Oh, well – it looks like the search for a great movie adaptation of a videogame will have to continue. At first, this lavish, ambitious project based on the Ubisoft action-adventure series of hit games looked like it could have broken the dismal “tradition” of such adaptations being – not to put too fine a point on it – sucky.
The good news is that Assassin’s Creed doesn’t suck, on the level of Super Mario Bros or Street Fighter, but it is still somewhat disappointing and suffers from peculiar storytelling choices that result in a flat and totally unsatisfying ending.
There’s clearly a wide gulf between the attention paid to the eyebrow-raising action scenes, and the uninspired writing.
Deviating a little from the game series, the movie focuses on an all-new character and tweaks the nature of the series’ MacGuffin, the Adam’s Apple – no wait, the Apple of Eden.
It retains the basic set-up of having the protagonist faction the Assassins fighting to protect the basic liberties of humanity against the Templars, who want to just dominate everything. The Templars want the Apple because they believe it will allow them to eliminate free will in humanity and thus, there will be no more violence and strife … only mass obedience.
The Assassins are sworn to preserve that most fundamental of human rights – the option to make a total ass (or asshat) of oneself – and have kept the Apple out of the Templars’ hands for centuries.
Main dude Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is the descendant of an Assassin named Aguilar (Fassbender again), and the Templars need him to explore his “genetic memory” so that they can find out where the Apple has been hidden.
All well and good, if you buy into the premise – heck, if the Templars can pour billions of dollars into inventing a scientific marvel on the level of the Animus, which can pull specific genetic memories out of a person’s nervous system, why the heck do they even need the Adam’s Apple … whatever … to start with?
(Similarly, if they are rolling in that much dough, surely they could have invested in some facial recognition software, metal detectors and at least airport- level security to prevent the movie’s “duh” ending from coming to pass. Then again, keeping all those Assassins in their Animus research centre under very – VERY – minimal security shows these Templars aren’t so bright in the first place.)
OK, you say, then we wouldn’t have an excuse to see Callum relive the escapades of his ancestor and treat us to all those exciting parkour-fuelled chases across Inquisition-era Spanish city rooftops, fight scenes that explode at a breakneck pace, that Leap of Faith moment, and – hello, ladies – all those shirtless Fassbender bits.
Basically, then, the whole story of Assassin’s Creed is just a hook on which to hang these admittedly well-done action sequences. But a hook needs to be securely fixed to something in the first place.
The result is not the intriguing conflict of opposing ideologies that the filmmakers state was their intent, but a battle of wits between the crafty and the witless. No prizes for guessing who wins.
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Michael K. Williams, Brendan Gleeson