A videogame movie from the team that brought you Macbeth. It may not seem a likely combo, but Assassin’s Creed will benefit from Michael Fassbender and director Justin Kurzel’s bash at the Bard. They know how to be respectful but not slavish to source material – something that should help enormously adapting Ubisoft’s epic sci-fi period adventure.
“For us it’s been about the story,” says Kurzel, on set in Valetta, Malta, for a sequence where Fassbender and co-star Ariane Labed are due to be burnt at the stake by the Spanish Inquisition. “We’re trying to make it feel as though the assassin’s creed exists and the world exists. That’s the beauty about the game – it’s not fantasy, all the periods in which the assassins go back in their memories are all real and historically correct – this is the real inquisition.”
The period sequences are, as fans of the game franchise will of course know, intercut with a contemporary story where the modern Fassbender has been trapped by an eeeevil corporation (topped by fellow Macbeth alumnus Marion Cottilard) and sent back by mystery machine the Animus to relive the memories of his ancestor, a member of a secretive society of assassins. Thanks to the same technology that unlocks genetic memories, he’s able to amass knowledge and acrobatic skills, which will come in handy since he has to take on the centuries-old Templar organisation in the present day. It sounds complicated, but if you imagine The Matrix, except with knives, lots of knives, then you’re halfway there.
“I’ve always thought about The Matrix when we’ve approached this,” recalls Fassbender. “This idea of DNA memory elevates it from a basic fantasy genre [piece], because you have something an audience can actually believe in. Then the journey becomes so much more elevated, because you’re on board in a different way.”
In-keeping with the both influences and source material, it won't surprise you to hear that the film also promises in-camera stunts so spectacular they’ll have even your retinas rubbing their eyes. “Old-school” is the word Fassbender’s using. “There’s very little green screen in this, which is highly unusual in these films,” he stresses. “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.”
“In a sense you do treat it like it’s a period film,” injects Kurzel, “But with these wonderful contemporary elements of parkouring and martial arts.”
Assassin's Creed is released on 26 December.