Another one bites the dust.
The video game film curse has been a long-standing problem plaguing the film industry for decades. From the likes of Tomb Raider, to the most recent World of Warcraft, films based on popular video games have been rather rudimentary, with a fairly lukewarm reception.
20th Century Fox’s Assassin’s Creed is no different. Directed by Justin Kurzel and starring Hollywood heavy-hitters, Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, the highly anticipated film based on Ubisoft’s popular video game franchise of the same name, was expected to be THE video game adaptation to bring about an end to the curse. Sadly, this was for nought and despite being a blockbuster film, Assassin’s Creed could not escape from falling under the stigma that has come with being a video game film.
The film follows convicted criminal, Callum ‘Cal’ Lynch (Fassbender), who, upon being rescued from his execution by Abstergo Industries, the modern-day incarnation of the Templar Order, is forced to relive the memories of his ancestor, the assassin, Aguilar de Nerha, through participation in the Animus Project, which is overseen by scientist, Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard).
Quite a number of films today assume their audiences to be intelligent and learned people, able to string together ideas to gain an understanding of the film as a whole. In this way, films are able to save precious time and do away with unnecessary film tropes. Assassin’s Creed takes on the opposite approach. While it is understandable that the film caters to both video game enthusiasts and wider audiences, some of whom may not have the knowledge of the Assassin’s Creed video game lore, there are moments where the film gives away far too much so early in the film, which detracts from the aspects of mystery and suspense, which I see as crucial to any action-adventure film.
Watching the film without any prior knowledge of the story of Assassin’s Creed, I didn’t struggle to understand the film, which, to many others like me, is a blessing. However, without any surprises or plot twists left me feeling rather bored.
Plot wise, Assassin’s Creed lacked depth and failed to keep me interested in the story. This is in part due to the way in which the film attempts to compress the story into a duration of under two hours while maximising on the amount of action. If I were to describe the film in one sentence, it would be that Assassin’s Creed is 1 ½ hours of action with underdeveloped characters and story.
Apart from Fassbender’s characters, Cal and Aguilar, none of the other characters appeared to have been given much substance. For a legendary actor, Jeremy Irons’ character, Alan Rikkin, the CEO of Abstergo Industries and supposedly the big bad of the film, felt very much like a side character who simply stood in the sidelines. Nothing is explained in terms of his background and when it comes down to it, he just doesn’t ‘do much’ in the film. Even Cotillard’s character, Sophia, seems to be nothing more than a pushover little daddy’s girl who simply wants audiences to know that she is “a scientist first”.
Assassin’s Creed has always been about history, more specifically important periods in history, such as the Spanish Inquisition, which is the time period in which Aguilar was an assassin. As a history buff who enjoys historical period films, I personally felt bored by the ‘flashback’ scenes. Sure, the action sequences and chase scenes were interesting, and watching the leap of faith take place was thrilling, there wasn’t anything more substantial to truly find gripping. Other than repeating the oath of giving up their lives for the Creed, the characters simply had no personality and neither did the city in which the assassins were based.
Visually though, the film was rather spectacular. The contrast between modern day technology and sandy desert storms were brilliant, as were the costumes, which truly did bring about the sense of two very different time-lines being depicted on screen. Action sequences were fabulous and the coordinated fight scenes between the regressed assassins imprisoned alongside Cal in Abstergo Industries and the guards were fun to watch. However, despite all that, I still wanted to walk out of Assassin’s Creed.
Despite being an adaptation of a popular video game franchise, Assassin’s Creed just couldn’t break the curse that has plagued video game films for decades. Lacking in depth, substance and most importantly, heart, there just wasn’t any real redeeming qualities for a fan of good film plot. While the action sequences were entertaining, Assassin’s Creed didn’t engage viewers with any kind of suspense, mystery or intrigue and inevitably fell prey to being ‘just another video game film’ with a terrible ending. All in all, I expected more and only wish that filmmakers would stick to the original material when creating adaptations.
Ultimately, even a leap of faith wasn’t enough to save this film.