By Ben Thumm (Chicago, IL, USA)
I have never played any of the Assassin’s Creed video games. I have also heard great things about them. Sneaking around while running from rooftop to rooftop on a virtual reality killing rampage seems like an entertaining video game to me. Can something like that translate to the big screen without the consumers in full control at all times like they have grown accustomed to with their franchises? That’s something that has been plaguing video game franchises for what seems like a while now. Being able to adapt a beloved game into a successful film is no simple task. Some have done it better than others. Some have not. Assassin’s Creed has the style and technical aspects to succeed but just about everywhere else is where it unfortunately doesn’t carry its’ weight.
Michael Fassbender has been on quite the roll over the last few years and in ‘AC’ he depicts present day character Cal Lynch as well as his ancestor Aguilar, whom was one of the first members of the Assassin’s Creed. Cal has lived a pretty troubled life dating back to where his mother was murdered by his father in cold blood and led him to flee to be on his own for the rest of his life. Fast forward 30 years and Cal is a convicted murderer on death row awaiting his lethal injection. His last words are “tell my father I will see him in hell” which then it cuts to where he unexpectedly wakes up to face of Sophia Rikken (Marion Cotillard).
Sophia and her father Alan Rikken (Jeremy Irons) are current members of the Knights Templar, who have been the so called ‘rivals’ of the Assassin’s Creed for hundreds of years. They currently run a facility that possesses a real life virtual reality machine called the Animus that allows someone to access their genetic memories and relive their ancestors’ past and actions. Quite the premise right? To put this rather short and quickly – Alan and his daughter want to access Cal’s past so they can retrieve the “Apple of Eden” which they believe his ancestor Aguilar is the last person to know where its’ whereabouts are. The Apple of Eden is also really not an apple, it’s a device. The Knights Templar believe it will be able to eradicate free will thus eliminating any violence in the world because they are convinced that violence is a hereditary disease.
Now this is where the plot is supposed to really take off. Cal is immediately thrown into the animus with no training, no skills or anything that leads us to believe that he can imitate the actions of a highly skilled and calculated assassin. We are then dropped into 1492 where Aguilar is already in mid action and I was left there asking myself, “what is even going on right now?” I was entertained with the fight scenes as they did incorporate a heavy dose of all the jumping from rooftop to rooftop that any gamer could want. Director Justin Kurzel and Director of Photography formed a good tag team of placing the viewer among all of the action sequences with long, sweeping shots as well as aerial views of the Spanish architecture.
They definitely did their best to bring a unique, technical style to it but is bogged down by a chaotic storyline and the failure to fully develop its’ characters. The focal point of this entire premise is to finally locate the Apple of Eden and utilize its’ powers to rid the world of violence but they completely gloss over how they would even accomplish that. There are also other assassins that are essentially trapped in this facility that play a very minor role and never get any shine. It feels like a shame considering we could have gotten more out of The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams.
This won’t be the last video game adaptation made. I am hopeful there will be ones that will be able to transfer the gameplay to the theater while simultaneously infusing memorable characters, a coherent plot as well as a distinctive style and vision brought to the silver screen. Assassin’s Creed has some of the key elements to flourish, but wasn’t able to stick the landing.
Rikkin: The history of the world is the history of violence. Mankind seems intent on destroying itself. But there is an artifact, known as the apple of Eden. With it, any impulse towards independence or rebellion will be crushed.
Rikkin: We’ve traced the protectors of the artifact. All the bloodlines have died out, bar one. His name is Callum Lynch.