As an avid gamer and cinephile, it frustrates me to no end when I think about all of the failed attempts at bringing good video games stories to the silver screen. And when I say “good” I mean actually good, as in financially successful, critically acclaimed, and stays true to its source material. Most of the video game movies that have been made barely achieve one of those marks let alone all three. Take for example the Resident Evil series, what (sadly) is the leader of the video game movie pack in my humble opinion. Those movies have consistently killed it financially compared to its fellow competitors but do they stay true to their source material? No. Are the performances or the stories any good? No. On the other hand, you can take a movie like Silent Hill that was slavishly true to its source material BUT the acting and story were poor or like its sequel was a total box office failure. And what do we find in between? Movies that are completely forgettable or at best, unwillingly slide into the “so bad it’s good” zone. Examples? I thought you’d never ask… How about Tomb Raider (one and two), Doom, Prince of Persia, Street Fighter, Super Mario Brothers, MOOOOORTAAAL KOOOMBAAAAT, and most recently Hitman, Need for Speed, and Warcraft. Outside of one or two achieving a cult status years after their release almost none of those movies, in my opinion, do their respective properties or their audiences justice. Enter Assassin’s Creed. With three big Hollywood names attached to it, a more than suitable Hollywood budget, and a game franchise that at its core has plenty of depth and room to explore.
The movie focuses on Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) a convicted murderer on death row that is rescued from execution by a company known as the Abstergo Corporation. Abstergo is a scientific research outfit that specializes in the exploration of the human genome. Through the use of an Abstergo invention called the “Animus”, lead research scientist Sofia (Marion Cotillard) believes that within Lynch’s DNA lies a road map to a powerful ancient artifact called the “Apple of Eden”. An artifact that Sofia and Abstergo’s founder (who also happens to also be her father), Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), are convinced has the ability to suppress the genetic properties in humans that lead to violent and aggressive behavior. Sofia explains to Lynch that the road map to the “Apple” doesn’t lie in his genetic code per se, but in the memories of his centuries dead ancestor named Aguilar, which Lynch’s DNA contains. If that wasn’t enough to send Lynch’s head spinning, and Sofia also reveals to him that Aguilar was a member of a guild or “Brotherhood of Master Assassins” that have spent close to a thousand years resisting the global domination efforts of another secretive organization known as The Templars. With the Apple of Eden in Templar hands, humanity could be easily subjected to a future of their making, under their totalitarian rule. Both Sofia and Rikkin are Templars and hope that once Lynch is “attached” to the Animus he will be able to relive the Assassin mission centuries ago; which resulted in Aguilar taking possession of the Apple and in turn revealing its current day location to them.
Right out of the gate, for anybody who’s played through an Assassin’s Creed game and thought it’d be awesome to see that style motion capture CGI come to life you came to the right place. They nailed it. I mean it’s all here, the sprinting, the climbing, the hand to hand close quarters combat. You want death from above? Check. Crossbow and Gauntlet kills? Check. How about two handed multiple enemy deaths? Yes, sir! Even my personal favorite, the super sneaky silent “oh shit, it’s too late brah your neck’s been broke” stealth kill? Checkity check check! You want the “Leap of Faith”? Ehh, sort of… I mean, nobody’s perfect right? Unfortunately, that’s where the enjoyment ends for Assassin’s Creed and the schizophrenic mood, the convoluted Swiss cheese plotting, and stilted, uninspired acting take over. For the purposes of keeping this review as brief as possible I won’t go into painstaking detail but instead, I’ll just say that outside of both the hand to hand combat and the Assassin vs. Templar concept, little else of the franchise mythology is given to you here. I suspect that will be the job of future movies to do.
Michael Fassbender’s lead performance is good. It’s intense, it’s physical, and it’s believable. Unfortunately, the script gave him next to nothing to work with so when about halfway through the movie his character literally says on screen “What the FUCK is going on here??” I am right there with him, but I shouldn’t be. The movie’s mood and pacing seemed to be at odds with each other as if one wanted to give me a gritty swords and sandals type action movie, while the other a contemplative, atmospheric thriller but instead the movie gives you a herky-jerky mishmash of both. Two hours and twenty minutes of mishmash on top of that. Cotillard and Irons are wasted here doing little else outside of whispering their lines with vacant expressionless stares, both to Fassbender and each other, and the secondary characters you are introduced to have no real reason to be there other than to help the main character and raise the body count at the very end of the movie. And this movie’s ending is another entirely separate issue that detracts from its enjoyment. I was thoroughly frustrated with the notion that this movie thought I would simply accept a neat little sequel primed bow on it when it clearly didn’t know what to do with its characters leading up to its climax. Unearned twist endings and main characters doing an inexplicable hundred and eighty-degree motivation shift aren’t good storytelling.
But lastly good people, this brings me to what I feel like is the BIGGEST problem with this movie. How in the hell do you make an Assassin’s Creed movie and it’s not rated R? I don’t know about you but when I played my way through the last three titles (the only ones I’ve played) there was blood everywhere. My character’s blood, enemies’ blood, innocent bystanders’ blood. Is there any blood to be found in this movie? Not by my definition. Oh, it does try to sidestep that little dilemma by running the movie through a sepia like filter so that way if any bloodshed is caught on camera it shows as brown and not red, but that’s not acceptable. Cashing in on a giant of a video game franchise by making your movie accessible to as many paying customers as possible is a business decision. And I get that, really I do but to make a movie about a video game that practically has MURDER in the title but not spill any blood or worse try to hand wave it away with camera tricks is in a word pathetic. I readily hold up Deadpool’s surprising success earlier this year as clear proof that if you’ve got good characters and a good story people will take the blood and gore right along with it. The Assassin’s Creed movie has neither. Maybe they knew that when they saw the finished product and that’s why they did it.
While the movie gives you the action the trailers promised, it delivers on nothing else. This film is not worth your money or effort to see in theaters, maybe see this in a couple months on demand somewhere if you just have too. Personally, I’d rather have my money back.
RATING: 2 STARS (out of 5)
WHAT YOU CAN WATCH INSTEAD OF THIS:
If you want brutal, blood-drenched Assassin’s Creed style fighting action look no further than the 2011 modern martial arts spectacle known as The Raid: Redemption.