For those who love action, adventure, history, open worlds and surviving leaps from improbably great heights, the Assassin's Creed games have it all. Featuring historical settings with a present-day sci-fi framing device, the franchise recently reached a pretty huge milestone, with 100 million games sold across the entire series.
This December, a movie based the Assassin's Creed games hopes to match that success. Directed by Justin Kurzel (Macbeth), Assassin's Creed stars Michael Fassbender as Death Row inmate Callum Lynch, who receives a stay of execution thanks to a company called Abstergo Industries (actually the modern front for the Knights Templar). Abstergo want to use Callum's DNA to unlock the secrets of his ancestors - the Assassins. It might sound like a bold plan, but Abstergo - led by researcher Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and her father, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) - possess a machine called the Animus, which unlocks genetic memory in order to create a highly realistic projection of the past.
20th Century Fox today unveiled the second full-length trailer for Assassin's Creed, featuring a mix of old and new footage and a plethora of interesting new details. Let's break them down.
1. New Logo
The first trailer for Assassin's Creed (released back in May 2016) featured a title screen with metallic letters and symbols against a black background, slightly tinted with red light - pretty serviceable, but Fox decided to try and improve upon it in the second trailer. Perhaps in an effort to differentiate Assassin's Creed from its immediate box office competitors - Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and the Chris Pratt/Jennifer Lawrence space travel sci-fi drama Passengers - the graphics cooked up for trailer #2 seem to lean heavily on the promise of bloody action. This new 300-esque logo is actually pretty interesting conceptually, tying together the ideas of history being written in blood and ink, though it does seem a little at odds with the color palette and tone of the film (from what we've seen so far). Still, perhaps it will work as a gambit to make casual moviegoers sit up a little straighter and pay attention.
2. Callum's Arrest
It's hard to make out exactly who is standing in the doorway during this sequence, but based on its context within the trailer it appears to show how Callum gets arrested. We still don't not what crimes he supposedly committed (or if, indeed, he committed them at all; Abstergo certainly wouldn't be above framing someone in order to take them off the grid), but he has the attitude of being resigned to his fate by the time he's called to his execution. Speaking to Screen Rant during our visit to the set of Assassin's Creed, Fassbender explained that Cal doesn't know he is an Assassin until the Templars catch him, and that he has spent his life "drifting in and out of correctional facilities." If this scene does indeed show Cal's arrest, the hooded outfit is probably just a bit of foreshadowing - after all, both Assassins and fugitives have reason to cover their faces.
3. Callum's Birthday
When the priest (or, more likely, an undercover Templar) comes to visit Cal in his cell, the walls are covered with ominous-looking drawings and scribblings, and it's revealed that Cal's execution day is also his birthday. There are a few famous historical figures that died on their birthday - William Shakespeare, Ingrid Bergman and George Washington Carver among them. The trailer doesn't make clear exactly when Cal's birthday is, but it could potentially be the same date as the movie's release - December 21st. According to a number of end-of-days theorists (stemming mostly from interpretations of the Mayan calendar), December 21st, 2012 was supposed to be the date of the apocalypse, and this belief was incorporated into the Assassin's Creed video game canon. In the games, the end of the world was prevented by means too complicated (and poorly written) to be explained succinctly. However, it would be a pretty cool nod to the source material if the date was incorporated into the movie.
Deadshot's declaration, "We're some kind of Suicide Squad" in the first trailer for Suicide Squad has quickly become a popular shorthand for awkwardly showhorning movie titles into trailers, but Jeremy Irons' Alan Rikkin just might have topped it in this trailer with his assertion that Cal's bloodline dates "back to the Assassin's Creed." The Assassin's Creed, for those unfamiliar with the games, isn't actually an object or a time or a place, but simply a code that the Assassins abide by. The key mantra of the Creed is "Nothing is true, everything is permitted," but there are a few specific rules followed by the Brotherhood: To avoid killing innocents, to reach their targets unseen, and to never compromise their fellow Assassins. Since the Creed far predates Cal's ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, Rikkin's statement doesn't really make much sense. But hey, at least they managed to get the movie title in there.
