Review by Paul Preston
Don’t let this movie taint your view of Michael Fassbender. Wait…(looks closer at the credits)…oh, he produced it. Hmmm…
Assassin’s Creed has a premise that’s interesting enough. There’s a machine called the Animus which allows people to travel back in time to “mind-sync” with their ancestors, living in their shoes and discovering new details about their life. Criminal Cal Lynch is spared lethal injection and whisked away to participate in an Animus experiment to relive his ancestor Aguilar’s life as an assassin. Aguilar was part of an assassin’s group pledged to fight the Templar Order in 1490s Spain and keep the Apple of Eden from their grasp, an object that would allow any group to eliminate free will among men (no doubt leading to man’s subjugation at the hands of the Templars). Unique, I have to hand it to the movie, but I described this plot to two friends the day after I saw the movie and somewhere around the second mention of the Animus, they zoned out.
That makes sense, I’ve never played the video game “Assassin’s Creed” on which this movie is based, but I doubt it reached its popularity because of the scintillating plots. Also having never played the game, I was up for whatever the film wanted to throw at me, with no judgment as to whether or not it was appropriate for the source material or not. But the result of the filmmakers’ efforts is a dreary, humorless affair with few surprises.
The first thing Fassbender is guilty of is hiring a director of photography who doesn’t own a light kit. This is one of the darkest movies I’ve ever seen. Not dark like Requeim For a Dream, but dark like nighttime. Even daylight in this film has a darkness going on. All the action sequences were murky and the scenes where Cal was in the Animus were blended with shots of what he was interacting with in 1492, leading to two shots overlapping one another and I couldn’t comprehend either of them.
It turns out Cal isn’t the only assassin getting the Animus treatment in the facility where he’s being held, but those soldiers are an odd bunch. They seem really pissed off all the time at Cal and then the film flips a switch later that’s supposed to make us care about them. It’s weird. And there’s no surprise who the villain is. When characters discover what the villain’s plan is, the only surprise in the movie is that it was so clear, I was surprised they were surprised.
Fassbender does a fine job in the lead role, bringing his trademark intensity, although the character of Aguilar is a little flat. Marion Cottilard needs to make a solid indie film stat, her Hollywood efforts (this and Allied) as of late leave much to be desired. Brendon Gleeson, Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling are great names to have in a movie that shares a genre with House of the Dead, but they could’ve been any actor SAG could scrounge up, given what little was asked of them.
On the tech side, some of the stunts are cool, when we can see them, but no action sequence really stands out as special. The music is very repetitive, which I noticed, leading me once again to the theory that some of the best scores aren’t noticed at all.
So that’s Warcraft and Assassin’s Creed both trying YET AGAIN to liven up the video game adaptation movie and failing. Maybe…it’s not that vital to keep trying to get it right?
FINAL THOUGHT – Poor box office will probably prevent a sequel, but the film sets up the possibility, but don’t stay through the credits for a bonus scene if for no other reason than the credits are ELEVEN MINUTES LONG!
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Release Date: December 21, 2016
Run Time: 115 Minutes
Distributor: 20th Century Fox