By Luke Hutton (England)

 

Now before I get into specifics of this movie, I feel like I need to make something clear – I am a massive Assassin’s Creed fan, it is hands down my favourite game series. So please keep this in mind when reading this review as I may be a little lenient in some ways (for better or worse)… Now onto the review!!!

When the phrases “Video Game” and “Movie” are combined together, you can expect a few things to happen. A minimum of one A-List Celebrity will be in the cast, it will be an expensive movie and a mechanic from the video games will be shoe horned into the movie to make it fill more like the game (for better or for worse). However, what the end result usually is, is a movie which leaves a bad taste in the movie goers mouth and movie which both tries to please fans and gain regular movie goes, and fails at both, usually ending up in the movie being a mess.

With this in mind, we are still waiting for that successful video game movie to be made, which in turns is loved by both critics and movie-goers and is a box office hit, and in 2016, Ubisoft decided to throw their hat into the ring in the quest to make the first great video game movie with their beloved and critically acclaimed, AAA series, Assassin’s Creed.

So is this the movie to end the streak of mediocre to poor video game movies? To put it bluntly, No. But, if a sequel was to be made and with a little tinkering, it most certainly could be.

The story follows the same overall storyline as the games: An evil organisation, the Templars (under the disguise of Abstergo Industries), want to control the world by using ancient artefacts know has “Pieces of Eden”, to find them, they use a machine called the Animus which allows people to relieve their ancestors memories, but another group, known as the Assassin’s, stand against the Templars plans.

What make this different from the games though is that it is an original story made for the movie, which is now cannon in the series. Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), who comes from a family of Assassins, is sentenced to execution, however he is saved and kidnapped by Sofia Rilkin (Marion Cotillard) and Abstergo, where he is forced into the animus to relieve the memories of Aguilar (also Fassbender), an Assassin from the Spanish Inquisition who came into contact with a Piece of Eden, known as the Apple.

What also makes this movie different from other video game movies is that this movie takes place within the original game universe, which works for and against this movie. Some characters making the transition to live action such Jeremy Irons’ Alan Rikkin and some modern day characters who are ancestors of some more obscure Assassins from lore (Michael K Williams’ Moussa being an ancestor of Baptiste from Liberations & Michelle H Lin’s Lin being related from Shao Jun from Embers and Chronicles).

However this movie still feels like a different universe and I would’ve liked to have seen a more recognisable character from the modern day time period such as the duo of Danny Wallace’s Shaun Hastings and Eliza Schneider’s Rebecca Crane.

But the main problem about the story is, it’s slow. This movie is 115 minutes long, but with such a focus on the bland and boring modern day, this movie begins to feels closer to a 3 hour runtime. The modern day also doesn’t do anything revolutionary in its storytelling and the ending is more confusing rather than satisfying as, instead of resolving the questions, it rather focuses on setting up sequels for the future.

There is also a continuation of someone explaining the concept of the series throughout the movie: Templars want the Apple of Eden to control the world and the Assassins have been trying to stop them. Something which is stated in a piece of text at the start of the movie, along with Marion Cotillard, Brendon Gleeson, Jeremy Irons AND Michael K Williams stating the same thing throughout this movie – an unneeded feature.

The main players here are portrayed superbly. Fassbender’s dual roles are portrayed greatly, despite a questionable singing moment by Lynch, and the difference in facial hair is enough to distinct the two and make them look like two different people all together. Irons’ and Cotillard’s performances of Abstergo CEO, Alan, and his daughter, Sofia Rikkin are great and give you a sense of the doom that can happen if the Templars succeed in their plans. However the rest of the cast suffer from the focus on Fassbender, the Assassins seem like they can be switched out in the sequel without anyone really knowing or caring. Brendon Gleeson is also wasted in this movie and his screentime is edging 2 minutes at best.

The animus also received a redesigned for the movie, which works for a visual perspective, but not a practicality one. Seeing Fassbender doing the same moves in modern an past day does wonders when explaining the concept of synchronisation, but the movie constantly cuts between Aguilar and Lynch, and doesn’t give you any time to be emerged in the settings, but the big issue I have with the new animus is, it is essentially training the Assassins of modern day, but why would the Templars be physically training the modern Assassins? The Templars are aware of the bleeding effect (even if there knowledge is quite sparse) so why wouldn’t you minimalise the training and use the original animus? And why would you have the second animus in the same room, lit up like a trophy?! I just feel using a chair or Fassbender sitting on a chair would have worked just as well – something I hope to see in the planned sequel.

Whilst the modern day could need improvements, once we enter the animus and enter the Past Day… Spectacular. The Spanish Inquisition appears both dirty and adventurous. The architecture also fits both the time period and the video games with under construction buildings and both pillars and arches which works beautifully well with both the parkour and the landscape on show. The fighting and parkour are both beautifully choreographed and some movements feel like they have been ripped out of the game. Having the past also all spoken in Spanish with English subtitles is a nice touch and makes these sections fill even more different to the modern. However the problem with the past is, there simply isn’t enough. The animus is used 3 times and it feels like a waist as the modern day makes up a solid 65/70% of this film. However… the most painful thing to see, or even not see… was the leap of faith.

When it comes to Assassin’s Creed, there are 2 mechanics for the games you can choose to use – Eagle Vision or Leap of Faiths. This movie decided to use leap of faiths, but didn’t really do it. They attempted to produce one but, without going into spoilers, we don’t fully see it. It feels like a waist and frustrating to see from a fans perspective. It’s also annoying to see that in all the buildup, the marketing focused on the stunts and “performing one of the largest free fall jumps in movie history”, they even had a live TV advert of a man producing a leap of faith. They had the techniques, they had the planning, so WHY didn’t they produce the leap?!

In all in, despite all the negative here, this movie is ok, and I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing a sequel, which is heavily set up with an open enough ending. As for the best video games films, it’s most definitely in the top 3, if not the best. But it’s just not THE video game movie we have been waiting for and with currently no scheduled video game movies in 2017, we find ourselves waiting until 2018, if not 19… for another crack at breaking the curse.

Rating: 3/5

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