5. First Look at Abstergo Exterior
The trailer offers a first look at the Abstergo facility where Cal is taken after his mock-execution. The Templars have built their center of operations around a converted church in Madrid, which is why scenes in the facility feature a mix of modern concrete and glass, and very, very old architecture. The building is home to the Abstergo Foundation - the scientific branch of Abstergo that focuses on exploiting the potential of the Animus, and an interest in Aguilar's story may be why the Rikkins chose Madrid for their base of operations. Incidentally, the stadium visible in the background is Vicente Calderón Stadium, placing the Abstergo Foundation in the Arganzuela district, by the Manzanares river. The question of whether we'll see this exterior as anything more than an establishing shot remains unclear, but there are certainly hints that Cal won't stay trapped forever (more on that later).
6. Abstergo Facility Interior
The area that Cal runs through in his attempted flee is the main common area of the Abstergo Foundation. He is not the only "patient" under Abstergo's care, as the Templars have been acquiring Assassin descendants and combing through their DNA to uncover secrets for some time. This room includes hobby areas where patients can tend plants or do crafts, exercise machines, game tables, and even a fish tank - essentially, it's designed to keep them calm and occupied while under observation. The plaques on the walls contain cheerful Templar idioms such as "progress requires sacrifice." The scenes inside Abstergo's facility were all filmed at Pinewood Studios in London, and you can hear more details about this particular set in our set visit preview episode of Screen Rant podcast Total Geekall.
7. Animus Components
The Animus has been given a radical redesign in order to make it visually compelling for the movie (in the games, it's essentially just a reclined seat or bed that the subject lies on - not very exciting to look at). The science of Assassin's Creed is decidedly soft, but this trailer offers a more detailed look at some of the machinery that comprises the Animus. The components pictured on the left may be some kind of water-cooled hard drive (in the games, the Animus isn't actually new technology, but ancient alien technology, which would explain the odd appearance of this machinery). Meanwhile a ring of light projectors (pictured right) allow outside observers to see what is happening in the subject's visions of the past. The Animus connects to the subject via a probe in the back of their neck (Matrix style), and a huge mechanical arm lifts them and allows them to fully experience virtual reality by offering freedom of movement.
8. How the Animus Works
The previous trailer offered a few quick glimpses of the Animus in action, but trailer #2 gives us our best look yet at how Assassin's Creed has adapted the concept of the Animus to be visually interesting. One shot transitions from Aguilar leaping up the sides of buildings in 15th century Spain, to Cal executing the same move against an imaginary wall while suspended in air by the Animus. This shot also shows what observers can see around Cal while he is in the Animus: a shadowy vision of Aguilar's Assassin companion, along with other ghostly elements of his surroundings. Also of note is the fact that the Animus room is in one of the older parts of the Abstergo facility, raising the possibility that the Templars may have simply found the technology there and built their operation around it. However, this doesn't mean that the reclining Animus of the games does not exist in the movie's world...
9. An Older Animus Model
This may just be a fun Easter egg for fans, but visible in the background of this Animus scene is an old friend: the Animus 2.0, first introduced in the critically acclaimed second main series entry Assassin's Creed II. Both Kurzel and Fassbender have been hesitant to make any claims about Assassin's Creed existing in a shared universe with the video games (both boarded the project out of interest in the concept, rather than the franchise itself, and are not particularly familiar with the games). However, for fans who are looking for a connection between this movie and the stories they know, it could be argued that the presence of the Animus 2.0 means that the movie takes place in the same timeline as the games - just a little bit further along. Since this Animus isn't connected up to any of the computers, it's probably only in the room for display purposes.
10. The Bleeding Effect
The Animus might sound like the coolest virtual reality game console ever, but it's not without its side effects. Prolonged overuse of the Animus can cause subjects to have residual hallucinations that are part of what's called the "Bleeding Effect." These are usually early warning signs of more severe side effects, which can eventually cause subjects to fall into a coma or even die. In this shot, we see a ghostly vision of Aguilar striding through the Abstergo facility, and this isn't the first time we've seen Cal's ancestor in a modern setting, suggesting that the Bleeding Effect may get worse for him as the movie progresses. It's not all bad, though; the Bleeding Effect also causes subjects to retain muscle memory from their experiences in the Animus, which allows them to become adept at running, climbing, and fighting. Essentially, anything Cal's ancestor can do, Cal can do as well.
