The leap of faith of the Assassin's Creed Movie
Markuz, February 14 2017
Translated by: Stefania

It's been a long time since we at Access The Animus raised the anti-spoiler barriers and entered in our annual "semi-hibernation" that allows everyone to be able to enjoy the main Assassin’s Creed product of the year without spoilers from our side. This year as well we decided to have our anti-spoiler protection at least until the end of January, even if the time that the movie required from fans is infinitely shorter than the one they would pour in the games, because of the different release dates that the film had in the world.

The wait, however, is over and with this article we can finally try and analyze the movie that caused so much discussion among the fans and critics. In particular, this article will not be the only one dedicated to the videogame movie by Ubisoft and 20th Century Fox, and unless the Abstergo Foundation (....) interferes with this, it will be part of a trilogy dedicated to analyzing the plot of the movie and its novelization, the so-called fan service and the things that made us turn our noses up a bit.

So many things to talk about!

As many of you asked us, this two-part article will be largely dedicated to analyze the main plot points of the movie and its novelization, which I believe can be summed up into 10 discussion topics. Before delving deep into each of them, though, I’d like to start with something I believe to be very important to take into consideration while analyzing all of this.

The role of Christie Golden and the movie novelization
Christie Golden
I have to say it, I really love everything that Christie Golden has written up to now for the Assassin’s Creed franchise (and by looking at many comments on social media, the same goes for many other fans of the other franchises that she has written novels for, like World of Warcraft and Star Wars). Up until the end of 2016 my favourite work by Christie Golden was the Abstergo Entertainment Employee Handbook, and I liked it so much that it pushed me to write two articles dedicated to its analysis (you can find them here and here). As they say in the movies, the key words being “Up until the end of 2016”. In mid november Assassin’s Creed Heresy came out and it quickly became my favourite Assassin’s Creed related novel, more than Forsaken and The Secret Crusade. The main reason for that is that the book feels very much linked to the rest of the Assassin’s Creed universe, with connections and references that are not just there as Easter Eggs (and there are so many!!) but actually matter and have a meaning for the story. In Heresy Golden actually proves her knowledge of the franchise (through the help of the AC Brand Team) and shows how she can build a story that is based on such knowledge.

That is why I had mixed expectations when I started reading the novelization of the Assassin’s Creed movie after I watched it. On one hand I expected the novel to actually add details to the story and the characters shown in the movie while at the same time I hoped it wouldn’t add big plot points or fundamental details that were absent from the main product.

I know that may sound inconsistent but please bear with me. During my “early years” as fan of Assassin’s Creed, much like I do now, I dug every kind of official related book that could add bits of information to the plot shown in the games. Back then, when the first AC novels provided so many non-canon elements that they pushed fans to wonder about the new details contained in them, the real sources of added information and sometimes explanations were the game guides. By reading them, fans could understand some of the most complex plot elements of the games. The biggest and clearest example of that was the AC3
Example page from the AC3 guide
guide which explained the finale of the game through several pages while the game itself was too cryptic or downright didn’t contain the information needed to explain some of the presumed plotholes (how Juno saved the Earth from the solar flare, why she needed Desmond’s DNA, what Abstergo did with his body etc.). Back then I felt like that was ok, that what mattered was that the information was somewhere, no matter where. But now, looking back, I feel like having some relevant plot elements on the companion product rather than on the main product is like missing a chance to have a better game, movie or else.
This is what happens in some cases during the movie novelization. In fact, the novel contains elements such as – to name a few - Aguilar’s background, the relationship between Aguilar and Maria, Sofia’s past, the characterization of the “Assassins” in the present day (I can’t really consider them as fully fledged Assassins, sorry), and that’s without even considering the short stories dedicated to their ancestors. These plot points, in my opinion, along with a more solid explanation of the classic “Assassin’s Creed” elements that I mentioned in our first impressions article, are too important to be left out of the main product and their absence in the movie may possibly be the reason why the critics mostly wrote negative reviews about it.
I’ll be clear, though, I think I can only barely understand how difficult – and expensive – it can be to write a new story (otherwise the fans would complain it’s too similar to the original series) while trying to fit all the classic elements and the feeling of an Assassin’s Creed story (otherwise the fans would complain it’s too different from the original series) in one single videogame adaptation on the big screen. Still, the fact of the matter is that the aforementioned elements were still missing from the movie and it really feels like a missed opportunity because they were thought of, as they appear in the novel, but never made it to final cut of the movie, which caused in me mixed reactions, following the aforementioned mixed expectations.

On a more positive... ish note, I also believe that the book fulfils another function. In fact, as you might have seen by watching the movie, it contains several inconsistencies or “missing links” with the main established canon of the Assassin’s Creed franchise. Some are bigger than others, but to hardcore fans like us, all of them appear to be “mistakes” or at least kinks that had to be ironed out. Well, to that extent, the novelization (and therefore Christie Golden and the AC Brand Team) actually tries to edit / explain some of the inconsistencies from the movie and tries to create ties to the franchise that the movie wasn’t able to portrait. For example, all the characters in the movie call Abstergo “the Abstergo Foundation” and while
Callum staring at the Animus
it’s not actually stated, I always felt like the movie implied that it’s the name of the Abstergo conglomerate and not one of its branches as even Rikkin is its CEO: contrary to that, the book makes it clear that Abstergo Industries (which is never mentioned in the movie) and the Abstergo Foundation are two separate entities. Another example deals with the first time in which Callum is put in the Animus: the book actually states that in that moment Callum already knows what an Animus is and that it was used to glean memories of someone’s ancestors so that Abstergo Entertainment could create games based on them
An example of the
misspellings in the book
(which is pretty much in contrast with the completely unaware Callum from the movie but much more realistic in the AC lore).

These are just two examples but in case you are interested in all the inconsistencies that the movie and the book have with the established canon I suggest you to follow us as we might have a dedicated article in the future.
Finally, there’s one last thing I’d like to add about the novelization itself. As Loomer mentioned in his review of AC: Heresy, he found several typos while reading the book. In his words, “More than I’m used to see in these Assassin’s Creed books”. I have to say that while I honestly didn’t notice it that much while reading Heresy, I surely noticed it while reading the movie novelization. It’s almost always about a wrong letter in a word, nothing too big, but sometimes that happens even in the names of the main characters. The biggest example for that was Aguilar’s name, which was misspelled five times (at least in my e-book).

