'Assassin's Creed' movie: What we know
From its massive sets to its daring stunts, here's the latest news on one of the biggest video game film adaptations ever created.
On Dec. 21, 2016, after four long years of development, the video game world of "Assassin's Creed" will finally come to life on the silver screen.
Directed by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel and produced by Israeli Arnon Milchan, the legendary Hollywood producer behind the Oscar-winning "The Revenant," the time-traveling adventure film hopes to make the successful leap from video game to full-fledged movie franchise.
"We’re striving to find something special," star Michael Fassbender told Entertainment Weekly. "We believe the whole concept around it is special and want to service that the best we can. The fans are really passionate: very specific and they expect accuracy and historical detail. We’re really trying to capitalize and feed on and enjoy the fun element."
Below are a handful of the ways "Assassin's Creed" is shaping up to be one of the best film adaptations of a video game in years.
A promising, action-packed trailer
The latest promo for "Assassin's Creed" is not only its best, but also quite possible one of the best trailers of the year. It's clear from both the action and, dare we say it, promising character development, that Fassbender and Co. have gone out of their way to deliver a film rich in both. For anyone who has ever played the video game franchise, there are so many elements revealed – from the Amicus to the "bleeding effect" – to raise hopes and get us excited for December 21st.
“I believe you are destined for great things,” English actor and "Batman v Superman" star Jeremy Irons says in the trailer. We're starting to think the same about this franchise.
A commitment to real special effects
From the onset, director Justin Kurzel was adamant about filming as much of "Assassin's Creed" as possible without relying on green screens and computer-generated imagery.
"We're shooting a lot with real people, in real locations, on top of real churches with real light," Kurzel told Digital Spy. "We're building a lot of the sets to make the game [become] something that is real and cinematic."
This commitment to practical effects included hundreds of authentically dressed extras, massive sets, and death-defying stunts. As shown in the video above, one action sequence in particular involved a stuntman for Michael Fassbender free-falling 125 feet into an inflatable pad. By Hollywood standards, the jump was the highest by a stunt person in 35 years.
"There’s very little green screen in this, which is highly unusual in these films," Fassbender told Empire. "We have stunt guys jumping across buildings in [Maltese capital] Valletta. We’ve got [stunt man Damian Walters] doing a 120-foot leap of faith, without any rope, into a bag, so it’s pretty incredible to see."
Get ready to experience cinematic 'Eagle Vision'
Eagle Vision, a kind of sixth sense featured in the video game that enables assassins to pick out targets in a crowd, will also make its big-screen debut. According to Kurzel, leaving out that aspect of the "Assassin's Creed" world would have been noticeable to fans.
"I don’t think you can ignore the eagle point of view in the game,” he told Nerdist. "I think the notion and the idea of these Assassins having the skills or sensitivity of an eagle and the whole notion of the leap of faith and flight and eagle vision … There’s certain aspects of just the character that we tried to work into rather than kind of copy certain sequences within the game."
According to production designer Andy Nichols, Eagle Vision will also be used to introduce certain scenes.
"That plays a part of coming into and out of a regression in places. It gets used throughout the movie," he told IGN. "Birds and eagles are a constant presence, and certainly when some of the introductions to scenes are shot it’s from an eagle’s point of view."
Intended as a trilogy
Should "Assassin's Creed" resonate with audiences, Fassbender has revealed that plans are already in motion for two additional films.
"We've very strong ideas about what we're going to do in the second one and then not as strong but a definite rough outline for the third," he told Digital Spy. "We're already working on number two – we'll see how the first one does, though."
Whatever Fassbender and Co. come up with, you can expect it to be canon with the video game universe built by Ubisoft studios. Much like Naughty Dog creative director Neil Druckmann, an Israeli-American rising star in the gaming industry, is helping to consult on the forthcoming "Uncharted" film, Ubisoft is happily doing the same.
“We share the same universe," Aymar Azaïzia, Head of Assassin’s Creed Content at Ubisoft, tweeted last summer. "Elements in the film have consequences as in our games, comics and books.”
In an effort to capture the look of the old-world weapons familiar to gamers, Ubisoft gave production armorer Tim Wildgoose a giant cache of digital assets from the franchise. Wildgoose and his team then referenced these virtual items to craft their own real-world armory. In the end, 3,000 weapon props were created.
“Although we’re designing the weapons ourselves,” Wildgoose told Entertainment Weekly, “there are certain things you have to stick to – the way the wrist blades work. In that sense, we were going the Ubisoft reference as a design guide. At the same time, there are assassins from the games in the film as well. In some cases, we could directly copy the Ubisoft weapons onto their characters.”
