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Film / Assassin's Creed (2016)

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Assassin's Creed is an historical action/science-fiction film based upon the eponymous video game franchise of Ubisoft, directed by Justin Kurzel and released worldwide in December 2016.

Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a death row inmate who, after his execution, finds himself in the clutches of Abstergo Industries, the public front for the modern Templar Order. Legally dead and with no one to miss him, Callum is brought to an Abstergo facility in Madrid and forced to relive the memories of his ancestor, the Assassin Aguilar de Nerha (Michael Fassbender), in late 1491-early 1492, during the fall of the final remnant of Moorish Spain, the Emirate of Granada, and The Purge of the Assassin Brotherhood by The Spanish Inquisition.

Interestingly enough, the movie is not an Alternate Continuity adaption like most feature-length high-budget video game movies, but takes place in the same continuity as the game franchise. In fact, the movie's Animus parts take place in the same year as Assassin's Creed II: Discovery, in 1491. Both take place in Granada and have the protagonist (Ezio Auditore and Aguilar) fight against the Spanish Inquisition. Ezio and Aguilar met each other in the 2018 Mobile Phone Game Assassin's Creed: Rebellion.

There was a sequel project in development, but the film's middling performance at the worldwide box office meant that it never saw the light of day, and the project was definitely cancelled in the wake of Disney's acquisition of 20th Century Fox. A new live-action Assassin's Creed installment in the form of a Netflix series has been announced in 2020, though it is yet unknown if it will have any connection to the film.

Previews: Trailer 1, Behind-The-Scenes Featurette, Trailer 2.

This film provides examples of:

  • 20 Minutes into the Future: This world is not very different from ours (technology, clothes...). The only difference is the existence of the Animus technology.
  • Activation Sequence: As Cal is put into the Animus for the first time, the arm is lowered, he's strapped in, DNA sequences are scanned and compared, lights come on and he is finally sent to relive the life of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha.
  • Adaptational Nice Guy: From what little had been revealed of Alan Rikkin previously, he was characterized as very rude, vulgar, and impatient. In the movie, he's a little more patient and Affably Evil as well as showing a softer side towards his daughter. Given that the film is canon to the main games, this could easily be a case of Took a Level in Kindness over time or he is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing, since we never really saw him in person outside of his one conversation with Vidic.
  • Adaptation Deviation: The film's version of the Animus is an indoor simulator with a crane that hooks into Callum from behind while holographic images of the events of Aguilar's life play before his eyes, allowing him to act out the motions of his ancestor. According to Word of God, they did not want to have Callum sit or lie down throughout his time in this Animus like previous games so this new Animus was created to allow Fassbender to be more active.
  • Adaptation Expansion: The novelization expands on some of the other subjects kept in the compound. For example, a chapter about a woman named Lin who is confirmed to be a descendant of Shao Jun.
  • Aloof Archer: Aguilar uses a bow and arrow during his and Maria's escape from the Templars, and Callum acquires Aguilar's bow skills through the Bleeding Effect and makes full use of them during the breakout after acquiring Connor's bow. Both of them are coolheaded and focused.
  • Alternate Continuity: Averted. This film takes place in the same universe as the games and takes pains to acknowledge the larger mythology while not causing plot issues. Also, Ubisoft liked the film's production design so much they decided to try and incorporate some, especially the redesigned Animus, into future Assassin's Creed games.
  • Anachronism Stew: The Basilica of St Dominic, Valletta is the set of a fight scene. This baroque church, rebuilt in the early 19th century, is out of place in 1491 Spain. (Baroque architecture appeared in Italy in the early 17th century.)
  • Arc Words: "For the Creed" describes the motivations of many characters, both Assassin and Templar.
  • Artistic License – History:
    • The Spanish Inquisition, as always, is portrayed as an organization of murder and evil with little to no similarity to the real deal. The film even implies the prisoners are going to be executed without a trial, which in real life would be completely antithetical to how the Inquisition (which was first and foremost a tribunal) worked.