All in all, though, for better or worse, I still advise you to check the novelization out, as it does explain some plot points that are missing from the movie, as we’ll see.

Enough with the “chit chat”, though. With these observations in mind we can finally dig into the actual main plot points of the movie and its novelization and discuss them in-depth. Let’s start with the historical part of the narration...

The relationship between Maria and Aguilar
There is “something” between Maria and Aguilar, but the movie fails to show what it is, as I mentioned in our first impressions article. The movie shows us Maria in basically four occasions, which obviously correspond to the prologue and three regressions that Callum experiences.
In the prologue of the movie we see Aguilar’s initiation and Maria is part the second half of the ceremony. She pronounces the Spanish version of the Creed giving Aguilar his double Hidden Blades while he’s still bleeding from his severed finger. Aguilar answers with “Trabajamos en la oscuridad para servir a la luz. Somos Asesinos” (We work in the dark to serve the light. We are Assassins)... and cut. This is Maria’s and Aguilar’s interaction in the prologue of the movie, and while it seems very “detached” as they are partaking in a ceremonial ritual, it goes much deeper in the novel.

... giving Aguilar his double Hidden Blades while
he still bleeding from his severed finger
In fact, the prologue of the novel already provides a backstory for Aguilar and Maria that the movie doesn’t have. After Aguilar’s parents were found by the Templars because he was reluctant to follow in their “Assassin” footsteps, and later burnt at the stake by Ojeda and Torquemada, he decided to “save himself” by turning to the Brotherhood (an origin story echoing in a way that of Arno Dorian). The Assassins, though, initially refused him, questioning his motives and expecting he’d just join them to look for revenge (again, similarly to Unity). Maria was the only Assassin that saw more than that in him and thanks to her Aguilar was able to join the Assassins. Through her Aguilar could learn the history of his lineage and be trained in the ways of the Brotherhood, learning the Creed and the basics of combat (he even bore scars as testament to the times he had been slow or inattentive during the training). The book also states that Maria was quick to laugh and quicker with her blades, pushing him when he flagged and praising when he succeeded.
All of this, which shows a horrible past for young Aguilar and the beginning of his relationship with Maria, is running through Aguilar’s mind while we see him approaching his initiation.

Moreover, while Maria pronounces the Creed, the book shows Aguilar looking at her, and thinking about their past. In the beginning she had the role of a “kind sister” but over time she became “much more”. Aguilar thinks of her laughter, her scent, and even remembers what seems to be an intimate kiss they shared. Still, as Maria pronounces the Creed, Aguilar knows in his mind that before anything else she is an Assassin, bound to the Creed and willing to sacrifice everything for it (this is a very good example of how strong and “cruel” is the Assassins’ dedication to the Creed, but more on that later).
All of this is a much better description of the kind of relationship that Maria and Aguilar have at the beginning of the movie and it provides much more solid bases for the future events of the story (especially Maria’s self sacrifice towards the end of the movie).

The next interaction is in the first regression, when the Assassins try to save the Sultan’s son from the hands of the Templars,
Maria's star-shaped weapon
unsuccessfully. This sequence is more or less made of action scenes so apparently it doesn’t contain many elements about Aguilar and Maria... but it’s not really like that. As for the movie, apart from showing Maria using her peculiar star-shaped weapon for a very brief moment and doing a backflip on a rock while being on a running cart, what I do like from this sequence is seeing Aguilar trying to save Maria and the Prince at the same time while, by shouting “Aguilar! The boy!”, she once again proves that for her the Creed and the mission come before any other attachment.

In the book this sequence contains several more details that help contextualize it a bit more (it’s 1491, and it’s been “few months” since Aguilar’s formal initiation from the previous scene). Also, the sequence contains a much bigger focus on Aguilar’s internal struggle between following his thirst for revenge against Ojeda and trying to accomplish the mission that his Mentor Benedicto gives him. A struggle that obviously and sadly didn’t make it to the movie as it never reveals that Ojeda and Torquemada were the actual brains and muscle behind the burning at the stake of Aguilar’s parents.
As for Aguilar and Maria, even the book provides only few information about them in this sequence, which is mainly dedicated to the rescue of Prince Ahmed. Still, here and there we get glimpses of what they know about each other. For example, Aguilar and so the readers already know at this point that Maria has two special Hidden Blades (one that can be used as a projectile weapon and the other one which is twin-pronged). Another example is Aguilar’s reaction in the book when, while trying to free Ahmed from his cage on the cart, Maria shouts “Aguilar! The boy!”. In fact, hearing Maria’s voice heartens Aguilar and pushes him to get the boy and shoot his “grappling bolt” from his gauntlet to save him and himself. As we know, though, the success lasts only a few moments, as Ojeda captures both them and Maria.

This leads directly to the second regression, where Torquemada and the Templars have prepared the “auto-da-fé” ritual to burn Aguilar, Maria and Benedicto, the only three Assassin left of the Spanish Brotherhood, as the novel says in contrast with the established canon shown in Assassin’s Creed II: Discovery (and that is not the only difference with that game).
This sequence is very important for Aguilar’s and Maria’s relationship, especially because of what happens when they are imprisoned before they are moved on the stage for the ritual. As a matter of fact, while the two Assassins discuss how Sultan Muhammad XII will be weak and will hand the Apple of Eden to the Templars in exchange for his son, Maria says that “Love makes us weak”, not just as a reference to Muhammad’s behaviour, but also very likely to her bond with Aguilar. This is where the two make their vow, looking at each other, forehead against forehead, exposing the cruelty that they have to face for the sake of the Creed: “Yo sacrificarìa feliz mi carne y mi sangreparaque el Credo viviera”(I would gladly sacrifice my flesh and my blood – the translation in the book says “and everyone I care for” - so that the Creed can live on).

