Movie Review – Assassin’s Creed

This video game adaptation commits the twin crimes of being completely incomprehensible and toe-curlingly dull.

Charlie Lewis

A good action film is rather like a well-executed magic trick. There can be (and often are) plot holes and logical inconsistencies, but as long as the film carries us along briskly and keeps our attention directed where it wants, we’re happy not to ask too many questions. Then there are films like Assassin’s Creed, where the trick is so ineptly carried out that you aren’t even sure what was supposed to have happened.

Despite the torrent of bad press it’s received, I held out some small hope for Assassin’s Creed. Australian director Justin Kurzel greatly impressed me with his brutal, hyper-stylised take on Macbeth and he’s compiled a great cast (alongside the leads are the criminally underutilised Michael K Williams and Denis Menochet). Perhaps the critical response was snobbery about video game adaptations? Sadly, I can confirm snobbery has nothing to do with it. A collection of hugely talented people got together and made a simply terrible film.

So (now, bear with me) Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a death row prisoner who is rescued from execution by a shadowy illuminati style organisation called the Abstergo Foundation. They are searching for the ‘Apple of Eden’ which was created by an ancient civilisation and contains the genetic code for free will. Sophia (Marion Cotillard), the chief scientist on this mission believes this may be the cure for violence, for some reason, but her sinister father (Jeremy Irons) wants it for more nefarious reasons. Using a machine called the animus, Lynch is plugged into the memories of his distant relative Aguilar, an assassin in 1492 Andalucía, and the last person to possess the apple. No, I don’t know how any of that works either.

Maybe the plot would make sense had I played more Assassin’s Creed, but Kurzel’s crime isn’t that I don’t ‘get’ the mythology. I could have finished every instalment of the game and it wouldn’t make the character’s motivations any more comprehensible, the portentous dialogue any less clunky, or the murky visuals any more compelling. In short, no level of investment in the world of AC could make me give a solitary damn about the events of this movie.

This might be forgivable, if the fights and chase sequences worked. However, Kurzel’s Andalucía is so wreathed in smoke and dust and the shooting style is so frenetic that they are borderline impossible to follow. During one fight a knife is thrown across a room into someone’s throat. I couldn’t tell who had thrown it, or if it was a henchman, a bystander or a ‘good’ guy who’d been killed. I swiftly concluded that I didn’t much care.

Assassin’s Creed is too grim and violent for kids, and too ragingly dumb for adults. And for a summer blockbuster based on a video game, it’s amazingly joyless in both content and execution. This may be Kurzel’s real crime: he forgot that magic tricks are supposed to be fun.

Assassin’s Creed is available in Australian cinemas from January 1st 

Image courtesy of 20th Century Fox


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