Assassin’s Creed (2017) – Review

Director: Justin Kurzel
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson

The Overview
When Callum Lynch (Fassbender) explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society. (Source: IMDb)

The Good
It is probably worth mentioning off the bat, that I have not played the Assassin’s Creed games, although I am somewhat familiar with their concept. I realise this may in some way affect my enjoyment of the film, but as with all of the films I review, I analyse them based on the film itself, and not on any other context associated with it. As was the case with my Warcraft review, I firmly believe that you shouldn’t need to have an encyclopaedic knowledge of a property to be able to enjoy a film based on it. So with that being said, let’s crack on with the review…

As was with the case with Warcraft, there is a huge amount of anticipation heaped upon any film adaptation of a video game as we’re still waiting for the film which breaks the “video game movie curse”. Warcraft was unable to achieve this, so now Assassin’s Creed is taking a punt, and indeed, it is probably the best video game adaptation we have seen so far, but this doesn’t necessarily make for a good film.

Focusing on the good points for now (and there are some, don’t worry!), the action is pretty solid throughout, and whilst it is let down by some unnecessary CGI, there’s no way the action scenes can disappoint. Reflecting the source material from a visual standpoint is key to making a film like this work, and indeed there’s some gravity-defying action scenes that will surely thrill those who are fans of the games. 

Generally, the scenes in “the past” are pretty good; more compelling than the “future” scenes, and where the action is at its most thrilling. Aguilar makes for a more interesting protagonist than Lynch does, and it is a shame the film didn’t allow itself to spend more time in this period as this, for me, was the more interesting side to the story. 

Whilst it does have its moments of being quite visually impressive, it unfortunately never has the weight of a decent story behind it to make it count…

The Bad
Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but Assassin’s Creed, whilst succeeding in some areas, ultimately fails in breaking the dreaded curse of video game movies. It is nothing more than a series of elaborate and well-choreographed action/fight scenes, strung together with something barely resembling a plot.

It is frustratingly exposition-heavy initially, and then throws you into a complete mess of a plot, with baffling and confused logic, poor writing, dull characters, and a story which never succeeds in keeping you hooked. The decent action comes at the expense of a decent story, which is so often the problem with video game adaptations, and goes a long way to explaining why they rarely work. With the focus so heavily on action, the plot and character development suffers, and when lacking the interactive element the game provides you with, it results in somewhat of an alienating and disconnected experience. 

The cast are severely under-utilised, and whilst Fassbender did an okay job as a fairly convincing action hero, Cotillard was so one-note that you’d barely notice she was there. It is a role so unworthy of an actress as talented as this one, and one which made absolutely no use of her at all. Jeremy Irons, another accomplished actor, added very little either. Character motivations were unclear, and interactions felt stilted and forced. Cool action scenes are not enough to save a film when the characters are as dull and uninteresting as these ones!

From a technical standpoint, this doesn’t feel like one of the most well-made films either. Some scenes were so poorly lit, and shrouded in dust, that it made it incredibly difficult to even see, let alone feel part of, the action scenes or dialogue scenes. The camera movement and editing feels jerky and disorientating, succeeding only in showing just how annoying it is to play a game with severe online lag, and I don’t think this was a deliberate move! The sound mix is also pretty poor, with the rambunctious soundtrack frequently drowning out the dialogue, which did nothing to help what was already a confused and impenetrable story. 

The Verdict
I saw this movie so you don’t have to. Whilst it is not the total car-crash that some video game adaptations can be, Assassin’s Creed fails to thrill. The action and effects are somewhat impressive, but with a muddled plot, uninteresting characters, and a story which never succeeds in matching the pace of the action scenes within it, Assassin’s Creed is a surprisingly dull, and wholly uninteresting generic piece of action cinema. It is glaringly obvious how much it is trying to push itself as a successful film franchise as well, but based on this effort, I wouldn’t get myself too excited for any future instalments. 

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