The unbreakable curse of the lacklustre video game movie continues to manifest itself. This time in the form of Ubisoft’s popular action-adventure video game franchise of the same name, Assassin’s Creed. Boasting a stellar Academy Award-calibre cast and spectacular action set pieces which is a testament to director Justin Kurzel’s work in Macbeth, Assassin’s Creed is no doubt one of the better made video game adaptations. But funnily enough, as Fassbender’s character, Callum Lynch muttered in one scene, ‘What the fuck is going on?’ those exact words were running through my head at the same time. Probably because that was precisely how Assassin’s Creed felt like; tons of unanswered questions, an incoherent plot and ultimately a steaming hot pile of mediocrity.
Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha (also played by Fassbender), from 500 years ago in 15th century Spain. Callum discovers through the reliving of those memories that he is descended from a mysterious secret society called the Assassins. He begins to amass incredible knowledge and abilities to battle the oppressive and powerful Templar organization of Abstergo Industries in the present.
Assassin’s Creed occasionally felt like it was going to claw itself out of the rut when Callum enters the Animus and into the memories of Aguilar’s time during the Spanish Inquisition. Because that was when Assassin’s Creed was best. Scenes in the past always looked to make something happen and take the story to the next level. When Callum and co. return back to the present, everything just feels unsynchronized with what happened during the Animus sequences. You just can’t connect with both timelines. It was akin to watching two different films; one which was exciting and one which sapped the potential of doing something of a greater storytelling purpose.
The paper-thin characters in Assassin’s Creed were completely one-dimensional and bereft of life. The performances of the Oscar nominated cast were so basic that you really need not have three proven actors to fill in the main roles of the movie. Take any three other actors and they would do the same ordinary job as the likes of Michael Fassbender or Marion Cotillard in the movie. Assassin’s Creed wastes the talents of the top billed cast and there is nothing special to help lift the dully sketched characters to intrigue us more.
But a silver lining to take away from the film would be that it definitely does justice to the stunts and the world building as seen in the game. Justin Kurzel’s stylish portrayal of Ancient Spain in the film is beautiful and he did a good job sticking true to the source material so that the world he built on-screen was as close as possible to what we have seen in the video games. Fans of the game will thoroughly enjoy the depiction of the robed Assassins doing their 1400s parkour on dusted palace rooftops, jumping across clothes lines and most noticeably, the trademark Leap of Faith being executed from the tallest scaffolding in the city.
The side characters in Assassin’s Creed such as Callum’s fellow modern-day assassins or Aguilar’s enemies in 1400 Spain are barely worth remembering aside from their slick stunts and fight scenes. If I remember correctly, some of them are not even given a proper introduction of a name, let alone their motivations. But unsurprisingly, the characters in the memory sequences have a better plot compared to those in the modern day, who can be seen as by-standers to what is happening around them.
Assassin’s Creed takes a leap of faith in the video game genre. It lands on steady footing and is reasonably decent for about half of its runtime before it breaks its balance to unsound storytelling and inconsistent quality in the two zones of time it plays out. As players of the game would know, this sounds a lot like the movie is inheriting characteristics from the actual game, fun memory sequences but flat in the present day. It is however, arguably a step in the right direction as far as films in the video game genre are concerned. Here’s hoping future video game adaptations evolve from this… we are so close to a good one!
Should you spend money on it? Yes if you are a fan/player of the games. No if you aren’t
Directed by: Justin Kurzel (Macbeth)
Screenplay by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Based on: Assassin’s Creed by Ubisoft
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson
Running time: 116 minutes
Genre: Fantasy/Science fiction