By: Bryan Montgomery
Rating: 5 out of 10
Video game movies have been a maligned genre since the 1990’s, when Bob Hoskins, Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo headlined a dreadful reimagination of Super Mario Bros. Earlier this year, Warcraft made its big picture debut in a beautiful, but muddled mess, and the hopes of all video game fans turned to Assassin’s Creed to see if Hollywood could right the ship. Despite having the talents of Michael Fassbender front and center, and all the resources of the video game canon, Assassin’s Creed falls flat with a confusing and disjointed story, a lack of action and a failed attempt to create a new branch in the long-standing series.
Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is rescued from death row by Abstergo Industries, a shady corporation dedicated to the search for the Apple of Eden, an ancient weapon of immeasurable power. Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and Abstergo sends Callum into 15th century Spain, into the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, through a machine called the Animus to unveil where the Apple of Eden is located while promising Callum his freedom in return.
The film follows the plot of the original Assassin’s Creed game closely, only replacing Altair with Aguilar. The Abstergo Corporation twist remains intact along with the core mechanics of the game, but Ubisoft attempted to create a new branch with the film, placing Spain at the focal point for the first time in the history of the franchise.
Where this endeavor falls flat is attempting to create a new branch in the elaborate history of Assassin’s Creed while simultaneously ignoring all the history that came before it; a simple mention of Altair or alluding to Ezio Auditore would have done so much for fans of the original four games, but instead the only nugget for fans is the inclusion of Baptiste, a supporting character in a low-rung entry (Liberation). It’s a disappointing oversight that will be sure to turn fans of the games against the film.
Another setback for the film is that the plot of Assassin’s Creed is severely misaligned. Well into the third act, viewers will be unable to decipher the allegiance of several of the main characters, and a major sub-plot with the other Animus drivers that completely falls flat since you don’t understand the character’s motivations. Assassin’s Creed puts forth a concerted effort to re-create a universe in two hours, but does so by making large jumps in logic, simply hoping that fans will be able to keep up with massive plot shifts with little explanation.
Fassbender and Cotillard try to keep the film afloat along with Jeremy Irons as the head of Abstergo, but their talents are mainly wasted. Cotillard is used as an exposition machine, while Irons is relegated to a cookie-cutter bad guy. The “Bleeding Effect”, which represents the lingering memories and hallucinations experienced by an Animus driver after reliving memories, gives Fassbender more to do later in the movie, but it still falls short and has little payoff at the end. For Assassin’s Creed fans, Eagle Vision, Leaps of Faith into haystacks and even crowd assassinations are mostly glossed over, replaced by Fassbender trying his best to turn a two-dimensional role into a complex movie character.
Despite the fundamental flaws in the plot, the redeeming factor for Assassin’s Creed are the scenes within the Animus. The few sequences that show Callum and Aguilar synchronizing through Aguilar’s quest for the Apple are fantastically shot and full of impressive action, but it makes you want to see much more of the Spanish assassin. The grand finale of the film starts strong with a complex and elaborate action sequence, but ends far too quickly to salvage the 90 minutes that preceded.
Later in the film, the Animus teases other possible time periods that the film could go, likely sequel fodder, but throughout the third act the lack of time with Aguilar only intensifies the sour taste left behind. Ultimately, the Animus scenes will be what fans remember of Assassin’s Creed, but these great moments are few and far between.
Video game films have a bad history, and Assassin’s Creed does the genre no favors. Another redundant and boring trip through a universe with so much potential, fans of the games will be disappointed by the lack of due diligence to the wider AC universe, while non-fans will be confused with the jumbled plot. An unfortunate misstep, Assassin’s Creed is a Redbox rental at best.