After nine main series video-games and numerous spin-offs, Assassin’s Creed is making the jump from PC/console to the cinema. Has Ubisoft‘s flagship franchise survived it’s leap of faith intact or is this another Super Mario Bros. style bomb?
Its All Just a Little Bit of History Repeating
If you’ve never heard of the Assassin’s Creed video-game franchise you can check out our guide to its story-line here. This new film adaptation doesn’t tie-in directly to the series, (at least as far as we could tell) so you don’t need to know a lot going in, but the new film does take a lot of the series trademarks and reorganise them for new audience.
Going in to Assassin’s Creed, all you really need to know is that for centuries a hidden war has waged between two secret societies; the Assassins and the Templars. Key to this war are ancient, mysterious artefacts, one of which is known as the “Apple of Eden”. Coveted by the Templars, hidden by the Assassins, The Apple was lost to recorded history centuries ago. Luckily the Templars have perfected a technology that allows a person to relive the genetic memories of their ancestors; The Animus.
Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is a death row inmate who’s Assassin ancestor Aguilar just so happens to be the last known person to have seen the Apple. Kidnapped by the Abstergo Foundation, Callum finds himself inserted into the Animus and reliving Aguilar’s actions in Andalucia, Spain in 1492. Marion Cotillard’s Templar scientist Sofia, needs Callum to reveal the final resting place of The Apple so that she can perfect “a cure for violence” for humanity.
Will Callum give up the location of the apple in return for his own freedom or will he help the modern day Assassins by keeping it a secret?
Game Over, Man?
Video-game to film adaptation have a bad reputations. No matter how hard filmmakers try or how faithful they aim to be they are always going to be compared to the misjudged, financial disaster that was Super Mario Bros. Straight off the bat, it’s clear that Assassin’s Creed has very little in common with Nintendo’s first foray in film.
Assassin’s Creed may, in fact, be one of the most faithful video-game adaptations ever. All the series most well known traits are here; the hidden blades, the look of the Assassin’s, the Apple of Eden, The Animus. At one point Aguilar even makes a daring leap and Marion Cotillard’s character whispers “Leap Of Faith”!
When it comes to historical accuracy the film goes even further than the games. Every time he enters the animus, Callum experiences Aguilar and those around him all speaking in their native tongues rather than English. It’s a nice touch. Director Justin Kurzel also brings an interesting eye to the look of the Spanish Inquisition but unfortunately all of this good work adds up to an unsatisfying whole.
The story is mostly a retread of the early games with very few surprises. The relatively impressive action sequences are tied together by dodgy CGI transitions and endless shots of eagles circling, that distract the viewer from the action. The parkour is relatively impressive until it’s obscured by some ever present smoke during another one of those aerial shots or a distracting CGI addition pops into the frame. The story also suffers from unsatisfying pacing, with the most exciting action climax happening a good 20 minutes before the end, leaving the film with nothing to do peter out while trying to set up unearned sequels.
A stellar supporting cast including Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams are also wasted. Academy award winning Cotillard is reduced to breathlessly delivering exposition to Callum and the audience before undergoing a number of unconvincing motivational changes at the end of the film. Fassbender comes off best as the main character(s) but while we learn a little about Callum’s past, we learn almost nothing of Aguilar, why he joined the Creed or why we should care.
Assassin’s Creed isn’t a complete failure. It’s a diverting enough adventure that occasionally throws up some interesting visuals but it’s doubtful it will convert any new fans to the franchise and may well leave existing fans wanting more.
I doubt Assassin’s Creed the movie will be followed by eight more sequels like the games.
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Ariane Labed, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Official Site here.