Posted by Tom Sunderland @TomSunderland_
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Tom Sunderland

Geeks the world over may well have let out a shriek of excitement after it was announced in July 2012 that Michael Fassbender would take the lead role in an Assassin's Creed movie adaptation.

The German-born actor has developed a reputation as one of Hollywood's "it" men in recent years; he's that rare breed of all-action megastar who can hold his own in any role. In this case, not only is Fassbender starring, he's also producing, which means he had the power to bring in his Macbeth director, Justin Kurzel, and co-star Marion Cotillard.

"Someone point me to Professor X."
"Someone point me to Professor X."

What may not have excited fans of the video game series was the revelation that Fassbender had never played Assassin's Creed in his life prior to being handed the part.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly in December 2015, the 39-year-old said he had been coming to grips with Ubisoft's creation since being cast in the dual role of assassin Aguilar de Nerha and modern guy Callum Lynch in his modern-day persona:

I hadn’t played it before these guys approached me. I’ve played it since [being offered the job] mainly to get an idea of the physicality of the character. We’re striving to find something special. We believe the whole concept around it is special and want to service that the best we can. The fans are really passionate: very specific and they expect accuracy and historical detail. We’re really trying to capitalize and feed on and enjoy the fun element. We’re working hard to make this something special.

On one hand, that's a reason to feel anxious about Fassbender's approach to the role and whether or not he possesses the first-hand knowledge that may be interpreted as being somewhat crucial to a video game character.

On the other, many might agree an actor's lack of knowledge coming into a part can only augment their chances of pulling it off, having not been tainted by preconceptions of how they think it should be played.

A Blank Canvas

Fassbender now belongs among that same crowd of male actors who can step into just about any role and immediately generate intrigue and no small amount of anticipation about what they can bring to the table.

This is the same elite Tom Hardy has been in for a few years, and the very one that Leonardo Di Caprio has led since he was young.

By all means, Fassbender looks the part, and fans have been in a frenzy ever since the first images of him dressed in Aguilar's assassin garb were released to the internet.

"Do you think they'll see our cool tattoos before we kill them?"
"Do you think they'll see our cool tattoos before we kill them?"

What's refreshing about Fassbender's take on Assassin's Creed is that he doesn't appear very eager to make this film a great "video game" movie. He just wants to make a great movie, period.

Kermit in person.
Kermit in person.

Gamespot sat down with Fassbender in May of this year and quizzed him on the risk factor at play when taking on a video game role, considering adaptations of the genre have largely been a bust thus far in Hollywood. His response was calm, totally free of anxiety or pressure:

It's not really risky, considering somebody has got to do it right once. We figured the odds are stacked in our favour. [Laughs] It was just that time that I sat down with Ubisoft and they started to explain it to me. There's a lot of action-adventure films out there at the moment, but what was really unique about this one, what elevated it above other action-adventure fantasy films was the idea of DNA memories. It seems like a very plausible scientific theory, that we carry around in us the knowledge of our ancestors. That's how we know not to eat that berry, but eat this one. Certain things like when you enter a room and it's a dangerous one, the temperature drops and you feel something physically. That comes from, perhaps, knowledge from ancestors that's in our DNA. I thought that was really something that would take the audience on a more immersive journey.

The very fact Fassbender hadn't played any Assassin's Creed before his casting meant he hasn't been influenced in any way about what was right or wrong for the part of Aguilar.

Someone who grew up avidly reading Shakespeare might have gleaned their own opinion as to how Macbeth should look and sound and feel, but a newcomer to the Bard's works would undoubtedly make any director's job easier in terms of pulling off his/her vision for the character.

In this sense, Assassin's Creed director Justin Kurzel has hit the jackpot with Fassbender, a thespian of the highest order who is merely focused on crafting the best piece of fiction possible.

Nothing is True. Everything Is Permitted.

Half the trouble with perfecting video game movies to date has been bringing fan expectations together with a film's own narrative requirements.

Series like World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy and Mortal Kombat have all built up massive fanbases, and those loyal supporters have seen their hopes crumble before their eyes when their hopes for what a film adaptation could be don't go to plan.

Collider also visited the London set of Assassin's Creed, and asked Fassbender why he was so passionately drawn to the role of Aguilar:

I just thought if you’re doing a fantasy film, the first thing about it was to have something that was seeded in some sort of scientific world. What I mean is basically the idea of DNA memory. I just thought that it was a really interesting catch, and I thought that it was a really plausible theory. And I think if you can bring something like that to a fantastical world, it hooks the audience in even more, and makes the journey even more immersive. So I thought that was the first thing, and then I just loved the idea of Templars versus Assassins, this idea of an elite group of people struggling with the idea of free will and these sort of rebels to that elite force trying to struggle for humanity, essentially. And the idea that the original Assassins were Adam and Eve and they picked the apple in the Garden was really interesting.

To hear the headlining actor describe this as a "fantasy film" is one very particular nugget that should get geek blood a-pumpin'. This isn't a video game film to him, nor is it science-fiction, but fantasy.

The same way J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings made such a successful leap from page to silver screen, Assassin's Creed also has the lung capacity to be a fantasy behemoth, and the sheer size of the ever-growing game franchise means it has the scope to endure for years to come, should the studio wish it so.

Can Fassbender's Aguilar come close to McKellen's Gandalf?
Can Fassbender's Aguilar come close to McKellen's Gandalf?

Sir Ian McKellen may not have been an acute expert of Middle Earth prior to portraying Gandalf the Grey (or the White, if we're being picky) but that didn't prevent him from becoming the best wizard ever to grace a big-screen production.

In the same vein, Assassin's Creed newbie Fassbender boasts the acting chops and room for improvisation that could allow him to buck the trend in video game adaptations and impress greatly as Aguilar.

Or at the very least, for anyone who doesn't like the movie, he most likely now possesses the assassin skills needed to make their opinions "disappear."

[Sources: Entertainment Weekly, GameSpot, Collider]

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