Someday, my friend. Someday.
Someday audiences will be treated to a truly excellent video-game-to-film adaptation. But today, with the release of the ‘Assassin’s Creed’ movie, is most definitely not that day.
Now, I’m the first to admit: I’ve never played the video game itself, but as a long-time gamer and seasoned pop-culture writer & podcaster, I’m familiar with the source material. Obviously, the game series itself is very popular – enough so that it warranted a major movie studio, 20th Century Fox (who is DESPERATE for a big hit to come their way, after a rough few years of video-game and comic-book adaptations have not done well for them), teaming up with software creator Ubisoft to bring the adapted story to the big screen. And with such heavy-hitting acting names as Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons all doing their thing throughout the film, this one stood a chance to finally break the “video game curse” at the box office, right?
‘Assassin’s Creed’ may have stood a chance. But seeing as how the film opened four days before Christmas, instead of four calling birds, your true love brought to you these 4 Really-Good Reasons why you don’t need to see this movie:
1. The plot has holes so confusing and big, the Lords-a-Leapin’ could jump through ’em. I’m all for a movie that doesn’t feel the need to explain every last detail to an audience, but ‘Assassin’s Creed’ goes to the opposite extreme, almost seeming to assume that everyone who is watching is surely already familiar with the game and the finer details of the in-universe rules and major talking points. At its core, it’s an intriguing concept for a tale: throughout history, the Knights Templar have been attempting to locate the Apple of Eden, an “ancient device” that will allow its user to control the free will “of all mankind.” Only a select group of covert operators called Assassins have stood in their way, preferring the human race to, y’know, think for themselves and stuff. When the head of the Templars in 2016 (Irons as business bad-guy Alan Rikkin and Cotillard as his probably-not-truly-that-evil scientist daughter Sofia) discovers that felon Cal Lynch (Fassbender, whose forced American accent comes and goes willy-nilly throughout the film) is the last remaining connected bloodline to Aguilar, an assassin in the late 1400s who is the last known human to have been in possession of the Apple, they hook him up to their Animus machine, which allows a user to essentially travel into the past and re-live the actions of their ancestor. Soon, Cal has a choice to make: keep working for the bad guys, or, uh, don’t.
See, sounds kinda cool, right? Except that things are so confusing, even the on-screen characters don’t seem to understand what the Hell is going on. Allegedly, Cal is the “last remaining connected bloodline” to any of the Assassins of the late 1400s… except the Abstergo Foundation, which Rikkin owns and is the home of the Animus project, is chock-full of other Assassins’ descendants, including Cal’s own father, who killed Cal’s mother because she was the “true” direct descendant of Aguilar, but Dad is also an Assassin himself… see where the confusion lies? The list of story inconsistencies goes on and on, but I won’t bore you with them now (see #4 for more on those boring details).
2. The acting talent is as wasted as the geese a-layin’ an egg. It’s too bad, really – Irons is still a bad-ass as ever on screen, but he isn’t given much to do, and you can almost feel his frustration at having Rikkin be written as such a generic old-white-guy-manipulating-things-behind-the-scenes character. He’s almost complacent in his delivery… which goes well with Cotillard’s blank-stare-until-I-open-my-mouth approach to bringing her character “to life.” Their performances in this film feel like legitimately missed opportunities, and I’m not sure if the fault lies with them or with director Justin Kurzel for giving them such little to work with. Even Fassbender meanders through the film, playing the double roles of Cal and Aguilar; I think his chest, which was inexplicably bare for roughly two-thirds of the movie (seriously, in one scene he just threw his shirt off for no reason, and didn’t put it back on for a long, long time), will receive more awards than his acting talent for ‘Assassin’s Creed.’
3. The action is so over-CGIed, even twelve drummers drumming can’t drum up any more interest in it. I think the concept of the Animus machine is one of the truly intriguing ideas of recent science-fiction/fantasy tales, I really do. The ability to tap into someone’s genetic code and extract memories of their ancestors seems to make “sci-fi sense” – to a point, of course. Sadly, it was brought to live on film here so poorly that I don’t think I could stand to watch another story about it in this fashion. Fassbender gets a fat belt-like object strapped around his waist, and an “epidural” put into his spine that helps connect his DNA to the computer… and then the belt gets connected to a large machine which I can only liken to “The Claw” in those mall-arcade games of skill where you try to grab stuffed animals as a prize. For all the scenes of Cal “connecting” with Aguilar in the past, Fassbender is in this machine, being thrown around a large and empty room like a rag doll – only he’s not really thrown around, he’s doing the same action-y moves at the same time as his ancestor, you see, so he’s climbing walls and making punchy-time… all to thin air. Even with some of the past-action spectrally transposed into the Animus chamber, it all just looks like a really long and bad mid-air game of Dance, Dance Revolution.
4. The movie is as boring as watching maids-a-milking. Extending from the plot being out of whack, it just feels like the film is painfully long and takes so much time to move from story point to story point. Clocking in a 116 minutes, the film feels instead like one of these two-hour-plus epics audiences have been treated to lately, except missing the “epic” feel, of course. The main conceit of the plot – the Animus machine and its workings – is a relatively simple concept, but the movie spends so much time over-explaining it that the viewer literally starts to not care. Couple this burgeoning disinterest with the lackadaisical performances of the lead actors and the not-at-all-enthralling CGI and action sequences, and you’re left with something that feels worse than a bad video-game-to-movie experience: you’re left feeling like you’re watching someone else play a video game, and they’re not very good at it. No amount of button-mashing could save you from getting bored here.
All said and done, ‘Assassin’s Creed’ is a definite missed opportunity. Unlike the other major game-to-film release of 2016, ‘Warcraft’ – which could at least hold the interest of a casual viewer as well as cater a bit more specifically to a hard-core gamer fan – this movie likely won’t please anyone, no matter how familiar they may be with the source material.
Tony Schaab started an online petition to try and get Gilbert Gottfried hired as the voice of B-9, the robot in Netflix’s ‘Lost in Space’ reboot, because – well, c’mon, wouldn’t that just be awesome? A lover of most things sci-fi and horror, Tony is an author by day and a DJ by night. Come hang out with Tony on Facebook and Twitter to hear him spew semi-funny nonsense and get your opportunity to finally put him in his place.