Many would think that Assassin’s Creed is a game series that would have made for an excellent movie. Its storyline has you venturing into the past through your ancestor’s DNA leaving the door open for various distinct narratives. Well the recent adaptation certainly makes strides, some good but mostly bad, to stand out.
The film stars the likes of Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard and is directed by Justin Kurzel. The story revolves around the games’ vital Apple of Eden, an artifact that can be used to control the free will of mankind. The Templars want it cause of those specific qualities while the Assassins want to prevent them from getting their hands on it giving us a traditional good-versus-evil showdown which takes us through some pretty good action scenes as well as a few poor narrative choices.
Now one of the major aspects of the movie for most gamer fans is whether the film stays true to the game series or not. The fundamentals are present: the Animus, the hidden blade, the Templars. There are also a few clever jokes aimed at the hardcore players. Moving on to the protagonist Callum Lynch (Fassbender), his back-story is pretty similar to that of Desmond Miles, the star of the game series.
Callum’s life was relatively normal growing up in a rural Texas town, until his mother was killed by his own father. Fast forward 30 years and Callum finds himself awaiting execution, but that turns out to be a farce and he ends up a prisoner of Abstergo, a company keen on digging into his ancestral past, in order to locate the Apple of Eden. He’s only one of a number of Assassins preset in the facility, but his ancestral ties offer Abstergo its best chance yet at finding the Apple. Fassbender’s puts up a solid show as, as is expected of an actor of his pedigree, as he struggles between serving his captors or inciting a rebellion and escaping with his fellow prisoners.
Unfortunately despite Fassbender’s best efforts, he can only do so much with the script he’s provided with. A lot of his actions are spontaneous, and feel completely unjustified in the grand scheme of the film. In fact, a number of key moments that build up to the finale are given no explanation at all. Instead of foreshadowing or implying what is to come, the viewer is dropped into the heat of the moment, resulting in confusion at points where they should be cheering for the hero.
That lack of context does not only affect Fassbender’s character, Moussa (Michael K. Williams) another Abstergo experimentee fails to speak like a regular human being. He doesn’t come across prudent, but rather pretentious. The other Abstergo prisoners and Assassins aren’t given any vital development and also deliver some pretty boring dialogue. This also makes them look dumb instead of profound.
Anyways Callum is thrown into the past to relive the memories of Aguilar, an assassin that fought in the Inquisition. This is done through an adaptation of the games Animus, a device that taps into memories encoded into a person’s DNA. Instead of the original cybernetic tanning bed from the games, the movie version straps Callum into a giant claw that twists around the room as he gets to the past. This is placed on top of some ghostly historical images which make for a great spectacle.
The parts of the movie set in the Spanish Inquisition though are simply a joy to watch due to the stunt choreography. There’s a lot of stunt work spread across both time periods, but it’s easy to say the past outshines the preset with high-altitude climbs, rooftop runs and the iconic Leap of Faith. Since it was almost completely done through practical effects it gives out a hint of realism, which is pretty significant for a movie about people jumping impossible distances. Unfortunately the ecstasy of these Spanish Inquisition scenes is short-lived as Doctor Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard) keeps pulling Callum from the Animus at the peak of the action. One of the worst possible things the movie could have done was cutting away from the Leap of Faith, which ruins the impact for the series’ most iconic move.
While the games tend to focus largely into the past, the movie ends up leaning too much towards the present. This causes a poor narrative capped off by some intriguing historical action scenes leaving us with an unsatisfying overall experience. Unless you’re willing to put up with a mediocre plot in exchange from some legit action sequences, I wouldn’t be recommending this film to you guys!