With less than six weeks before the premiere of the Assassin’s Creed movie, Fox invited journalists to London to watch the first 20 minutes of the upcoming blockbuster, talk to stars Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and interview director Justin Kurzel. Hot on the heels of the new trailer, I was anxious to get a sneak peek. Will Ubisoft crack the game-to-movie curse?
When asked whether the fate of previous game adaptations had affected his decision to take on the project, Fassbender said, “When I decide to go for something, I’m involved 110%. There’s no room for hesitation… I thought about the project, and was very much engaged by the concept… You know everything is a failure until it’s not.”
While equally excited about the project, Cotillard admits to not being a gamer. She does, however, seem surprised when asked if the film will appeal to non-gamers. “I never played the game. I just read the script, and the connection to your ancestors, going back in time, the concept of the Animus… you definitely don’t need to have played the game to love this film.”
Careful not to spoil anything, Cotillard says she was also attracted to the project by her character, Dr. Sophia Rikkin, who is “definitely not the typical movie scientist,” as well as the themes of ancestry and the impact a father figure can have. We know that both Callum and Sophia’s journeys are heavily influenced by their fathers – who, in Sophia’s case, is played by the generally epic Jeremy Irons.
The man charged with tying this all together is the film’s director, Justin Kurzel. “Ubisoft was very generous and took me through all of the Assassin’s [Creed] games, where I discovered the origins of the franchise,” Kurzel says. “But after that, Ubisoft was clear and said, ‘now you have to investigate this story’s identity as a film.’ … I hadn’t played the game before getting involved in this project, but all of sudden, all the strong imagery I had seen learning about the game, it all started coming together.”
But what about the fans?
“I hope the fans see that we’ve respected what Assassin’s Creed is, but also I want them to be excited about the fact that this is a film,” Kurzel adds. “It’s a new story with new characters. They deserve to see us reaching for something new and different so they can have a new experience.”
Something Justin comes back to is the desire to “make this film for real.” Elaborating, he says that “there is very little green screen, and the practical effects were done with some of the best parkour athletes, slackliners, and Michael himself.” While he’s proud of what the film accomplishes, Kurzel says “it was fucking hard … especially seeing your lead actor 100 feet up in the air on a wire.”
After Kurzel’s immersion into the franchise, layering the Assassin vs. Templar war over history’s largest turning points became a major point of inspiration. “I thought I knew about the Spanish Inquisition, but I sure do now, and it’s a pretty fascinating time in history,” Kurzel says. “I think I’m pretty attracted to free will and free thought, freedom to question, freedom to use imagination… they are at the cornerstone of what it means to be a human being. The times we live in, more so than any other, these qualities should be really cherished, and great things can come out of them. Of course, these things can go extreme, which is what is really interesting about these ideologies [Templar, Assassin] and this film.”
When the lights came back on in the 20th Century Fox screening room, I felt as though I had been violently desynchronized. 20 minutes in the world of the Assassin’s Creed movie. and I had totally forgotten that, like you, I have to wait until December 21 to see how it all plays out. Frankly, I can’t wait.