Movie Review: Assassin’s Creed (20th Century Fox)

Video game movies never really have the luxury of having great execution in terms of material and execution. Mortal Kombat is an exception to an extent… okay, maybe not. Anywho, […]

Video game movies never really have the luxury of having great execution in terms of material and execution. Mortal Kombat is an exception to an extent… okay, maybe not.

Anywho, video game movies just really never had a chance to lift off from the shallow graves that it’s been buried under. Everyone thought that the Warcraft movie would turn the tide but unfortunately did the opposite. With that said, will Assassins Creed be the one to break the curse? It ain’t Altair or Ezio or even Desmond Miles (characters from the games in case you didn’t know). I had a friend accompany me to see the film for these specific aspects: How well will the film do in terms of the execution of the concepts of the material it’s based on? and how does it fair as a film on its own?

Admittedly, it may not break the video game movie curse, but it manages to step in the right direction of leaving a crack.

Directed by Justin Kurzel, with a script credited by Michael Leslie, along with fellow writers Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, The film focuses on the character Cal Lynch, who is a descendant of the assassins. An ancient order known as The Templar. The Templar is an Illuminati-inspired organization that has an influence over all of commerce and industry. Their goal is to utilize Cals genetic link to his ancestors in order to find the apple of Eden and control the world. The film tends to transition between the present which Cal resides, while simultaneously focusing on the past in the point of view of Aguilar who is an assassin that fights against the templars during the Spanish Inquisition (15th century).

Michael Fassbender plays Callum Lynch, who is the main protagonist of the film. His character is similar to the video game character Desmond Miles of the game series. But that’s where the comparisons of the characters end. Cal is not a reluctant character that is hesitant. Cal is a man who is plagued by anger, and aggression due to his conflicted past. Fassbender plays this very well. He’s done it before in his prior films, best utilizing his unimpressed protagonist shtick to a T. My friend and I discussed about this thing that follows Fassbender in regards to him being typecast for the Magneto based roles. He is a great actor, but there were traces of the unimpressed, internally angry aspect that seems to always be required of him in every movie he is in. He does well in this movie, but hopefully, he doesn’t get typecast down the line for more roles that pigeon hole him from his actual skill and depth. Regardless, It pays off for him which doesn’t give off any complaints to the viewer. Admittedly fans of the franchise will compare Cal to Desmond greatly, and ultimately, how fans will feel from the fans perspective will be debatable.

In terms of Cal as a protagonist of the film, for those new to the franchise will come to like the character and may build interest within the franchise.  Fassbender’s performance as Aguilar, he does good with what the script provides, but the audience may desire more information about Aguilar beyond being an assassin that Cal is ancestrally linked to. The audience doesn’t get to see the parallels between the decedent and the ancestors and their reluctance to tasks.  In the games, Desmond was in disbelief and hugely reluctant to participate in anything that was required of him once he was hooked to the animus. One would wish that there was a bit more exposition as to how Aguilar felt about things such as losing an ally or his views within the creed aside from just being used for action scenes. Although, fans of the video game will have to keep in mind that this is a film and there is only so much information that can be crammed into a 2-hour film than in a 6-7 hour game. With that said, Fassbender plays his role with proper execution.

Marion Cotillard plays Dr. Sophie Rikkin the head of the research facility organized by the Templar. She is in charge of the animus which utilizes the descendants of the assassins. She plays the role pretty fine, nothing to complain about in terms of her character. It’s fairly easy for the viewer to tell what is to expect of her character and how she turns out. But that doesn’t mean that that is a bad thing. She manages to play the part convincingly well and helps drive the narrative of the film instead of detracting from the film

Jeremy Irons plays Dr. Alan Rikkin, the top executive in charge of the animus and research facility. He is the boss of Sophie’s research department. Irons plays the part of a top executive with murky motives pretty well. He isn’t entirely predictable but he doesn’t make himself entirely unpredictable. Irons makes use of Rikkin in the best way possible that helps to serve the characters and the overall narrative film in a plausible manner that doesn’t detract the audience out of the film.

