First things first, it’s not terrible. What a 19% Rotten Tomatoes rating should tell you about Assassin’s Creed is that 1/5 of critics thought it was a good movie, which on the surface doesn’t sound so good, but is still quite a lot of people. The 6.5 rating on IMDb is probably more emblematic of the quality of Assassin’s Creed.
Assassin’s Creed follows Callum Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender, a death row inmate who, after he appears to be put to death, wakes up in a facility which Marrion Cotillard repeatedly tells him is not a prison (even though it is.) He is then strapped into a machine that makes him relive the past in the name of explanation, and discovers he is the ancestor of Aguilar, a member of the secret assassin’s society. As he takes on his ancestor’s memories, he becomes an assassin himself. Simple.
The problem is that Assassin’s Creed was never really a good choice for a film. The appeal of the games is in its mechanics, the appeal of living like an assassin. In the game there’s also virtually no characterisation of the characters in the past, which doesn’t lend itself to a central plot revolving around them.
On a visual filmmaking level though that’s where the best stuff is. The cinematography is great. As in Macbeth the director Justin Kurzel demonstrates a real ability to mix earthy hues, fluid camera moves, and particulates like smoke and dust in the air into his shots. Impressive scenery and action are melded together in compelling ways – there is one particular scene with some public burnings that’s incredibly striking and visceral.
There are also some terrible moments, some loose plot and some terrible characterisation and critics have taken that to heart. It’s been compared endlessly to Dan Brown, which is unfair as at least stuff happens in this movie, whereas in something like Angels and Demons it is quite spectacular how nothing happens at all.
In the end this film is a bit of a mess, but it has enough good work to carry itself. Perhaps it could have done with being turned into more of an espionage thriller, which may have made better use of its star cast. What we then have now, is a fine, if completely forgettable adaptation of a video game.
(Image courtesy of Allstar/Regency/Ubisoft)