Assassin’s Creed is an average effort that had the potential to be much more
This December came with the release of Assassin’s Creed, a movie based on the videogame franchise and series of the same name. This feature film is directed by Justin Kurzel and casts Michael Fassbender as the lead protagonist. The movie chronicles the path being traversed by two assassins, both of whom are played by Fassbender.
One of the assassins is named Aguilar de Nerha, based during the Spanish inquisition in the 15th century, while his far-off and distant progeny is Callum Lynch from the present time. Callum is a convicted prisoner sentenced to death and gets sent back in time through Animus when Abstergo Industries find out via his DNA that his descendants belonged to the illusive group known as the Assassins.
When it comes to the videogame’s legacy, it’s an endearing one, culminating well over nine video games and 17 spin-off titles coupled with novels and comics. However, the movie does not seem to carry any remnants of the widely popular videogame icon, and hence is a let-down and a missed opportunity.
For those who are unfamiliar with the Assassin’s Creed franchise, it is about a shady corporate company behemoth known as Abstergo Industries which has access to a machine named ‘Animus’. If someone gets attached to it, he/she has the capability to relive and re-experience memories of their ancestors, and in this case, they are always assassins. To put it under perspective, ‘Assassins’ are an elite secretive faction known to fight the malevolent ‘Templars’ for centuries. Think of ‘Animus’ as a Virtual Reality (VR) machine but much more realistic and fluid, giving the user a visceral experience.
As far as the movie is concerned, it starts in 1492 in the Spanish region of Andalucía. The central premise revolves around an object known as ‘Apple of Eden’ which is believed to encompass the genetic code to man’s free will. Those who possess this said Apple will be able to control and manipulate freedom of thought and is being hunted by the Knights Templar. It is up to the Assassins to make sure that that does not happen at any cost.
Those who followed the videogame series will be disappointed to know that the movie does not reprise any of the central protagonists from the game series; there is no Desmond Miles, Ezio Auditore da Firenze or Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad. The new protagonist, Aguilar played by Fassbender, was custom-developed for this movie.
As far as the movie’s impression is concerned with respect to the original videogame, the director was successful. The Spanish Inquisition coupled with that era’s architecture, clothing style, and scenic yet grandiose buildings are all meticulously demonstrated during the movie, so much so that it oozes authenticity.
When it comes to the action sequences and various fights, they are stylised and choreographed rather well. From the franchise’s signature ‘Leap of Faith’ to various stealth moves and gravity-inducing leaps, they are all present in a way that pays tribute to where they originated from (the videogame series). Hence, fans will be pleased to see this Hollywood recreation.
The real problem of the movie is the constant shifting between the two parallel points in time as it makes the experience a tad docile. Anyone that has ever played the Assassin’s Creed game is well aware of the fact that the present-day parts of the game are the most boring and that same feeling regrettably gets carried into the movie as well. The director should have known better and kept the majority portion of the movie from the 15th century timeline as it was the most absorbing and entertaining, and kept the audience wanting more of such scenes.
Speaking of the actors, Fassbender seems perfectly at home with his depiction of the main character. One could say, he is the saving grace for this movie. He is enduring and adept during the entirety of this feature film.
The rest of the cast is decent as well; Jeremy Irons and the French actress Marion Cotillard, in particular, give an authentic performance, and stay true to the subject matter inspired from the game series.
It has been a tradition lately that almost every videogame adaptation from Hollywood has been mediocre, and despite trying very hard, this movie falls under the same category. Perhaps if the movie had been set in a more interesting premise that stayed true to the videogame, it could have fostered a different result. Case in point, Assassin’s Creed 1: Third Crusade in 1191 and Assassin’s Creed 2, which was based during the renaissance in Italy in the 15th and early 16th century.
It would have been an enjoyable experience to watch the exploits of the much loved videogame protagonists such as Altair or Ezio.
Not many people are aware that the word “Assassin” originates from the Arabic word Hashashin and was used for Nizari Ismailis and their secret order during the medieval times. Assassin’s Creed 1 portrays this in great detail. The experience would have been more engrossing if this was witnessed in the movie, but sadly, the movie did not comply.
In conclusion, this movie delivers action and dramatised scenes that get lost between a cluttered story and hence lacks substance to engage the audience. Fans of the videogame series and casual movie goers will find this movie average because it’s just that, an average effort that could have been much more. It had the potential to break the mould and set a precedent for videogame adaptations, but disappointingly, it hasn’t.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.