‘Assassin’s Creed’: Can You Fight Your Ancestors’ Battles?

All part of the never-ending push to turn video games into flicks

The movie “Assassin’s Creed,” much like the movie “Warcraft” before it, is based on an enormously successful video game. Unlike “Warcraft,” however, this one stars Michael Fassbender.

Fassbender is already talking trilogy while doing the junket for the Dec. 21 release — and why wouldn’t he? “Warcraft” was decimated by critics, but a sequel is still coming anyway — plus it made big bucks despite the ravaging. And “Assassin’s” has a plot line much more tantalizing. And a cast to die for: Along with Academy Award nominee Fassbender and Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard, the film includes Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Michael K. Williams, Callum Turner, Ariane Labed, and Charlotte Rampling.

“Assassin’s Creed” is more about a character’s legacy — and bloodshed.

Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th-century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.

It’s heady fare, to be sure. But in a society in which lineage is a fascinating hobby for many (and where Ancestry.com can be rolling in the dough), surely there is something precious here, no? Our ancestry — who we were, are, could have been, and perhaps should have been — surely we’re down for this, right (along with being able to undo what some of our ancestors have done)? “Humans are born guilty” is a potential subtext here.

Just not for the fanboys. For them, this is one heck of a game.

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Then there’s the virtual reality twist. At select AMC theaters, moviegoers can don an Oculus Rift VR headset from Facebook and become a (passive) character in a scene. Without giving too much away, the experience here involves taking part in a dramatic escape, including sword fights, alongside Fassbender’s brooding character.

Related: Video Games: Will Hollywood Never Let Them Go?

Big brands and startups alike are beginning to experiment with VR as a marketing medium. It’s still very expensive, and few consumers own the pricey headsets required to watch. But chief marketing officers, banking on estimates that hundreds of millions of people worldwide will be using the technology by 2020, are willing to dip into money they’ve set aside to test new media platforms.

The experiments run the gamut. Vroom, the online marketplace for used cars, has been testing a virtual shopping experience at malls. Liquor-maker Diageo in November released an anti-drunk-driving PSA using a version of the technology. Hormel Foods has even dabbled with a virtual-reality bacon game that gives players the option of winning coupons or buying products online.

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But that is the tech end of the equation. “Assassin’s” is more about a character’s legacy — and bloodshed. At its core, “Creed” seems to suggest that tracing your bloodline all the way back will lead you to one ancestor who is either good or evil, with there being no in-between. What about those precious shades of gray?

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