What could possibly go wrong? Why would anyone have any doubts in a live-action film adaptation of a popular video game when we’ve had such films as Doom, Super Mario Bros., Mortal Kombat, Tomb Raider, Prince of Persia, Street Fighter, Street Fighter again, and anything by Uwe Boll? Better yet, I’ve heard from people who “love movies” in the sense that they like going to theatres and watching the latest mainstream crowd-pleaser that Warcraft: The Beginning is right up there with Suicide Squad (and also that Rogue One had convincing de-aging effects). So really, how could I possibly have abysmal expectations about a film like Assassin’s Creed?
Well, by some unexplainable miracle, it turns out Assassin’s Creed is shaping up to be quite the notorious rotten tomato. And as fate would have it, I know even less about Assassin’s Creed than World of Warcraft so I can’t really confirm whether this film at least succeeds in recreating the look and tone of the source material. I think it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t do too well in terms of recapturing the original game’s fun factor, or the comprehensibility of its plot.
Initially, the movie is actually set in the future (don’t let the costumes on the posters fool you), where a convict named Cal, played by Michael Fassbender, is acquired by Abstergo Industries, which is revealed to include descendants of The Templar Order. Helmed by Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter Sophia (Marion Cotillard), this shadowy group has constructed some form of time machine, the “Animus”, which can be used to transport a person’s consciousness into the body of one of their ancestors. In this case, they’ve selected Cal because they’ve learned that he is of the same lineage as Aguilar – a talented member of the secret Assassin’s Creed, sworn enemies of The Templars, in 15th century Spain. And yes, his talents do include jumping between buildings, doing cool martial arts moves, and all that.
More specifically, Cal’s quest involves finding out where the Apple of Eden was hidden centuries ago – and it’s not the fruit, but rather a machine of sorts that can take away the free will of mankind. Yeah, that’s it. Throughout the ensuing nonsense, we glimpse such poorly used actors as Michael K. Williams, Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson and, indeed, the aforementioned Cotillard and Irons. Let’s just say there’s not too much time for character development amidst all the names and concepts we’re expected to keep track of.
From what I can tell, summarizing the mythology of these games in one film is difficult enough as it is, without all the things that were supposedly added for no crystal clear reason and weren’t ever featured in the games. Even then, nothing is exposited in such a way that it’s smoothe sailing to follow. Or at least, in such a way that all the goofy gobbledygook at hand can be taken semi-seriously.
Honestly, though, I don’t know that I can bring myself to agree that this is as bad as some of the other movies this year has cursed us with. It’s been a great year in some ways but a terrible one in others, and in the same year that gave us Norm of the North, that one Batman movie, the aforementioned Warcraft, and the aforementioned Suicide Squad, Assassin’s Creed isn’t quite so remarkable. It even does some things well, mainly in terms of costume and set design.
I’m sure some fans of gaming might get a kick out of this film, even though the only movie I’ve seen that near-perfectly captures the action of a video game is Hardcore Henry – a movie that’s not tecnically based on anything. But as I implied in my opening paragraph, you don’t need to be perfect to be liked or regarded as an objective achievement by people who “love movies”. If a guy in the IMDb comment section on Facebook is convinced that CGI Tarkin is a good special effects, it’d just be cruel of people who know anything about the Uncanny Valley or face perception to argue with him. Let people have their fun.
In any event, here’s hoping that Fassbender has brighter things ahead in his career. Like that sequel to Prometheus that just got a trailer and actually kind of looks like an Alien movie this time. I guess that’s something.
The trailer I’ve embedded is the most unintentionally funny one I could find. Apparently it’s not enough to try to make a buck off of brand recognition and video game fanboyism; you had to include a random rap song from Kanye West in there as well and pander on all cylinders? Lord knows, that’s what I think of when I think of a semi-religious action film partially set in the same age as the Spanish Inquisition.