11. Assassin Weapons & Templar Shield
Screen Rant's visit to the set of Assassin's Creed included a tour of the weapons workshop, where weapons master Tim Wildgoose had overseen the production of countless replicas of weapons from the games - including the smoke bombs, mace, and pistols pictured above. Aguilar has his own signature weapon that was designed for the movie - an ornate crossbow, which was also available as a very expensive pre-order bonus for Assassin's Creed movie tickets. Pictured on the right is a shield with the signature cross pattée of the Templars, but interestingly it seems as though Rikkin has amassed a greater collection of Assassin artefacts than Templar artefacts. An overarching theme of the games is the idea that the Assassins and Templars aren't necessarily that different (or, at least, that their conflict isn't exactly black and white), so it makes sense that Rikkin might have developed a fascination with Assassin history.
12. Assassin Council Meeting
It's unclear whether this scene depicts in initiation ceremony or just a regular meeting of senior Assassins, but the elaborate ceremonial robes indicate that the former is more likely. Perhaps Cal's flashback journey will begin with Aguilar formally joining the Assassin Brotherhood. This would also be the perfect place for Assassin's Creed to drop in a cameo or two, since we know that several Assassins from the video games are set to appear in the movie. The character who would generate the most excitement, undoubtedly, is Ezio Auditore da Firenze - protagonist of Assassin's Creed II, Assassin's Creed Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed Revelations, and by far the most popular Assassin among fans. Ezio would have been alive at the time in which the movie is set, and could probably have made the trip from Italy to Spain with relative ease, especially if called to do so by his fellow Master Assassins.
Michael K. Williams has a long and respectable resumé that includes memorable roles in TV shows like The Wire and Boardwalk Empire, and movies such as Inherent Vice and 12 Years a Slave. In Assassin's Creed, he plays Moussa, another Abstergo "patient" whose Assassin ancestor was the leader of a voodoo cult and specialized in killing with poison. In fact, Moussa's ancestor is confirmed as being one of the Assassins from the video games: Baptiste, one of the assassination targets in Assassin's Creed Liberation. Baptiste was born some time after the Spanish Inquisition ended, so he won't have interacted with Aguilar, but he may be seen in Moussa's own Animus sessions. In this trailer, Moussa tells Cal that the other subjects are "watching you, waiting to see who you are." It seems as though the character will become a valuable ally for Cal, and may be crucial in persuading Abstergo's subjects to rise up against their captors. Which, we now know without question, they eventually do...
It turns out that having a lot of weapons on display while training a group of your enemies to be deadly with those same weapons may not be the best idea. This trailer shows many scenes of Cal and his fellow subjects turning against their captors - including Abstergo's head of security, played by Denis Ménochet (Inglourious Basterds). One shot from the trailer shows a bomb being used to stun Abstergo's guards, while another major fight scene takes place in the arena of the Animus room, with the Assassin subjects fighting off a large number of assailants. Still another shot shows Moussa running down a hallway being pursued by Abstergo security - perhaps making a break for the exit. Some might argue that the trailer gives away a little too much, since these scenes are pretty clearly from the final act of the movie, but we still don't know if the jailbreak will prove a success.
Little is known about Aguilar's partner Maria right now, but this trailer does reveal her deadly speciality: throwing knives. In two different shots Maria is shown taking out enemies with lethal precision using her knives, which have been part of the games' weapon array since the original Assassin's Creed was released in 2007. Maria is played by Ariane Labed, a Greek actress who appeared in Yorgos Lanthimos' widely acclaimed dark comedy film The Lobster, and more recently starred in French war drama Stopover. Speaking in an interview with Rama's Screen earlier this year, Labed said that she played Assassin's Creed in order to prepare for her role in the movie. The actress also said that both the cast and crew "worked really hard" to make the film faithful to the spirit of the games. Interestingly, a key character in the early Assassin's Creed games was also called Maria, though that character was separated from Labed's by many miles and a few centuries.
Did you spot any other interesting clues and details in this trailer? Let us know in the comments!
- Assassin's Creed (2016) release date: Dec 21, 2016