Maria and Aguilar facing their fate

With this vow, both Assassins are accepting their fate of being burnt at the stake and at the same time they are reminding themselves that they’d be willing to sacrifice everything for the Creed. And still, the book mentions that while they look at each other, there is so much Aguilar wants to say but “the words were not needed. She knew – and so did he”. It even says that the chains were too short and did not even allow for a final kiss before dying. In general the book almost never says that the two are in love with each other... but it implies it very heavily, contrary to what is shown in the movie.
Another important sentence that Maria pronounces is “When I die today, do not waste your tears”. As we know, it does not have a meaning for this specific scene, but remember it, as it will be fundamental for the third regression.

As we know, Maria and Aguilar don’t die during the ritual, while Benedicto does (making him – or not allowing him to change the fact that he is one of the most underwhelming Mentors in the franchise). Their escape through the Leap of Faith allows them to escape Ojeda and his relentless hunt for them and to get to Granada for their last stand in the mission to stop the Templars.

Before reaching the Alhambra palace where the Sultan – and the Apple – lie, we see Aguilar and Maria on the top of a tower and once again, for the third time, the girl reminds him that their life are nothing, saying that “What matters is what we leave behind”. It’s another sentence that shows how Maria is ready to do everything so that the Assassins can accomplish their mission. Differently from the other times in which she said something similar, though, this time Maria also hands Aguilar a symbol of what she just said: the six-pointed star necklace that we’d later see in the hand of Callum’s mother. This is a very important gesture, as the book says that Aguilar knew that Maria had received this necklace from her parents and now she was giving it to him, saying that their lives meant nothing compared to the mission they are trying to carry out. In a way Maria is accepting her approaching fate, and, considering what Aguilar feels for her, this hits him emotionally, making the necklace “as precious as the object they sought together” (the Apple).
Maria gives Aguilar her necklace
Also, the necklace itself is also a symbol representing the Creed being passed on through time in Callum’s bloodline. In fact, considering that it’s the same kind of necklace that Mary Lynch is holding in the first scenes of the movie, it is heavily implied that starting from Aguilar it was passed on through generations up until it ended in the hands of Cal’s mother. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it again, in case the movie had a sequel with other ancestors from Callum’s lineage.

Later, Maria and Aguilar reach the Alhambra and the Patio de Leones and see Torquemada forcing the Sultan into surrendering the Apple. The novel states that Aguilar hopes for a long moment to see Muhammad refusing, being him a friend of the Assassins, but he remembers that he hasn’t sworn like he and Maria did. This prompts his mind (again, in the book) to flash back to the moment before the auto-da-fé where he and Maria swore to sacrifice themselves, if that was needed, but he doesn’t have that much time to linger on it, as after Torquemada obtains the Apple, he chooses to jump into action. What follows it another fight scene that leads to a classic “Mexican standoff” with Aguilar capturing Torquemada while Ojeda captures Maria. As classic standoffs go, the hero has to choose between the mission (and in this circumstance his beliefs, his Creed) and his love interest. In this case, even if time and time again Maria and Benedicto reminded Aguilar that only the mission mattered (that’s so Otso Berg-ish), he decides to retract his Hidden Blade from Torquemada’s throat. In that very brief instance, not only Aguilar chooses Maria but he also knows that he is betraying the Creed, compromising the Brotherhood and the mission.

That is probably why Maria decides she can’t allow for it and pushes Ojeda to kill her. Maria has always showed throughout the book and the movie to have a much stronger resolve towards the Creed than Aguilar does. While doing this not only she sacrifices herself for the Creed like she said multiple times, but she also clears Aguilar’s “betrayal”.
Of course Maria’s decision leaves Aguilar in pieces and pushes him to finally have his revenge on Ojeda who, in a way, took both his family and his love interest from him. The clash, as we know, doesn’t initially favour Aguilar, who is almost defeated by the black knight and falls down near Maria’s body. This is where he sees that she is still alive and the novel shows how seeing her eyes and hearing her voice for the last time when she whispers “Go..” makes Aguilar hope for the last time that she can survive, in vain.

The last scene of the movie
in which we see Aguilar
This is how Aguilar’s and Maria’s story ends. A tragic story, as many stories are in the Assassin’s Creed universe, although it is pretty “classic” if not a bit “cliché” considering it contains all the classic elements that can be found in many other love stories on the big screen. I do like, though, how the book portrays Aguilar’s choice in the end, because he himself knows that he committed the same mistake / crime towards the Creed that he hoped the Sultan wouldn’t do, giving a bit of depth to the character that the movie wasn’t able to create for the lack of screen time or the choice to focus most of the regressions on action scenes.

Still, one question for all the fans remains: if these memories come from Cal’s DNA, who was Aguilar’s wife / partner and when did she give birth to a child that moved the lineage on up until Callum? The Siege of Granada takes place in 1491 (although the movie reports 1492 as main date for the events) and the memory of Aguilar meeting Christopher Columbus takes place five days after the third regression (as mentioned in the book), while the movie shows that Aguilar died in 1526. Who knows, maybe we are going to find out more in the future..

The depiction of the Assassin’s Creed
Like I mentioned before, I was surprised to see a very... “cruel” version of the Creed in the movie and in the book. I’ll try and explain this in a bit more detailed way. In every instalment of the franchise the Creed requires dedication from the Assassins, who are sometimes forced to choose between their feelings and the mission, but I honestly believe we haven’t seen in any other release such a will to accept the idea of sacrifice for the Creed as the one we see in the movie and its novelization.

In the regressions, for example, the Brotherhood requires every initiated Assassin to immediately swear they will sacrifice themselves and all their brothers to prevent the Apple from falling in the Templars’ hands. Another example is Benedicto stating “Nuestras vidas no son nada. La manzana lo es todo” (Our lives are nothing, the Apple is everything) and, of course, the main proof in the historical regression consists of Maria’s words and actions (that we mentioned before) which are pretty much always inclined to follow and save the Creed, no matter the cost.

I believe this “cruelty” or
The new role of the
Assassins and their allies
“fundamentalist behaviour” (or “badassery”?) goes hand in hand and is a result of the relatively new position in which the Assassins find themselves in this new Assassin’s Creed story. As a matter of fact, the Assassins aren’t hunting an artefact but at the same time they are not trying to prevent the Templars from finding it before they do either. This time the Assassins are protectors of the Apple, and this means that all they want and have to do is to guard the artefact, whatever the cost. After seeing it this way, the behaviour of the Spanish Assassins is much more understandable, and it very much mirrored by the “Assassins” in the present day.

