For all of those who remember rushing home from school, plopping in that decrepit Xbox 360 disc with their name smudged on it in some dried up sharpie, and hunting down Templar scum, Michael Fassbender's new Assassin's Creed movie is pure, unadulterated nerd bait. But, how well does Fassbender's new gem of a film pair up with the storyline of the original Ubisoft game series that we've spent so much time adoring? Let's take a look at some of the differences between the two.
SPOILER ALERT. PROCEED AT YOUR OWN RISK.
In Fassbender's recent action flick, he plays the role of Cal Lynch, a troubled man with a dark past and even darker ancestry. Lynch plays the same role in the story's progression as that of Desmond Miles in the Ubisoft franchise; a pawn plucked from the real world and used for his DNA by the juicily malevolent conglomerate Abstergo Industries. This, the science behind the genetic machine the "Animus", and the use of the Templar coveted Apple of Eden relic are about the only similarities the game and film share (aside from our dearly beloved "Leap of Faith"). A fan of the game series myself, I spent a lot of time during the movie nitpicking what Fassbender (who also produced the film) and director Justin Kurzel did differently for the film adaption. One main thing stuck out for me.
Where is Altaïr?
Even though I find Assassin's Creed III to be my favorite of the game series, the absence of the first game's main character, Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad, seemed pretty unjust at first. After all, playing as Altaïr was the first time all of us were able to learn the ancient ways of the Assassins and his outfit is still the most popular among Assassin cosplayers (I think. I don't know. It better be). In the film, Altaïr's character and Middle-Eastern Third Crusade time period are replaced by one Aguilar de Nerha during the Spanish Inquisition in the Spanish province of Andalusia. The location and time period weren't as noticeable of a change as the scrapping of Altaïr, but players of the game will definitely realize early on that both Desmond Miles and the beloved Altaïr are totally nonexistent in the film, which is nearing blasphemy.
Also, we see that in the film more time is spent on the development of the real world situation as opposed to in the game, where the bulk of the player's time was spent playing through the eyes of Altaïr. The film definitely focuses more on Lynch's struggle rather than de Nerha's resulting in a lack of development on why the Assassins are the way they are. So, not only did we lose both Desmond Miles and Altaïr, we received a shortage of Assassin ass-kicking, which, let's be honest, is why all of us love Assassin's Creed to begin with.
It's All So Fast
Another thing I noticed that rubbed me the wrong way, was the rushed storyline of Marion Cotillard's character Dr. Sophia Rikkin. In the film, Cotillard plays the role of "hot doctor" that Kristen Bell voiced for us back in 2007 (Yes, that Kristen Bell. She can do no wrong). Bell's character, Dr. Lucy Stillman, and Rikkin at first seem to share a similar construct until it is revealed that Rikkin is the daughter of Abstergo executive Dr. Alan Rikkin (played by our lord and savior, Jeremy Irons). This directly makes Sophia Rikkin an antagonist of the Assassins as Abstergo is the real world incarnation of the Templar Knights, sworn enemies of the Assassins. In the game, Bell's character is revealed to be a mole for the Assassins and actually helps Desmond to escape Abstergo. Although Bell's character defects to the Templar in the later games anyway, her rushed placement on their side came as a bit of a shock. Especially when Lucy Stillman's switch-up is arguably one of the best twists in gaming history.
Another unexpected route the film took was the introduction of multiple Assassin descendants. In the games, Abstergo only ever used Desmond Miles as a key to unlocking the secrets of the past. In the film, Cal Lynch isn't the only one being held in the clutches of Abstergo. Even Lynch's father is being used for Templar gain. The introduction of multiple Assassin descendants is a logical one however. The Assassins of old obviously would have had more than one descendant throughout time. And that's when I realized that...
This Is All Okay
Although, the absence of Altaïr and Miles came as an injustice at first, I realized something by the end of the movie. All of the things I loved most about Assassin's Creed were effervescently present. There were beautifully choreographed fight scenes (including a non-CGI infested horseback chase), plenty of nail bitingly impressive parkour, they kept the Assassin's hidden blade, and they even made the Leap of Faith out to be the huge deal that it was in the game. Oh! And the eagle. They kept the eagle. That's important.
All of these things made me realize that we are entirely too selfish sometimes as fans. Filmmaking is a painstakingly precise and difficult process to manage, much more so than a video game or a book series (although I'll never forgive 20th Century Fox for that dumpster fire of an Eragon movie). Kurzel and Fassbender gave us a different storyline, sure, but they stayed very true to the core elements of the game we all know and love. As fans, we want everything to be perfect down to the last detail, but the reality is that perfect isn't achievable. And sometimes we need to take a step back and be grateful. As fans, it's hard accepting that the stories we fall in love with can be interpreted in different ways other than the one we envision it to be. We need to remember to always look for what's given to us by the creators that work hard to entertain our poor vegged out brains rather than what they choose to leave out. What we got was a spectacularly fluid film with gorgeous visuals, convincing performances by an all star cast, crazy good fight scenes, and I mean, are we just going to ignore that major upgrade to the Animus?
In summation, if you're a fan of the original game series, remember to be grateful when you see the film. Don't be afraid to enjoy a good flick because it's not a perfect adaption of the original context. We're too critical, too often. I myself will be purchasing the DVD as soon as it's available like a good Assassin's Creed fan. I might even dress up in my Altaïr garb when I go to get it.
Just kidding. I don't have an Altaïr outfit that I purchased online for $135.00 from Taiwan that I keep in mint condition.