Review: Assassin’s Creed

assassins-creed

After a decade of releasing games, the Assassin’s Creed franchise makes its big screen debut. The fact that the games are so immersive and based on real-world characters and events, the question was asked: Will this be the first genuinely good film based on a video game?

The plot follows Michael Fassbender’s character, Cal Lynch, whose ancestor, Aguilar, was an Assassin during the Spanish Inquisition. Cal is sentenced to death at the beginning of the film, but a group called the Templars have doctored the chemicals so that he doesn’t die. Their interest in him is in his genetic memories.

Anyone who doesn’t know the lore of the games may already be starting to feel a bit lost. Essentially, the Assassin’s and the Templars have been engaged in a war for centuries over artifacts from a civilisation that helped the human race on the path to enlightenment. The Templars, now under the name Abstergo, have been using the descendants of Assassin’s to ‘relive’/explore their ancestors’ memories to discover where the Assassin’s have hidden these artifacts, or ‘Apples of Eden’.

To do this, they plug these men and women into the Animus. In the games this is a bed, but that’s not very cinematic, is it? So, in this movie the animus is a huge multi-axis robotic arm that they are connected to via an epidural in the back of the neck, a la The Matrix. It also projects what Cal is seeing in the room in the present. The problem being that the more a person goes back in time (in their mind) the more their brain unravels.

This all sounds very complex, and it is. Fine for a video game that you can explore at your leisure, possibly too complex for a two-hour film. Also, there’s very little in the way of audible dialogue. It’s all beat-em-up action in the past with no dialogue at all and in the present day parts everyone talks in conspiratorial whispers. In fact, there’s a point at which Cal asks Marion Cotillard’s character:”What the fuck is going on?” And the whole cinema laughed, which surely wasn’t the intention of the filmmakers.

The parts set in the past are brilliant and colourful and vital, but the characters don’t have any depth and we don’t get enough time with them. The majority of the film is set in the present day, which is always the most boring bits of the games and though they’ve really tried to put a lot of detail into the characters here, but the problem is that they all talk in riddles and half sentences and never raise their voices above a whisper, which makes it quite hard to follow.

Of course, I am coming at this as a fan of the game franchise, which has had years and multiple games, sometimes more than one focussed around one character. It’s a massive shame that we didn’t get more of the rich history of the past that the games deal so well in, the action sequences set here are brilliant, but they spent too much time flicking between Aguilar and Cal in the Animus. This would have been acceptable once or twice during the film, but not once or twice per fight scene. We get it. He’s acting this out for the Templars to see in the present day, show me the excellent choreography of the scenes in the past!

It’s not a bad film based on a computer game, in fact it’s up there as one of the best adaptations, but it’s not a brilliant stand-alone film. It’s likely that I’m being too harsh on it, so I’d urge you to see it for yourself and if you enjoyed it, whether a fan of the games or not, I’d love to hear from you.

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