I’ll be honest here and just say that I have never been a big fan of the long running Assassin’s Creed video game series. I played some of the first two, dabbled a tiny bit in three, and totally avoided all the rest.

That’s not to say I didn’t appreciate them for a distance, and I know of some people who have played through them in their entirety (in order), I just never had the time or felt them to be a priority. Maybe one day I’ll go back and remedy that… but probably after I do so with about a million other games first.

So it’s fair to say I went into the Assassin’s Creed film with only just above a tertiary level of understanding of the overall narrative involved in the games, along with the basic game tropes. Man (or maybe woman) is locked into a device that sends them back to the past memories of a genetic precursor or predecessor to our hero, normally at the behest of some secretive organisation or another to find out some important bit of information that will win an equally secretive war.

Assassin’s Creed the movie is much like Assassin’s Creed the game in a very base narrative way. It hits the necessary watermarks to be recognised as from the same genetic lineage. Michael Fassbender plays a forgettably named man who, after witnessing his mothers apparent murder at the hands of his father as a child, and then going on the run for much of his childhood and young adult life, is facing execution for an apparent murder. A murder which we never see yet alone understand the motivation or story behind.

Assassin's Art

After being put to death he is revived and held by the shadowy Abstergo and look after by scientist, played by Marion Cotillard, Dr Sophia Rikkin. She want’s to find the Apple of Eden, a long lost device that holds the apparent key to genetic manipulation. Manipulation of free will to be more exact. With such a device she wants to control the world… or more accurately “cure the disease of violence”.

Exactly how she aims to do that, or even what that really means, isn’t ever clear, but do she indeed does want. Her father Alan, Jeremy Irons, and the rest of Abstergo (a division of Templar corp) also want to locate the apple for the very same but ever so slightly different reasons. apparently. Once again exactly what their goal is or what they expect to logistically do is never really made clear.

I need to once again be honest here, Assassin’s Creed is a narrative mess, due in no small part to the terrible pacing and editing. This is most apparent during the last third of the movie. where the whole thing just sort of devolves into a messy splodge of narrative desperation. Even the moving backwards through time/memory to see the exploits of Aguilar de Nerha does little to really help expound upon what’s going on, or more importantly, who we should care for.

We only actually go back to the past on three occasions during the course of the run time, each being a relatively short and narratively light action sequence. Characters are introduced in these segments but hold little value to the viewers as they have little to no backstory or history. Development is null with this time periods supporting cast and no better in modern day, beyond that of our two primary antagonists.
Fassbender’s Callum is a confused and forgettable performance, which is a shame because Marion Cotillard is both much worse in her role yet simultaneously more memorable. The films focus drifting almost entirely to her story over his by the last section of the film.
That’s not to say the film is without merit overall, the action sequences are ok with one specifically good scene of the past Assassins escaping across a city’s rooftops being of note. The shots in all the action sequences are a little difficult to watch at times though as almost all the action scenes are shot at close up, making much of what you see blurry and confusing to the eye.
Assassin’s Creed sits quietly on the mediocre and forgettable side of the bad video game movie adaptation scale (a scale I just invented in my head…). It’s a mess to watch and has a confused narrative arc with little payoff for those who take the time to invest in what its saying. I would love to see a dvd/bluray extended cut to see what might have been lost during production, because there was potential there at some point. Now though, only the most ardent fans will get even the smallest kick out of seeing their favourite series realised on the screen.

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