It’s been twenty-three years since the debut of the very first video game movie – Super Mario Bros. – and in that time there’ve been nearly forty more released in the US alone. And yet, despite the volume, there hasn’t been a single breakout hit among them. In terms of critical success, there’s none to be found, as the highest rated video game movie on Rotten Tomatoes is, to this day, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within with an unimpressive 44%.
But Assassin’s Creed is looking to change all that. The Michael Fassbender action vehicle features Academy Award-winners (Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons) and is being directed by Justin Kurzel, who did wonders with his adaptation of Macbeth, which also starred Fassbender and Cotillard.
Recently, we sat down to speak with Fassbender about Assassin’s Creed and the aforementioned video game movie curse, as well as his upcoming return to the world of Alien in next May’s Alien: Covenant.
So I’m sure you’re aware that video game movies don’t tend to be held up as great milestones in cinematic history. That being the case, why Assassin’s Creed? What made that different for you?
Michael Fassbender: I just thought it was a great universe. Also, to be honest with you, ignorance was bliss. I was kind of naive to that until…people like yourself were telling me it’s a cursed genre.
I just thought it was an incredible world. A very sophisticated, morally ambiguous world. I loved this sort of group – that you had two ideologies essentially sort of fighting it out for the future of humanity. You have the Templars on one side, who are this super powerful, wealthy secret society that are kind of running the world, and they believe in science and order. They also believe that some humans are more valuable than others and some should actually be enslaved. I was like, okay, interesting group of people there. And then the flipped are these guys called the Assassins, a brotherhood, a creed, that believes that free-will should be protected and maintained at all costs, for all peoples.
So I thought, okay, that’s two interesting ideologies there. Then there’s this concept of genetic memory. That within our DNA we hold the experience and knowledge of our ancestors. And that it’s given to us as sort of a survival tool to help us – yeah, survive, basically. Some people might call it a sixth sense or deja vu or instinct. But it’s kind of fun to think that it’s something in our genetic code passed down from our ancestors. I believe that’s pretty feasible.
And then you use this machine called the animus to access that genetic code to allow us to time travel and visit different episodes in history. For me, that just sounded like a movie there. When they explained to me, I thought, well, that’s going to translate very easily to the big screen.
In the movie, you play two different characters – Cal in the present and Aguilar in the past. Was there an attempt to really differentiate those characters? And if so, how’d you go about doing it?
Michael Fassbender: Well, Cal was going to be somebody that was going to have to go on a journey in terms of realizing who he was. So when we see him in the beginning, he’s on death row. In fact, he’s spent most of his life incarcerated. And he’s a very hardened sort of individual. Very cynical. Somebody who doesn’t really trust other people. The idea of sacrificing himself for something other than himself is out of the question. And it’s only through his experience in the animus and reliving the life of his ancestor Aguilar that he realizes that he does belong to something that’s greater than himself. He does have this lineage to this brotherhood. And that he is a leader and needs to sort of embrace it.
Whereas Aguilar is somebody who’s on a path from the beginning. It’s a very physical role, he doesn’t say a lot, he’s somebody who expresses himself through his actions. But he’s totally committed to the cause when we pick him up, when we meet him. And he’s prepared to sacrifice himself for it.
Alien: Covenant is debuting next year, in May. In the time since we last saw David, how has he changed and what can we expect from him?
Michael Fassbender: He’s done – you know, he’s been in space. [Been] doing some gardening. Getting to know the sort of aliens that live there…[Laughs] No, I mean, you know – he’s been left to his own devices a little bit. Some things have happened. He’s definitely a lot of fun. And Walter then, of course, is another introduction. I guess they realized there was kooky things about the David model, so they’ve done some rewiring.