Video game to film history is spotty at best; the highlights include Mortal Kombat and most recently Warcraft and that’s it. Now with director Justin Kurzel, Michael Fassbender, and Marion Cotillard reteaming after Macbeth gamers have an opportunity to see the war between the assassin’s and Templars come to life in Assassin’s Creed. Can the long-running video game franchise which is based so heavily on a fascinating premise be the first video game to translate to film?
The story of Assassin’s Creed follows Callum Lynch (Fassbender) who comes from a broken family. When we first meet him, he’s on death row for committing a murder and when the deed is done, and he dies Callum surprisingly wakes up in a room hooked up to a machine while he is being observed by a woman (Cotillard). The woman introduces herself as Sophia and explains to Callum that he is lawfully considered dead and now he will help Abstergo, the company she is a part of. The means that Sophia, her father, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and Abstergo hope to utilise is a unique tool dubbed the Animus that will allow Callum to traverse his DNA to access memories from an ancestor of his from the 15th Century. This knowledge will lead Abstergo to an ancient device known as ‘The Apple of Eden’ which will supposedly help humanity with their aggressive tendencies.
A fascinating part of the video game Assassin’s Creed was the travelling back to the past with the Animus and entering genuinely interesting points in history. This is the same element that entertains in the cinematic version of Assassin’s Creed, seeing 15th Century Spain come to life is fantastic, watching Aguilar de Nerha (Fassbender) and his partner in crime Maria (Ariane Labed) jump from rooftop to rooftop dispensing assassinations is spectacular. Sadly it is all for nought when the film focuses on the lesser parts of the story, the journey of Callum slowly learning his abilities and being used by Abstergo to find ‘The Apple of Eden’ is annoying due to director Justin Kurzel’s apparent lack of memorable characters. Not only that but Kurzel cherry picks elements of the lore but sadly doesn’t weave them together convincingly enough to give a compelling story. Unless you are a huge fan of the series a lot of what is shown on screen will go over your heads.
The characters are for the most part underdeveloped, and the actors behind them are given barely anything to work with. Fassbender is decent as Callum, and it is clear he is trying his best to steer this ship into franchise territory much like his other character Magneto. Unfortunately, he has no one to work with; he has some remaining chemistry with his Macbeth co-star Marion Cotillard, but it’s not enough.
Assassin’s Creed is a mess; there are elements of something astounding, but they are in brief moments throughout the film. The fight choreography is great but isn’t on show enough to fully make an impact, the talent is there with the actors, but they’re not given the material to shine, and the promise of something greater on the horizon will never be realised. Assassin’s Creed is yet another casualty of the curse that has plagued video game films for the last three decades. Will it ever be broken, possibly but it is not this day.