    • Javier Gutiérrez plays a deliciously hammy villain, but in real life Tomás de Torquemada was not known to be that kind of furious, larger-than-life orator, but rather a quite subdued character. Especially notable is also that he seems to have the baton all for himself in Castile and Aragon, with The Catholic Monarchs of all people sitting silently behind him like living props while he preachs and orders around, when the real Torquemada was never even close to have that kind of power in the court (nor the Catholic Monarchs were so timid or submissive to him - or to anybody, for that matter). His role in the capture of Granada also seems to conflate him with the historical Cardinal Francisco Jiménez de Cisneros.
    • Although this is likely a case of Translation Convention for the Spanish viewers, it is still necessary to point that Torquemada and the other characters in the 15th century segments speak in regular, modern-day Spanish rather than the period-accurate transition between Old Spanish and Early Modern Spanish their characters would be speaking.
    • There are two different historical characters named Alonso de Ojeda of which Ojeda seems to be a Composite Character (one was an inquisitor and the other a captain, cousins by blood), but none of them died at the time and place he dies in the film.
    • A criticized aspect of the scenes set in the 15th century was the excess of dusk and smog, to the point the cities are constantly cloaked and the battles look like the soldiers there can barely see each other. If this meant to portray the standard weather of southern Spain, then it gets it quite wrong, and if it is meant to be the signs of the battles, then it overshoots it, because battles at the time didn't feature yet the massive, Napoleonic-level discharges of gunpowder necessary to darken the visuals to that point.
    • The auto-da-fé was always a public act, but it was not meant to be a show. Staging one with dancers as in the film would have scandalized the inquisitors themselves, as they expected those acts to frighten the sinners into behaving as the kingdom's laws ordered, not to be seen as entertainment (and that those dancers even wear Satanic/Pagan-like goat masks is downright nonsensical). Also, in real life executions weren't conducted in the auto-da-fé itself, but in a separate event.
    • It is also surprising that Aguilar and Maria are allowed to wear their Assassin clothes to the stake in the film. In real life, victims of an Inquisitorial execution would be stripped of all clothes and only given to wear a poncho named sambenito and a hat named coroza. Moreover, judging by how the two launch plenty of knifes to their pursuers after escaping without any scene showing them recovering weapons from somewhere, it seems the Inquisition didn't even search them for weapons before tying them up.
    • In his speech, Torquemada calls the young prince of Granada a heretic, which is just plain wrong given that the boy is a Muslim, and one by birth. "Heretic" means someone who deviated from Catholic dogma, so only a Christian could be called one. There were theologians who considered Islam a heresy, but the Spanish Inquisition was not among those.
    • Royal fashion at the setting could certainly get very outrageous, but no Spanish queen would sport the strange kind of exotic Pict-ish warpaint the one from the film sports. The same goes for Ojeda's weird topknot, a hairstyle utterly out of place there. The latter reminds of some indigenous hairstyles found in Mesoamerica, which might be what the filmmakers were aiming at given that Ojeda would later become a conquistador, but it's a moot point given that this happens before Castile discovered America in the movie.
    • The real life Alhambra never had anything resembling the massive, Moria-like moat crossed by a bridge shown in the movie, in which Aguilar dives to evade Torquemada and his guards.
  • Asshole Victim: Callum is sentenced to death for murdering a man who is later revealed to have been a pimp. We don't learn much about him apart from that, but a deleted scene reveals that the victim was well known to law enforcement, and a man in Callum's interrogation room goes so far as to say that Cal did the world a favor.
  • Awesome, yet Impractical: As amazing as the Animus might be, the Templar Elders consider it too expensive to continue funding for the results they have received so far.
  • Badass Creed: The full version of the titular Creed appears at the beginning and the end for Aguilar and Callum's Assassin induction ceremonies. "While others blindly follow the truth, remember: nothing is true. While others are bound by morality or law, remember: everything is permitted. We work in the dark to serve the light. We are Assassins." Also, the Arabic rendition of "Nothing is true and everything is permitted" ("La shaaya waqin moutlaq bale kouloun moumkin") is repeated by various characters as well, more prominently Callum's father.
