2016’s sci-fi/fantasy/adventure/action/drama Assassin’s Creed, directed by Justin Kurzel, tells the story of Cal Lynch, played by Michael Fassbender, a condemned inmate, whose Spanish ancestor Aguilar (a skilled assassin) might be the key to finding a powerful artifact Apple of Eden. A company called Abstergo, run by modern-day Templar Knights, links Cal to the machine called Animus to get into the centuries-old memories coded to Cal’s genes. The film is divided into modern scenes of Cal in Abstergo’s prison and historical scenes of Aguilar, like the first games of the Assassins Creed series.
First of all, there are some positive aspects. The film can time to time capture the budding feel of the game series, though only in the Animus scenes. Also, the props like weapons and costumes of this movie are quite impressive. Apparently, the publisher and developer of the game series Ubisoft sent a detailed list of every weapon ever made for the game to the prop makers and that shows. I just wish the same kind of desire for authenticity would also be set to the story and to the basic concepts of the game series.
But no. An overly simplified, dumbed down, soulless interpretation of the Assassin’s Creed universe can’t really justify its being. To me, there is no reason why this thing exists. Animus, ring finger cut-offs for the use of the hidden blade, bleeding effect… These are the cornerstones of the Assassin’s Creed institution and all of those are represented as opposed to canon. Why? For the sake of the audience who aren’t familiar with the game series? I don’t buy it. As the movie doesn’t explain itself well enough, it is clear to me that the movie’s target audience is the people who know the original game series.
I could talk a bit about the movie’s technical aspects, like editing and cinematography, but this text is not about that. Clearly, behind the production of big-budget Hollywood movie, there is a bunch of absolute professionals who knows what they are doing. Despite the hideous dust and smoke in every scene and monotone and soulless color grading, I have nothing to complain about really. What grinds my gears is that this movie doesn’t know what it wants to be.
So yes, I think Assassin’s Creed the movie is a mess. It is a hollow, dusty shell of the universe created by the beloved game series and it forces me to reflect on my own expectations. What did I even expect this movie to be? Did I want a gripping new story, a game-like non-interactive cinema experience based on a familiar universe and characters who became so dear to me, like Ezio or Altair? On the other hand, who am I to judge new interpretations of the subject. It’s just that the 2016 film is so hands-down tired and bad that I can’t but assume that while doing this film, there was no real understanding of what Assassin’s Creed really is. It’s no secret that the main star and co-producer Michael Fassbender didn’t even know that the games existed until he was hired by Ubisoft. Though I’m sure the creators of this movie tried their best with their 125-million-dollar budget, all I can see is money-driven consistencies and greed. Little fan-baiting here and there won’t save your ass if the basic things are upside down.
And the worst thing is I’m not even surprised. Life goes on.
Title: Assassin’s Creed
Director: Justin Kurzel
Where to watch: HBO Max
Photos: screenshots from Assassin’s Creed (20th Century Fox 2016), taken by the author