I can truthfully say that I never played the game, Assassin’s Creed. Not overly familiar with the mythos and story from the game… so I went to the movie “Assassin’s Creed” wondering if I would be able to understand and follow what the film was about and the narrative they were trying to tell.
One of the common criticisms of video game adaptations into movies so far has been the reluctance or ineptitude of the creative team behind the film to connect to an audience beyond the lovers of those games. Can they tell a story that resonates to the mass audience or will they be limited to resigning their property to a niche market. So if you never played the game, like me, will your understanding of the movie be severely tested or will we accept the mantra, and join the battle… that is the quest for “Assassin’s Creed.”
“Assassin’s Creed” is a movie based on one of the most popular games ever made. This is a fantasy about a group called the Assassins who are fighting for peace, believing that the concept of free will is the answer. Over the centuries they have fought another group called the Templars who also desire peace but they believe it is achieved through control. Now maybe its just me but fighting (war)… to bring about peace is an oxymoron and the history of the world continues to show that idiocy… but that’s just my social commentary. This may be the tenants of a great video game but as a movie….?
As an action film, “Assassin’s Creed” does a good job at enticing the audience with incredible action sets and well designed fight sequences. The sepia tone cinematic look of the 15th century draws you into the adventure in a powerful way. But if this is the case, why does the film not work??
Where this film may lose viewers, such as myself who hasn’t invested many hours with a joystick defending the creed, is that the film “Assassin’s Creed” eventually becomes 2 movies. One movie that takes place in the 15th century and another that resides in modern times. The albatross around the neck of this film weighing it down are the convoluted and contrived plots created to reveal the modern-day storyline.
“Assassin’s Creed” is an interesting film when it shows us the history of the creed, taking us back to the 15th century and inviting us into the original conflicts between the two factions and their quest for peace. But in an effort to pander to those who played the game, the movie introduces an anecdote of our main character that he is the incarnation of his ancestors and that we can use the “Animus” a piece of equipment that allows for dream/time travel, and tap into his memories to go back to the past and find the “Apple of Eden” the artifact that when used… is the road map to realizing… peace.
Unfortunately for the viewer, the film spends the majority of its moments in modern times… and thus loses its way. For the novice, like me, the MacGuffin of the film, the “Apple of Eden” the item that cures violence, makes little sense but at least as a plot point for the 15th century it is fleshed out more with greater exposition but loses respectability with lesser definition trying to translate it into modern times.
The performances in the movie are uneven. The duality of Michael Fassbender is on full display as his 15th century character(Aguilar de Nerha) captivates and illuminates with great action scenes, and well placed cinematography but his character doesn’t require much dialog so it is mainly a physical performance. But in modern times as Callum Lynch, Fassbender despite his acting acumen, isn’t able to save a storyline that unravels by being cold and lacking spark.
The dearth of spice and believability for the battle between the factions in modern day falls flat and renders useless the performances of the other main actors, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, leaving you wanting more passion and heart from the actors and this movie.
Overall as a movie, “Assassin’s Creed” stands up as an action movie with great stunts and fight choreography but once you begin to dig into the story, you will begin to drift away and may wish that you had a joystick in your hand, playing the game instead of watching the movie.
Darryl King is a video director, film writer and avid Marvel/DC comic book/movie lover. Check out his reviews of Luke Cage, Xmen: Apocalypse and Captain America: Civil War right here on MMT.