Synopsis: When Callum Lynch explores the memories of his ancestor Aguilar and gains the skills of a Master Assassin, he discovers he is a descendant of the secret Assassins society.
Release Date: December 21, 2016 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Action, Adventure
While comic book movies are regularly breaking box office records and earning critical acclaim, the video game movie is still in its relative infancy. Films like Warcraft, Hitman, and Prince of Persia have sought to do for video game films what Iron Man and Spider-Man did for comic book adaptations, but thus far, the mainstream bubble has yet to burst. The properties still appeal to their fans, but the struggle to get the casual moviegoer on-board continues. Enter Assassin’s Creed, yet another attempt at bridging the gap that is the closest to a Marvel adaptation yet. Not because it is an overall success – the film has plenty of flaws and its appeal is questionable – but because the video game makers have gotten behind the film to try and make sure the property is adapted right.
The good news is that Assassin’s Creed is as faithful to the source material as one could hope out of a movie whose run time is less than two hours. It has all of the key elements that make the video game unique, from sci-fi mystery to historical action. The film even boasts some major star power in Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and an up-and-coming talent in director Justin Kurzel. But as someone who knows the video game franchise very well, it’s easy to see where Assassin’s Creed stumbles and where it succeeds.
For starters, the film pulls no punches in its adaptation. Fassbender pulls double duty as Callum Lynch, a death row inmate with a proclivity for violence, and Aguilar, a 15th century assassin who is given the task of keeping a young prince out of the hands of the Spanish Inquisition. Lynch can relive the memories of Aguilar, his distant relative, by way of a machine called the Animus, and a company called Abstergo wants him to experience those memories to find a very specific item that was thought lost to history.
It’s hard to fully describe the world of Assassin’s Creed because a lot of the details are informed by years worth of experience with the games. Knowing what the Animus is and how it works, for example, makes it easier to accept in the film. But it’s hard to admit that the script does a great job explaining things on its own, which is Assassin’s Creed‘s biggest shortcoming. The film rushes through some concepts that are not easy to wrap your head around and it merely hopes that audience members will buy into things. Again, fans will have no problem in that department, but the Average Joe will likely have a lot of questions.
Alongside the rush to explain basic world-building concepts, Assassin’s Creed flip flops between the Lynch and Aguilar storylines too quickly for audience members to ever really connect with either character. Lynch fares better than Aguilar, who is used more as an action stunt man than a fleshed out character, but not that much better. There are pivotal events in both storylines, and few land with as much punch as they should because so much happens so quickly.
If you go into Assassin’s Creed with at least a basic knowledge of the video game franchise, then the film should be entertaining enough to earn a passing grade. The filmmakers and actors have done well to bring this universe to life and although their translation isn’t very palatable for the casual moviegoer, it doesn’t play things safe either. Unfortunately, grabbing the storyline and concepts from the game and putting them into an hour and fifty minute film was never going to give the subject matter enough time to breathe. There is a lot of ground covered in Assassin’s Creed and most of that coverage is at a breakneck pace. For fans that speed will be enough to hit all of their necessary expectations as far as plot points, action, and character go, but everyone else will have a lot of questions. It’s one thing to buy into a universe through some tangential touchstones, but Assassin’s Creed doesn’t have many of those. This is a brand new world and brand new worlds need a certain amount of balance to reach the widest audience possible.
In the end, Assassin’s Creed will satisfy its fans, and may even intrigue those not familiar with its universe. But any who say they don’t connect with the characters or the story, or who find certain elements confusing, are not wrong either. The film desires to be the video game adaptation that breaks the mold, but there is a lot lost in translation. What the film really needs is a longer run time and more character and world building. With that, Assassin’s Creed could have succeeded with what it set out to do.
Admittedly, Assassin’s Creed is light on the action overall, but what it does offer fits in with the tone of the video game series and feels fresh and new. The parkour sequences bring the game’s fluid movement and rooftop chase scenes to life, and the hand-to-hand (or blade-to-blade) fights boast choreography that’s balletic in its dynamism. If nothing else, the action of the game comes to life in some pretty spectacular ways, but it is only a small piece of the overall pie. What is there is well done and exciting, but there is not enough action to fully satisfy the blockbuster crowd.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Justin Kurzel
- Producer(s): Jean-Julien BaronnetPatrick CrowleyMichael FassbenderGerard GuillemotFrank MarshallConor McCaughanArnon Milchan
- Screenwriter(s): Michael LesslieAdam CooperBill Collage
- Cast: Michael Fassbender (Cal Lynch/Aguilar)Marion Cotillard (Sofia)Jeremy Irons (Rikkin) Brendan Gleeson (Joseph Lynch)Charlotte Rampling (Ellen Kaye)Michael Kenneth Williams (Moussa)Denis Ménochet (McGowen)Ariane Labed (Maria)Khalid Abdalla (Sultan Muhammad XII)Essie Davis (Mary Lynch)Matias Varela (Emir)Callum Turner (Nathan)
- Editor(s): Christopher Tellefsen
- Cinematographer: Adam Arkapaw
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer: Sammy Sheldon
- Casting Director(s): Jina Jay
- Music Score: Jed Kurzel
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USAUK