  • Bald of Evil: Templar leader Torquemada has a monastic tonsure. It lends itself to the "fire and brimstone" stuff that he talks about.
  • Big Bad: Alan Rikkin, played by Jeremy Irons, is the chief antagonist in this film. He seeks to control free will in order to eradicate the Brotherhood of Assassins and prevent anyone from ever undermining Templar control.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the games, the Animus translated any non-English words spoken in memories into English, save for small glitches which restored the original language. This is not the case here: everyone speaks purely in Spanish during the Animus sections.
  • Blade Below the Shoulder: The Assassins continue to use their iconic wrist-mounted Hidden Blades.
  • Book Ends:
    • At the beginning of the film, we see Aguilar being inducted into the Brotherhood with the Assassins chanting the Creed. At the end of the film, Callum is reunited with his mother via hologram and is formally inducted into the Brotherhood this way.
    • "I am here to help you, and you are here to help me."
  • Burn the Witch!: Aguilar and Maria are to be tied up and burned as heretics. They escape.
  • The Cameo:
  • Chekhov's Gun: While Moussa is in Sophia's office, there's a glimpse of a couple of bombs encased in glass on a table. He later initiates the prison break by using them on the guards in the cafeteria.
  • Composite Character: Ojeda seems to be a mixture of two 15th-century historical characters named Alonso de Ojeda, who were blood cousins. They both became famous at the Christendom's service, the first of them as a monk and theologian colleague to Torquemada and the second as an infamously warmongering conquistador.
  • Death Faked for You: Far as the public knows, Callum died during his execution, allowing Abstergo to use him for their Animus research.
  • The Dragon: Ojeda is a military officer working under Torquemada. He provides the biggest physical challenge to Aguilar and Maria as they undertake their missions.
  • Dual Wielding: Aguilar and Maria both have dual Hidden Blades. Abstergo forcibly straps two blades onto Callum's wrists while he's in the Animus; naturally, they are Aguilar's own blades.
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: By the time Aguilar passes the Apple to Christopher Columbus, he is the only surviving member of his Brotherhood. In his own words, "Assassins died for this". Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood, which starts in 1500, suggests that he has more company since Ezio can send his own recruits on missions to Barcelona and Lisbon.
  • Fingore: Much like Altaïr, Aguilar's ring finger is severed during his Assassin induction. Interestingly, this should not have been necessary, as the Hidden Blade's design was modified by Altaïr in the 13th Century so as to no longer require such a sacrifice as explained in Assassin's Creed II. It's probably just that the tradition was still strong there.
  • First-Person Perspective: During the rooftop chase in 1491 Granada, crossbow shots aiming at Aguilar and Maria are seen from the crossbowmen's and Ojeda's perspective as they shoot.
  • Heroic RRoD: After Aguilar performs a Leap of Faith, Callum goes into a seizure, foaming at the mouth and being paralyzed for days before he can walk again.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: Christopher Columbus is a friend of the Assassin Brotherhood and takes delivery of the Apple of Eden from Aguilar at the end of the Animus sequences. According to modern historians, he was responsible for the large-scale enslavement and mass murder of indigenous Americans in the Caribbean in his pursuit of riches. And in canon, the Assassins would establish a major foothold among those very tribes.
  • Historical Ugliness Update: Queen Isabella of Castile is given a eerie appearance with Facial Markings and looking rather emaciated. No historical records or portrayals ever depict her like this - if anything she'd look like what a normal queen would look like.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: The real Knights Templar were a powerful military force and a financial powerhouse of the time, and were involved in the Crusades where a lot of questionable things were done. There is however absolutely no evidence whatsoever that they ever decided to try and rob humanity of free will.
