I have no doubt that Hollywood will eventually make a good, if not great, video game movie. In recent years, Video Games have delivered richer, more insightful narratives then most big blockbusters. Almost 25 years after the abomination that was the Super Mario Brothers movie, its fairly reasonable to expect that we are finally due for a video game movie that does right to audiences and fans alike. But lets be clear: Assassins Creed is not that film.
Based on the Ubisoft series of action video games, the Assassins Creed film seems destined to be more notable for the talent behind the film, rather then the actual content within the films running time. Pulling in big named stars like Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and so on would indicate something unique or interesting within the films’ script. Yet somehow, Assassins Creed does what many film adaptations succumb to, dumbing down elements that fans of the source material would enjoy, yet simultaneously adding too much exposition in many scenes so as to confuse newcomers.
Admittedly, the basic plot of the games can be equally confusing, following our protaganist experience the memories of his assassin ancestors and become an assassin in the process. But, perhaps in an effort to add extra drama to the film, the script tries to make a mystery out of which side each character is on, regardless of how clearly defined it already is. Several twists throughout the film reveal that certain characters are either an Assassin or Templar, despite our already knowing which side they already align with, leading to a major disconnect between the filmmakers and the audience. At times, you’ll be either 5 steps ahead of the filmmakers, and at others be completely lost as to what’s going on; more likely, you’ll just give up and stop caring, finding the film lacking in rewarding audiences for their time and money.
Not helping the undecipherable plot are performances that can best be described as un-involving. Regardless of whatever’s going on in the scene, most dialogue comes off as unemotional mumbling, often feeling as if the actors are simple reading right off the script. Fassbender does alright in the lead role, but the combination of no material to work with and a script riddled with cliche’s makes it impossible to connect with his present day Cal, or past ancestor Aguilar. We never get to learn anything about his supposed assassin friends either, wasting veteran actor Michael Kenneth Williams in the process. As for the villains, Marion Cotiliard suffers from a lack of motivation given to her character, resulting in a character with no defined side in the films conflict, and appears to switch roles unnaturally to support the script as needed. Special mention must be made of Jeremy Irons, an acting legend that we know can do better, but spends his time in Assassins Creed sleepwalking through monologues about control, order and other typical villain motivations.
As far as the split stories going on between the past and present, the far more interesting-in-concept past segments only account for barely a third of the films running time. We spend far too little time in the past, and as a result never get to learn anything about the characters, conflicts or stories in the past. What should feel like a parallel storyline going hand in hand with the events in the present is instead treated like action scenes to interrupt the main story, and the film suffers because of it. Making matters worse, the action is terrible, with over editing and poor cinematography serving as the main culprits; you certainly get the IDEA that something cool is happening, but rarely do you ever see this action on screen. For a film with so little else going on, its a shame that Assassins Creed couldn’t even succeed as the kind of mindless action film worth renting.
Ive seen a number of reviewers try and defend Assassins Creed, claiming that points like “it’s not as bad as previous video game movies” is enough to earn the film a better rating. I want there to be good video game movies as much as anyone else, but if we are to get good ones, we have to treat them as we did the comic book movies of the past. We had to praise the good ones, but more importantly call out the bad ones, if the genre is allowed to improve and evolve. Assassins Creed puts no effort into making an enjoyable, interesting or even coherent film, and is simply a waste of time.
Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 3 Moments of Apple Symbolism out of 10