Culture\Film and TV

Fassbender brings video game to life with new sci-fi film

By Xu Fan | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-23 07:50

As Michael Fassbender wields a sword, a gift from a Chinese fan, the two-time Oscar nominee looks like he is reliving his role in Assassin's Creed.

The Hollywood star known for playing Magneto in the X-Men movies in China recently toured Beijing to promote his upcoming sci-fi film, which is based on French publisher Ubisoft's video games.

The star quickly won hearts as he went from sampling local food to singing a birthday song for a Chinese fan.

Assassin's Creed is slated to open across the Chinese mainland on Feb 24 alongside Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, the sixth installment of the 15-year-long zombie franchise.

Fassbender brings video game to life with new sci-fi film

The film is based on popular Ubisoft games. But given that most such films typically receive mediocre receptions even though the games have huge fan bases, some wonder why Fassbender - who has a bunch of serious movies to his credit - would accept such an offer.

Fassbender says: "It was very interesting and a challenge for me to develop the Ubisoft games (into a film)."

He says that despite not being a fan of the games, he was hooked on Ubisoft's concept.

The 39-year-old actor is also one of the producers of the film.

The Assassin's Creed games are known for their historical accuracy - whether they portray France in the late 18th century or Italy in the Renaissance period. This also extends to the movie.

Fassbender brings video game to life with new sci-fi film

Meanwhile, despite the film being based on the games, more than 70 percent of the roles in the movie are new.

The film's story is set in two timelines - Spain in 1492 and the present day.

In the movie, Fassbender plays a convicted murderer and his distant ancestor, a core member of a secret assassins' society, which fights the Knights Templar over centuries.

The death-row inmate is forced to use a machine to explore his genetic memory, obtain his ancestor's knowledge and combat skills and retrieve a treasure.

Fassbender says for those who have never played the game, the visual spectacles and the action scenes will be the main attractions.

As for how popular the game is in China, a forum named after the game on Baidu Tieba, one of the country's most popular communication platforms, has more than 320,000 followers.

For them, two scenes - the eagles' flight and "the leap of faith" - are sure to resonate.

The "leap" is an acrobatic move mastered by the assassins, who dive headfirst from a high building and perform a head-over-heels roll in mid-air and land on their feet.

Fassbender says the "leap" portrayed in the movie was done by a stuntman, who did the 38-meter dive.

The actor also says that despite the temptation to use computer-generated imagery for the shot, the filmmakers did real-set shooting as a tribute to old-school cinematography as well as to make the scene as realistic as possible.

"We tried to find realistic ways to do the action scenes," he says.

Fassbender, who was born in Germany and raised in Ireland, says he is also a fan of Chinese kung fu movies. He runs through a long list from Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle to Yip Man, starring Donnie Yen.

Asked about his favorite role, Fassbender quickly responds with Hunger.

Hunger, which won him a British Independent Film Award in 2008, is a biopic of Irish nationalist Bobby Sands who died in a hunger strike.

"It was the first opportunity for me to play a close-to-history character. It is a very profound work," he says.

Fassbender first gained popularity with Quentin Tarantino's 2009 film Inglourious Basterds, and then shone in Shame, which won him the best actor award in 2011 at the Venice Film Festival. But it was 12 Years A Slave that earned him his first Oscar nomination in 2013.

Speaking about how he works, Fassbender says: "I think you need to be relaxed. To have an imagination, to allow yourself believe in the world that your character lives in."

(China Daily 02/23/2017 page19)

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