Based on the video game of the same name, Assassin’s Creed joins a long list of film adaptions that Hollywood hopes will convince audiences that films based on video games can be done well. If you’re seeing this film hoping to get into the game, then this film will cause you to lose interest.
Director Justin Kurzel (2015’s Macbeth) reunites Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in a film about a criminal reliving the memories of an ancestor who was part of a secret assassin brotherhood during the Spanish Inquisition. After being saved from execution via lethal injection, Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is offered a fresh start by Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) on the condition that he helps her find the cure for violence.
Rikkin is a scientist and founder of a genetic memory program called the Animus Project of Abstergo Industries, which allows descendants of assassins to relive the memories of their ancestors. In this case, Cal is tasked with reliving the events of the Spanish Inquisition through his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha (also played by Fassbender), a member of the Assassin’s Creed brotherhood sworn to protect the Apple of Eden, an artifact that has the genetic codes to free will from the Templar Order.
Jeremy Irons plays Alan Rikkin, the sinister CEO of Abstergo Industries who is the part of the modern-day Templar Order. He’s arranged for the artifact to be found and delivered to the elders of the Order to complete their centuries-old mission. Michael K. Williams also stars as Moussa, another descendant of an assassin, who tries to help Callum connect with Aguilar. Moussa doesn’t make an impact until the end of the film and at that point, I think it will please some audience members to see Omar from The Wire kick ass almost as well as Fassbender’s Aguilar.
The concept of reliving an ancestor’s memories sounds great, until its marred by mediocre character development and a predictable plot. It was obvious what “twists” were coming from the moment Cotillard’s Sophia interacts with Fassbender’s Callum. Though the writing wasn’t strong, the actors did their best with what they were given. Perhaps, the most oddly developed character was Sofia. For much of the film, she’s portrayed as a sympathetic, genuine, and kind character. It isn’t until the end of the film when audiences will start to question her motives, but even then, it doesn’t seem like the writers knew what they were. Considering how the film ends, her motives may have been written to be ambiguous so they can be further explored in possible sequels.
The weaker points of the film took place outside of the Animus, where it failed to develop its supporting characters, such as the other assassins. Periodically the film makes it a point to show the audience the other descendants, but with little dialogue or attempt to understand their connections to Aguilar and the Creed brotherhood.
The attempt to make Michael Fassbender look like a Spaniard by darkening his beard, slightly darkening his skin and giving him brown contacts when he plays Aguilar may be offensive to those who would like to see more Latino representation in films. Those criticisms would be warranted, especially since Fassbender is as pale and blue-eyed as Callum as he is when he plays Magneto in the X-Men films.
The film’s strongest moments all take place in the Animus. The action and fighting sequences were exciting and an absolute blast to watch. It feels like the movie was 60/40 Abstergo to Animus but it should have been 50/50. The film simultaneously shows Callum in Abstergo and as Aguilar in the Animus to help the audience feel as connected to Aguilar as Callum is. It’s done well and is when Fassbender shines brightest.
Overall, this film is just okay. It’s not terrible and it’s better than other video game films like Mortal Kombat, Doom, or Tomb Raider. If you need to see this film in theaters, go see it during matinee. Otherwise wait until it comes to Netflix or onDemand. Fassbender, Cotillard, Williams and Irons tried to carry this film and it worked some of the time but the predictable plot and subpar writing was too much to overcome. The studio is planning two sequels to this film. In that case, maybe this film will serve as a solid foundation and the sequels can feature more fighting among Templars and Assassins to take pressure off this film’s writers to have to develop a well-written storyline.
2.5 out of 5 stars