Early looks at the upcoming videogame adaptation Assassin’s Creed might give the appearance that the film is an adventure set in the distant past, but all might not be what it seems. Star Michael Fassbender tells Empire that he doesn’t go to fantasy while thinking about the movie – he goes to more modern science-fiction fare.
“The idea of DNA memory elevates it from a basic fantasy genre [piece], because you have something an audience can actually believe in,” Fassbender said. “I’ve always thought about The Matrix when we’ve approached this.”
In the game franchise on which the film is based, the concept of DNA memory is the crux of the series’ overarching narrative. Each game puts players in the shoes not of a historical assassin, but a modern-day character reliving that person’s memories with advanced technology (it makes more sense than it sounds like – sort of). It’s a framing device that’s kind of hit and miss – the first few games of the series are notorious for having the player control a distinct modern-day character who is also kind of an annoying bummer, while newer games have been content to posit that the player themselves are the ones reliving memories using a virtual interface (aka “playing a videogame”) – but it’s one that developer Ubisoft has stuck with through the entire franchise, so it’s not surprising that it’s a focal point of the adaptation.
Assassin’s Creed focuses on a man named Callum Lynch (Fassbender), who is able to relive the genetic memories of his ancestor from the 15th century, Aguilar, with the use of a device called the Animus. Aguilar was part of a secret order of Assassins, and was caught up in their centuries-long war with the Templars. His memories are integral to helping Lynch take on Abstergo Industries, the modern-day corporate face of the villainous group.
It’s possible that this is the first time anyone’s ever compared Ubisoft’s sprawling videogame franchise – now about 10 games deep since it first launched in 2007 – with the Wachowskis’ 1999 magnum opus. Still, the comparison isn’t totally off-base – both broadly focus on people using wild technology to dive into virtual(ish) worlds and perform impossible feats to fight back against a sinister status quo most people aren’t even aware of. One has octopus robots, one has digitized survivors of the species who ruled the world before humanity trying to return to the physical space and conquer the planet. Not so different, indeed.
Assassin’s Creed opens Dec. 21, and also stars Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams and Ariane Labed.