By Thomas Simpson
Video game adaptations are often considered the black sheep of cinema. Rarely met with any critical acclaim, the genre is generally butchered in reviews with although often finds favor with a cult audience. Assassin’s Creed positions itself to break that mold. Boasting an award winning cast of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, the film explores similar themes to the popular game franchise although offers an original story by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage.
Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is sentenced to death for murder but he soon learns it isn’t the end for him. Saved by the mysterious Abstergo Foundation, Callum is offered a second chance at redemption if he will assist the company in locating an ancient artifact named the Apple of Eden. The answers lie not in the present or even the future, as head scientist Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) is more interested in Callum’s past, or more precisely the memories of his ancestor. By connecting Callum to a machine called the Animus, he is able to relive the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha in the times of the Spanish Inquisition. Soon Callum finds himself fighting the war of his ancestor today.
The impressive cast adds a certain gravitas to Assassin’s Creed but it’s not enough to save it from the mess it ultimately becomes. The plot is confusing with no real aims for our protagonist other than the script’s McGuffin. Each flashback scene interrupts the narrative but it’s a welcome distraction from the mundane present day scenes that are filled with tired exposition and forced dialogue.
The flashback scenes are filled with thrilling action sequences but unfortunately the emphasis on the physical stunts are consumed by the vast amount of CGI. Films such as Mad Max have utilized the two wonderfully but here the computer generated world only distracts from some remarkable stunt work.
Although it’s evident that Jeremy Irons is intended to be the villain it’s not entirely clear why we should be rallying against him or rooting for Callum. The lack of a distinguishable bad guy adds to the aimlessness of the plot which culminates in a baffling third act and underwhelming finale. Motives aren’t clear with alliances being formed and broken with little to no explanation.
Assassin’s Creed promised to revolutionize the video game genre, instead it offered more of the same under the pretense of a blockbuster. Director Justin Kurzel allows the film to play out with a straight face that only underlines how ridiculous the dialogue is regardless of the talent speaking it. The film feels like a missed opportunity that had the potential to be something more but in the end is dragged down by poor storytelling from page to screen.