ReviewAway: Assassin's Creed (2016)
Assassin’s Creed suffers from the same problem that nearly every other movie based on a game suffers from, that it is in fact a movie, not a game. The film is based off of the popular video game franchise that first appeared in 2007, though it’s not a direct adaptation of any of the games in particular. It instead opts to use the series overarching Templars vs. Assassins plot to loosely remake the first game, switching out the series’ long-serving protagonist Desmond Miles for Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), who, much like his video game counterpart, has the terrible affliction of being painfully uninteresting. Unfortunately for the audience, unlike the games which used the modern day segments as more of a framing device, the film decides that they’re worth much more attention that the historical parts, and the result is an occasionally boring, mildly confusing, by the numbers action-adventure movie, and it’s an average one at that.
For the most part, the film is set in the dull and exposition filled Abstergo Labs, coloured entirely in a flat blueish-gray and populated mostly by people who seem to do nothing but provide background. Peppered in are the short and punchy segments in 15th century Spain, which is where the film really tries to earn it’s ticket price. The fluid action of the games is replicated nicely in these scenes, which are teeming with colour and movement that make them enjoyable and engaging parts of the film. At most times the action is crisp and the choreography is smooth, and for the most part the cinematography is steady enough that you can admire it, but at other times it falls into the trappings of over-editing and shaky camera work, which don’t entirely ruin the action but do put a sizable dent in it’s enjoyability.
Assassin’s Creed‘s biggest obstacle comes in the form of it’s own main plot. Sure, some of the problems can be attributed to trying to shove a 20+ hour game’s story into a 2 hour feature film, but the film wastes so much time doing practically nothing that you’re left to wonder how there can simultaneously be so much crammed exposition next to so much empty space. It’s a Dan Brown-esque affair, but anyone with any knowledge of the games or anyone paying the slightest amount of attention can see the foreshadowing from miles away. Couple this with a major MacGuffin that in the end doesn’t actually do anything, characters who have constantly shifting and hard to define motivations, and writing that’s at times so stilted and unnatural it’s as if every line was a stinger for a trailer, and you get a movie that act’s like it’s trying to be clever, but not so clever as to actually make you think.
Despite it’s rather large list of shortcomings, Assassin’s Creed is half enjoyable if you enter the theater with low expectations. It’s a mass-appeal studio movie in the same vein as the mass-appeal studio games that inspired it, and like some the of the later entries in the video game franchise, it feels stale and over saturated at times. The acting is serviceable, and Fassbender does a decent job with what he’s given, but a weak performance by Marion Cottilard, a somewhat jumbled one by Jeremy Irons, and a complete waste of Denis Ménochet (The guy who hid Shoshanna at the beginning of Inglorious Basterds) ends up leaving a bad taste in your mouth, and there’s no amount of backflips or swordplay that can get it out. Assassin’s Creed is average at best, with the impressive choreography and engaging historical sequences unable to make up for the flat dialogue and dull writing; it’s an OK movie, and for everything it gets right it gets something else completely wrong.