Going into 2016, it looked like we just might get a good video game movie at long last. After the mediocre Ratchet & Clank, the unnecessary Angry Birds Movie, and the epic bore that was Warcraft, however, this genre is showing no sign of getting any better. Nevertheless, gamers everywhere have held onto the hope that Assassin’s Creed would be the adaptation that finally gets it right. Alas, not even a gifted filmmaker like Justin Kurzel can break the video game movie curse. Assassin’s Creed takes itself way too seriously, offering no surprises along the way.
Assassin’s Creed takes itself way too seriously, offering no surprises along the way.
Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, a criminal on death row. Callum suddenly finds himself at the Abstergo Foundation, which is run by Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and her dastardly father (Jeremy Irons). Using a device called the Animus, Abstergo Industries wishes to extract the memories of Callum’s ancestor, an assassin named Aguilar de Nerha. Also played by Fassbender, Aguilar knows where the Apple of Eden is located. With this mysterious artifact, Abstergo can rid the world of violence entirely. Of course their ultimate plan makes about as much sense as The Purge.
To its credit, Assassin’s Creed is actually a faithful adaptation. Kurzel gets the look and atmosphere of Ubisoft’s games down to a T. The problem is that the story is the weakest part of almost every Assassin’s Creed game. The plot is usually silly, preposterous, and difficult to explain. The developers make up for this with slick, fast-paced gameplay. Since gameplay isn’t a factor here, though, all we’re left with is a convoluted narrative that the audience can barely follow.
On top of that, Assassin’s Creed takes several other missteps. For example, the most interesting parts of the games typically take place during flashback sequences. The present day scenes are typically tedious and monotonous by comparison. Here, we spend a majority of the film in the present. Every time Callum or Sophia appears on screen, all the audience wants is to get back to Aguilar in the past. That’s where a bulk of the action takes place. Of course even the flashbacks are somewhat underwhelming.
Kurzel does deliver some impressive sets, costumes, and visual effects during memory sequences. For some reason, though, he drapes every flashback in fog. Because of this, we can’t always make out all the expensive eye candy on display. It’s like trying to watch 300 in a dust storm. As if that’s not bad enough, these scenes just make you want to turn the movie off and go play one of the games instead.
As if that’s not bad enough, these scenes just make you want to turn the movie off and go play one of the games instead.
The film’s biggest offense is that it squanders an exceptional cast. In addition to Fassbender, Cotillard, and Irons, the ensemble includes Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson, and Michael K. Williams. To their credit, the actors all try hard, but they aren’t given compelling characters to work with. None of them have the wit, charisma, or class of somebody like Ezio Auditore. The audience could care less whether these people live another day or get stabbed with a hidden blade, making Assassin’s Creed game over on arrival.