Throwing their not inconsiderable weight into the video game adaptation ring, the director and two leads from 2015’s Macbeth take a crack at what is surely the most thankless genre there is.
The most inherent problem with video game adapts, I feel, is that you are essentially passively watching something that you would normally be actively participating in, making even the most well meaning attempts nothing more than a 2 hour long cut scene.
Kudos to Fassbender and the gang for taking up the challenge seriously, and they give it an decent crack, but a swing and a miss is still a miss, no matter how admirable the swing is.
Bouncing between modern day, twitchy, secret society guff and spirted swashbuckling flash backs set during the Grand Inquisition, Assassin’s Creed beats a somewhat uneven tone. The present day stuff is slick but stilted and loaded almost exclusively with exposition (poor Marion Cotillard is loaded with the bulk while Fassbender looks confused and Jeremy Irons sneers) while the past, while more fun, is literally nothing but jumpy, flippy action scenes, frustratingly obscured by frenetic editing and a lot of CGI smoke (the much touted “leap of faith” stunt, while done for real, is rendered moot by too much computer generated guck to be breathtaking).
It’s all rather po faced with it’s enormously charismatic lead actors reduced to being all cryptic and glarey. Fassbender in particular goes from angry/defiant to angry/resigned and back again and if it wasn’t for the fight scenes (the man looks undeniably good stripped to the waist brandishing a bow and arrow) you wonder why he’s also a producer when there’s so little dramatically for him to do.
The plot involves taking Fassbender’s executed ex con and plugging him into a memory machine in order to find out what his badass assassin ancestor did with “The Apple”, a mysterious macguffin that can unlock the genetic code to violence and therefore snuff it out by removing free will (or something).
The film makers strive to give gamers numerous nods to the original game (most of which went over my head. The Eagle’s relevant, right?) and the whole thing isn’t awful at all, it’s just insubstantial and feels like a missed opportunity to finally do something different with the genre.
As it stands, it’s nowhere near the worst this maligned type of film has to offer (that’s a Hell of a list) but saying it’s one of the best isn’t saying all that much either.