In fact, the Assassins in the present day (Mary and Joseph Lynch and the captives in the Abstergo Foundation Rehabilitation Center) are once again protecting the Apple, only they are not doing it physically like their Spanish “colleagues” did. As a matter of fact, they are protecting and doing everything they can to prevent the Templars from finding the location of the Apple that is hidden in Callum’s DNA... and in Mary’s DNA.

That’s right, Mary’s DNA too. As Joseph Lynch tells his son, “She died so the Creed may live (...) I took her life, rather than have it stolen by that machine” and by that he probably means that if Abstergo had captured her, they would have used her to go back to Aguilar’s memories to find the Apple (as we can see from the “lineage board” in the Abstergo building, Aguilar comes from Mary’s branch of Cal’s lineage). That’s why, to protect the Apple and the Creed itself, Mary had to sacrifice herself. To complete his task and protect the Apple forever, Joseph should have killed his son, the last person - according to the movie - that carried Aguilar’s memories in his DNA, but he couldn’t. That’s why Abstergo can try once again to recover the Apple when they find out about Callum in 2016, and this is where indirectlythe Creed comes into play once again.

"Abstergo can try once again to recover the Apple"
In the Abstergo Foundation Rehabilitation Center Callum finds other descendants of past Assassins that are held captive in the building. When they get to know about him and see that Abstergo pushes him in the Animus too frequently, they understand that the Templars have finally found another lead to the Apple and therefore, once again try to be its protectors by preventing him from going into the Animus. This is where the clash between Callum and Nathan takes place, with them surrounded by the other “Assassin” captives, but as we know, Callum gets free and still gives the Templars what they want.

All in all, this new take on the Creed, although very brutal, kind of fits with the (clichée?) idea of secret society that the new movie goers fans were going to be presented with while being introduced to the Assassin’s Brotherhood. At the same time, it partly fits with the established canon too, as the idea of sacrifice can be easily connected to the “Never compromise the Brotherhood” tenet of the Creed.

The present day “Assassins” and their exclusive short stories
Before getting to talk about matters that only involve the present day itself, which will be the main course of the second part of this article, I’d like to talk about the present day “Assassins” and their ancestors, who represent a mix between present day and history.

The modern day "Assassins" and their ancestors
(Source: 20th Century Fox and AC Wikia)

To be more specific, the Brotherhood, as in the organization that we have seen in the present day of the games and of the several transmedia releases, does not really appear in the movie - and in a way that’s understandable as the same happened in the first game of the franchise (save for a few references throughout it). In my opinion the only “official” Assassins in the movie are Joseph and Mary Lynch, Callum’s father and mother, as they are the only characters that really belong to the Brotherhood, even before being caught by Abstergo. Conversely, the (improperly called) “Assassins” in the present day are actually the four (five?) test subjects / patients of the Abstergo Foundation that happen to have had Assassin ancestors and try to follow Callum in his path to become one (the novel also slightly implies that all the other inmates have had Assassins in their lineage). As I mentioned in our first impressions article, though, they are really not developed in the movie, while the novel gives a few more details about them, the relationship between each other, their motivations, and, of course, their connection to their main ancestor through an original short story. Here they are, in a brief list:

  • Moussa, descendant of Baptiste from Assassin’s Creed III – Liberation

  • Lin (or Linn as mentioned in the “Into the Animus” book), descendant of Shao Jun from Assassin’s Creed Embers and Assassin’s Creed Chronicles: China

  • Nathan, descendant of Duncan Walpole from Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag

  • Emir, descendant of Yusuf Tazim from Assassin’s Creed Revelations

  • Lara (?) – we’ll talk about her at the end of this part of the article

Moussa, the trickster

Moussa in a very sober expression
that never appeared in the movie
Let’s start from the first and better developed “Assassin” in the movie, Moussa. During the campaign for the movie, he was described as the “trickster” and while that is not always felt throughout the entire movie, there are occasions in which he is able to make some funny jokes and at the same time trick the Abstergo guards into doing what he wants. The most visible examples from the movie are jokes like “It’s an open menu but we do recommend the chicken” and the fact that he steals the smoke bombs from a display case to start the rebellion but there are many more references in the novelization and in the Into the Animus book, starting from his past.

According to the novel, before being captured Moussa was a “simple street thief” in Atlanta, who usually committed simple crimes but sometime got to the point of killing people to obtain what he wanted, and all of this without being found by the police. After being captured by Abstergo and going in the Animus, though, his skills “had increased a thousandfold”, especially in terms of manipulating and controlling people. Being he a descendant of an Assassin turncoat, at first the inmates didn’t trust Moussa and they were right, as he went along what the Templars asked of him while going in the Animus, just like Baptiste did with the Templars in Liberation.

Moussa's "voodoo
influenced wrist-blade"
As for what is mentioned in the Into the Animus book, Moussa should have wielded a bone voodoo spear (which he has), a voodoo influenced wrist-blade which fires poison darts out (which never appeared in the movie), smoke bombs on a bandolier (again, the bandolier didn’t appear in the movie) and the Tiger Claw, the tiny four-clawed weapon shown in the movie, that according to armourer Tim Wildgoose is “something that Ninja used for hanging off the side of buildings for long periods of time. It worked for Baptiste because it’s a sort of African big cat tie-in”. I am still trying to understand that one...

The short story about his regressions in the Animus takes place more or less around this time and deals with how Baptiste reacts after François Mackandal, the Mentor of the Brotherhood in Saint-Domingue, died in an attempt to poison the colonists, and his longtime friend Agaté left him to travel to Louisiana to look for his beloved Jeanne (Aveline’s future mother).

