbing the Roman Colosseum?

However, that just wasn’t going to work on the big screen, according to Fassbender. “A video game is a video game and a film is a film,” he said. “So obviously as a player you decide where you go in the regression, and the fun is in the regression. But who’s the person sitting in the chair?”

To that end, the film is just as much about introducing Cal to the world of Assassins as it is about his Spanish ancestor, Aguilar—about “60/40” in favor of Cal, as a matter of fact, per Fassbender.

“It’s new to [him], and for people who haven’t played the game, it’s going to be new to them too,” Fassbender said. “It’s fine for gamers to come in if they have all this backstory, but we also wanted to service people that hadn’t seen it, and we felt like this was a good way to do it.”

Of course, there was a practical reason, too; it gives audiences a break from the scenes in which Aguilar and his Assassin buddies aren’t speaking English. “To have the whole movie subtitled in Spanish might be a bit of a stretch,” Fassbender said.

Assassin's Creed

Focusing on the modern day Templars also gives the film a chance to hang out with Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) a scientist working for Abstergo Labs to “find a cure for violence.”

“She doesn’t so this for power or recognition,” Cotillard said of her character. “She doesn’t do this for money. There is something more mysterious about her. You don’t really know much about her past. You can feel that she doesn’t have any relationships, with family or lovers, besides the relationships she has in her work, and that her life is entirely dedicated to what she does.“

That includes even Sophia’s father and the CEO of Abstergo, Alan Rikkin, who’s played by Jeremy Irons. “When he got on board, I called [director] Justin [Kurzel] and said, ‘Should I work on my accent more? I hadn’t planned to work on a very British accent,’” she noted. “And he said, ‘Well, maybe not, maybe that’s gonna add to the mystery, and we’ll wonder whether or not he raised her.’”

Jeremy Irons came much later to the project than everyone else. So much so that the part was rewritten for him when he signed on, which he only did so because of the existing crew’s impressive credentials. Director Justin Kurzel, also worked with both Fassbender and Cotillard on last year’s Macbeth.

“Video game movies don’t have a great history for being fantastic movies,” Irons said, “but when I saw that they were on board, I thought that maybe this will be a little different. And maybe this will be the movie based on a video game which actually stands on its own two feet and runs like hell, and gives the audience a great time.”

When he finally saw the finished product seven months later, he was thrilled. “I thought, this is one hell of a movie. It’s great on many, many, many levels.” Is that a pun on past life regressions? We sure hope so.

Are you looking forward to the Assassin’s Creed movie? Let us know in the comments!

Featured Image: 20th Century Fox

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