Wednesday 4 January 2017

Review: Assassin's Creed

Year: 2016 (U.K release date 2017)
Director: Justin Kurzel
Screenplay: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams.

Synopsis is here:

2016 is dead, and therefore we can now look forward to the cinematic pleasures that 2017 should bring. I decided to start this year by trying to embrace a much-maligned sub-genre of cinema: The Video Game movie. Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed is the umpteenth attempt to bring a decent video game feature to fruition, and like so many of these dubious adaptations, relegated to cult status only appealing to those with morbid curiosity, this film stumbles and fumbles its way to conversation. It’s easy for film writers to mock these films as easy targets, however, in watching Assassin’s Creed, you realise that these films don’t really help themselves.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before on this blog, but I’m of the strong belief that video game adaptation needs a product managing executive in the way of Marvel’s Kevin Feige. Someone with a decent knowledge and love for the product at hand and whose acumen is clearly more than the bottom line. Assassin’s Creed is a film that understands that it used to be a video game but hasn’t got a clue on how to become a movie. Midway through the film, protagonist Cal (Fassbender) loudly exclaims “what the hell is going on?!” and we feel the same.  

Poor Michael Fassbender. This is a fully committed performance to something that only requires half of his skill and talent. Assassin’s Creed is a beautiful nothing. A film with a three-person (credited) screenplay which is happy to screw up any stakes by introducing factors which hold no risk to the protagonist. It’s all very good that Kurzel’s visuals are reminiscent of the game, and they appear as organically as they can in a film as nonsensical as this one, but once again, like Silent Hill (2006) before it, we’re given a film which thinks that plotting a film like the game it’s based on is the right way to go. It’s not. The film’s convoluted storyline is written with an eye to appeasing video game fans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it has. However, Assassin’s Creed terrible McGuffin (an apple which holds the genetic code to free will) never feels worth the billions that the film’s antagonists have spent trying to obtain it.

Then again, the film does very little with its heavily talented cast to make anything worthwhile. Kurzel’s film has the likes of Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling joylessly muttering plot exposition, but gives them very little to do other than stand around and look sombre. All the action is given to Fassbender who gives it his all but is placing all his energy into thanklessly dull action sequences, which hold no actual risk until it’s omishambolic climax.

Praise should go to Kurzel and cinematographer Adam Arkapaw for once again bringing a keen eye to the visuals of the film. This is the best-looking video game adaptation by far, and if there would be a reason to ever re-watch Assassin’s Creed, it would be for an audio commentary by the two on the look of the film. However, let’s think about what I just typed there. I’d happily watch this film again if there were other people talking over the film's risible dialogue.

There’s very little to recommend here. If a character exclaiming “Leap of faith!” with no actual relevance to the viewer unless they’ve have knowledge of the source material excites you, then have at it. If not, I would ask you to consider just sticking to the games instead as they’re far more fun. In fact, I’m sure you could jump on twitch and watch someone play one of the games. It would be far more involving.