Hollywood has tried many times to try and crack that ever elusive magic formula for video game to movie adaptation. Unfortunately it seems that they may have to keep trying as Assassin’s Creed is a dreary and unentertaining attempt at best.
Fassbender plays Cal Lynch, a criminal on Death Row. He finds himself, after apparent lethal injection, in a state of the art facility run by Abstergo, an organisation that can delve into the memory of a subject’s ancestor though their DNA. They have discovered that Cal’s DNA holds the memories of Aguilar De Nerha, the last known assassin to possess the Apple of Eden in 15th century Spain, an artefact which could help them to understand how to control “free-will" and therefore cure violence. Cal finds himself mixed up in a centuries old war between the Templars and the Assassins, trying to find his way out.
If this sounds barmy it’s because it absolutely is but that’s not actually the problem here. I’m a fan of the games, at least the early instalments and the bat-shit crazy plot works well. You can suspend your disbelief because it at least leads to fun.
But there is no fun to be had here.
Assassins Creed does so much wrong but I think the biggest decision that led the filmmakers astray was the decision to spend most of the film’s runtime in the Abstergo building, present day. The games got it right when they let you spend most of your time in whatever era of history the present-day protagonist was delving into. That’s the point of Assassin’s Creed; to follow the assassins. It seems strange that the writers decided to base most of the film on the frankly boring framing device used in the game.
The most interesting part of the film is the relationship between Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons). Not only do they have a clear drive but their convictions are also believable, they are the heroes of their own stories. From this genuine belief that they can cure violence stems some moral quandaries that they must tackle. Sophia Rikkin has a more scientific approach to the problem whilst Alan Rikkin just wants results, not particularly caring about the health or condition of the subject. It’s a conflict that is first introduced with the actual introduction of the characters and is threaded into the story throughout.
Fassbender on the other hand tries to bring some depth to his role but unfortunately there’s none to be found. Cal’s motivation is to be free but there never seems any drive to want to achieve that goal other than do as he is told. There’s a hatred toward his father but this feels shooed in and as a result there is precisely zero emotional investment. It’s not much better when it comes to Fassbender’s other character, Cal’s ancestor Aguilar who exists entirely to run, jump and stab bad guys. There’s a hint at a potential love interest but we spend so little time with him that this is never given the chance to develop. Badly written dialogue and a lack of character development give Fassbender nothing to play with in either time period.
It’s a shame that with such a promising cast and crew the result ends up being so incredibly joyless. If you’re a gamer go pick up a copy of The Ezio Collection, you’ll get much more enjoyment out of it.
written by Bradley Allen