Baptiste feels betrayed by Agaté and is now alone without a Mentor and so decides to gather his followers for a voudou ritual, to have the “loas” (the spirits of Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo) tell them what
HD render of Baptiste
(source: AC Wiki)
the Brotherhood should do to go forward. As the novel goes, it explains that Mackandal taught him the mechanics behind what appeared to be magic but wasn’t in such rites, and so, during this specific occasion, Baptiste drugs all of his followers by making them drink spiked rhum. He himself goes on to drink a “potion” (a mixture of herbs and a poisonous toxin), but while he and Mackandal had always managed to artificially create and control the “magic” behind these voodoo rituals, this time something goes wrong and Baptiste gets on a very psychedelic trip of his own that will define how he appears and behaves in Liberation. In fact, in the “vision” he sees Baron Samedi, the lord of the graveyard from the Haitian Vodou and none other than Mackandal itself, with a snake in his mouth. Baron Samedi asks him to wear his skull-like “face” from that moment on, which actually can be seen in Baptiste’s character design, while the snake is a symbol of “changing the skin”, as Mackandal asks Baptiste to become like him, both mentally and physically, to lead the Brotherhood once again. This pushes him to go as far as severing his left arm (to appear like Mackandal) and, as we know from Liberation, beginning to use his name to spread the word that Mackandal wasn’t dead and to gain more followers for his cult. This, in turn, leads him to be noticed by the Templars and, in the end, to betray the Brotherhood.

This brief story is an example of what Moussa (and Sofia Rikkin and Abstergo) saw in the Animus and one of the reasonswhy he followed the Templars in the present day and wasn’t trusted by the other inmates. At a certain point, though, Moussa realized that the Templars were getting all the benefits from his regressions in the Animus and so slowly turned to the “Assassins”. In time this led him to actually be one of the most trustworthy ”Assassins” in the Abstergo compound in Madrid, a man who fakes being a fool to obtain information from the guards and that many other inmates turn to when in need.

All of this, of course, is not shown in the movie, which is understandable as such level of detail can only belong to a book. At the same time, though, Moussa in the movie doesn’t appear to be the trickster that he was meant to be from the campaign and that he is in the book, playing cards, playing games with cups with the guards, making snark remarks and analyzing everything around him.

Nathan, the hot-tempered

Nathan, played by Callum Turner
Hot-tempered. This is enough to describe Nathan both in the movie and in the novelization. He is the most athletic and the youngest “Assassin” in the Abstergo Foundation center in Madrid, and, possibly because of that, he is depicted as the one that is most worried / scared that Callum will lead the Templars to the Apple and therefore decides to act against him and attack him. This can be seen in the movie when Nathan in the common room of the Abstergo building tries to get the apple (as in the fruit) from Cal’s hands and even more when he attacks him before his voluntary regression, screaming “You’re going to kill the Creed!”.

While Nathan gets right enough screen time, the movie doesn’t make a perfect job of explaining why his behaviour is this irritable. Thankfully, though, the novelization helps a lot with that. As a matter of fact, the
Nathan's "bone wrist-crossbow"
book mentions that Nathan awakes every night covered in sweat, absolutely terrified, because of the Bleeding Effect, which is more intense with him because he’s younger than the other patients and so he has less of his own memories than a person that has lived more. The reason why Nathan is always like this, though, isn’t the Bleeding Effect itself but rather the memories of his ancestor that it brings to him. Contrary to everyone’s expectations, though, Nathan’s ancestor isn’t Arno Dorian as the Phantom Blade-like weapon he used in the trailers may have suggested. As mentioned in the Into the Animus book, apparently the “bone wrist-crossbow” was given to Nathan because everyone loved it so much and knew it would end up being seen prominently – even if it didn’t have anything to do with his ancestor (?). In fact, Nathan’s ancestor is Duncan Walpole, the Assassin traitor that Edward Kenway kills at the beginning of Assassin’s Creed IV, who was meant to bring a blood Vial and a map containing all the locations of the Assassin bureaus in the Caribbean to the Templar Grand Master Laureano Torres.

Having such a despicable person as an ancestor, Nathan lived and lives every day feeling the anxiety and the challenge of not becoming like his ancestor, and the suspicion that any newcomer would be like him (which, of course, he projects over Callum).
The short story dedicated to Walpole, then, is a perfect example of the memories that Nathan experienced and that caused him to be the way he is. In it we see Nathan vomiting twice and not wanting to go back in the Animus to see Walpole’s memories, but he still chooses to do so to avoid becoming like the patients in the Infinity Room (the room where Joseph Lynch is confined along with the other “absent-minded” patients).

In the memory, taking place in London in 1714, we see Duncan Walpole, Master Assassin, who shows the worst of himself: he keeps thinking of drinking and “patronizing the local brothel” and attending bull-baiting or cockfighting while, at the same time, the book says he is less idealistic towards the Creed and its tenets and he is even pissed off when he finds out he is summoned by his mentor, Philip Randall.
When he reaches him, Randall criticises him for always being “unreliable, erratic, disrespectful, and drunk half the time” and for having changed in the last 13 years, since he joined the Brotherhood. Randall goes on saying that they, as Assassins, work in the dark and so don’t get their names engraved on plaques or statues erected in their honor. “Our names aren’t important. All that matters is what we leave behind”, he says, which is very similar to Maria’s “Our own lives mean nothing. What matters is what we leave behind” at the beginning of Callum’s third regression.

Ah Tabai, art from
Assassin's Creed Memories
(source: AC Wiki)
Sadly, this doesn’t breach Walpole’s heart. He actually becomes even more shocked when Randall tells him his next mission: going to the Caribbean and strengthen the bond with the local Brotherhood to assist the local mentor, Ah Tabai, in a hunt for a Sage and to continue his training with him. The implication that Walpole still needs to be trained – by a “primitive” no less – is what gets to Duncan the most, but there is more to his mission. As Randall says, during Walpole’s “official” work at the East India Company (a company that the Assassins believed had attracted a few Templars in its ranks), he drew too much attention and so he had to leave the city. Randall also confirms that Henry Spencer, one of the newest members of the Court of Directors of the company, was the Templar that had noticed Walpole.

With all the anger and selfishness in his body, Walpole refuses his mission, but Randall states he trusts he’ll come around and accept it in the end.
Concept art of Duncan Walpole
(source: AC Initiates)
Seething with fury”, Walpole answers in a very unpolite way, “You’re about to see my arse, and you may kiss it if you like”, and leaves Randall. What is interesting is that the same night he tries to take his anger on Henry Spencer, hoping to understand how he was noticed. He follows him in the night, as he’s walking in a dark alley… but he’s surprised to see that Spencer actually is expecting him. In fact, after telling him he was actually hoping he’d follow him, Spencer offers Walpole a proposition: joining the Templars and getting the recognition and advancement that he never obtained in the Brotherhood and in the East India Company. Of course Walpole accepts, also revealing that the Assassins were looking for a Sage in the Caribbean.

