Thursday, December 22, 2016

VR through your past lives with the Animus in Assassin’s Creed

by contributing writer Michelle Chee

For almost a decade, gamers have been having a world of adventure with the Assassin’s Creed video games, comprising of 9 core releases and many other side games. It’s therefore no surprise that the games have garnered a huge following and so it's just a matter of time before the franchise hits the big screen.

The Assassin’s Creed movie does not follow any of the story lines in the games, and is an independent story line by itself. However, many of the concepts in the movie are found in the game, such as the garments worn by the Assassins, the martial arts they practice and the element of time travel.

Before we jump into the review however, let’s just run through the movie’s plot, which will help some of you who are not familiar with the games...

Brooding and Ominous,  Assassins watch over us

In Assassin’s Creed, there is a war going on for centuries between the Templars and the Assassins. The Templars started out as knights in the medieval era, bent on bringing peace to the world through control and strict regulation of the masses. This brings them in direct conflict with their nemesis, the Assassins, fighting for mankind's given free will. So, basically, it’s the Fascist versus the Liberals, which is a mirror of real life human administrative dynamics too. 

The story begins in the present day when the Abstergo Foundation, the modern day manifestation of the Templars, captures Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) and subject him to experiments on a machine called the Animus . Callum Lynch is descended from a member of the Assassins named Aguilar de Nerha (also Michael Fassbender), who  is the last person in possession of a device called the Apple of Eden.  Abstergo and the Knights Templar hope to use the Apple to remove free will from humanity  and bring peace to the world.  Leading Abstergo are Dr. Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons)  and his daughter Sophia (Marion Cotillard) who use the Animus on test subjects to relieve their genetic memories. Callum Lynch is joined by other descendants of the Assassin’s Creed brought in for testing.

As Callum synchs up with his ancestor’s memories, he has to figure out where his loyalties lie and how to deal with a troubled past in today's modern world.

Fassbender (left) and co-star Ariane Labed as medieval Assassins

Movie fans will remember Fassbender as Magneto is the latest installment of the X-Men franchise, and his serious demeanor makes him an excellent choice to play Callum Lynch, who is struggling with his self identity. French actress Marion Cotillard as Sophia Rikkin similarly plays conflicted roles between scientist or Templar. Whilst Cotillard’s acting was commendable, but her accent did come across as awkward in some scenes, especially when conversing with Jeremy Irons.

Marion Cotillard (left) and Jeremy Irons who play the father and daughter Templars, Alan and Sophia Rikkin

Here is a trailer of the movie to give a feel of what’s to come:

As a non-gamer, I went into the movie screening with little expectations, but left feeling really satisfied. Not many action movies deliver this depth of thought and I was particularly fascinated with the para-scientific logic and reasoning behind how the Animus works. The action sequences were awesome to watch, and were not too prolonged overall.  The movie, IMHO, stays very true to the spirit of the game. 

Fassbender, Cotillard, Irons and the rest of the cast did well in their roles, except that I wished I could also see the lives of the of the other Assassin’s Creed ancestors. I thought the portrayal of medieval Spain was very apt, and that many of the sentiments the Templars expressed mirrors strongly how governments of the past and present function, by using various means to control their citizens. However, hope is always present when there are small groups fighting for freedom, personified by the Assassins. 

Without revealing too much, one of the scenes that really strikes me was how the Assassins used their  parkour abilities to outrun their opponents, making cartwheels and skyline jumps look effortless, almost like a dance rather than an act of desperate escape. The chemistry between the main characters is really on point, especially between Callum and his ancestor Aguilar, as well as with his father.

The cinematography is visually stunning as the camera swoops down on medieval Spain before every flashback starts, and the colour choices really transports you back in time, and drags you back to the cold and stark present. 

Last Sunday an Assassin's Creed Fan Gathering was held at Comic Fiesta. It's the first fan panel in the style of overseas Comic Cons organised at a local convention with support of 20th Century Fox, distributor of the Assassin's Creed movie.

