Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons
Watch Assassin’s Creed online in the UK: Netflix UK / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / Rakuten TV / Google Play
Hollywood has never been very good when it comes to adapting video game franchises. Super Mario Brothers. Doom. Almost the entire output of Uwe Boll. So when Assassin’s Creed – based on a video game franchise, which began in 2007 – was announced, there was not much enthusiasm. But with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard confirmed to star and Justin Kurzel to direct, there was a glimmer of hope. After all, the three had worked together wonderfully in 2015’s adaptation of Macbeth. Heavyweight acting talent such as this alongside a lauded director would hopefully mean that Hollywood was committed to doing a video game some justice. Wouldn’t it?
As a young boy, Callum (Fassbender) has a very bad day. Not only does he crash his bike, but he also comes home to discover that his father is the latest in a long line of assassins and has murdered Callum’s mother. Which certainly puts the whole dented BMX thing into perspective. Decades later and Callum is awaiting execution for murder. After the lethal injection is administered, Callum awakes to find himself under the care of Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) in the prison-like facilities of the mysterious Abstergo Foundation. It transpires that Callum is the descendent of assassin Aguilar de Nerha and – with the help of genetic memory machine The Animus – Rikkin is going to make Callum relive the memories of his ancestor in 1492 Spain. The hope is to find The Apple of Eden, a strange artefact that is said to control the free will of mankind. As Callum relives the past – including the brutal fights involving his ancestor – his destiny begins to take shape, as he looks towards his influence on the future.
It seems Assassin’s Creed had less of a script and more of recipe which read as follows: “Scene of long and wordy exposition. Start fighting. Kill numerous bad guys by swinging arms about. Do some flips. Kill more bad guys by swinging arms around (grab a weapon for extra spice). Exit fight scene by jumping off something tall and looking moody. Repeat. Make up dialogue as you go along.”
Everything here is just so under-baked. Characterisation is wafer-thin, with Callum nothing more than an angry dullard, Sofia a scientific dullard and Alan Rikkin (Sofia’s father, played by Jeremy Irons) a sanctimonious dullard. Normally, the acting chops of the likes of Fassbender and Cotillard (who have both proven they can do genre films well) would elevate the material, but here, they’re clearly phoning it in. Fassbender wants to be moody and angry, but comes across as someone in the process of a doing a difficult poo, while Cotillard underplays it to the point of invisibility.
But the material they’re given doesn’t give them much of a chance. Despite swathes of exposition, the central Macguffin of The Apple of Eden is not explained in any great detail (it glows, so it must be important) and it seems that we’re meant to root for the assassins, because, while they kill people, they do so of their own free will. Which is OK then.
The action scenes feature lots of shaky camera work and parkour moves that – after the 25th bad guy does a rotating flip – become a bit monotonous. Sadly, the 25th bad guy does a rotating flip about 10 minutes into the movie.
Assassin’s Creed is not a bad movie per se. It’s just endlessly bland, a hash of Hollywood clichés and non-existent character and plot development. Anyone up for a game of Tomb Raider?
Assassin’s Creed is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.
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