This is, indeed, a story that shows how the Templars found out about the Sage in AC4 and, of course, how Walpole betrayed the Brotherhood (fakingly accepting Randall’s mission to actually go to the Caribbean for the Templars). I have to say that, while Walpole is decribed as one of the most despicable and horrible characters of the franchise, this is my second favourite short story among the ones written for the novelization, because it actually reaches the purpose of making the reader hate this character while, at the same time, it explains some of the details behind the beginning of the story of AC4.

Going back to the movie, this is the kind of memories that Nathan went through and that he has to fight in his mind to avoid being like his ancestor. It’s because of this that, only in the novelization, Nathan’s death during the rebellion at the Abstergo Foundation Rehabilitation Center can have a meaning: in fact, he gets killed fighting loyally for the Assassins, finally getting rid of his fear of becoming like his ancestor. Once again, though, all of this is not in the movie, which means that movie goers couldn’t get to know about Nathan’s past and fears so they probably did not find any meaning or emotional reaction in his death, much like what happened with Emir, as we’ll see.

Lin... the silent one?

Lin and her best attempt at
making Italian gestures
I’ll try and be brief about Lin... because I don’t have that much to say about her. And that’s because she doesn’t have that much to say about herself. I am pretty sure that she never speaks in the movie and all that she does is staring at Michael Fassbender from various places of the compound (I’m sure many other ladies would have done the same in her place but still...). Other than this, she can also be seen fighting to get a crossbow, climbing up the Animus arm and stealing a Hidden Footblade (which is actually the only thing that ties her to her ancestor Shao Jun). And that’s it. And she’s one of the two “Assassins” that the writers chose to save and let escape with Callum. Honestly, I would have preferred Emir or Nathan.

The novelization and the Into The Animus artbook, though, can still shed some light on the character. Lin is a taciturn Chinese girl who, while going in the Animus and seeing the memories of her ancestor, Shao Jun, developed a fondness for ribbon dancing (as a matter of fact, Lin sees memories of Shao Jun from her early days as spy and dancer for Emperor Zhengde). It is thanks to this passion that I could at least like one of the scenes from the novelization with Lin: the Ribbon Dance scene right before the start of the rebellion in the Abstergo Foundation compound. As a matter of fact, right before Moussa throws the smoke bombs, the novelization mentions that Lin goes in the common room with her ribbons (that Abstergo allowed her to keep) and starts dancing, “the red ribbons flowing like animated streams of blood in breathtaking circles and undulations”. This provides the first distraction that allows for the rebellion that we all saw in the
Shao Jun and Zhang
(Source: AC: Wiki)

Other than this, though, and a few references to the fact that the Bleeding Effect for Lin is more like feeling her “ancestor’s spirit dwelling in her body”, in my opinion, nothing else can be said about the Chinese modern day “Assassin”.

Even the short story dedicated to Shao Jun to me felt like the weakest of those appeared in the novelization. It shows a twelve year-old Shao Jun dealing with Zhang, her friend and also concubine of the Emperor that will go on to become the second wife of Emperor Jiajing, as shown in Assassin’s Creed Chronicles China. Zhang is never allowed to go out of the harem while Jun is because Emperor Zhengde uses her as dancer and spy. Thus, Jun goes on to tell her friend how the world is outside of the harem, with a few references to the Eight Tigers, the Templar group that appeared in Chronicles China, and to her dancing experiences. This is more or less it: the short story helps showing where Lin got her fondness for Ribbon Dancing, while it also gives a bit of insight about the relationship between Shao Jun and Zhang before it evolved into what was shown during the events of Chronicles China.

Emir, the wise

Emir in a fight scene
at the end of the movie
Emir has always given me the idea of being the leader of the “Assassins” in the present day. I don’t know why, because I am pretty sure there aren’t any references, at least in the movie, in that direction. Anyway, Emir has a poor portrayal in the movie, much like, broadly speaking, the other “Assassins”, as there are only few moments where he gets to appear on screen. A notable one is the scene in which he gives an apple to Callum in the common room of the Abstergo building, symbolizing the Apple of Eden is in his hands and so its destiny and the destiny of free will. This is a bit strange, to the very least, as the “Assassins” shouldn’t be supposed to know at this point who Callum’s ancestor is and what he did. In fact, right before this scene, Emir and Moussa actually are wondering about Callum’s ancestry, saying “We don’t know who he is, what he is. That’s a dangerous man” and “Give him a little more time Emir, that man might prove he has some noble blood in him yet” (both lines are possibly part of a bigger dialogue that actually appears in the novelization).
The other scene that shows Emir in the movie is, of course, that of his contribution to the rebellion, going into the control room to allow the other “Assassins” to reach the Animus room and Callum, and his subsequent death / sacrifice. Again, as it happens with Nathan, Emir’s death in my opinion delivers little to no emotion in the viewer because little to no time was used to describe the character and his past (and his ancestor), causing the viewers not to get emotionally attached to him.

In the book he is described as a level-headed, tempered man, who shares his thoughts with his fellow “Assassins” and is allowed and encouraged by Abstergo to tend his garden (much like Lin is allowed to Ribbon Dance). The novelization and the Into the Animus artbook don’t add many details about Emir, but when they do, they draw some really nice comparisons between him and his ancestor, Yusuf Tazim.

Yusuf in all his glory
The Into The Animus book, for example, mentions all the weapons that Emir should have used in the movie, but sadly, if I’m not mistaken, never appeared: eagle throwing knives on his shoulder, an Islamic-influenced bow and arrow and Islamic-style wrist-blades.

