Assassin's Creed 12A
Sentenced to death, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is awoken in a secret research facility headed by Sofia (Marion Cotillard) and Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), two members of a modern-day iteration of the Knights Templar. Through the use of genetic memories and a device called the Animus, Callum will experience the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, and attempt to find an ancient artifact that holds the key to free will.
It's almost a tired cliche at this point, but the maxim - sadly - still holds true that there will never be a decent gaming adaptation. Assassin's Creed is a critically acclaimed franchise from Ubisoft that flows through different eras - Renaissance Italy, the Golden Age of Piracy, Colonial America, and so on - with players commanding different characters through the use of a device called the Animus that allows them to access the genetic memories of their ancestors. The reason for the Animus is to document a thousand-year battle between the all-powerful Knights Templar - who wish to control free will via an orb known as the Apple of Eden - and the Assassins, who "work in the dark to serve the light."
While that kind of po-faced seriousness might fly in its original context, a videogame, it's a different thing altogether to have relatively serious actors like Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Rampling, Brendan and Briain Gleeson, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard trying their damnedest to add weight and meaning to it. The crushing problem with Assassin's Creed is that at its very core, it's a completely daft idea that just doesn't make sense at all. You almost get the sense that the developers needed a way of having different time periods and concocted the idea of genetic memories and so on to make it fit. Again, gaming is much more forgiving when it comes to bad plotting and narrative because, well, you have an active role in the narrative. Here, you're forced to watch Jeremy Irons try to bite off ridiculous dialogue and look crushingly serious while doing so.
Even Fassbender, one of our greatest acting talents, can't even inject a bit of life or vitality into the film. Where the film really lives is, naturally, in the action sequences. Justin Kurzel, who Fassbender worked with successfully on Macbeth, knows how to pace and shoot a fight scene and the pulsating soundtrack of Jed Kurzel pushes them along. Not only that, Adam Arkapaw's cinematography is a joy to take and the film has shades of Blade Runner in its modern day sequences. All the technical aspects of the film are working together exceptionally well, but the sad fact is that the film falls at the first hurdle - a poor, poor screenplay.
It's clear that Michael Lesslie - who was one of three screenwriters on Kurzel / Fassbender's Macbeth - was sent in to rewrite whole swathes of Bill Collage and Adam Cooper's screenplay and make it more palatable. Both Collage and Cooper worked on this year's atrocious Hunger Games knock-off Allegiant, which means they're obviously tapped constantly to translate dense lore into a shooting script that gives enough credence to plot points that fans will want, i.e. the Apple of Eden or the like. However, between three screenwriters, they couldn't come up with a story that actually makes sense. Obviously, the film is intended as the first in a series and can't lay out all of the groundwork, but there should be at least something in the way of an explanation for certain parts of the story. Moreover, there are so many logical inconsistencies and plotholes that they're simply too big to ignore.
More than anything, Assassin's Creed collapses under the weight of its own self-importance. Nobody is having fun here, nobody is enjoying their work and nothing really makes any sense. There's a point in the film when Fassbender, after his first trip through the Animus, quietly asks himself what the f--- is going on. It's almost as if Fassbender was looking out from the screen and trying to acknowledge that, yes, none of it makes sense now and by the end of the film, that's still the case. It might look pretty, it might have a strong cast, but there are so many weaknesses in the script and the plotting is so dull and cumbersome that it's not worth getting invested in.
Assassin's Creed brings to an end a bitterly disappointing year for blockbusters.
Review by Brian Lloyd | 11:19 | Wednesday 21st December 2016 | Movie Review