As I walked out of the theater after sitting through Assassin’s Creed, I felt very fortunate never to have played a single level of Ubisoft’s popular video game franchise; it would have only compounded the disappointment of this dreary and depressing film. How all this wonderful talent produced such an incomprehensible mess is beyond me, and I only hope fans of the games can at least identify some sort of redeeming quality present. As for me, I’m still rooting for Hollywood to finally make that memorable video game movie. Maybe some day.
The story makes little sense, and not only because it naively assumes non-players are familiar with the established Assassin’s Creed mythology. The movie introduces mostly original characters and stories into the established Assassin’s Creed universe. Not unbeknownst to fans, for years the Templar Order has searched for the Apple of Eden and harness its divine power to end human violence…BY FORCE! But the Templar is challenged by a group of secret assassins determined to stop the Templar from getting their hands on the Apple because they stand for…FREE WILL! No surprise, the force vs. free-will conflict dynamic gets old quickly.
Nonetheless, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) faces the death penalty in modern-day America, only to be saved by Abstergo Industries, fueled by the Templar. Abstergo’s lead scientist, Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), informs Callum that he is the descendent of Aguilar de Nerha (also Fassbender), an assassin from 15th century Spain. She then forces Callum to attach himself to a machine which somehow connects him to the memories of Aguliar. By doing this, Callum embodies Aguliar’s physical movements and social interactions, providing the Templar clues of the Apple’s location. It’s not a great setup, but how good can a story be with a protagonist named Callum Lynch?
The biggest problem of this movie is its structure. Really, the ‘time travel’ concept is just an excuse for mindless action scenes with Aguliar in Spain and the constant jumping between present day and the 15th century drains all dramatic tension. Also, no character or plot point is introduced at the right time, which only further muddies a narrative badly in need of cleaning. Constantly I asked myself who was who and what was what. Not until the credits could I connect all the dots.
Even the actors appear confused and seem clueless what the scenes are about. Director Justin Kurzel (who previously worked with most of this cast in last year’s Macbeth) sets up his actors for failure. It’s unclear if any scene had even some vague intention as no shot or camera movement serves any specific purpose. Some scenes are lit so terribly that cinematographer Adam Arkapaw seems to have arbitrarily decided what to illuminate. And the editing is awful, constantly showing the wrong bits of information. Culminating together, elements seem to be at odds with the performances.
What’s especially disappointing is that all of the names mentioned above have created magnificent work elsewhere, yet here the collective seem incapable of delivering anything worth watching. I never like to say casts and crews are lazy making any movie, and I think genuinely hard work was put into this. Alas, Assassin’s Creed feels so lethargically constructed and plodding it ultimately makes for a truly uninspiring time at the movies.