As for the novelization, it mentions that Emir had grown up without family, moving from foster house to foster house while his new families took for them the money intended for his upkeep. This is very similar to what happened to Yusuf, as he grew up without his father (this is mentioned in Yusuf’s short story too). When Yusuf joined the Assassins, he quickly became “almost a parent to the younger members” and that is exactly what Emir tried to do with the other inmates after being captured by Abstergo and after witnessing Yusuf’s memories. The book goes on to describe Emir feeling so honoured and proud to have such an ancestor that he actually wants to be and behave like him, which is in such a stark contrast compared to what Nathan feels for his ancestor.
This very strong connection with his ancestor makes it so that Emir in the novelization is ready and proud to sacrifice himself in the control room so that the other “Assassins” can reach Callum in the Animus Room and fight for their lives. Thus, Emir is proud to die like his ancestor died, overwhelmed by Templars while trying to protect the people he cared for.

The short story dedicated to Yusuf, while still being important to create a connection between Emir and the Ottoman Assassin, is more of a tiny love letter to the AC fans and to the Yusuf fans and that’s why it’s my favourite among the ones written for the movie novelization. It deals with Yusuf’s early years, before he was found by Ishak Pasha and introduced by him to the Brotherhood, but it is still surprisingly consistent with the Assassin’s Creed Revelations database (props to Christie Golden and the AC Brand Team).
In fact, we first see Yusuf at the age of eight moving from his native town, Bursa, to Constantinople,
The landscape that was waiting for
Yusuf when he left his hometown
with his mother Nalan, a pastry cook. Life in Constantinople isn’t easy and quickly Yusuf finds out that even if her mother’s kemalpasa and all the sweets she prepared are “the best (…) that anyone had ever tasted” she didn’t make as much money as she did when they were in Bursa. That is why, while delivering the sweets, Yusuf develops the skills of freerunning (he also spots roofs with “ropes that stretched from higher buildings to lower ones”) and pickpocketing, to allow him and his mother to survive, without her knowing.
One night, though, after stealing from a rich lady, he is attacked by an older boy, who tells him that he only saw the fine clothes of the lady but didn’t see the bruises on her face. Seeing that the older boy, named Davud bin Hassan, was only trying to help him, Yusuf decides to listen to what he has to say. Davud tells him that he knows who he is and would like to recruit and teach him how to survive in Constantinople. While it seems like a “proto-induction” to the Brotherhood, Davud is actually asking Yusuf to join a group of children that “all look out for each other” in Constantinople, especially in the Bazaar area. Yusuf actually decides to accept Davud’s offer and goes back with him to meet the lady and give her the money he had stolen.

Five years later, during the Hidirellez celebrations, Nalan decides that it’s actually time to tell Yusuf more about his father. As a matter of fact, Yusuf had never seen his father and his mother had always kept everything about him secret, up until this moment. She tells him that his father helped her preparing kemalpasa but he also did “other things” as well. He fought the Ottomans and “others who seek to dominate and control the people” (of course the Templars). As mentioned in the novel, Nalan doesn’t tell Yusuf anything about Assassins and Templars not to violate the oaths taken by his father, but she still tells him he is dead and that only a few things that belonged to him were returned. Among these, Nalan hands Yusuf an object wrapped in a teal-colored silk cloth: his father’s Hookblade. Funnily enough, she describes it with “There is a hook, as you can see, and there is a simple blade”, giving him his first and basic principles about how to explain the Hookblade…

His mother's son

Yusuf is filled with pride, of course, and after hugging his mother goes out to practise using the Hookblade and he immediately finds out that the ropes over the rooves of the city were specifically designed for it (I have to say, seeing Yusuf learning how to use the Hookblade is a joy for the fans’ eyes).

The story (and the regression) skips to 1482, two years later. Davud has trained Yusuf in fighting and has introduced him to other members of the group. Many children had joined or left the group during all these years, but Yusuf and Davud had stayed, to look out for the interest of the Bazaar community. This specific regression is important because it deals with an activity that Yusuf and Davud had never done up until then, and that will prove to be unluckily unsuccessful and deadly: breaking into a private residence and steal everything they can. The reason for this is that in the previous week a very rich stranger had reached the Bazaar, coldly looking at certain stalls and in the following days those merchants saw their rent was about to quadruple (even the shop for which Nalan was working), showing that the stranger seemed to be the new land owner of the Bazaar area.

Thus, Davud and Yusuf decide to reach the new owner’s house, located of course in an area near the Topkapi Palace, while he is out for dinner. While other children distract the guards, Yusuf accesses the upper stories of the residence with his Hookblade and helps Davud climbing up. They find all sorts of luxury goods and jewelry and put everything they can in their sack, while listening to the conversations downstairs. Everything seems to work fine when the two young men hear a door open below and then a voice with a thick accent getting closer and closer through the stairs mentioning that the Templars had always had eyes on the Bazaar and that now they finally had some permanent stalls (the ones left by the merchants after their rents were raised). The Templar tells the new owner (and now affiliated to the Templars as well) that he’ll become one of the richest men in the city and the new owner decides to celebrate with him upstairs. The words Assassins and Templars don’t
As mentioned in Revelations,
Yusuf grew up using his hookblade
mean anything to Yusuf, but as Davud hears them, he immediately pales and trembles, meaning that he at least knew about both organizations. That’s why, while everything seems doomed for him and Yusuf, he decides in a split second to tell his friend to run away with the sack while he is going to attack the two Templars. Sadly the attack is very unsuccessful, and the new owner easily stops Davud and plunges his dagger in his throat. This thoroughly shocks Yusuf, as the young man gets killed in front of him in a matter of seconds, but at the last possible moment he decides to comply with Davud’s last wish and is barely able to flee. Interestingly enough, the book says that the new owner is found dead the next day, and so the deal to purchase the stalls is cancelled, hinting at the fact that one way or another the Assassins were in contact with Davud or at least were spying on what happened. From that moment on, Yusuf decides to keep helping those in need while trying to discover his father’s legacy with his hookblade and keeps with himself the memory of the red cross on the ring of the man who killed his best friend, a perfect explanation that leads to his induction into the Assassin Brotherhood two years later.

The moody guardians of the Apple

There are still two elements I’d like to explore about the modern day “Assassins”. The first, and it’s an issue that affects other characters in the movie too, is that they change their mind without solid reasons multiple times throughout the movie.
For example, as for what concerns the “Assassins”, at least for what I understood, they shouldn’t be supposed to know what is happening inside the Animus room, so it feels a bit strange to see the them changing their ideas
Emir, suspiciously watching Callum
towards Callum.

