Movies based on video games are always a letdown, yet I find myself getting suckered into the theater on opening night again and again just to sit through, at best, an unremarkable film, and at worst something Uwe Boll wiped from his ass. I want to believe that there will be a good video game movie; especially when it involves video game franchises I love. Assassin’s Creed is a game franchise that has a lot of potential, and when I heard that they were making a film I thought to myself “This might be the one! This has the potential to be the one that breaks the curse!” To be fair, I said the same thing about Warcraft, and the first Resident Evil, the first Silent Hill movie, Prince of Persia, and Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, and so on and so forth. I’ve been letdown more times than I want to count, but dammit, Assassin’s Creed was going to be different! It would break the longstanding hex, and bring upon a new golden age of video game adapted movies…
Well, there’s always next time. Assassin’s Creed lacked all of the heart and humor that made the video games compelling. Sure, we get a visually pleasing flick, but the characters are bland and charmless. The movie is somewhat faithful to the source material, but it takes itself way too seriously and ends up being completely devoid of fun. I also feel that the movie does a poor job at setting up the world the story takes place in; if you haven’t played any of the games there’s a very high chance you’ll be completely lost. All we’re given is an opening text crawl that glosses over the history between the Assassins (good guys?) and the Templars (bad guys?). The rest is just poorly explained throughout the movie. The script treats the audience as people in the know, almost always forgetting that not everyone has extensive knowledge of the original source material.
Michael Fassbender goes through the motions as Cal Lynch. By the end of the movie, I have no idea what kind of a person Cal is. I know he killed somebody, but it’s never explained why. Was it in self-defense? Was he protecting a loved one? Was he framed? I honestly have no idea. There’s nothing to this character, no personality, no charm…we get a piss poor flashback showing a young Cal witnessing his Father kill his Mother. Cal gets executed, but wakes up in a lab where he’s forced into a machine called the Animus that, through convoluted science jargon, allows Cal to relive the experiences of his ancestor, Aguilar. The Animus sequences are the highlight of the film; we’re transported back to 15th Century Spain as Aguilar quests to hide a powerful artifact from the evil Templars and the Spanish Inquisition. These scenes are all in Spanish and subtitled; that doesn’t bother me one bit, but is an odd choice to go for when you’re trying to attract a casual audience. Most people I know hate to read subtitles; even the games translate everything that happens in the Animus into English. Maybe they’re trying to go for authenticity? I admire that, but I know it’ll be a turn off for a lot of people who decided to check this movie out.
Anyway, when Cal isn’t in the Animus, we’re treated to a phoned in performance by Jeremy Irons who doesn’t even have the energy to be ridiculously over the top like he was in Dungeons and Dragons. There’s no conviction in the way he reads his tedious lines, but he’s nowhere near as bad as Marion Cotillard. I don’t remember her character’s name, and I don’t even want to waste energy looking it up on IMDB. Every time she was on screen she was dangerously close to putting me to sleep. She was the actors equivalent of Extra Strength Tylenol PM in this movie. Michael Kenneth Williams also plays a forgettable role in the movie…he deserves better; he was Omar in The Wire for fuck’s sake! I know nothing about who his character is supposed to even be! He has like four lines of dialogue, and they all make NO sense!
Assassin’s Creed has impressive special effects, amazing stunts, and a series of incredibly fast-paced fight scenes, but that’s just not enough to make this movie worth watching. The premise is fascinating, but if the script lacks a way to bring the non-initiated up to speed in a satisfying way, it’ll ultimately only appeal to fans who have played the games. I believe that even the hardest of hardcore fans will find very little to love with this movie. If you saw the trailers and liked what you saw, go ahead and just buy one of the older video games in the series used for $4.99. It’ll save you money on a movie ticket, or a rental fee. I promise you, you’ll have a better experience than you would if you sat through this movie.
Assassin’s Creed (2016) Directed by: Justin Kurzel. Written by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage. Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams, Brendan Gleeson
5 out of 10