The rest of the actors in the film do their part providing some nice little character moments. Although it is nothing entirely grand, they make due with what they got and it works to the film’s favor.

The choreography and stunt team do a great job at making the gameplay mechanics of the assassins parkour transition efficiently into film flawlessly. The Animus, which is a device that a enables any descendant with genetic ties to their ancestors with all kinds of access to their ancestor’s skills, and memories. The film provides a proper amount of exposition that doesn’t drag the film down. The cinematography is visually appealing and aesthetically beautiful in terms of them costume design, atmosphere, and tone. The chase sequences are shot wonderfully, which help to build the tension in an effective manner. The fight scenes can be a bit choppy at times, but most of the time they tend to pay off very well especially from the middle of the film onward.

Detractors fans will definitely feel divided in terms of how some of them content is utilized or find plot holes that don’t add up in terms of ancestry, and the lack of memories that may or may not be accessed by Cal throughout the film. Such detractors like the animus and its capacities and limitations can be very choppy at times, never really clarifying whether some things are actually projected memory or projected hallucination, such as ‘heaven’-like state of existence, which I’ll leave to the fans to decide on whether they’ll like how that is executed. There is also a lack of emotional resonance between Cal and his ancestor Aguilar which could have greatly paralleled the way the video game protagonist Desmond emotionally resonated with his ancestors Altair, Ezio, and Connor. Obviously, hardcore fans will find things to nitpick within the film. I do wish that the film had taken an opportunity to leave time cards so that the audience can get an idea of how long Cal has been inside the facility and how often he had been in the animus aside from what was shown.

Assassin’s Creed as a movie overall manages to be a good adaption of them content it’s based on. It manages to establish the bare bones of the concepts and content without being convoluted and messy. It also manages, to sum up, the best of the video game franchise without the negative aspects that plagued the video games (in terms of side quests that usually dragged out the stories of the games that made them somewhat insufferable at times). As a film all on its own, it manages to be a solid historical, action thriller that manages to give it more substance than being an homage to the game franchise that it’s based on. It manages to pay homage to the game series without being a slave to it.

Another good feature is the historical context which is based within the Spanish inquisition. What’s great is how well they managed to utilize the inquisition as a backdrop without utilizing specific dates which help audiences to suspend belief and believe that anything could have happened during that era in time. It’s great that the screenwriters made sure to not to give off too much historical context not only to keep the movie running, but it helps make the film’s story plausible to anyone who is a history buff, fan or casual without being lost entirely. Despite some minor jump-cut transitions in the film that were a little awkward, and the display of the Templars influence being underutilized and lacking any intimidating presence, the film manages to have a lot of good elements that outweigh the plot holes and downsides.

 The movie doesn’t break the video game movie curse, but it manages to show that video games movies have a fighting chance at being something great. Other video game adapted films should take notes of what made assassin’s creed work beyond its visual aesthetic. The film provides a solid story, along with good performances. The film may have a bit of minor cliches, but it doesn’t overshadow the good things that are executed well in the film beyond the fan service. With that said, Ubisoft is lucky they got a solid adaption of one of their franchises. Due to the climate and the stigma towards video game adapted films, box office may say otherwise and determine whether this film gets a sequel or not.

Either way, whether it remains as a standalone film or film series,  don’t let that stigma stop you from seeing this film. A solid entry for newcomers of the franchise, and if you’re a long-time fan of the series, you may find things that you will like in the film, that is if you haven’t been exhausted by all the comic book/ novel tie-ins, etc.  I give this film a solid 8 out of 10. It nails a lot of the best aspects of the video game series in terms of concepts and content but falls a bit short in terms of making it a great movie. It may not be great, but it is still a good film, which is rare for video game movies and that is a feat in it of itself. Other than that, audiences should see for themselves what they think of the film.

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.