DIR: Justin Kurzel • WRI: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage • PRO: Jean-Julien Baronnet, Patrick Crowley, Michael Fassbender, Gerard Guillemot, Frank Marshall, Conor McCaughan, Arnon Milchan • DOP: Adam Arkapaw • ED: Christopher Tellefsen • DES: Andy Nicholson • MUS: Jed Kurzel • CAST: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons
Critics rarely agree on anything, it comes with the territory, but one thing they all agree on are that film adaptations of video games are all bad with no exceptions. Loathed by film critics, regular cinema goers and the gaming community alike these adaptations often perform poorly at the box office and are generally forgotten about. Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed somewhat bucks this trend however by sticking closely to the style and substance of its source material.
Callum Lynch, a directionless career criminal, is executed for murder in 2016. He later wakes up at the Abstergo research facility run by father and daughter team Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard). They want to use Callum’s genetic memories to see where his Spanish ancestor Aguilar de Nerha hid the Apple of Eden; a mythical holy relic said to hold the genetic code to free will. Michael Fassbender plays both Callum and Aguilar, both of whom are descendants of the ancient Assassin Brotherhood, protectors of the Apple. They fight against the Templars who seek the Apple in order to eliminate free will and therefore all of humanity’s flaws. Needless to say, Abstergo are a front for the Templars and the Assassin Brotherhood has been all but wiped out. It’s a complicated plot that never really finds its footing among all the pseudo-science, religious mysticism, and secret society waffle.
What Assassin’s Creed lacks in story it makes up for in action and style. The fight choreography is continuously impressive and elaborate chase sequences on horseback and across rooftops highlight Kurzel’s talents for action cinema. The Snowtown and Macbeth director brings many of the latter film’s flaws to the screen in his attempts to bring 15th Century Spain to life. Though these sections of the film are full of jaw-dropping moments this comes at a cost. Much of the dialogue throughout the film is difficult to make out due to Jed Kurzel’s overbearing score and the bombastic sound design that makes a simple footstep sound like an earthquake. Not even the massive star power onscreen can stop Assassin’s Creed floundering just above the average mark.
As Callum Lynch, Fassbender is eagerly committed to the role of a borderline psychotic criminal. As Aguilar, he’s a lot more stoic and subtle. Overall, Fassbender brings his trademark energy to both roles even if neither role really deserves it. The rest of the cast leave a lot to be desired however. Marion Cotillard always seems on the verge of tears which doesn’t make her a very convincing leader for what is a project that’s supposed to save mankind. Jeremy Irons comes across as very bored as if he spent the entire time between takes looking at his watch. The rest of the cast besides a few very minor characters is the stunt team who outperform everyone when it comes to sheer physical commitment to being thrown off buildings, stabbed and shot.
Assassin’s Creed is the best video game adaptation ever made which, unfortunately, is not hard to be. Fans of the first few games of the series will find something to love and hate here. Both mediums share the same overwrought and needlessly complicated story but they also have some of the most exciting fight scenes and chase sequences outside of a big budget martial arts film.
12A (See IFCO for details)
Assassin’s Creed is released 26th December 2016