Assassin's Creed Set Visit: Weapons, costumes, fighting, & more from the set
Having made my way to London's Pinewood Studios set of ASSASSIN'S CREED, the video game adaptation of Ubisoft's massively popular franchise series starring Michael Fassbender and directed by Justin Kurzel, I am immediately immersed in a wholly connected world. Not just in the story that's being told, but the set itself, which is huge and interlocks from piece to piece. Having played the game a handful of times, I was very aware of it and it's mechanics, but hardly an expert. However, I was intrigued mostly by Michael Fassbender's involvement in the film and why he chose to be a part of it (which you can read about in the on-set interview). A star of his stature didn't seem like someone that would take on a videogame adaptation and yet here he had devoted years of his life to it.
Exploring the set
We enter a hallway that stretches beyond the eye, filled with beams of steel, mortar, and concrete, giving it a feel of past and present blended together, much like the game. It's pristine. Not a speck of dust can be seen. And then I realize that we've been walking for a while, much longer than you would on a typical set, which usually ends rather abruptly, being built for only one small piece.
For this set, which is the present day location of Abstergo, the prison-like facility that houses a number of "patients" that are undergoing some rather interesting treatments, everything is connected. You could walk the hallways, that lead to a common room, a viewing deck, medical bays, patient cells, and more. It's as if we're in an actual Abstergo facility rather than a faux set that's pieced together with faux materials standing in for the real thing. It's rather amazing.
And there's a purpose for this. Director Justin Kurzel wanted the sets built this way so as to capitalize on longer takes that could stay within the action without numerous cuts to frame a scene as well as avoiding the green screen effect that would rely on everything to be done in post. The name of the game was practical.
Moving into the common room, we were able to look around and explore a bit (but not TOO much). The room was almost completely metallic, with two metal benches (each with specifically made metal chess-type games on them) in the center. But, inside that area as well was a small garden area and shelves filled with all manner of seeds, plants, etc. On one side of the benches is a computer lab/viewing deck area that allows the "doctors" to watch over their patients and on the other side is the garden area. However, just above that area is an overwatch region, where armed guards can keep an eye on things.
The most important and cool aspect of all of this is the practical aspect and the level of detail put into it all. In a time where green screen can be used as a crutch, ASSASSIN'S CREED is defying that temptation.
Fassbender gets in a fight
We later watch Michael Fassbender get in a fight. Obviously not a real one, but one in which his present day character, Cal, is forced to defend himself against a barrage of guards. It's here that we see why Kurzel wanted these fully immersive sets. The choreography is tight and the camera follows, all in one shot, as Cal dispatches guard after guard with punches, locks, chokes, etc. It's more amazing to see Fassbender doing it himself and, beyond that, multiple takes. His intensity and focus is like a laser and he goes through the motions without ever missing a beat.
Weapons, weapons, and more weapons
Just off the main set is the weapons room and it's filled with everything from the past and present. Guns, swords, blades, bombs, and more. For fans of the game, it's like reaching into the screen and pulling the weapons out. It's uncanny, the level of detail and integrity to what we've seen in multiple games. And, oh yes, those wrist blades are there and not just in one interation, but multiple versions. The film will have an Easter Egg assortment of weapons from the games, so fans have cause to be excited about that. From wrist-attached arrow launchers, wrist blades (both historic and modern day versions), muskets with axes attached, star blades, syndicate weapons, and even gold-encrusted bombs, the whole array of weaponry was impressive as hell. One thing nobody can complain about is the pains taken to recreate the games' arsenal. It's damn near perfect.
Aside from interviewing Fassbender and Kurzel, there were some nuggets of info that made my eyes light up, so below you'll find the good ol' bullet point rundown for those.
- There will be an assortment of Assassins that will each have their own unique spin, such as Matias Varela's Middle-Easter Assassin and Michael K. Williams Voodoo Assassin, etc. Each will have their own unique costumes, weapons, and overall signature look
- Production Design team said the Animus was the most challenging thing to create, as it's different than the video game version
- The budget was $100 million plus
- Damien Walters, the preeminent Parkour expert, serves as Michael Fassbender's double
- Eagle Vision will definitely be a part of the film
- Fassbender's past character, Aguilar, is charged with protecting an artifact, which is what Abstergo wants to get from his present day ancestor, Callum Lynch.
- While this will pay tribute to the overall series of games, it serves as its own story that is still connected to the series
- The film will take place more in modern day than in the past
- Ubisoft was heavily involved in the production and guidance of the story
- The Spanish Inquisition in 1491 was recreated in Malta
And that wraps up my visit on the set. There's MUCH more in the on-set interviews with Fassbender and Kurzel, as well as my description of the first 20 minutes of the film, which you can access in the links below. My overall impression of everything I saw and heard was that ASSASSIN'S CREED was going to be a special film. After watching Kurzel's MACBETH, I knew he had the visionary strength to bring the film to life, but having Fassbender in the lead is the ace in the hole. We know Fassy can act his ass off and I have no doubt he will bring that into the fold while creating a new action hero role to boot. From the practical sets, the intricate weaponry, and the passion behind the project, it definitely feels like ASSASSIN'S CREED could very well break the video game movie curse and create a new franchise at the same time.
ASSASSIN'S CREED opens in theaters on December 21st.
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