By Jack Dignan
This could’ve been it. No, let me correct myself. This should’ve been it. This should’ve been the video game adaptation that absolutely nails it. If this were to fail, all hope would be lost, and here we are. Assassin’s Creed has been a passion project of Michael Fassbender’s for quite some time now, both producing and starring in the movie, and that gave it the potential to be something fantastic. I’m not even sure what the hell it is we got, but man oh man was it a let down. Will video game movies ever be good? I sure hope so. Do I have faith in the genre? After this, my faith is pretty much gone.
Assassin’s Creed follows the story of Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), a man locked away in prison and sentenced to death, where he soon wakes up to find himself a legally dead man. He’s been locked away in a mysterious facility ominously watching out over the rest of the city. In charge of the facility are Sofia (Marion Cotillard) and her father Rikkin (Jeremy Irons). Their main goal is to use Callum’s ancestor’s memories to hunt down an artifact that holds the power to control free will. They hook Callum up to a machine called the animus, where he experiences his ancestor’s memories in real time, set during the Spanish Inquisition. It’s here that he discovers he’s part of a hidden society known as the Assassin’s Creed.
In a similar, but far less dramatic vein to Star Wars, Assassin’s Creed begins with an opening crawl. It’s tedious and dull, attempting to give backstory to the plot at hand, despite all the details being given to us in the opening scenes anyway. The film hadn’t even properly begun and it already felt clunky. It already felt disappointing. As the rest of the film continued, something just didn’t feel right. It just didn’t seem to be working, no matter what the film tried to do, and by the time it cut to black one final time, the credits beginning to role, it become clear that this really wasn’t a good movie.
While the video game series the film is based on is rich in mythology and developed characters just waiting for a big screen debut, Assassin’s Creed decides to steal the game’s premise and create an original story out of it. New characters, new time period, new adventure. It was in the right mindset to work. Not restricting itself to the 10 hour long story from the game, but feeling reminiscent of this source material was a genius move. It allows for more freedom and unpredictability, or so one would hope. As it turns out, it merely allows for the development of a generic and under-explained plot that doesn’t manage to do the popular video game franchise justice.
As someone who’s played the video games before, I was already familiar with the way the story and the universe play out. I knew what a Templar was and how the animus worked, yet even when watching the film, nothing makes sense. It’s all severely underdeveloped, sure to confuse those unfamiliar with the source material. It throws so many interesting ideas at you, yet never follows through with any of them, and the ones they do follow through with make very little sense. Featuring an abundance of plot holes, the overall story is dumb and rushed through, never allowing enough time for anything to develop. It’s all quite two dimensional in nature, especially the film’s antagonists, if there even were any. The film is too incoherent to notice.
The main selling points of this movie are the sequences set in the past. It’s Michael Fassbender kicking ass as an assassin that made me, and many others, want to see the film, especially when directed by Justin Kerzel, the man behind last year’s Macbeth. The sequences set during the Spanish Inquistion should’ve taken up the majority of this film, yet they don’t. Michael Fassbender only hooks up into the animus three times, and none of the scenes are lengthy. They’re three generic action sequences with no context, no attachment, no story and awful CGI. The film does have the guts to put these scenes in Spanish with English subtitles, but because of how short the sequences are, there’s barely any time for dialogue, so the ambitiousness of it all falls apart.
With that being said, however, they still manage to be the best parts of this movie. There’s an electrifying chase sequence that begins as a vigorous fight and concludes with one hell of an ending. The main issue with it, along with all the action sequences, is that, on top of the hideous visual effects, it’s all unbearably choppy. There’s nothing special about the camera work or the editing, and the film feels a constant need to keep cutting back to Michael Fassbender’s modern day character as the action proceeds. It’s jarring and frequently took me out of the moment, taking away from the impact of the scene. I didn’t want to see Michael Fassbender climbing up an imaginary wall. I wanted to see him fight as an assassin.
As there is only three scenes set in the past, a great deal of the third act is all set during the modern day, and it’s appalling. I’m honestly not even sure what they were trying to do, let alone what they were trying to set up in the film’s closing minutes. I will refrain from spoiling why, but the whole thing is awkward and idiotic, lacking any sort of sense, character motives or realism. I don’t even think it tried to play anything out as a surprise or plot twist. The film is too lazy to care. It is what it is, and what it is is another disappointing video game movie. As my friend said to me the other day, the film got Suicide Squad-ed. It had an awesome marketing campaign for such a letdown of a movie.
To sum up, Assassin’s Creed had so many opportunities to achieve greatness, but fails frequently. Fassbender is great, as would be expected, but the film is under explained, two-dimensional, choppy and focuses on all the wrong things. It’s okay to cry, I’d understand. Video game movies just aren’t meant to be.
2 1/2 Stars
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