I’ll try and be more specific. In the beginning the “Assassins” are doubtful about the newcomer, the so-called “Pioneer”, which is fully understandable, but at the same time they seem to know he is destined to find the Apple (as mentioned before) without any explanation about that. After that, they seem to know that the Abstergo guards are dragging him towards the Animus room and so they are more convinced that he’s going to lead the Templars to the Apple but at the same time they believe, or at least Nathan does, that he is going to betray them, as if Callum were doing it intentionally (while he never showed that up until that moment). Later, after Callum talks to his father and promises him he’s going to find the Apple and have the Templars destroy the Creed, the “Assassins” – specifically Nathan - attack Callum trying to prevent him from going in the Animus for the third regression (which is consistent with their belief of Callum “betraying” them). After the third regression, though, while the rebellion is raging on in the Abstergo compound, and before they reach Callum, the novelization clearly states that they’re “coming for Cal – their brother”, in complete contrast with what they were thinking before Cal’s third regression. Even not taking into account the novelization, the “Assassins” are immediately ready to fight with and for Cal after the “initiation” he went through, which, in turn, is possibly inconsistent with the basics of the franchise, and also inconsistent with Callum’s idea of taking down the Creed.

The "Assassins" fighting with Cal

All in all it feels like the movie and the novelization are missing some essential links that could explain why the characters change their mind in a matter of hours (that can especially be seen with Callum and Sofia, as we’ll see in the second part of this article).

Lara, the fifth “Assassin”, and the alternative ending for the movie

Octavia Selena Alexandru
This is the second element I’d like to talk about before wrapping the chapter about the modern day “Assassins”. I’d expect some of you to be wondering about who Lara was, but the ones that have been following the marketing campaign for the movie and the synopses of the early previews that few lucky people were able to attend, may remember her name as part of the cast and narrative of the film. As a matter of fact, up until the first half of 2016, Lara, played by Octavia Selena Alexandru, was meant to be an important character of the movie, who had to interact several times with Michael Fassbender and was also meant to be Alan Rikkin’s “favourite”, before her character was removed from the movie, for unknown reasons. Here is the list of information that can be gathered about her, in chronological order:

  • August 11th, 2014: Filmdivider reported, according to their sources: “In the present day scenes, Michael will be subject to tests by researcher called Joseph who is a bit of a baddie. Michael won’t be totally on his own, though, as he’ll be helped by a female Assassin named Lara. And it seems likely that whoever gets cast in that role will also show up in the past sections as another character, presumably one of Lara’s ancestors.”. You can find our similar report at this link (of course it’s a rumor and is very likely to be based on a very different version of the script from the final one).

  • May 7th, 2016: Omelete, after attending a private presentation and screening of the first minutes of the movie, reported (translated): “And young Lara, a favorite of Alan Rikkin, who makes drawings out of the footage from the sessions of other "prisoners" in the Animus and holds secrets about the true Abstergo objectives.

  • May 12th, 2016: 20th Century Fox releases the first trailer of the AC Movie. At 1:20 it is possible to see a fifth female “Assassin” along with Moussa, Callum, Lin and Nathan. The lady was removed in the following trailers (as you can see from the comparison with Trailer #2), and it’s very likely to be Lara.

  • May 19th, 2016: Avanti Productions & Management, a film and theatre production company that also deals in talent management, announces on its site that their actress Octava Selena Alexandru obtained the role of Lara in the AC movie and asks its readers to find her in this picture, pretty much confirming that she is the girl that was then removed from this scene in the trailers.

  • May 20th, 2016: publishes a report of its visit of the set of the AC Movie. In our translation and synopsys of the article we wrote: “We ensured for example that there are almost no windows. The only rooms with a window are the guest room where Lara is staying and Dr. [Alan] Rikkin's office. Of course, in their cells, the prisoners have a skylight that brings natural light but there is no chance for them to see each other" and “The journalists of the source, along with other British press representers watched a scene of the movie while it was shot, where characters Callum Lynch and Lara, played respectively by Michael Fassbender and Octavia Selena Alexandru, stood face to face, separated by a large transparent window. The sound was not audible but it seemed that the girl was drawing Callum in her notebook, while he talks.” and finally “Last but not least: the teenager Lara, (played by Octavia Selena Alexandru) who grew up in Abstergo and knows all the secrets of the company. She is able to draw the portrait of the other prisoners, and remains the favorite of Dr. [Alan] Rikkin. The girl grew up to become a member of the Templar Order, but she gradually discovers that she has the soul of an Assassin...

  • January 10th, 2017: publishes a deleted scene from the AC movie, an alternative version of Callum’s induction to the Assassin’s Brotherhood performed by the other “Assassins” and not by the hologram of his mother. Among the “Assassins” we can see a survived Nathan, a speaking Lin (what?!) and a female character who is very likely to be Lara (the actress does remble her a lot), pronouncing part of the Creed.

Lara in the deleted scene

As reported many times, then, apparently Lara’s character was meant to be meaningful for the story, being her part of the Templars and then shifting to the “Assassins”. What’s even more interesting, though, is that she wasn’t just meant to have an impact on the story, but she (along with Nathan) was actually involved in a different ending of the movie. In fact, at the end of January 2017, released an interview with Christian Irles, VFX Supervisor at Cinesite, one of the companies that took care of the AC Movie. This interview, while showing how the company had worked on the visual effects of the ending scene on the London rooftops, features a specific picture that hints at a possible alternative ending that was ultimately scrapped.

As you can see, this scene was shot or was meant to be shot with all five “Assassins” surviving the rebellion at the Abstergo compound in Madrid and then cooperating in London to retrieve the apple. Too bad it didn’t go this way, I do like happy endings every now and then...

And that’s it for the first part of this article. Let us know what you think of our analysis and stay synchronized with us for the second part, where we’re going to analyze the juiciest parts of the movie and the novelization like the relationship between Callum and his family, the scene with Callum and all his ancestors and, of course, the ending of the movie!

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Juno's appearance in Russia

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