Perhaps more than any other video game movie made to date, the need for the Assassin’s Creed adaptation to be an unequivocal success is greater than ever. One of the most popular gaming series to have been released in recent years, audience interest has begun to waver with recent games; so, not only does the film have to contend with the curse of the video game movie (see Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat and Need for Speed) it needs to rejuvenate the faltering franchise at the same time.
Fortunately for Ubisoft, the company behind the games and film, the source material has managed to attract some hefty talent. Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Justin Kurzel, the actors and director of 2015’s highly acclaimed Macbeth, reunite once again for this. And what you would expect from such a collaboration, an action film with both style and better-than-usual performances, is exactly what you get with Assassin’s Creed.
Fans of the games, myself included, will surely be pleased to see that they’ve been so greatly considered during the production. For Kurzel and Fassbender (who produces as well as leads the film) the connective tissue between both platforms is clearly paramount, and while there are a few necessary tweaks to make things more cinematic – the coffin-like animus from the games is replaced with a metallic arm that flings our hero around – the two unquestionably share the same DNA.
Whether it’s the clinical but futuristic rooms of Abstergo, the choreography of the combat sequences or the leap of faith, it’s as if the filmmakers have literally projected one of the games on to the cinema screen and simply replaced the CGI characters with real people. So aesthetically speaking, the overall quality of this particular adaptation is better than most.
However, it is within the narrative that things begin to fall down. Much like some of the weaker instalments in the gaming series, the balance between a modern-day story and a historical one is off. Far too much time is spent in the present day setting, in which scene after scene exists only to provide more and more exposition, as opposed to the much more exciting narrative that takes place in 15th century Spain. And whilst the action sequences within the past are thrilling to watch, they end up feeling like a footnote in comparison to the far more boring world-building that’s going on in the present, to the point where Fassbender’s assassin alter ego, Aguilar, lacks any kind of character whatsoever.
It is a shame that Assassin’s Creed should be let down by its writing, as every other element remains loyal to the source material that so many people love. Quite frustratingly, it comes very close to being the first successful adaptation of its kind, and whilst there is still plenty to admire in the way in which the game has been lovingly brought to the cinema, it lacks a solid enough script to be anything other than half-decent. Good but not great, I just hope future instalments prove more entertaining now that the groundwork of the complex story has been laid.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com