  • Hoist by Their Own Petard:
    • By imprisoning multiple Assassin descendants and putting them into the Animus, Abstergo is able to track down the Apple of Eden. However, they realize too late that they've also made their prisoners stronger thanks to the Bleeding Effect, allowing them to escape and take down many of their personnel. To make matters worse, their victory in finding the Apple is short lived because those very same Assassins are able to infiltrate their grand temple, assassinate Alan Rikkin, and steal the Apple. One of the security officials even lampshades it while looking at surveillance footage of Callum fending off several guards (and this is not long after his temporary paralysis):
      "We are feeding the beast."
    • Collecting the weapons of previous Assassins (most likely for research) might have seemed harmless at the time. That is until it gives their prisoners a full armory to take down everyone.
    • A key element of the Templar/Assassin war is that while the Assassins will make any personal sacrifice for a better future, the Templars will sacrifice anyone and anything to achieve power in the present. This ultimately bites their asses clean off - their efforts to use the Animus to locate the Apple end up creating an entirely new cell of Assassins, who proceed to take the Apple right back.
  • Hostage For Macguffin: The Templars kidnap the Prince of Granada to get the Sultan, an ally of the Assassins, to turn over the Apple of Eden.
  • Identical Grandson: Justified just like the games due to the Animus which makes Callum appear identical to his ancestor Aguilar.
  • Idiot Ball: Ojeda kills Maria, who he was holding as hostage, but Aguilar doesn't do the same to Torquemada, whom he had in bladepoint, and instead pushes him away to fight Ojeda. Thanks to this blunder, Torquemada escapes and this bites them in the rear later.
  • IKEA Weaponry: The Hidden Blade that Callum uses to assassinate Alan Rikkin is assembled on-site from various pieces that he, Moussa, and Lin smuggle into the Templar meeting (with Moussa hiding the blade in his mouth).
  • Initiation Ceremony: The first scene is Aguilar's initiation into the Spanish sect of the Assassin Brotherhood. It is a quiet and solemn affair where Aguilar affirms his intention to preserve humanity's free will regardless of the sacrifice this might require. The fingore is kinda horrific but it is a blink-and-you-miss-it moment. In contrast, Cal's initiation is quite pleasant. His deceased mom conducts the ceremony through an Animus hologram, his dad is also present and so are many of his ancestors. Instead of a theme of sacrifice, this one is much more about unity.
  • Ironic Echo: "I am here to help you, and you are here to help me."
  • It's Personal: Sophia hates Callum after he kills her father Alan at the end of the movie along with stealing the Apple. Before then, their interaction were just business and research.
  • Laughing Mad: Callum giggles deliriously as he's dragged to his second trip in the Animus while also singing Patsy Cline's "Crazy", because he's going through Sanity Slippage thanks to the Bleeding Effect.
  • Love Is a Weakness: Maria says the sultan's love for his son makes him weak and easy to manipulate and repeatedly stresses to Aguilar that he should put the mission before her and not grieve should she die. Likewise, Joseph's love for his son made him unable to kill said son which means the Templars eventually got their hands on him and plugged him into the Animus so they could find the Apple of Eden.
  • MacGuffin: The Apple of Eden drives the conflict in both the 1491 and 2016 story lines because the Templars want to use it to subjugate the world and the Assassins want to stop them.
  • Meaningful Name: Michael Fassbender's character's names translate into "Hawk" and "Dove", representing the dichotomy of war and peace. See Theme Naming, below, for the etymological explanation.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: The film starts in Callum's childhood.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • Much like Desmond in the original Assassin's Creed, Lynch has been kidnapped by Abstergo and forced to relive his ancestor's genetic memories. Sophia Rikkin, the doctor in charge of the project, also has parallels with Lucy, being concerned for Callum's well-being and having to argue with the higher-ups (particularly her father) to ensure that he is treated with care.
    • Callum's prison uniform happens to be white, the traditional color for Assassins.
    • Michael Fassbender is playing both Callum and Aguilar, in reference to how Altaïr and Desmond had the same character model (justified as a side effect of the Animus) in the first game.
    • Callum and the other Assassins use the Bleeding Effect as their tool to kill the Abstergo forces, much like how Desmond did the same in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood and Assassin's Creed III.
