Having been a long time fan of the Assassin’s Creed series I was bursting at the seams when it was announced that Ubisoft‘s famed title would be receiving a live action movie adaptation. The Assassin’s Creed franchise has, since its initial game in 2007, hosted an intricate and enrapturing story line riddled with many a philosophical conundrum, parkour and battle sequences. While the game franchise making a statement and has earned its place with the video game greats, the movie, while beautifully done, will struggle to remain relevant after a week as it falls into every single pitfall a game-based movie can, stabbing itself in the leg.
Welcome to the Spanish Inquisition
The film revolves around original character Callum Lynch who, after the tragic events of his childhood, ends up becoming a career criminal and death row inmate. On the day of his execution Carl is saved by Abstergo Industries, a multi-billion dollar company who represent the modern incarnation of the Templar hidden society. Abstergo fakes Carl’s death to force his participation in the Animus project where he is forced to relive the memories of his long gone ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, a member of the Assassin’s Brotherhood, in order to help them find the almighty Apple of Eden.
Through his interactions with members of Abstergo such as Sophia Rikkin and Aguilar, Carl is forced to face his childhood trauma which may not have been as black and white as he believed it to be. He has his eyes forcibly opened to a new world just under the surface and, as he gets closer to the apple, must decide if he will be its savior or its end.
He’s pretty much a less in dept copy of Desmond Miles with Aguilar being a rip of Altair who just isn’t quite as important.
We work in the Shadows
The film is beautifully done. The sets are gorgeous, the cast is wonderful, the action scenes are breath taking and even the script feels mostly organic. This film adaptation had ambition and a clear goal of what it wanted to be but like many game to movie converts, the plot just didn’t translate well.
The movie is at its best when Callum is in the Animus living the life of Aguilar. There is action and intensity, the Assassin’s have a clear goal and through much stunt action progress along a plainly laid out story path. When out of the Animus, Callum and his blunt attitude doesn’t really hook you, although it is entertaining to watch him lose his mind.
The most disappointing thing about the movie is that they chose to go the way of a blank sate with Callum. After creating the original character and even casting Michael Fassbender into the role many we’re intrigued. Here is a character that the gamers don’t know who can be used to introduce a whole new audience to the shadow war of the assassin’s creed universe. He is fresh and could be anything but despite Fassbender’s dedicated performance amounts to a misapplied and to-be misinterpreted plot device.
Unfortunate boxing of a main character aside, Marion Cotillard’s Sophia Rikkin was maybe the most interesting factor to watch play out in present day. Project lead at Abstergo, Sophia is shown to be solely invested in the pursuit of peace. She is not cold or calculating like her father and does not share his views even though she believes them to share the same goal. Wanting nothing but to find the Apple of Eden to help eradicate war, Cotillard’s character is without a doubt the only character in the entire film to show any actual organic growth and smoothly transition of one point to the next without leaving viewers in a bewildered state as to the hows and whys as was the case with Callum.
To serve the light
The movie was ambitious. The producers obviously wanted to mimic the success of the game franchise which to this day is alive and well with new games supposed in production. Ambition however does note a good movie make. At least not on its own.
The main casualty of this movie is that there is way too much plot to lay out within 2 hours time. We are introduced to Callum with some childhood back story and later he is taken to Abstergo to be used as a lab rat to help them find the oh so important Apple. The explanation of the Apple’s power is very vague throughout the film although its importance is heavily emphasized. Little to no information is really given on the other Assassin’s who are being held by Abstergo, not even within the Animus scenes, although they seem to have a great understanding of what’s actually going on and play a huge part in the film’s climax. Honestly, Not even the Assassin Brotherhood can be fully appreciated.
The film is much like the first game. Very slow when not focused on the assassin with a lot of information being lobbed at you in that interim. Maybe if the movie was released a couple years ago into a different film market it would have been the hit we were all hoping for. Instead we just have to settle for a mediocre attempt at gamer fan service which, although it doesn’t disgrace the franchise in any way at all, does not make a good representation at all.
The film aspires to greatness but falls short as anyone who is not already a fan of the series or familiar with the first few games will have a hard time keeping up or understanding the relevance of the content. Assassin’s Creed managed to perfectly depict the greatness of the franchise without getting you to feel or understand why it is in fact so great.
Not all stories can be best told on any medium. The films short comings may well stem from the fact that a 2 hour movie just isn’t ideal to tell the story. Maybe in couple years down the line Ubisoft and 20th Century Fox can try their hands at an Assassin’s Creed TV Series with better results.