Video games have been trying to make the jump into the film world for the past two decades. Most attempts have been dismal, and 2016 was a particularly ambitious year as three very notable wide releases based on video game material came to light: Angry Birds, Warcraft, and Assassin’s Creed. All three of these have ended up being just bland and not satisfying the audience enough, however we must see this as a step ahead from the absolute chaos of adaptations of before.
Assassin’s Creed is the latest video game venture into Hollywood. It centers on a new cast of characters separate from those in the video games. Cal (Michael Fassbender) has been sentenced to death in a Texas jail, he is injected with the serum, but instead of dying he wakes up in a mysterious facility in Madrid. Here he meets a scientist (Marion Cotillard) who tells him that they need Cal’s past to retrieve a biblical weapon. The facility he’s in has a machine called the Animus, which let’s anyone relive their ancestor’s memories. Cal’s captors make him relieve the memories of Aguilar, a Spanish assassin back in 1492, who is the last known possessor of the sought weapon.
The concept of the Assassin’s Creed video games is kept intact in the film, but the actual narrative structure isn’t. What made the video games such a hit was that you were able to relive history yourself; in this film adaptation, we focus more on Cal’s troubles rather than on the much more intriguing aspects of Aguilar. A simple shift in focus would have made this film infinitely more enjoyable.
Justin Kurzel helms this film as director, and he previously worked with both Fassbender and Cotillard in 2015’s adaptation of Macbeth; I hadn’t really enjoyed Kurzel’s vision with Shakespeare’s story and I have to say that his tone in Assassin’s Creed is also to my distaste. Kurzel enjoys having the camera close to the actors and on the action, so that we never really get to appreciate a set, or a costume, or even an actor’s face. You almost want to scream at him to “calm down!”
But Kurzel’s intensity did bring out one positive: the action. All the real stunts that had been such a highlight in Macbethmake their return here and all the action sequences are a thrill to watch.
As for the cast, most of them seem to be cashing in their checks, among them some wasted performances from Brendan Gleeson, Jeremy Irons, and Michael K. Williams. It was only the lead actors, Cotillard and Fassbender, who are seen giving this film any real effort at all.
So it seems that Assassin’s Creed falls along with the rest of the bland video game adaptations of 2016. While not dismal, it is a disappointment and especially given the incredible potential that the Assassin’s Creed material had.