Review: Assassin’s Creed (2016) — Leap of fail

michael fassbender assassin's creed movie still action

Assassin’s Creed

Movie review

This is not exactly an “film adaptation” of the Assassin’s Creed video game franchise or any of its titles. Instead, it’s sort of like an instalment that’s part of the game’s universe and ongoing story. It does, however, have a new unpractical Animus and its very own protagonist named Callum Lynch, a descendant of Aguilar de Nerha, a 15th century Spanish Assassin — both portrayed by Michael Fassbender (X-Men films, Macbeth, Steve Jobs) whose faultless performance is one of the only few things that’re commendable about this film.

Lynch is a convicted murderer who’s mysteriously brought to a Abstergo Industries prison-lab that has a technology called Animus which enables attached users to relive and physically experience genetic memories of their ancestors. Abstergo wish to extract Lynch’s memories of de Nerha to find the hidden Apple of Eden which is believed to have the powers to end violence and bring freedom and peace. So the film’s narratives show both the present and Lynch’s experience of de Nerha’s memories set in the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century.

Directed by Justin Kurzel (Macbeth, Snowtown) and screenwritten by Michael Lesslie (Macbeth) and Adam Cooper & Bill Collage (Allegiant, Exodus: Gods and Kings), the film terribly struggles in providing engaging narratives and proper character development. I didn’t feel invested in any of the characters, Lynch/de Nerha included, and therefore whatever happens in the story, I didn’t feel anything at all. The film is just utterly soulless. Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard’s (Macbeth, Two Days, One Night, La Vie en Rose) weak role as Sophin Rikkin seems to function mainly as the exposition character and nothing more — “You are at Abstergo. This is Animus. This is what we do. The CEO of Abstergo is my father. Oh, synchronise! Oh, the leap of faith! Oh, this! Oh, that!” — sigh.

assassin's creed movie still marion cotillard fassbender

It’s also a waste of Jeremy Irons (Batman v Superman, The Lion King, Reversal of Fortune), who’s also an Oscar-winner. He plays Alan Rikkin, a character who actually appeared in the games before and yet he does nothing much in this film besides standing around and talking in a few scenes. It doesn’t feel like there’s an actual main antagonist in the film. For audiences who’ve played the games could easily catch up with what’s going on but sitting through these long unexciting exposition scenes can be boring. As for non-gamers, the plot may be compelling, interesting and yet confusing (and they haven’t even gotten into what created the Apples of Eden). Perhaps the film shouldn’t have tried to cater to both target audiences and instead, just focus on one or the other.

As a fan of the video game franchise, I was very pleased to see the film’s faithfulness to most of the games’ elements such as the premise, the tone, the Assassins and their parkour capabilities, fighting style and weapons. Unfortunately, while the action choreography is impressive, the sequences are shot in mostly wide angles with plenty of cuts in between movements and also in between the present time and the past. It makes it impossible for me to engage and immerse myself into the situations of the already-poorly developed Assassin characters. The game’s signature move “Leap of Faith” is also featured in the film with shots of stuntman Damien Walters actually performing a real 125-foot free-fall but sadly there’s no proper buildup to that scene, the post-production made the surroundings look CGI-filled, there are cuts as mentioned, and hence a very underwhelming result.

One of the most disappointing thing about the film is that the Assassin scenes and its action sequences are overly fast-paced and they go right into the climbing, jumping, chasing and fighting with little to no dialogue, making it seems as though the games are merely a run-around hack-and-slash, which they aren’t. The actual games have specific stealth missions and a variety of objectives that are thrillingly fun (check out my playthrough of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate‘s finale). And while at that, players can spend time exploring around the mission location to plan their move. None of these aspects are featured in the film. It doesn’t even spend enough time in the Spanish Inquisition. These scenes might’ve worked better if they were written and executed like how action-spy/heist flicks do it, such as in the Mission: Impossible or Bond films.

Despite the long, boring 140 minutes of total running time, the final act still manages to feel rushed and therefore flawed as well with characters making decisions that are not well justified by the film’s storytelling, and suddenly able to do something that it doesn’t seem like they couldn’t at the beginning. Although the ending may be a big deal for the games’ ongoing present-time storyline, that’s still not enough of a reason for me to recommend anyone at all to go out and catch the film in cinemas. It may be far from being the worst video game movie ever but it’s still not good.

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What I would’ve named the film: “I Sentence You to Parkour VR”

Malaysian censorship: The cut that was screened to the press was not final as it hadn’t gone through the local censorship board. There are plenty of violence and bloody kills, and at P13-rating, some censoring may be inevitable.

Verdict: Boring. As a fan of the video game series, I’m disappointed in overall despite its faithfulness to most of the games’ main elements.

Rating: 2 / 5

assassin's creed movie poster malaysiaBased on: Ubisoft’s “Assassin’s Creed” video game series

Genre: Sci-fi action adventure
Running Time: 140 minutes
Director: Justin Kurzel
Screenwriters: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Michael Kenneth Williams, Ariane Labed, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson

Malaysia Release Date: 22 December 2016
Rated: P13
Local Distributor: 20th Century Fox Malaysia
Production: Regency Enterprises, New Regency Pictures, Ubisoft Motion Pictures and more.

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