Touted as the film to finally break the curse of terrible movie adaptations of good video games, Assassin’s Creed takes a leap of faith but rather than landing in the ever reliable hay bale of success, ends up broken and desynchronised on the floor next to it.
“A bit of fun but complete tosh”, is how my father (a complete newcomer to the series, having never played any of the games) described Assassin’s Creed when we got out of the cinema. And I have to say I was hard pressed to offer any statement to the contrary. As a longtime fan of the franchise, I was incredibly wary of what an Assassin’s Creed film might entail, would the costumes hold up in real life or just look silly? Would the present day story line hamper the historical story as it does in the games? Would the ever irritating Desmond make his big screen debut?
As it happens Ubisoft did a smart thing and steered away from the games characters to provide the freedom and opportunity to create a standalone film with well rounded characters that opened up the Assassin’s Creed universe to a non-gamer audience. It’s just a shame that the film doesn’t do any of that, content as it is to flail about in pretentious exposition and two dimensional characters.
It’s what could have been that’s most frustrating, there are glimpses here and there of the film Assassin’s Creed should have been. For example the historical segments look fantastic, the Spanish Inquisition is a period not yet visited by the games and everything from the environments down to character costumes has real detail and authenticity to it, topped off by the fact that all dialogue is in Spanish. Similar to the games you can’t help but wish that the modern day aspect was dropped to focus on a more developed historical storyline, particularly here as assassin ancestor Aguilar and his partner Maria are infinitely more interesting than all of the other characters and they have less than half the dialogue.
However, the drab modern day element presides over most of the film as Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is abducted from his own execution by Sofia and Alan Rikkin (Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons respectively). Sofia and her father Alan wish to exploit Cal’s assassin lineage to locate a Piece of Eden using his genetic memory via the animus, in some strange plot to use it to bring an end to violence in humans.
A plot which is obviously not true and an idea only Sofia seems stupid enough to believe, as dear old dad blatantly wants it so that he and his secret society Templar buddies can control human thought. A society so secret their London headquarters has massive Templar crosses emblazoned across the exterior. The dialogue and story in the modern day segments are cringe worthy, and there are more than enough plot holes for newcomers to tackle let alone all the wider continuity errors to be found if you’re an Assassin’s Creed fan.
All the key Assassin’s Creed staples appear, there’s lots of stabbing and standing on rooftops looking stern, the parkour sequences are a joy to watch, and the series defining leap of faith is a visual standout…that is until the film ruins the moment by switching back to the modern day mid free fall. All the way through the historical segments flashy editing switches between Aguilar and a half naked Lynch fighting and flailing around in mid air, an effect which rips you straight out of the experience and feels more like watching someone play a video game.
I had high hopes after the Prince of Persia adaptation, whilst not mind blowing Prince of Persia did at least manage to not be terrible. And with Fassbender, Cotillard and Irons on board I thought “Hey, this might actually be OK”. Sadly it takes everything good about the franchise and either ruins, dumbs down or plain sidelines it to result in a film that is flashy and hollow and not at all what I was hoping for.