Assassin’s Creed is a bigger mystery than the Apple of Eden itself. Here we have a movie with an equal amount of highs and lows. For every great concept brought to the table it is leveled with something poor. The creative team brought hope for this movie. Both the director, composer, and leads of last year’s Macbeth lead this film. I loved Macbeth aside that it’s nearly incomprehensible to those without a degree in Shakespearean literature. Still, the performances were incredible, the shots were astounding (some of the best I’ve ever seen), and it had competent direction. With these cogs in play, you might believe that we should have a strong film, well let’s talk about that.
The Film-goer Perspective
The movie has an interesting premise that’s never fully realized. The lore is certainly present, with numerous references to an ongoing feud all centering around a pivotal object. Assassin’s Creed has plenty going on, but there’s a keen lack of focus. What’s beautiful about film is that with it we can show our audience a story and not tell it. Unfortunately, this memo wasn’t passed onto the writers as it’s filled with unnecessary exposition. There are many blatant moments where the movie is explained to the viewer which could be easily fixed. Force feeding is good when the meal has flavor. Assassin’s Creed does have some variety and uniqueness to it, but struggles to decide its identity.
Michael Fassbender plays the lead role of Callum Lynch and his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha. Fassbender does his best to work with a lousy script that hits some highs and slightly more lows. Nevertheless, Fassbender strikes these moments with personality whereas other characters have none. Marion Cotillard is a great actress that’s given a bland role, usually speaking in monotone and indifferent to many situations. Her character often has intriguing elements that link to the story but they’re muddled even before we get better insight into the story. This is somewhat concurrent with Jeremy Iron’s character, though he plays the part a little better and is given more material to work with.
Assassin’s Creed’s story is actually pretty good, when we’re in the animus viewing the past. Every scene with Aguilar is thrilling, comprehensive, and well shot. Though during some of these scenes there are head-scratching moments where content could be cut (this is what deleted scenes are meant for). Anything during the Spanish Inquisition is great and it’s further boasted by an excellent soundtrack from Jed Kurzel. Kurzel knocks it out of the part with one of the best OSTs I’ve heard this year and keeps even the more lackluster moments with bursts of life.
I enjoyed some of the movie pretty well, but it’s hindered with dreadful dialogue, and blossoms with some surprising moments. Within Assassin’s Creed there is a good movie and there’s also a first draft. With perhaps another year and some re-shoots, this could have been the fabled ‘Good Video-Game Adaptation’. Yet for every positive there is a counterweight negative. Fassbender’s solid performance is mirrored by Cotillard’s bland character. Where the story and scenes in the past are excellent, most drama is the present day is meandering and unfocused. The list continues as we’re brought to a movie that is just okay and something laughable when it’s trying to be serious.
The Gamer’s Perspective
I can’t say I’ve been a ‘fan’ of Assassin’s Creed at least since Black Flag. The quality in the games has gone down but I’ve played all of them with the exception of Syndicate. I know the lore and this movie does a good job of bringing those concepts to fruition. There are great moments in this movie but they’re weighed down by some sloppy and nonsensical scenes. I think the design of the animus is great but it will likely upset many fans because it’s very different than what’s in the games. The feud between the assassins and templars is a good one and many of the gadgets of the game are used when and where they are appropriate.
The main story of the games and central characteristics are all present. It’s hard for me to say this is anything more than a movie to rent but for those fans of Assassin’s Creed I would give it a cautious recommendation. 1 hour and 55 minutes gets you great action, an excellent score, some cool direction, and some great concepts. It also yields poor dialogue, boring/sloppy exposition, confusing moments, and the list of positive and negatives continues. It’s about as mixed of a bag as Assassin’s Creed Unity was.