Genre: Action Adventure Director: Justin Kurzel Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons
What better way to start a new year than to watch a film that you didn’t expect to be great and entirely meets those expectations? Any way you may ask? Well that’s what I did so I guess we’re doing Assassin’s Creed today. I’m not particularly impressed with this adaption of a video game series that I once loved, but there’s more to what I’m writing here than that. So let’s get on with it.
Assassin’s Creed is an Action Adventure video game series from Ubisoft, that delves into a variety of historical settings (mostly European, which kind of bothers me) playing as a freedom fighter called an Assassin, battling against the ‘evil’ Templars, who desire to control the world in order to bring peace. Each game has explored these group’s contributions to various historical events, with the added twist of ‘ancient advanced technology’ that tips the balance of world power.
So how does this translate to film? Well it follows Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) a man sentenced to death before Abstergo (a Templar owned organisation) steals him away under orders from Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) in order to use a device known as the Animus on him. This device decodes his DNA so that they can uncover the memories of Lynch’s ancestor Aguilar (also played by Fassbender) as he takes part in a mission within the age of the Spanish Inquisition. Regular Assassin’s Creed will recognise this plot from nearly every other game, and has no additional surprises. Those not familiar may well ask questions like, so it’s like Inception? The Matrix? What does this ‘ancient advanced technology’ do? Why should we care? Can we stop now? But of course this is conjecture.
In all seriousness the story is all right I think, it’s relatively simple with some convoluted material about the effects of the memory machine and character’s motivations. (Also how gullible they are) It is a bit boring though, with a lack of delivery and interesting dialogue from the lead characters, and a resolution that –because the story is divided between past and present – is jumbled up. I wish that this film focused more on the story of Aguilar and the Spanish Inquisition, that’s the aspect of this series that I’ve always enjoyed, and when I play the games, I want the breaks in to the modern story to be over with as quickly as I can. I guess the action scenes were cool to watch, if a bit confusing at times, mostly taking place in the past storyline.
I also think that the set design and the lighting could have been a bit brighter, rather than being grim and serious. That leads to another issue that I have with the film; it’s all so serious that no time is taken for happiness or levity, or basic human concepts. I think adding those elements would have made for a better film, instead of inviting comparisons to better films. (Inception, Matrix, Kingdom of Heaven)
I’m not sure what else I can write about regarding the film itself; there really isn’t much to tell and I feel that the only reason that I care as much as I do is because it’s Assassin’s Creed. I once really enjoyed these games; I loved the idea of interacting with historical events and then learning more about it myself afterwards through research. Initially, I also enjoyed the modern storyline too, the conspiracy theory stuff, connecting the Templars and Assassins to major events and joining the dots. However, for Assassin’s Creed nothing has really changed since it’s beginnings, and while it’s still cool to see these important events realised, I struggle to find as much enthusiasm for this series anymore.
And that applies to the film as well; if we don’t see the past storyline very much and no one cares about the modern storyline, then what’s left?
After watching the film, I talked a lot with my friends about Assassin’s Creed, the ideas that the series itself has raised with us (particularly interesting when discussing our interpretation of the phrase “Nothing is true, everything is permitted), the conspiracy theories, ethics and the history stuff. I suppose there’s enjoyment to be had for those who enjoy the series as a whole, but I just don’t feel satisfied by this film or where the series is going at this stage. I mean, you’ve done the film, what’s next?
The video game to film adaption genre of films is also a problem that comes up – the agency of the viewer compared with playing the game – and doesn’t look to be becoming top tier level filmmaking. I can say that this film is better than most adaptions but that really isn’t saying very much.
Those who haven’t lost faith in the series may enjoy Assassin’s Creed – and all power to you if that’s the case. Heck, people who enjoy straightforward action films may find something to like too. As for me, I’m going to be continuing my break from the series.