Writers: Justin Kurzel
Verdict: … eh? Mixed
Well it’s not terrible. What a 19% Rotten Tomatoes rating should tell you about Assassin’s Creed, is not that it would score 19% on an exam of some movie gradation, what it tells you is that 1/5 of critics thought it was a good movie which on the surface doesn’t sound so good but it’s still quite a lot of people. The 6.5 rating on IMDb is probably more emblematic of the quality of Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed follows Callum Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender, (Inglourious Basterds, Prometheus, X-Men: Days of Future Past), who’s a death row inmate who after he appears to be put to death he wakes up in a facility which Marrion Cotillard, (La Vie en Rose, Inception), repeatedly tells him is not a prison, (even though, it is), he is then strapped into a machine that makes him relive the past.
It is true that all the best stuff is the stuff in the history, which is also the best stuff in the games but the modern stuff isn’t bad either in the film. The fact is that Assassin’s Creed was never really a good choice for a film. Reason being that in the game, character peril isn’t really a problem, the appeal of the games is the mechanics, the appeal of living like an assassin, the game mechanics, and I’m a really big fan of the games. The fact is that if you put that in a film you have no reason to care about the characters in the past purely because you know these are memories thus they live. You also know because of the context in which the send Lynch back how particular plotlines end up. There’s also virtually no characterisation of the characters in the past. What that means is that the central plot could never revolve around the past. On a visual filmmaking level though that’s where the best stuff is. The cinematography is great; as in Macbeth the director Justin Kurzel demonstrates a real ability to mix earthy hues, fluid camera moves, particulates like smoke and dust in the air, and absolute bonkers scenery and action into a really compelling mix. There is one particular scene with some public burnings that’s incredibly striking and visceral.
There are also some terrible moments, plenty actually, that were really badly done, and critics have to some degree taken that to heart. It’s been compared endlessly to Dan Brown which is unfair if anything because stuff happens in this movie whereas in something like Angels & Demons it is quite spectacular how much nothing happens. The directing of action has also been compared to Olivier Megaton, (Taken 2, Taken 3, Colombiana) which is also unfair because on a mechanical level you can actually understand what’s happening and that’s really all I need; this is not Mad Max: Fury Road, there are points where it tries to be but if you’re going to aim for Mad Max: Fury Road, you need to hit Mad Max: Fury Road. Assassin’s Creed really, really doesn’t.
In the end this film is a bit of a mess but it has enough good work to carry itself. Not least from Jeremy Irons, (The Lion King, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, High-Rise), who just walks on and as soon as he opens his mouth you know he’s the villain, and he knows exactly what to do with this pulpy material. It could have done with a few more drafts of the screenplay, it could have done with not being an action film, maybe more of an espionage thriller, and it could have done with just being an original IP so it didn’t have to rely on carrying anything over from the games. It could also have done with being a 15 or an 18 and not a 12A, and it has to be a 12A because it’s an IP, but the fight scenes could have done with that edge. They played like the coricopia scene in The Hunger Games; like it had had the most challenging stuff taken out of it. What we then have now, is a fine, if completely forgettable adaptation of a video game. Honestly the thing I will remember Assassin’s Creed most for is that it brought up a conversation in which I found out I can’t like Micheal Fassbender anymore, (seriously, look it up, wow), not the movie itself. Go watch MacBeth.