Assassin's Creed explores a centuries old war between the Knights Templar and the Assassin's Brotherhood, an organization who have opposed the Knights Templar every step on their way towards ridding the world of sin. The Knights Templar seek the Apple of Eden, which is said to possess the "seeds of man's first disobedience" and holds the key to free will, somehow... Once they possess the Apple of Eden, they plan to rid the human race of their violent proclivities, no matter how many people they have to murder to achieve this goal. But the Assassin's believe in free will, violence and all. It's easy to see that the two warring factions are analogies for science and religion as well. Cut to modern day and "Abstergo" is the clandestine research arm of the Knights Templar that's run by Sofia (Marion Cotillard). Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is set to be executed, but when Sofia discovers that Callum is a direct descendant of Aguilar, a member of the Assassin's Brotherhood and the only one who still has a bloodline left alive that could possibly discover the location of the Apple via the animus. A revolutionary technology that allows descendants to observe their ancestors lives. Sofia breaks Callum out of prison in an effort to track down the Apple and end the war, all wars, once and for all.
I have played most of the Assassin's Creed games, but admittedly, not for a long time, so my recollection of the mythology is probably a bit sketchy at this point. I remember that the games always had an outlandish story to them, but this movie seemed to take the story in a comparatively more grounded approach, and it seemed to suffer for it. Instead of the plot being farfetched in a fun kind of way, I found it nonsensical and boring. Not slow, boring. Why are so many scientists under the impression that a persons predisposition towards violence is hereditary? I thought this belief mostly died out when the notion of hereditary sovereignty was challenged by Thomas Paine in the 19th century. I guess not. If I remember correctly, the Knights Templar wanted the Apple so they could rule over a docile populace unfettered, but here they simply want to put an end to violence by obtaining the genetic code of violence, or something like that. The plot and 'science' behind the Assassin's Creed mythology was vague, at best, and that's not the only thing that was thin either. The characters and their motivation and reasoning seemed to change on a whim with very little rhyme or reason behind it. Everyone felt like little more than walking avatars too, which is probably ideal for video games, but not for movies. We also get no real meaningful insight behind Callum or Aguilar, and it's full of superfluous characters. Why was the female assassin even in this? For the female quota? Maybe. Why were the other assassins in the modern day even involved? They contributed next to nothing.
The violence, which was a concern of mine beforehand because of the PG rating, was everything I feared it would be. Full of quick editing, constant cut aways, obtrusive cinematography, and a conspicuous lack of blood. Not exactly like the Assassin's Creed games that the movie purports to be based on. Not only that, but even the fighting scenes had a lot of obvious phantom strikes. Far too many for a big budget movie like this. Movies made for less than $10 million have fight choreography that's light years beyond what we see here. What space cadet had the bright idea to change the animus to a mechanical arm? I have to wonder if it was only implemented so it could hide much of the violence. What I mean is when Callum or Aguilar is about to deliver a finishing blow, it'll shift perspective to Callum in the animus. Not only does it hide a lot of the violence, but it also pulled me out of the movie, constantly. It also looked ridiculous and undermined any sense of tension throughout the action scenes. And if you're going to skimp on the character development, then at the very least you better make sure that the action is spectacular. It wasn't. What happened to all the stealthy assassinations that made the games popular in the first place?
Tonally, Assassin's Creed was all over the place, and jumping back forth between the past and the present via the animus didn't help. Ideally Aguilar should have had around 75% of the screentime in the past, and then been allowed some development of his character besides looking cool in a hoodie. Everyone who's played the games knows that the real world missions were the most tedious, similar to the baby's cries and blood trails in Max Payne. Who remembers that? We tolerated them, but didn't enjoy them. I don't know why they wouldn't adapt Altair or Ezio, they're easily the most popular assassin's in the franchise, probably because of all the development they had as characters. Assassin's Creed felt like it suffered from the "Ghostbusters" syndrome too, existing only as a preamble for further Assassin's Creed movies. Trying to run to a franchise before it could walk as a standalone movie. What a disappointment in almost every way. A lot of people had their hopes up that with all the star power behind this movie that it would buck the trend of terrible video game adaptions, but it wasn't meant to be. Although it could have been. That's what makes it all the more disappointing.
Written by - The Sentry - 14/04/2017