Michael Fassbender stars and produces this would-be franchise origin tale that wastes the talent of everyone involved
Why has there never been a good movie made out of a computer game? Examining the list of titles, a rogue’s gallery of would-be blockbusters and outright bad filmmaking, arguably the only serviceable feature film to have found its story in the 1s and 0s of the gaming world is The Angry Birds Movie, which is Fellini compared to the likes of Super Mario Bros. It doesn’t seem to matter what type of game it, the number of bits in its native device, nor the millions of fans it already has, the deals brokered to bring the likes of Assassin’s Creed to the big screen aren’t producing anything worth watching.
Hollywood’s utter failure to adapt the source material comes at the same time that the gaming industry has never been better at understanding its own medium. That isn’t to say that gaming companies don’t also produce countless sub-par movie tie-in games, rush jobs riding the same crest of a studio-backed marketing wave, and very rarely well received by the consumer. But as technology has adapted to turn the home console into a powerful piece of hands-on storytelling, computer games have grown in scope and scale, attracting A-list talent to write and voice the storylines, and essentially shifting the action straight into the controller, affording the player the opportunity to live the story.
Assassin’s Creed doubles up on this concept; the in-movie universe is centred around the attempts of a shady corporation, taking their cues from Dan Brown, to get Michael Fassbender’s Cal Lynch re-living his past story, having put his DNA through the ringer and determined he’s the descendant of a Spanish assassin who speaks with a vague Kerry accent. Aguilar, Cal with a tan and eyeliner, was a member of a league of killers with a penchant for parkour and mysticism, attempting to keep the Apple of Eden from the grasp of Knights Templar, who want to use the genetic code hidden therein to eradicate humanity’s free will. Aguilar was the last person to get his nine grubby fingerprints on the apple, the band of killers having chopped off his finger for some undeterminable reason.
To move the plot along, contemporary Cal, on death row in Texas for killing a pimp (which doesn’t qualify for the death penalty unless, aptly, he’d been hired to do it), is administered the lethal injection, promptly dying after issuing his final words of “Tell my father I’ll see him in hell.” Waking up in Madrid, he’s now the not-a-prisoner-but-definitely-totally-their-prisoner guest of Marion Cotillard’s Sophia, a scientist with about as much passion and humanity for her research as the costume designers have for the high-street retailer Cos. She plugs Cal into the Animus, a state-the-art claw machine, which shakes him back into his past life, scrambling his brains to the point that he starts practising Pina Bausch dance moves in his not-a-cell cell, while the bland security watch on. They should have been unionising, because the Abstergo organisation’s approach to health and safety leaves a lot be desired.
Interwoven into all the pseudo-science comes some of the most boring action sequences you’ll see all year, as Fassbender’s stuntman zips and capers across the rooftops of 1492 Andalucia, a place so incoherently rendered that it might as well be the opening credits of Game of Thrones. When it all comes to an end after twists so obvious that if you don’t see them coming you’ve probably never seen a movie before, the lifeless and miserable performances seem all the more pitiable given the attempts to set up a sequel.
Verdict: ★☆☆☆☆ While its all-star cast has one-up on most computer-game movies, they are utterly wasted by a script so tiresome and episodic that you’d be better off watching the collected cut scenes from the source material on YouTube
Assassin’s Creed (12A/105mins) is released nationwide on January 1st