Assassin’s Creed Movie Review
When it was first announced, there was actually a lot of hype and hope behind Assassin’s Creed. After two decades of Hollywood adaptations of video games that range in quality from “so bad it’s good” on the high end, and some of the worst movies of the past 20 years on the low end, Assassin’s Creed was supposed to be the game changer. It was an adaptation of one of the hottest AAA gaming franchises, Ubisoft, the studio behind the game, was involved, it had Michael Fassbender attached to the lead role.
So where did everything go so horribly wrong?
I’d argue around the time you had a movie set partly against the Spanish Inquisition have a trailer set to a bad Kanye West song, but there is so much wrong with Assassin’s Creed that it’s almost an achievement, not just in terms of bad video game movies, but in terms of just terrible film-making in general.
So just how did Assassin’s Creed manage to slit its own throat?
The movie follows two intertwined arcs, the first following a death row inmate named Callum who has been spirited away by the mysterious Abstergo Foundation who hope his ancestral memories can help them find a powerful object known as the Apple of Eden, and the second following his distant ancestor Aguilar, an Assassin from 15th Century Spain who hid the Apple from the machinations of the Templars. In either arc, the movie’s two glaring narrative flaws become readily apparent almost at once.
The first issue is that it’s hobbled by the biggest weakness of the Assassin’s Creed games – the background mythos, which is a hodgepodge of some of my most hated conspiracy theories, ranging from ancient aliens to secret societies, which have been half assedly thrown together to give gamers an excuse to stealth murder their way across various historical settings. The plot of the Assassin’s Creed games has always been the weakest part of the franchise, and the film’s somber dedication to that plot it one of its biggest downfalls.
The other critical issue is that of the two plotlines, the movie spends nearly its entire run time on the more boring one of the two, Callum and the Abstergo Foundation. No matter how bad the plot is, a movie focused on swashbuckling ninjas fighting in Medieval Spain could have been entertaining, but instead, we are stuck with people mostly sitting around spewing exposition at each other in a sterile looking laboratory for most of Assassin’s Creed’s run time, and it’s just painfully boring to watch.
Not that I’d expect much given the mess of a script they were given, but the cast largely drops the ball as well. I will at least give some credit to Michael Fassbender for a gamely effort in his dual performance as Callum/Aguilar, but the movie simply doesn’t give him much to say or do. Marion Cotillard is just as underwhelming a a villain here as she was in The Dark Knight Rises or Inception, delivering an inconsistent performance as Sophia, who whether it be because of the script or Cotillard’s flat delivery, has her motivations and demeanor change in every other scene. Assassin’s Creed even manages to waste the combined abilities of Brendan Gleeson, Michael K. Williams, and Jeremy Irons in a series of minor roles that are given so little, that not even they can ham their way into being memorable. All around, it’s kind of shocking how little there is to the characters in Assassin’s Creed – this is a movie so barebones that female Assassin, who comes in third in terms of total screen time, doesn’t even have a name.
Worst of all though, for a movie based on a video game franchise known for its thrilling stunts, brutal violence and colorful chase scenes and costumes, as a movie, Assassin’s Creed may be one of the dullest, visually ugly movies to hit theaters in 2016, which says something for the year that gave us Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice. The entire movie has an ugly washed out color palate, to the point it’s deeply unpleasant to look at, which given the movies two settings are a futuristic laboratory and medieval Andalusia, is a crying shame. The action scenes, where you can tell there is some considerable stunt work, have been so chopped apart by the editing room that they’re borderline unwatchable. Even the sound editing is terrible – there are scenes where the dialogue has been completely drowned out by the score.
It’s kind of amazing that after four high profile, big budget blockbusters based on video games this year, the best video game movie of 2016 may end up being Hardcore Henry. I wonder if a few of the folks that tore into the Angry Birds Movie or Warcraft are saying some mea culpas now, because Assassin’s Creed makes both of them look brilliant in comparison.
The ironic thing about Assassin’s Creed is that when it was greenlit, this was supposed to be the movie that brought video game film adaptations the critical and financial success that has long eluded all previous attempts. Indeed, Assassin’s Creed may do one thing no video game adaptation before it has managed to: kill attempts to make movies based on video games once and for all. Even for an assassin, striking a possible death blow against a medium that survived Uwe Boll is an accomplishment. Not a good one mind you, but an accomplishment all the same.