    • Aguilar has his ring finger cut off during his Assassin induction, similar to what Altaïr and the Masyaf Assassins underwent in Assassin's Creed. Curiously, though being set in the same historical period (the 1490s), Ezio Auditore didn't need to get the same treatment for his entry into the Italian Brotherhood, although this could be explained by the fact that the innovation conceived by Altaïr Ibn-La'Ahad and put in practice by Leonardo da Vinci in Assassin's Creed II might not have been brought to Spain.
    • Several weapons from previous games can be seen on display such as Connor's Bow, Shao Jun's Hidden Footblade and Rope Dart, and the various swords of previous protagonists. They end up being used by the imprisoned Assassins to take down much of Abstergo's security.
    • This isn't the first time Christopher Columbus has had dealings with the Assassins, having been made an ally in Assassin's Creed II: Discovery. In the movie, Aguilar gives Columbus the Apple to hide it from the Templars.
    • Moussa is a descendant of Baptiste, an Assassin-turned-Templar from Assassin's Creed III: Liberation.
    • Look behind Sophia when she discusses the Animus with Callum before his first immersion. The "red chair" Animus used from Assassin's Creed 2-3 is seen right behind her amongst the equipment.
    • Near the beginning, a Templar orders a boy's parents to be hanged in front of him and his entire village burned down. In the games, both happened to Ezio and Connor respectively.
  • Non-Action Big Bad: Alan Rikkin is an administrator and a speech giver; not a fighter. When the Assassins start a prison riot he immediately leaves.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Oddly done by Torquemada, who somehow reappears at the other side of the moat and walls stopping Aguilar, after the Assassin free-ran his way through Granada's secret tunnels while escaping from the palace where Torquemada was seen last time. Unless the booty taken from the Moors included a Magic Carpet (or a Jet Pack, as joked by Andoni Garrido), there should be no way Torquemada could arrive there before Aguilar, especially given that the Christians presumably don't know the city's innards that well yet and Torquemada didn't even see Aguilar jump down to the tunnels.
  • Parental Issues: The Central Theme. Fitting the concept of the Animus - described In-Universe as "a means of learning about who made us what we are" - nobody in the film has a healthy relationship with anyone they're descended from, their parents least of all.
    • Callum despises his father for killing his mother, and only after fully synchronizing with Aguilar does he realize that his father only wished to spare his family from Abstergo's experiments.
    • In reverse, Sophia would do anything for her father, who only sees the Animus project as a means to glorify himself, without a single thought for her amazing accomplishments: specifically, she's responsible for Animus technology from concept to final product, for which he ultimately takes full credit. She thus permits Callum to assassinate him and reclaim the Apple in the closing of the film.
    • Then there's all the other Animus subjects who have suffered severe psychological damage from being subjected to their ancestors' memories.
  • Le Parkour: As in the games, Assassins use freerunning techniques to quickly traverse city rooftops.
  • Readings Blew Up the Scale: Callum's final session in the Animus results in a synchronization so perfect that it breaks the device. It also results in Callum being presented with visions of past assassins surrounding him and his long-dead mother inducting him into the order through their shared genetic memory. Everyone observing the moment is shocked because they weren't aware that the Animus was capable of such a thing.
  • Sadistic Choice: Toward the end of the film Aguilar has Torquemada at Hidden Blade-point, but his enforcer Ojeda has Maria, warning him to let the Templar go if he wants Maria to live. Despite Maria's pleas, Aguilar chooses to let him go, but Maria forces Ojeda to stab her in the neck, rendering the sadistic choice a moot point.
  • Sanity Slippage: Callum, due to having to be dragged into the Animus the first two times, starts hallucinating his ancestor severely enough to spar with him, as well as going Laughing Mad for a while. There's also the other Assassins who are left catatonic due to being forced into the Animus against their will.
  • Sequel Hook: Aside from the fact that the Assassins have been strengthened with Callum and the Apple now among them, in Callum's vision, one of the ancestral Assassins surrounding him looks like Sophia.