The voice of Ezio Auditore da Firenze would love to cameo
Roger Craig Smith, the American voice actor who played popular Italian assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze in the game franchise, would love a shot at appearing even briefly in the film version.
"I would love to make a cameo like that," he told NerdReactor. "In fact, I think that is every voice actor's dream. If they have ever done a character that gets transferred to the big screen, it’s like I’d like to be the character who gets stabbed in the back. Just give me one little thing."
And speaking of past assassins, its been revealed that while favorites like Ezio are out, the movie will not be completely devoid of characters from the games. “They’re not main characters from the games, but they’re very famous characters that the fans will probably enjoy,” Wildgoose hinted.
The present day will have a starring role
While most of the action in the "Assassin's Creed" games takes place in the past, the film adaptation will be flipping that script completely.
According to executive producer Patrick Crowley, only about 35 percent of the "Assassin's Creed" film will take place in the 15th century. The rest will take place in the 21st century at Abstergo Industries, home to the high-tech "Animus" that enables Fassbender's character to travel back in time through his genetic memories. Fans used to seeing the Animus as a chair are in for something completely different with the film.
"We just didn’t want to have something where I sit into a seat," Fassbender told ScreenRant of the new, claw-like Animus. "Number one, we’ve seen it before in 'The Matrix'. And it’s also just not a very dramatic experience when we’re doing the modern day version of the regression. We wanted to have something where the character is actually physically involved in it."
According to sources, Ubisoft has been so impressed with this new take on the Animus that they've hinted at incorporating its design into future games.
The Animus unveiled
After months of hints and tantalizing glimpses, the high-tech Animus that transports Fassbender's character back through the centuries has finally been revealed. According to the actor, the concept of the Animus was an attractive element of his decision to take on "Assassin's Creed."
"I thought 'wow, this is really fascinating'," he told the Sydney Morning Herald. "This concept of DNA memory, genetic memory, it seemed to be something like what people call a sixth sense or instinct. This knowledge and experience that we have passed down from our ancestors to us."
While the virtual reality technology in the film certainly looks incredible, the way its "attaches" to its host doesn't exactly seem the most pleasant experience. For now, we'll just stick with taking on the Empire or soaring like an eagle with traditional, more comfortable, VR headsets.
Not a superhero film
Because Fassbender's face is seen in nearly every fight, the actor was challenged to learn several different fighting styles to pull off the moves of a 15th-century assassin. (Photo: Assassin's Creed)
In a departure from the unending parade of superhero films hitting theaters, Fassbender and Kurzel wanted their film to be more grounded in reality.
"'Assassin's Creed' is about human feat, not about superheroes – so it was, 'How can we celebrate what is possible?' We're hoping to have that flavor flow through the film," Kurzel told Digital Spy.
To bring a greater sense of realism to the more physical scenes, Kurzel ignored the "quick-cut" technique of so many other action films in favor of allowing the fights to play out in front of a single camera. Adding to ComingSoon.net, he said: "We’re just trying not to cheat as much."
According to stunt coordinator Ben Cook, this honest and grounded filmmaking presented Fassbender with a physical challenge to make the audience believe he could be a 15th-century, acrobatic fighting machine.
“He has to be involved in everything because we have to see his face,” he told IGN. “The audience is now savvy. You can’t trick them, so you have to include a lot of training and the sort of stuff that’s involved with doing it on location.”
Lots of long, unbroken takes
If you've watched Season 1 of HBO's crime drama "True Detective," you might remember a certain episode that featured a stunning six-minute unbroken tracking shot. That work of art came courtesy of Adam Arkapaw, an Australian cinematographer who is also behind the camera for "Assassin's Creed." Apparently keen to take advantage of Arkpaw's unique talents, the producers built a massive Abstergo set at London's Pinewood Studios that connects flawlessly from one piece to another.
With Kurzel not a fan of the quick cut, chances are we can expect some long, lingering tracking shots from Arkapaw throughout the film.
'Star Wars' kept the production timing honest
While some films have the luxury of taking longer than expected, "Assassin's Creed" had no such favor. Filming at Pinewood had to wrap and the set completely dismantled by Nov. 17, 2015, to make way for the start of production on "Star Wars: Episode VIII."
According to Fassbender, the sci-fi adventure, spearheaded by American director Rian Johnson and prolific Israeli producer Ram Bergman, is more black and white than the world of "Assassin's Creed."
"What I liked about it is it’s not like "Star Wars" where you have the Dark Side and the Light," he told Den of Geek. "Both of these factions, they contradict each other all the time; they contradict themselves all the time, and they’re hypocritical of their beliefs… So morally, you have a very gray area that they are working in, and I thought that was unusual for this sort of type of film."
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