Assassin’s Creed Parkour Par for the Course?

  • Written by Josiah Clark


    Parkour has been highlighted sporadically in film since the acrobatic fluidity of founder David Belle and fellow free-running practitioners inspired the first-ever parkour-centric movie, Yamakasi, in 2001. That was in France. In the United States, 2004’s Casino Royale had, until now, been the most mainstream film to feature the sport, what with last year’s Tracers’—Taylor Lautner fleeing the Chinese mafia for 90 minutes—comparably low profile and less-than-stellar reception. 

    After a score of video game incarnations (nine main) released on fifteen platforms over just eight years, Assassin’s Creed is finally heading to Hollywood à la Justin Kurzel (Macbeth) and Ubisoft Motion Pictures. As fans of the award-winning franchise will know, parkour plays a pivotal role throughout the series as members of the Assassin Order rely on their prowess therein to aid them before, during, and after assassinations. That said, this could be huge. Potentially. On the other hand, video game-to-movie adaptations have something of a history as lackluster goldmines—or just plain lackluster. Remember Doom? Talk about rock bottom.
    But we’re feeling pretty good about this. And after the first trailer dropped last week, we’re feeling, well… still pretty damn good—in spite of Kanye’s anachronistic, vain-glorious “I am a God.” (Can we get something harder, please?)
    One enormous positive in which we can take solace is the fact that we know Ubisoft cares about the integrity of parkour—the authenticity of the moves in the video games—as evidenced by their bringing aboard someone from our scene, Michael “Frosti” Zernow, as a “strategic advisor” in 2014. “I’ve been a long-time fan of the Assassin’s Creed franchise,” Frosti said at the time he was hired. “It’s one of the few highly visible examples of parkour that attracts younger athletes to the sport every year.” So Ubisoft has an excellent source on tap that, hopefully, will help keep the ship on course.
    Another ship-related positive: Justin Kurzel at the helm. If you skipped his Macbeth (2015) because your high school English teacher made Shakespeare unintelligibly boring, give it a watch. Macbeth is full of striking, cinematic shots, and the Assassin’s Creed trailer opens with a categorical money shot: the iconic leap-of-faith. Kurzel is also known for his gripping battle scenes, one of which we get a glimpse of as Maria (Ariane Labed) uses double-hidden blades (introduced by da Vinci in Assassin’s Creed II) to take down two opponents after pursuing them over a series of rooftops in what we’re sure will be just one of many examples of parkour-heavy fight sequences throughout the film.
    The narrative centers on Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) as he experiences the adventurous life of his ancestor, Aguilar, during the Spanish Inquisition. Via a virtual reality, DNA-memory machine called the Animus, Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the powerful and oppressive present-day Templar organization.
    As it pertains to learning parkour for the movie, Fassbender (X-Men, Steve Jobs) said, “I’ve learned how to roly-poly, tumble turn. Stuff you can do in everyday life, like cartwheels. Basic fight choreography stuff. [I’ve done] some horse stuff.” So while Fassbender is definitely doing “stuff,” we’re not sure if that stuff constitutes parkour.
    What we are sure of is that Ubisoft has at least two sequels slated to follow the first movie, which means lots of potential mainstream exposure for parkour which, in turn, means good news for the sport, those who love it, and those who live it. And who knows? It could very well mean good news for you if you’re a free-runner looking for a career in front of the camera.
    Assassin’s Creed opens December 21, 2016.