Assassin's Creed Movie Review (Spoiler Free)
Well here we are, the last hope to redeem the video game movie category landed in theatres. The question is; can the Ubisoft blockbuster save the genre or is it doomed?
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Ariane Labed, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams, Denis Ménochet, Khalid Abdalla & Brendan Gleeson.
Run Time: 115 min.
US Release: 21 December 2016
UK Release: 01 January 2017
German Release: 27 December 2016
Ouch! This is the word that came to my mind when I left the cinema two nights ago. After the lukewarm movie that was Warcraft: The Beginning, my hopes for a decent game-to-film adaptation all rested on Ubisoft’s theatrical interpretation of Assassin’s Creed. The gaming studio and 20th Century Fox had all the right ingredients to make an exceptional movie: great actors, a good director and a compelling story, in form of a video game and yet they managed to bodge this in every way possible. I can honestly say that Assassin's Creed managed to bury my hopes for a good video-game movie!
Personally, I am a huge fan of the Assassin’s Creed series. I played every single game except Syndicate, which I still need to get, and am still replaying some of them to obtain the platinum trophies. As each new game is released, I am constantly surprised that the story or mechanics don’t bore me yet and that is partly because each instalment brings something new to the gaming experience. Naturally, I was looking forward to seeing this movie, even after witnessing the horrible first trailer that included the worst choice in music, and reading Ubisoft’s blunt statement about why they decided to make this adaptation. Secretly I was hoping that we finally may obtain a film, based on a video game that can be deemed worthy to watch.
If you played the first Assassin's Creed game, you’ll pretty much know what to expect plot-wise. The film opens with a scene in Spanish Andalucía, where Aguilar (Fassbender) obtains his blades and is enrolled into the creed. From there on we jump to the present, were convicted prisoner Callum Lynch (Fassbender) wakes up after his execution in a facility, over-viewed by Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Cotillard) and her father Alan Rikkin (Irons). Sophia explains to Callum that they need to unlock his genetic memory to find an artefact that cures violence.
I can’t wrap my head around the fact that the biggest problem of this movie is its story; don’t get me wrong, the cinematography and the music were awful as well but since the plot follows basically Desmond’s story from the first AC beat for beat, it is impossible for me to comprehend how FOX and Ubisoft managed to mess this up so bad! I know the lore and the narrative of by heart and yet I was constantly asking myself what was happening on screen. And since this is a film based on the Assassin's Creed franchise, I feel like it’s my duty to inform fans of it that most of the film is not playing in the past (which would have made for a much better picture), but it plays instead in the present at an Abstergo facility. It also contains the laziest set-up to a sequel, something that reminded too much of Fant4stic.
The dialogues were badly written and made no sense, even though they also contained the only thing I found redeemable about this flick, which was the use of the Castilian language in the sequences that took place in the past and were spoken by either native or fluent speakers. Sadly I had no time to enjoy these moments, as the few sequences that took place in the 15th Century flew by really fast. A shame, as this could have been an opportunity for Hollywood to explore the historical period that is the Spanish Inquisition.
I feel bad for crapping on this movie because I am a big Michael Fassbender fan! I mean this guy is a good actor, and Assassin's Creed was also the first film he produced but none of this saves the fact that it is a really bad movie. That said, Michael Fassbender tried his best to give a good performance, it’s just that with the bad script and poor filming his performance comes of a little wooden and at times over-the-top when it comes to his portrayal of Callum Lynch. His performance of Aguilar, on the other hand, I found to be intriguing and quite entertaining, which might have been due to the limited dialogue he has.
Marion Cotillard is, in my opinion, one of the best actresses of this era but like her co-workers, her acting is suffering due to bad project development. She has undeniable chemistry with Fassbender that helped sell the “cat and mouse” game her character Sophia is playing with Fassbender’s but just as with Callum Lynch, Sophia looks and feels emotionless. Ariane Labed played Maria, Aguilar’s Assassin partner in 15th century Spain and I found her chemistry with Fassbender even better. Labed managed to sell her camaraderie and hinted love between her persona and Aguilar surprisingly well, even though she only had about 5 lines of dialogue.
Jeremy Irons is also in this video-game adaptation and plays Sophia’s father Alan Rikkin, although he is possibly the most useless character in the blockbuster. Iron’s portrayal was very bland and effortless as if he had been forced to take the role. Compared to his great performance as Alfred in BvS, this was pure horse crap.
I was really disappointed with the cinematography of this film. The action sequences were filmed poorly and included a lot of cuts, to show other perspectives, even though it was visibly clear that the stunt work and choreography were well performed. The cuts from past to present, during parkour or fighting segments, were unnecessary and distracted from what was going on but my biggest issue with Assassin's Creed was the extensive use of desaturated colours. It was a tonal mess of bright whites and metallic blues for the present, and dark metallic bronzes used for scenes that played in the past. There were times I needed to squint or heavily focus my eyes because it was either too bright or too dark to see anything.
Verdict: In the end, Justin Kurzel’s winter blockbuster is nothing more than a forgettable try at adapting once again a popular video game franchise for the silver screen. The plot focused on the wrong time period, with about 65% taking place in the present, where nothing of remote interest happens and the sequences that took place in 15th century Spain, while being intriguing, did not actually focus on the Spanish Inquisition and was too short. If the story had solely focused on that time period, it would have made for a much better film. The cinematography is really atrocious; the endless back and forth cuts during action segments makes it hard to follow and the colour palettes used for this movie were highly irritating. This was the game adaptation I was rooting for and it disappointed me deeply! I cannot recommend this film to anyone, especially fans of the franchise and will give Assassin’s Creed a 3.0 out of 10.
Thank you for reading my Assassin’s Creed review. I was planning on writing one more for Nocturnal Animals, but sadly I have no time, especially given the fact that I am currently working on two lists right now: my “10 Worst Theatre Experiences of 2016” list that I will post tomorrow and my “Top 10 Movie of 2016” that will be up on Saturday.