You must be living under a rock if you’ve never heard that video games and films don’t got that particularly well with one another. Just because a concept and story work well in one entertainment medium does not mean it will work well in another, I’m not sure how much similar it can be said to Hollywood. Nevertheless, where some have failed others have defied expectations and remembering back to when this Assassin’s Creed film was announced, I kind of had high hopes that this would be the one to break the mould video game films have found themselves in. Hope can be a damning thing, especially when you have hoped a film will be successful and it turns out to make the mould even more difficult to break.
Directed by Justin Kurzel and based on Ubisoft’s reputable video game franchise, Assassin’s Creed focuses on Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) a man who is on death row for murder. His execution is faked however by the Abstergo Foundation and its head scientist Sofia (Marion Cotillard) because they need his memories to locate a treasure called the Apple of Eden. It turns out Cal is a descendent of someone called Aguilar (also Michael Fassbender), a member of the Assassin’s Creed, who want to stop the Templars from discovering the Apple of Eden as they will use it to end violence by controlling humanity’s free will. Aguilar was apparently the last person to be in possession of the Apple of Eden and the Abstergo Foundation want to know what he did with it.
Although I wouldn’t call myself an Assassin’s Creed fanboy, I have played many of the games and the one thing that made the games very appealing where its locations. Assassin’s Creed fans have journeyed through the Italian Renaissance, the Caribbean, and most recently Anglo-Saxon Britain. So with this film being partially set during the Granada War at the time of the Spanish Inquisition, it sounds like a fitting piece in the puzzle. But where the settings in the video game achieve the aim of immersion, the film does nothing of the sort. This is down to the fact that every location is so bland, every location has this feel of dirtiness to it and the colour correction turns every scene set in this period a repetitive mix of yellow/green colour. Also, is it just me or is there a huge amount of dust clouds during these scenes?
Unfortunatly, the present is equally unkind as the past. Getting to point A to point B in the present is just as simple as jumping over details in this film. One minute, Cal is a kid running away from gunmen who have come for his father, The next he’s an adult being executed for killing someone (we’re never told who and why), then he’s alive again and being sent into the past. There is so much information this film skips over because it wants to get to what it thinks people want to see, Assassins doing cool parkour and killing bad guys in a cool way. It thinks it can get away with it because it’s betting on the bulk of this film’s audience being players of the games and alienating other audience members is never a good thing to do.
Something I notice early on in the film was how it would jump time by showing long shots of an eagle flying. This is of course linked to the games as the eagle has a significant symbolic role in the games and at first it wasn’t disturbing to the experience of the film. But by the time you understand what the role of that eagle plays in the film, the transitions love their flavour and become a long wait for the film to get going again.
I think you can tell already that Assassin’s Creed is a bit of a bore film, and you’d be right. The film even conducts a casualty on itself by bringing the action down with it, which if you ignore the disruptive editing and the boring aesthetic, is pretty impressive. For one, Assassin’s Creed vital gameplay mechanic is to pull of kills using creative parkour-like maneuvers. For what it’s worth, the film has good choreography when it comes to its action scenes, the filmmakers just need to learn that we don’t need to see an action from every conceivable angle to enjoy it. Furthermore, when there is something big happening, a big action sequence, the film never lets you soak in the moment because it will cut back to the present-day showing Cal mimicking the action. The film does this a lot, like an unhealthy amount. The impressive stunt work on display is ultimately undone and impossible to enjoy.
There is no amount of hay bales that could cushion just how far Assassin’s Creed falls as a film. It wastes perfectly good talent like Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Charlotte Rampling, even Jeremy Irons who all look about as clueless as the films audience about what’s going on. It had one glimmer of hope in its action and the filmmakers massively mishandled it. We took a leap of faith with Assassin’s Creed and got punished for doing so. Maybe we’ll have better look in the Netflix series, but don’t hold your breath.