This holiday season, Assassin’s Creed, the much anticipated adaptation of the mega-popular video game series, is finally released amidst a number of reshoots, rewrites, and delays. So where does the sleek and stylish film rank on the video game to movie scale? As low as is humanly possible. With a collection of phoned-in performances and a lazy script, Assassin’s Creed is one of the patchiest and most disorganized movie experiences of 2016, as well as one of the dullest concoctions to ever come from a video game.
In Assassin’s Creed, a man named Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) has been sentenced to death by lethal injection. However he soon wakes up in a top-secret facility in Spain, where he is informed by the lovely Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) that he is the latest in a long line of ancient assassins, which started with Cal’s ancestor Aguilar (also Fassbender). Through a series of intense memory-triggering sessions, Cal begins to experience his ancestor’s past as he and and his fellow present-day assassins join forces to overtake the side known as the Templars.
Amidst all the dullness the film has to offer, I found that the most passable way of spending the time was to count the various rip-offs found throughout Assassin’s Creed. Watching the film, elements of Gattaca, La Femme Nikkita, The Borgias, and Game of Thrones all managed to pop up at one time or another. In an effort to capture the spirit of the above-mentioned properties and meld them with the sensibilities of the series, the filmmakers have forgotten to let anything remotely organic or inventive flourish. The cold mystery and darkness of the modern world in which Cal is experimented on is tirelessly and endlessly juxtaposed with the world of ancient Spain, in which Aguilar is shown establishing himself as the ultimate assassin. Both worlds fail to register because not enough proper attention is given to either one when it comes to story or set design, while a furious cutting between moments of Aguilar in action and shots of Sofia’s face as she watches Cal experience violent twitches signifies the film’s pathetic attempt at maintaining flow.
As utterly lifeless as Assassin’s Creed is, I MUST give its creators applause for at least trying to create something new. The film’s central storyline has been crafted as an original plot and does not borrow anything from the previous games. On the one hand, this frees the film up from the burden of having to visualize what the series’ fans have long-since embraced. On the other, they now bear the responsibility of having to live up to the excitement and vitality that the games themselves offered on a completely different platform. In this sense, they have failed by attempting a move that was bold and original, without being any of the above when it comes to the end product. In a way it’s as if the filmmakers rolled the dice and then were afraid to do anything else. All of this is a real shame as it strikes yet another blow for the survival of original concepts from big studios.
The collection of performances in Assassin’s Creed will surely give the Razzie committee plenty to think about when deciding their votes this year. Everywhere you look throughout the film, you will find yet another cast member who should’ve known way way better than to ever get mixed up in this mess. Fassbender has never looked more bored and stiff in his entire career, and given that he’s just come off from playing the likes of both Macbeth AND Steve Jobs, making an actor of his proven caliber look this uninvolved is no easy task. The same can be said for Cotillard, an actress you would think incapable of giving a bad turn on screen, who is so ill at ease and out of her comfort zone here, resulting in her phoniest and flattest performance to date. Faring no better are the likes of Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson, and Jeremy Irons, whose roles are so unimportant since basically all any of them have been hired to do is just stand around and watch the people in front of them.
I cannot think of who this movie could possibly satisfy. The plot is too far removed from the video game series for any longtime fans to engage with, and the whole exercise will no doubt come across as lackluster to those unfamiliar with Assassin’s Creed, reminding them instead of other, better movies out there. As I was endlessly switching sitting positions in a mostly vain effort to stay awake, I kept on wishing I was watching the action classic Equilibrium every time one of the so-called “action” scenes came on. If there is anything to be taken away from Assassin’s Creed, maybe it’s to find that one, better movie it makes you wish you were actually watching and give it a revisit.