You know the deal with video game movies. They are terrible and there’s not even the exception that proves the rule. When I can say that Angry Birds: The Movie is the best video game movie of all time and not suffer any blowback, you know the quality of this particular genre is incredibly low. But because we love video games and movie, we always hold out hope when one is announced because that might just be the one which changes everything. And the latest one we pinned all our hopes on was Assassin’s Creed. But is it just another movie which has crushed our hopes?
Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds) is sentenced to death but is rescued by the Abstergo Foundation. However they haven’t done this selflessly, they want to use the Animus machine to make Callum relive his former life as assassin Aguilar de Nerha in 1400s Granada. This is so the Abstergo CEO Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons, The Lion King) can discover the whereabouts of the Apple of Eden, an ancient artifact which will get rid of free will.
And this is a film that makes a terrible impression from it’s opening shot because boy, is this an ugly film. Going to Granada, Spain in the 1400s should be incredibly cool as it’s not something we see very often, but it’s just such an ugly scene you want to get away as soon as possible. Everything shot has a filter which is worse than the ones you see on Instagram, mainly because this filter makes everything the shade of urine yellow. And I know that this is the Medieval ages so in reality, everything probably smells of piss but I’d like it not to be translated into what is meant to be an epic mix of sci-fi and historical action. It makes what should be the best scenes of the movie into something we don’t really want to watch because of the overall look.
And much like the video games, I do have some experience of them having played a few, the whole thing is split between two different worlds. You have the urine covered world of Medieval Granada and then the sci-fi world of Abstergo, where most of the film takes place. This will send warning bells to fans of the video games, mainly because this was a world of boring when there was a far more interesting story being told in the past. That’s not the case here because neither story is particularly interesting, with the modern story having the advantage mainly because things are actually happening in it. Not much, but something so well done to the makers of this movie for doing something Ubisoft have never managed, though they did do it by dragging the historical parts down.
The whole reason the historical part of Assassin’s Creed falls down is due to the lack of personality in our characters. Because the director Justin Kurzel (The Snowtown Murders) has decided to be realistic and use Spanish in the Granada scenes, something I do respect, he has tried to limit the amount of lines in the script as not to turn off that part of the audience which are terrified of subtitles. I do understand this, but it means every scene in Granda is the bare minimum it can be rather than the best. So we learn nothing about Aguilar, nothing about the villain who I can’t even remember and there was a girl there at some point too. But it’s a whole load of nothing.
The modern world scenes are better basically because they are given more time and there’s a bit more depth to the characters. Callum has a terrible past which doesn’t automatically make him interesting, but it’s far more than Aguilar is given. There’s some decent interactions between him and the other assassins which hint at something being built up but to be honest, this isn’t very interesting either. But it doesn’t look like it’s been caked in urine so it does have a big advantage in this regard.
But what stops Assassin’s Creed from slipping to the standard of the likes of House of the Dead and Street Fighter is that it has some very good action scenes. Kurzel doesn’t succumb to rapid quick edits and knows we are here to see people actually fighting. So when one starts, he basically halts the camera movement, lets us see the move that is happening and will then move onto the next angle. It’s a refreshingly old school approach to doing action scenes and even if the look of the film is great, at least we get some really cool and well choreographed action scenes out of it.
Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed is not the video game movie we have been waiting for ever since Super Mario Bros killed so many people’s childhoods in the 1990’s. It’s bogged down in a plot that is basically all about a MacGuffin and has a tonne of uninteresting characters that aren’t as memorable as the ones in the games. It does have some very good action scenes, but when the film looks awful because of a terrible post-production job, they are hard to enjoy. It’s another disappointment as we continue our search for the first good video game adaptation.