The first trailer for Michael Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed movie premiered last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live. The two minutes of new footage are already online, ready to be picked apart by eager video game fans either excited to see their beloved franchise brought to life, or at the very least desperate for it not to fall into the dark pit of video game adaptations of the past.
It’s not the most unlikely franchise to be chosen for adaptation, with the game’s sweeping historic visuals and character-driven plots almost tailor made for the big screen treatment. Yet like many video games, it’s also not a perfect fit. Several changes have already been noted between the trailer and the game’s original content (including a dark black suit for Michael Fassbender’s character instead of the series’ trademark white) and it’s doubtful that the fullness of the franchise’s lore will be able to make it into a movie’s tight two hour runtime.
In order to avoid confusion between mediums, the Justin Kurzel directed film will be an original story independant of the games, but the glimpse we get from the trailer points towards strong ties with the first game’s present-day arc, while likely taking the majority of its imagery in the Spanish Inquisition time period from the vastly popular sequel Assassin’s Creed II. The official plot synopsis names Fassbender’s character as Callum Lynch:
Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.
One of the first things I noticed about the trailer was the music. Assassin’s Creed as a videogame franchise is almost as well known for Jasper Kyd’s beautiful scores in the first four games as it is its historical architecture or beloved stealth mechanics. The electronic beats and Kanye West don’t exactly fit together properly in that regard, and were honestly a bit distracting when trying to get into the proper context of an assassin in the Spanish Inquisition. Luckily, trailer music isn’t always indicative of a movie’s final product, though it can have a big impact on the audience a film is marketed towards. The actual film is going to be scored by Jed Kurzel, who composed the ominous electric/acoustic score for 2015’s Macbeth and definitely knows how to build tension while remaining in a period-esque setting.
While we can only guess at the nature of Fassbender’s Callum Lynch, we have also finally gotten a good view of Marion Cotillard as well as Jeremy Irons within the trailer. Both seem to be inhabiting roles which are at least analogous to Lucy Stillman and Warren Vidic, employees of Abstergo Industries. These are characters who are inventors of the Animus, and are the first to introduce Desmond Miles, the franchise’s original protagonist, into the realm of Assassin’s Creed for the first time. Many players expressed frustration at the present day sequences of the actual video games, claiming that they took them out of the experience and didn’t provide nearly enough gameplay to back up their lore. How this might be received in a film where all sections are equally non-interactive remains to be seen.
While I thought the ongoing storyline of the modern Assassins vs. Templars conflict was fascinating lore, it’s also a plot that has its roots firmly within the video game medium, with the main character technically “playing a video game” himself while in the Animus, and thus allowing for video game tropes to exist within the game with full immersion. Whether this concept will work or actually be fully realized within the film remains to be seen. We already know the Animus has taken on a drastically different form in its cinematic incarnation, so there are bounds to be several changes to its function as well.
One thing we are aware of is that the film is going to translate much of the game’s famed rooftop running and climbing mechanics into intense parkour action sequences. If anything, that’s what average moviegoers are going to want from this franchise: fight scenes and parkour. If the film is able to achieve those expectations, it may not be groundbreaking, but hopefully an entertaining watch that will entertain fans and maybe even bring a new audience into the series.
At the very least, we know that 20th Century Fox and Regency are committed to this film, as the inclusion of a female assassin in the trailer definitely doubled the movie’s budget.
The Assassin’s Creed movie releases December 21, 2016.