That’s the question that has been on the minds of many, ever since we found out that Michael Fassbender would be starring in this big screen adaptation of Ubisoft’s largely successful video game franchise. A franchise that I must admit that I am a fan of, despite feeling that overall some of the more recent games have lost their edge.
It’s 2017 and we are still waiting for that one great video game to movie adaptation to knock us off our feet, and be a huge financial success at the box office as well as receiving a positive critical consensus. We hoped Warcraft would be that movie last year and whilst it had some positives to boot, it wasn’t quite the saviour that we hoped it would be. That responsibility now falls upon Assassins Creed.
This film follows Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) a man being given the lethal injection for a crime he committed. Only to then realise PLOT TWIST (not really *laughs inside*) he isn’t dead, he has just been transported to the Abstergo Foundation facilities in Madrid. Once there he learns about the Apple of Eden, a relic that contains the genetic code for free will, which happened to be created by an ancient civilisation many centuries ago. This relic is what the CEO of Abstergo Industries, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) is searching for. His daughter Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) believes Callum is the key to uncovering the last known location of The Apple. Through using the memories of his ancestors buried deep within his DNA, she places Callum in the Animus, a machine that will allow him to relieve the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar the last known individual to be in possession of the Apple.
Did that sound very confusing? to those unfamiliar with the concept of the game I’d imagine it would do. This is one of the main problems with this film overall. I don’t think the general moviegoing audience who are unfamiliar with the games concept, will understand what’s going on with the plot and the characters to the full extent that they should. The film does a fairly good job in the first act of explaining the Animus, what it does and what the objective of Abstergo is, but as the film progresses forward I feel like those unfamiliar beforehand will get lost.
That being said, the film is very successful at adapting enough of the video games elements to the big screen. The use of massive aerial shots really do a good job of sucking you into the world of 15th Century Spain in the films sequences that take place in the past. The first time the film jumps back to the past it gave me goosebumps across my face, due to witnessing such a key element of the games on a large cinema screen.
I don’t think many people would argue against the notion that the best moments of this film, all lie within the main sequences and set pieces depicted in 15th Century Spain. This is where the film is at it’s most entertaining and engrossing. There’s a rich detail to the heavily populated city scape and the colour palette gives those scenes a distinct visual look. It’s also in the past where we get to see even more things from the game play out during the film, Assassin’s blending in with the crowds stalking their target before performing their assassination, exhilarating rooftop chases featuring impressive parkour and of course the signature leap of faith, There’s a lot to like.
Director Justin Kurzel handles the majority of these actions set pieces competently, but there are a few instances where he begins to fall into shaky cam territory when capturing any of the action thats up close. This is a shame because you can tell there’s some great practical stunt work going on in these scenes, you just can’t see it properly. Another thing to note is Kurzel along with the editors made the choice to cut back and forth between the action taking place in the past, and Callum mimicking those actions in the Animus. I can completely understand why they choose to do this and in all honestly they didn’t do it as frequently as I expected so it didn’t bother me, but I know it might start to irritate many viewers because it does tend to disrupt the flow of some of the sequences, especially when Aguilar is performing an action and then it cuts to Callum performing that same action.
Performance wise, you could really tell that Michael Fassbender was dedicated to this role, he has some rather dramatic scenes during the film which he excels in, and it’s scenes like those where you really start to notice what a benefit having an actor of his caliber is to the film. The dialogue in the script isn’t great by any means but he certainly manages to elevate the content he was given to make it seem better than it is. Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons on the other hand were rather wooden and one note at times. This is mainly due to the script because there wasn’t much depth within their characters overall, and a major consequence of that is the fact that we didn’t learn a huge amount about them.
Another aspect of the script that I felt was rushed and didn’t work was the opening ten minutes of the film. I understand the goal was to set certain plot threads up swiftly so they can be referred to later on during the film, but the opening they created is an unengaging effort, which had me feeling worried about the rest of the film early on. The choice of music during the opening was awful too, I did not fit the film and the tone it was trying to create.
This leads me onto my next issue, the film has a very uneven tone and the pacing can also be fairly uneven at times too. The film jumps between attempting to be a serious science fiction film with political undercurrents, and then sometimes it attempts to be nothing more than just blockbuster entertainment and it doesn’t strike a true balance between either of the tones. It would have been more beneficial if the film just went one way or the other and then stuck to the tone that was chosen. There’s also a brief moment in the film where Fassbender flirts with insanity as he tries to depict Callum going crazy due to the Animus, this particular moment was awful it was almost as if Fassbender was trying to impersonate the Joker.
Overall Assassin’s Creed is a missed opportunity, It’s a film that satisfied me as a fan of the games but it’s not as good as it needs to be, for it to become that video game to film adaptation we have all been waiting for. I do like how the film ended and it certainly leaves things open for a sequel, but unfortunately due to this films faulire to connect with audiences I don’t think we will ever see that sequel come to fruition.
(3 Stars out of 5)
Assassin’s Creed; Starring Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons.
Directed by Justin Kurzel. Now showing in UK & US Cinemas.