Review: Assassin’s Creed

Creating a narrative out of a game series whose plot is as convoluted as this is something of an impossible mission. Scatterlogical, incoherent and messy, Assassin’s Creed sadly can’t break the game adaptation curse. 

But it’s certainly not for a want of trying from director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) and his leads Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons. Trying to adapt Ubisoft’s massive 9 console game series (and a wall of spin off games) Assassin’s Creed fell to Michael Lesslie (Macbeth), Bill Collage & Adam Cooper (Allegiant, Exodus: Gods and Kings) and, even with the participation of Ubisoft itself, they found themselves as lost in piecing the narrative together.

Technically, it’s not all their fault given how proposterously convoluted the gaming premise is (which takes a full game play through to explain and these guys were being asked to condense it into a film). Where it does fall apart, however, is how they chose to try and convey it.

For centuries the Templars and a rebellious group of defenders of freedom called The Assassins have been in a secret war to keep a sacred artifact known as the Apple from falling into the Templars hands. The Apple contains the first genetic code of man’s disobedience (yes, I know, ridiculous) and, in the hands of the Templars, they can use it to remove free will and violence from man i.e. they’ll enslave mankind. With the Apple lost for centuries, Sofia (Marion Cotillard) has developed a machine called The Animus whereby the user can access genetic memories from their ancestors and relive them. Enter Cal (Michael Fassbender), a convicted murderer whose bloodline runs right back to one of the most famous Assassins – Aguilar. Desperate to find The Apple to appease her father and, indeed, the order of the Templars, Sofia rushes Cal through and we relive Aguilar’s gravity defying battles in Ancient Spain to find out what happened.

That probably didn’t make much sense. Don’t worry, the film can’t quite get a handle on it, either. Kurzel and team certainly give it their all, infusing it with as much seriousness to level the bonkers plotting. The action sequences themselves are suitably impressive and certainly makes for a much better translation from a game than Disney’s ill-fated Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.

Problems arise, however, when the film rushes its way through exposition and jars it with action sequences. Without a thorough explanation of how the animus interacts with the memories or why Michael Fassbender keeps taking his shirt off whenever he gets near it, you wouldn’t be blamed if the entire film left you scratching your head.

There are also several sequences which will mean nothing to a general audience who haven’t played the game (in particular a sequence where Cal sees half a dozen incarnations of his ancestors which are referring to other entries in the game series). On top of that, there’s no real weight given to the reach and impact of the Templars in the world. If they are this nefarious outfit working in shadow, it’s never thoroughly explained how much impact they have outside of power suits and an under-utilised Charlotte Rampling.

Assassin’s Creed is a ballsy attempt at a game adaptation that misses the mark. It’s messy, incoherent, and flooded with lapses of logic. It does sport some nice action sequences but if you are indoctrinated into the language of the gaming franchise you might find this a tough slog.

★★

ASSASSIN’S CREED re;eases on JANUARY 1, 2017 in AUSTRALIA through 20TH CENTURY FOX