Justin Kurzel, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard team up for a second time, following their majestic work on Macbeth in 2015, for the latest video game adaptation to hit the silver screen with Assassin’s Creed.
Based on Ubisoft’s immensely popular games franchise, but using a new story, Assassin’s Creed depicts a centuries old battle between the Knights Templar Order and the Assassin’s Brotherhood who fight for the possession of an artifact known as the Apple of Eden. This item is said to have the genetic code of free will, the Templars wish to use it to subjugate the human race, whilst the Assassin’s seek to protect it from misuse. In the modern day following a faked execution Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) finds himself inside a facility run by Abstergo. The facility is a front for the Templars who, using the advanced technology of the Animus, seek to find the Apple of Eden through the memories of the assassin’s ancestors. As it turns out Callum is a direct descendant of infamous assassin Aguilar de Nerha, who during the Spanish Inquisition managed to hide the Apple of Eden from the Templar’s for centuries, and is now the key to the Templar’s plans.
If that attempt at a synopsis has you scratching your head a little bit don’t worry I’m still scratching mine. In the grand scheme of video game adaptations Assassin’s Creed is one of the better out there, but it’s hardly a compliment considering the depth of the playing field. Director Justin Kurzel continues to show what an evolving talent he is behind the camera. There are shades of the visual flare he demonstrated in Macbeth, but grand scenery of 15th century Spain is often swathed in sandy shots as if to hide the animation that constructed them. When we aren’t treated to these birds eye views of cities the camera is climbing and falling with the characters, and flying across landscapes. At times it’s a joy to watch, but sometimes the editing is too frenetic for it’s own good. This is especially the case during an escape by 15th Century assassins, who engage in a touch of parkour as they go from A to B and you wind up a little cross eyed. The editing also severely hampers fight sequences as numerous quick cuts avoid the visual stabbing or deaths of Templar fodder, resulting in a sanitised film about assassins. Anything to get a 12A.
Enhancing some of these chase sequences are some rather nifty fight scenes between Assassin and Templar. Usually it’s just Assassins dispatching a never ending horde of Templars whose only attack is to run straight at them and hope for the best, but it is mildly entertaining none the less. Though this is forgivable nonsense, the biggest issue the film has is story. For the first two thirds of the film is relatively straight forward to follow providing your willing to submit yourself to disbelief. Then the final act engages and it just gets bonkers. Characters motives/intentions yo yo more than a roller coaster as the bodies pile up, and outside of the Bond films and the Expendables, the Austin Powers henchman gag has never been more appropriate.
Overall Assassin’s Creed is a frustrating watch, it dazzles you with one hand as it slaps you with the other. Michael Fassbender is as captivating as he always is, and without him it would have likely been a hollow experience. But his performance alone isn’t enough to salvage what could have been a fantastic film, which instead is just a bit daft. Unfortunately as a result Assassin’s Creed has a good shout at being one of the biggest disappointments of the year, and we’re 10 days into 2017.