You almost have to applaud Assassin’s Creed for its commitment to being like the game series, especially early titles, as it was really good when it was set in the past, but the current day stuff was boring as hell. Now you’d think they would see where the game series gets most of its criticism from and try to avoid it, but nope! It truly is an Assassin’s Creed film, much to its detriment. Let’s take a closer look!
Cal Lynch travels back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant relative who’s also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
It’s funny seeing something like that in real life. I can’t help but think “Well, his legs are about to be broken…”
As mentioned a couple of times in the opening paragraph, the scenes in 15th Century Spain are the highlight. A big full-scale horse and cart chase towards a perilous cliff edge and a prison breakout full of sword play, parkour and leaps of faith were great fun… about the only thing in the film that is…
That being said, I’m a big fan of Michael Fassbender and still think he did the best with what he was given here. Cal Lynch is about to be put to death after killing someone (in self-defence, or out of revenge, something like that…) but instead ends up being taken by Abstergo due to being the descendant to someone who once held the Apple of Eden, the old “Those Who Came Before” artefact that was the focus of the first few games. Fassbender does a good run of emotions, weapy about being executed, angry at being forced to do something, and going slowly insane due to over-use of the animus. It’s just a shame that while he’s trying his best to act out the script the actual story and surroundings are so flat and dull I can’t do anything but force myself to watch along, trying desperately to keep my attention on the screen rather than anything else…
Cal’s father, who I forgot to mention was in the film because he, much like the rest of it, wasn’t memorable.
So, man kidnapped by Abstergo and being forced to relive his ancestor’s memories is the plot of the first AC game, but much like that game the current day stuff just keeps getting in the way of the interesting and fun bits. The two main Abstergo employees are Alan Rikkin, who is played by the blatantly bored out of his mind Jeremy Irons, and his daughter Sofia Rikkin, played by Marion Cotillard who at least tries to make her character seem more layered by caring for Lynch more than her father and generally aiming to take over his position, but… doesn’t help when, again, the script is so painfully dull. I felt no ill will towards them, just… apathy.
Weirdly there is something that the film makes a lot more game-y than the game ever did, and that’s the Animus machine, the device that allows people to relive their ancestor’s memories. In the games they lay down on a comfy bed and experience the memories via a visor and wires, in the film they’re attached to a harness on a crane that allows them to actually physically act out the memories in real time, including climbing and jumping off things and all that. It looks… stupid, and I guess it was written like that to make it more visually exciting than Michael Fassbender laying on a bed, but again that would be fine if the majority of the film was set in the past but thanks to the focus on the modern day they tried to jazz those sequences up so they can focus on that time period more…
“Simon says: I wish I was in a better film”
The finale of the film sees the still bored Alan Rikkin get assassinated by the modern Assassins Guild, including Lynch himself, and sees Sofia being eyed to succeed him, presumably then having to face her own beloved guinea pig down the line. It was obviously meant to set up the next film that will now never happen, both due to this film underperforming and the rights to film getting lost in the FOX-Disney merger. Frankly it’s no big loss but it does add that little bit of an extra negative to the film, I always hate seeing dangling plot threads that will never be solved, even if I didn’t like the plot!
The special effects and direction are fine I guess, but the actual scenery (again in the modern day sections) are extremely dull, all brickwork and white. It becomes even more obvious when you compare it to the lavish sets of the 15th Century Spain segments. Everything is designed like it was meant to zap the enthusiasm right out of you…
Another look at the “good bit”.
Assassin’s Creed does a good job of copying the game’s major flaw to a tee, making it feel like a part of the Assassin’s Creed series for all the wrong reasons. The scenes in the past are fun but short-lived, but they at least stop this film from getting a 1, as it otherwise might have done. There really were times when I just felt like looking at my bookshelves to give me something more interesting to do… In other words, not good!