I had been anticipating this movie for quite some time – ever since it was first announced. As a long time fan of the series; not just for the gameplay, but the mostly the characters and story – I was totally hyped.
[You can watch the trailer here.](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4haJD6W136c)
Once the reviews started rolling out however, I was heavily dismayed. One of my friends jokingly said “I wonder how they’ll screw it up this time…” in reference to the disastrous history of video game adaptations. Prior to *Warcraft*, which also came out in 2016, many thought it was due to a lack of good talent/direction/budget. *Warcraft* certainly had the budget, and some talent behind its team, yet when this promised, giant movie flopped, people began to feel slightly worried about Assassin’s Creed.
Boasting a pretty stellar cast for a video game adaptation – Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons, I was quite confident in the movie up till the reviews. As always, the video game curse struck again, and at the time of writing the film is sitting on 17% on Rotten Tomatoes, and 36/100 on Metacritic. However, I will note that the *audience score* on rotten tomatoes is currently 59% – not great, but also not as abysmal as some movie critics and hardcore fans might like to say.
Assassins Creed has always had a wacky as hell plot, but it’s a fascinating and brilliant premise: exploring history through genetic ancestry. In both the film and the game, the Animus is a machine which allows the user to literally experience their ancestors’ memories in first person. The overall plot is the classic one of Good vs Evil, with their faces being the Assassins Brotherhood vs the Templars, a rivalry which has been going on for thousands of years in various forms. The tie-ins to actual history, are much of what makes the series so compelling and engaging.
The details of the bigger narrative in the movie are not as important however. This time around, as with all the games, there’s a [Macguffin](http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MacGuffin) – the “Apple of Eden”, created by the First Civilization which holds the key to “curing violence”.
I’m almost certainly going to write an essay about this theme from the series since the movie has a few lines and dialogues which spark some interesting thoughts parallel to modern events, but that’s for another time.
The main character played by Fassbender is Callum Lynch, who is captured by the Abstergo Corporation (the modern day Templars) and forced against his will, to experience memories of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, in efforts to find the modern resting place of the Apple.
Virtually all of the plot is delegated to the modern day, and some exposition is ungracefully deposited in obvious dialogue, however there is a decent amount of visual storytelling for those paying attention.
One of the huge gripes fans of the series had were plot-holes, in both the contained story and how it fits into the larger Assassin’s Creed universe. For memory, there are perhaps two or three standout bits that a casual movie-going audience may scoff at in disbelief, however I’m not one to throw the baby out with the bathwater and condemn the movie for those missteps.
As a whole, the plot is predictable (of course), which is probably the films second biggest flaw. As an avid movie goer however, I’m not sure it’s justified to expect every movie (much less a video game adaptation!) to have a wildly groundbreaking, unpredictable narrative. That being said, assuming you accept the premise of the movie and are following along not too critically, I’d say the movie as a whole is a compelling narrative.
The biggest flaw with the movie is undoubtedly the characters. Whilst Fassbender, Cotillard and Irons all do fantastic work with what they’re given, what they *are* given isn’t a lot. Much of this is an emergent artefact of the story structure, which is somewhat non-linear in that set-pieces are delegated mostly to the historical scenes, in which Aguilar and his Assassin buddies are not given any characterization at all except for the first and last time we see him. This is however, totally understandable and justifiable within the context of the story – seeing a handful of memories of a long-dead ancestor should not and need not develop a compelling character. To have done so would have sacrificed much of the action scenes.
Out of the three modern day main characters however, we spend the most time with Callum. Whilst we do see Fassbender’s character as a young boy in the intro, the sloppy editing and pacing for this first scene compromised what should’ve been the start of some emotional link between audience and character. Regardless, Fassbender manages to redeem the character enough in snarky wit, and relateable reactions to the absurdity of the situation he’s thrust in to make him more than serviceable. There is one scene in specific which sold his character development to me – anyone who disagrees should take a closer look at a particular scene in the last act of the movie with his father.
Irons and Cotillard play a father daughter duo, Alan and Sofia Rikkin, who run the Abstergo operation. Both doing surprisingly well despite the comparatively little time given. Whilst motivation is given for both, only Cotillard’s character has an arc comparable to Callum, and Iron’s Alan Rikkin – the CEO and main “villain” is left to a mostly stereotypical role.
Thankfully, no relationship is hinted at between Sofia and Callum (which I understand was wisely left on the cutting room floor), however they do have interesting, if perhaps one sided interactions since Cotillard is restricted to the emotionless scientist till roughly the latter half. With an uncomfortable amount of awkward and mediocre dialogue, the characters in *Assassin’s Creed* were not the most engaging to say the least.
If there’s one reason to see this movie (and believe me, it is a good enough reason) – it’s the stunning visual direction. The gritty brown and yellow era of the Spanish Inquisition is truly brought to life in the historical set-pieces, and have some absolutely breathtaking shots. This is in stark contrast to the modern day sections, which are a mixture of dull and sharp metallic greys, accentuating the sterile, scientific but foreboding nature of the facility. Some areas are lit by an orange hue from the afternoon sun outside, illuminating the almost psychedelic interior used for “rehabilitation” in which patients (those who have spent too much time in the Animus against their will) slowly walk around in a daze. The camera in these sections slows and takes awkward angles, which along with the lighting and music, make for the eeriest and most striking scenes.
Action sequences are reminiscent of Snyder’s *Watchmen*; not in style per-se, but in the grit which they convey. The occasional first person shot of a guard looking down crossbow sights, tasteful shaky cam (yes it’s doable!) and frantic synchronised beat with the stellar soundtrack made the historical action scenes absolutely enthralling. As for CGI, Kurzel skillfully employs the use of dust and artful blur in the camera’s motion to give a hyper-styleized look which goes far beyond “awkward-CGI” territory into pure eye candy – and I mean that in a very good way.
Another technique of note, which is thanks to a bit of *Assassin’s Creed* lore, is the use of the “Bleeding Effect”. In the series, as one uses the Animus more and more, their ancestor’s skills begin to transfer themselves through osmosis and hallucinations. Of all the effects in the film, the bleeding effect scenes were by far the coolest, and made the modern-day parts way way more serviceable.
The visuals, camerawork and cinematography as a whole was just below that of The Revenant for me, making this easily the biggest strength of the film. If you’re an action movie casual film goer, you’ll love it. If you’re a film lover and cinema junkie (like me), watch it and appreciate it for just the visuals if anything.
I came into this movie wanting just one thing from director Justin Kurzel, and that was seeing the Assassin’s Creed universe to come to life on screen – which I truly think he achieved.
**Cinematography: 9.5/10 **
Overall, Assassin’s Creed is certainly flawed in characters and bits of the plot, but my personal bias for the series and appreciation of some truly gorgeous cinematography and excellent action scenes redeem this video game adaptation.
**Overall: 7/10 **