The first trailer for December’s Assassin’s Creed dropped last night on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Based on Ubisoft’s long running videogame franchise, the film stars Michael Fassbender as a former death row inmate forced to step into the shoes of an ancestor of his who lived during the Spanish Inquisition.

This all probably makes a lot of sense to you if you’ve played any one of the eleventeen Assassin’s Creed videogames published by Ubisoft over the last decade. If not, you’re likely left with a lot of questions as to what exactly is going on here. Fortunately, we have sunk hundreds of hours into various Assassin’s Creed games and feel qualified to answer said queries.

What in the blue hell is all this nonsense?

We understand your feelings, but please be more specific.

OK. Who are the Assassins, and what is their Creed? Was that the thing Fassbender said at the end of the trailer?

“We work in the dark to serve the light?” Maybe, actually, although it’s different in the game. The Assassins are an ancient, secret order founded during the Crusades. They’re based loosely on the real Hashishin, a small Islamic sect that used targeted assassinations to terrorize the Crusaders and their other enemies. Historically, the Assassins were eradicated by the Mongol Empire in the 1200s. In the Creed-verse, the Assassins lived on as a secret society of warriors locked in eternal struggle with their enemies, the Templars.

Would that be related to the Knights Templar?

The same. In this universe, the Templars and the Assassins are both ancient, mystical societies vying for control of the world. The Templars stand for order, control, and basically fascism. The Assassins stand for freedom and self-determination, they don’t want to control the world so much as stop the Templars from doing so. Even with all the murder (and there’s a lot of murder), they’re generally considered the good guys. In the videogames, the Templar v. Assassins struggle just so happens to turn out to have been the secret basis for just about every important historical event. It’s a conspiracy theorist’s dreamland.

And the creed? You said you were going to talk about the creed.

We respect your creed passion. In the games, it’s, “Nothing is true, everything is permitted.” There’s a fan wiki entry all about it if you’re so inclined. What it means in practicality is: You have the go-ahead to stab world leaders and look cool while doing it.

Michael Fassbender is using a thing called the Animus. What is he doing?

Fancy VR, basically. The Animus technology is premised on the idea that humans have a “genetic memory” that amounts to fully-realized incredibly specific re-creations of everything all of your ancestors ever did, which you can replay in your brain. This may come as a surprise to you if you can’t remember where you put your car keys.

In the games, you use it to take on the role of an Assassin in an exotic locale in history, your player character being a child of a long line of famous and influential warriors. The only trick to the Animus is that you have to live through the entire memory, acting it out, and jumping over all the buildings and such without dying, so you can get to the crucial moment in which your ancestor witnesses some secret that you want to know about in the present—the whereabouts of some hidden MacGuffin, for example.

So why did they need Fassbender specifically? After 500 years, the average person will have literally millions of descendants.

They must have consulted with Dan Brown on the math. It’s even less likely that the last remaining descendant of Jesus was Audrey Tautou.

What a coincidence; I was just going to ask about the French. Marion Cotillard is in this movie working for a company called Abstergo. Is she evil?

Well, the Animus was developed by Abstergo Industries, whose off-kilter triangle symbol was all over the trailer. Abstergo is just the Templars, now with a contemporary corporate makeover. In the games, Abstergo and the Assassins are both looking for Pieces of Eden, powerful technological remnants of a lost, extremely advanced society that created the human race as slaves. (All of humankind’s most ancient myths—the Greek gods, Adam and Eve—are, in the game’s lore, referring back to the time when humans and the first civilization lived together.)

Of course, if the movie is going to follow the storyline of the games, Cotillard’s character will reveal herself to be a double agent, an Assassin under deep cover, who will help Fassbender’s character escape. Or not. Her evilness is thus still an open question.

Was Kanye West in the games?


I guess this is starting to make a weird kind of sense. But why all the jumping? That seems dangerous! And were those wrist knives I saw on Fassy’s hands?

You learn two primary skills in Assassin School: Stabbing and parkour. The wrist knives are hidden blades, spring-loaded weapons designed for quick and stealthy assassinations. In the early days of the Assassins, you had to lose a finger to make room for one, which doubled as a nice way to prove your loyalty.

The parkour, meanwhile, is for getting away afterwards. And looking cool. The robes all of the Assassins are wearing, by the way, with the sweet hood? That’s their uniform. I think it’s supposed to be a disguise, but, again, fashion first.

Why did that guy jump off the top of a church?

That’s how you get down from the top of churches in Assassin’s Creed.

Cool, cool, cool. One more thing: Why does the Animus look like a weird robo crane?

This is actually the main difference, as far as we can tell from this first look, between the movie and the games. In the games, the Animus just looks like a fancy bed. You don’t actually move your IRL body around; everything takes place in your brain. More The Matrix, less cyberpunk Cirque de Soleil. In the films, the Animus seems built to let the re-enacter bounce all around doing meatspace somersaults in sync with his memories. They even put the hidden blades on him, for some reason. That just seems like it would be unnecessarily dangerous.

Besides being a little closer to the Vive than the Oculus Rift, this change is most likely simply because extended shots of Michael Fassbender lying motionless on a bed would not make for riveting cinema. It does give him an excuse to take his shirt off, though, proving that some changes really are for the best.

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Not a Gamer? Here’s What the Assassin’s Creed Film Trailer Means