Convention attendees enter the panel room under watchful eyes of the Templars.
Full house of Assassin's Creed fans.

The kicked off with introduction of the panelists comprising Cappy Lenoire as moderator with Chel C. representing cosplayers, Kok Jia Wern offering a gamer's perspective and Iain McNally looking through lens of the movie. Short featurettes of the Assassin's Creed movie were screened followed by panelists sharing their thoughts on the subject featured, such as backstory of Templars versus Assassins and the incarnation of the Aminus in the movie.

Screening featurettes of the Assassin's Creed movie.
Panelists share their thoughts; (left to right) Iain McNally, Chel C., Kok Jia Wern, and Cappy Lannoire.

Following the panel discussions, attendees had a chance to win movie premiums by participating in a True-False game. Video was screened with trivia from the movie whereby contestants had to determine whether the statements are true or false. Through elimination of contestants by wrong answers, two winners were determined. 

Winners (middle) of the Assassin's Creed True-False trivia game.

The panel session closed off with group photos of Assassin's Creed cosplayers and then everyone present in the room. A final surprise was revealed with invites for movie preview randomly placed under the seats. But no one left disappointed anyway as Assassin's Creed movie leather bracelets were given out to everyone in attendance.

Cosplayers group photo.

All together now and show off those movie preview invites!
There were even a group of Templars sword-fighting a lone Assassin at Comic Fiesta!

Check out more photos of the panel from Ezli Qamari on Facebook as well as photos from the Assassin's Creed movie preview screening on 22 December 2016 at GSC Mid Valley Megamall.

Cosplayers at the Assassin's Creed movie preview screening at GSC Mid Valley.

For fans of the movie, the Outpost Movie Recon Team (M.R.T.) has tracked down some Assassin's Creed memorabilia to bring home your experience:

Golden Screen Cinemas is conducting a contest from now until 3rd January 2017 where you can win an Assassin’s Creed diorama. All you have to do is pose with an Assassin’s creed poster or display, put it up publicly on your Instagram and tag it with the hashtag provided. 

GSC is also giving away limited edition Assasin’s Creed tankards so you drink your ale like a stealthy Assassin that works in the dark to preserve the light. You can redeem one tankard for every 2 Assassin’s Creed movie tickets purchased for Gold Class or every 4 tickets for Premiere Class (where available while stocks last).

Over at MM Cineplex (formerly Cathay Cineplexes in Malaysia) is giving away assorted Assassin's Creed movie premiums via their Facebook Page.  Just Like the photo and post your answer in the comments section for chance to be randomly selected for prizes.

MSI Malaysia is going all out with its Assassin’s Creed promotion this time, and they’re having several different lucky draws in almost 50 locations nationwide from now until early January 2017 with prizes that include Assassin’s Creed keychains, movie passes, MSI gaming CPUs, gaming laptops, overseas trips and other gamer hardware.

If you’re interested to read more stories from the Assassin’s Creed universe, Popular bookstore is offering a boxset of 7 books by Oliver Bowden based on the characters and concepts from the game.

Malaysian Movie Blog Screenbites is running an online contest with mysterious Assassin’s Creed goodies to give away, so start sending in your entries here.

Those of you who want to subtly insert some badass Assassin’s Creed element into your daily lives can check out this Desmond Miles inspired hoodie on Lazada. Lazada actually has a ton of really awesome Assassin’s Creed stuff you can check out, from sweaters to hidden blade armbands for cosplay, as well as backpacks and the video games themselves. See them all here.

Assassin’s Creed, though marketed as an action/adventure series, is really about reconnecting with your past. As you watch the movies and experience the games, take some time out to think what life must have been like for your own ancestors you’ve never met, and how their life choices has led to you being you.

Assassin's Creed in cinemas now nationwide.

Disclaimer: Assassin's Creed and other trademarks are copyright to Ubisoft and/or 20th Century Fox, referenced here for fan service announcements without intent to infringe.

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