Video games, aside from a few exceptions, do not usually translate well onto the big screen.
Unfortunately for Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, this held true for their adaptation of “Assassin’s Creed.” Based on Ubisoft’s video game franchise of the same name, “Assassin’s Creed” had potential with an all star cast but ultimately left much to be desired.
“Assassin’s Creed” is the story of two men, Aguilar de Nerha and Callum Lynch, both portrayed by Fassbender. The movie opens on Aguilar being accepted into the Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood as they fight to protect the prince of Granada from the Knights Templar.
The year is now 1986 where a young Cal discovers his mother has been murdered by his father and he is forced to flee. Thirty years later Cal is seen being sentenced to death for murdering a man who tried to mug him. After going under from the injection Cal wakes up in a strange place and is told he has been brought to the Abstergo Foundation in Madrid, Spain because he is the last living relative of Aguilar, the last man known to posses the Apple of Eden, and they need Cal to discover where Aguilar hid it.
The person feeding him this information is Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) who also informs him that the apple contains the genetic code for free will and could end violence in the human race. With help from Abstergo’s machine known only as the Animus Project, Cal is able to relive the memories of Aguilar as Aguilar defends the Apple of Eden from the knights.
After an initial resistance, Cal sees the positives in ending human violence. However, the more he uses the Animus, the more he understands why the assassins did what they did and believes that Abstergo may not be telling him the entire truth.
This movie was at its best during Aguilar’s sequences. The action was exciting, fast paced and served as the main source of tension building in the film. The environments created felt authentic and the scenes were well shot.
The thrill of watching a group of assassins creep through a crowd will keep you on the edge of your seat. Free running was also heavily focused on in the trailers as it is a staple of the original video game franchise, and the chase sequence lived up to the rest of Aguilar’s moments.
Unfortunately every beautiful scene of action across the Spanish countryside was surrounded and drowned out by dull and underdeveloped plot development. The present day story did not seem to carry any weight to it. As futuristic as it may have looked on paper cement walls of the movie set, the white uniforms just stood as a visual representation for the lackluster story. Whether the decision was made by director Justin Kurzel or was based purely on budget, shying away from the historical scenes hurt this film significantly.
“Assassin’s Creed” had another much more complicated problem, which was a complete lack of identity. When it was an action movie it excelled, but as previously mentioned any scene in Abstergo played as a lifeless drama. What’s worse about this is that the plot focuses on a device that could control the entire population, but at no point does the movie convey any sense of danger or importance.
The movie struggled most when it focused on its current day story and its current day protagonist Cal. Presumably this was done to avoid the issue of a meaningless present day story, which many of the games have been scolded for. However, the character created in Cal is dull and unlikable, his motives are muddled and at no point does he become relatable to the audience. Focusing so heavily on Cal created dry spells throughout the movie — maybe it would have been best if he stayed dead.
“Assassin’s Creed” had all of the pieces to create an enjoyable action experience but it tried to take itself too seriously and ended up missing the mark. Maybe Justin Kurzel feared making the movie too fantastical would make it feel campy, but unfortunately his inability to take a leap of faith left him with a dull end result.
If you are bored I would recommend seeing something else with your time, and maybe it’ll be worth the watch as an at home rental.