  • Shirtless Scene: Callum is always shirtless when in the Animus, and he is also shirtless during the revolt when the Assassins take over the Madrid Abstergo facility.
  • Soft Water: Acknowledged. During an escape, Aguilar breaks a river's surface tension with a dagger before hitting the water.
  • Stock Quotes: Sofia Rikkin whispers a quote from Bhagavad Gita before her father's speech: "Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
  • The Straight and Arrow Path: Abstergo Rehabilitation Center guards use crossbows against the Assassins during the prison break. Callum uses a bow meanwhile. The in-universe reason is that Callum's training comes from his 15th century ancestor and the bow was much easier to get his hands on than another long-range weapon but doesn't he look heroic with Connor's bow?
  • Surprisingly Happy Ending: Relative to the video games' endings in general. The modern day portions of the games have been Pyrrhic Victories at best, but Callum's story ends on an unambiguously happy note, reconciling with his Assassin heritage, finding closure with his mother's death, taking out the CEO of Abstergo Industries, retrieving the Apple for the Assassins and officially being inducted into the Brotherhood.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Two of the Assassins fighting at the end fight in styles similar to Shao Jun and Arno Dorian. Naturally, they likely learned these styles from Shao Jun and Arno Dorian through the Animus.
  • Sympathetic Murder Backstory: When we first meet the adult Callum, he's on death row in Texas. We find out later his victim was a pimp.
  • Tattoo as Character Type: Aguilar and Maria have facial tattoos, indicating their, and the Spanish Assassins', Moorish origins and how they are nomadic outsiders in Spanish society.
  • Theme Naming: In keeping with previous protagonists with bird-themed names, Aguilar means "eagle house" in Spanish (as in "pigeon house"), coming from the Spanish word for "eagle" (águila), while Callum means "dove" in Scottish and Irish Gaelic (as in "Hawk and Dove").
  • Three-Point Landing: Aguilar performs such a landing at one point, and Callum reproduces it in the Animus.
  • Title: The Adaptation: Sometimes marketed as Assassin's Creed: The Film or Assassin's Creed: The Movie.
  • Title Drop: Courtesy of Alan Rikkin during his speech to the Templars:
    "But it is not to ourselves, but to the future that we must give glory. A future purged of the Assassin's Creed."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Taking into account the fact that this story is canon to the video games, Abstergo comes across as this in the film. Despite the fact that someone utilized their Genetic Memory in the Bleeding Effect to kill a top agent and one of the members of their Inner Sanctum, they still try to put people back into the Animus who have definite Assassin lineages, not only for one person, but for an entire group, well aware that this could happen again. Furthermore, they keep an entire collection of Assassin armaments that are often centuries old for what could ostensibly be research purposes, despite the fact that with the aforementioned knowledge, they should already be concerned about those Assassins coming out to kill them with those very weapons. Predictably, this bites them in the ass big time.
  • Translation Convention: Averted. All the characters that appear in 15th century Spain speak Spanish, and in one instance, Callum starts repeating what his ancestor Aguilar is saying, in Spanish. It's even shown that the Animus doesn't automatically translate for the people working the controls.
  • What Is One Man's Life In Comparison?: The Spanish sect of the Assassin Brotherhood is very upfront to new initiates that they will likely be asked to take one for the team. In fact, the entire team might have to do so as well. When the alternative is the Templar Order mind controlling the rest of humanity into eternal slavery, the initiates agree. Maria, in particular, is insistent that Aguilar sacrifice her if it is necessary.
  • Worthy Opponent: McGowen, Abstergo's head of security, claims that while it is his job to destroy the Assassins, he admires their commitment to their Creed. He doubts this applies to the mostly neutral Callum.
  • You Killed My Mother: Young Callum walks in to see his mother killed by his Assassin father and has wanted to kill him since. Even when given the chance by Alan, Callum spares him now that he knows the bigger picture.

Alternative Title(s): Assassins Creed