Assassin's Creed

UK Release Date 1st January 2017
Director Justin Kurzel
Starring Good Actors. Very Good Actors
Runtime 115 Minutes
Certificate 12A
Reviewer Si
Reviewed 21st January 2017

The abject failure of video games to translate into movies is well documented already so it seems a little redundant to reiterate that here but safe to say, ever since the late great Bob Hoskins donned a plumbers outfit, things have not gone well for the gamepad on the big screen.

No surprise then that the latest effort, despite a spectacular amount of star power, also fails to register in any way whatsoever. Assassin’s Creed brings together Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling. Which is pretty much the definition of a quality cast. Not just star power but genuine, proper talent. Presumably all here with their cash wheelbarrows and a tax bill or two to fix. I’ve not seen any of director Justin Kurzel’s previous movies but they all score pretty well on Rotten Tomatoes.

The plot, such as it is, revolves around a classic movie macguffin - some nonsense about the Apple of Eden holding the genetic sequence for anger. At least, I think that’s what everyone is running around after, the movie is so convoluted it’s pretty difficult to tell. There is an order that protects the apple and an order that wants to steal it. As always with these doomsday items, rather than just sail out to the middle of nowhere and drop the thing into the ocean, it is entrusted to some old dude by Fassbender’s assassin so that it might be stored in a box and stolen one day.

That’s all back in ye olden days. Right here in the now, Fassbender’s current day character Cal Lynch is executed by lethal injection for clipping a pimp - the sort of murder that in movie land means he’s a troubled but actually okay kind of guy (daddy issues, temper problems etc). Waking after his death in a shiny white lab with Cotillard’s Sofia peering down at him, Cal soon discovers that he is related to the olden days assassin and Sofia has created a whatsit that he can plug into in order to ‘synch’ his memories with his ancestors - kind of an invasive VR machine only with a vicious neck implant rather than your Samsung phone. The objective of all this being that the nefarious company can discover where the apple was hidden by olden world Cal (an assassin called Aguilar for all the difference it makes) and use it to remove free will from all of mankind. Somehow or other.

Whether Sofia is a goodie or a baddie is utterly confusing, all we know is that Jeremy Irons is her father and boss and he is definitely a baddie because he’s Jeremy Irons. The practical upshot of all this nonsense is that Fassbender spends increasing amounts of time running around in his VR machine, being chased by identikit baddies (or goodies, I really couldn’t tell). There is some pointless side plot of a love interest thing with Ariane Labed’s Maria - another assassin - but that doesn’t go anywhere and ends in the inevitable eventual self sacrifice.

All of this is very predictable, after all, this is a video game adaptation but it’s made massively frustrating because the writers of this made the exact same mistake that the video game writers made. The games were and still are great fun but it’s widely acknowledged that the modern day sections of the games are pointless and completely interrupt the flow of the running and jumping and climbing and stabbing fun of the main sections. This isn’t a secret, it’s been a consistent criticism across the entire game series and one that Ubisoft did take steps to address, especially with the excellent Black Flag entry.

So why the filmmakers think it’s a good idea to copy that section of the game is completely beyond me. It adds nothing to any part of the narrative and merely serves to remind us that nearly all of the peril Fassbender and co find themselves in is completely artificial. Any tension that there may have been evaporates completely, not that the jagged editing allows for any tension as I couldn’t make out one character from another in any of the hyperactive action sequences. And that’s before you start picking at the logic of the main character tapping into his ancestor's memory - even if you accept that’s possible, surely he would just be a puppet to the memories that he is ‘synching’ with, rather than being the driving force?

I’m prepared to admit that challenging the logic of this movie is entirely foolish but that doesn’t excuse the boring mess it becomes. Spending way too much time with the modern day VR thing means the movie unforgivably runs to just shy of two hours, which by any measure is at least thirty minutes too long. None of the characters raise themselves above a bland cipher and the utter confusion of the plot makes the entire thing a chore to watch rather than the swashbuckling blast it could have been.

In Short:

That Assassin’s Creed fails to translate to the big screen won’t surprise anyone who’s ever seen Doom or Streetfighter but it’s still disappointing that it manages to lift all the dull elements of the game and make them even duller. The magnificently talented cast is completely wasted on incoherent set-pieces, dull exposition and a plot that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever, even accepting that none of this was ever going to make any sense. The search for a decent video game adaptation continues. Though I will admit to having watched all the Resident Evil series. Most more than once….

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