Certificate: 12 A
Runtime: 116 minutes
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K Williams
(Movie House City Side Press Screening 21/12/2016)
Career criminal Callum Lynch is rescued from his own execution by Abstergo Industries, the modern-day incarnation of the Templar Order. He is forced to participate in the Animus Project and relive the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, an Assassin in the time of the Spanish Inquisition. As Lynch continues to experience Aguilar’s memories, he begins to gain the knowledge and skills necessary to confront the Templars—age-old enemies of the Assassins—in the present day.
When a movie opens with a fake bird soaring over a fake skyline, something tells you, subconsciously or not you’re watching a movie: allow me to elaborate, when you realise you’re watching a movie, your time is being wasted because you aren’t being immersed and in its purest form that’s what cinema is supposed to do! Instead you’re sitting in a movie theatre fully conscious of that awful popcorn smell and realising you’re watching a stupid CGI eagle fly over a CGI skyline.
Poorly done computer effects are the scourge of the modern blockbuster, but there is something even more sinister at work within this film: those involved don’t have a clue what a good story looks like or how to tell one. Considering the talented people who have their names attached to this feature it’s astonishing to think that no one stopped and said: “This movie doesn’t make a lick of sense!”. Some of the high-calibre producers in this include Frank Marshall and Arnon Milchan, who’ve produced everything from Indiana Jones (Marshall) to LA Confidential and 12 Years a Slave (Milchan). The scary prospect is that neither of these guys really have any clue what is going on and they are simply reaffirming William Goldman’s maxim.
Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.
Except I don’t believe that: the real power lies with the director and the screen-writer and even if you get that right, you’re not guaranteed it will work but at the very least, you know effort will have gone into it. Sure a studio and producers can meddle, but if you have a solid story and a director who not only understands the story but knows how to tell it, then that’s half the battle.
The plot (lol) tells the story of Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), a convict saved from execution (for killing a pimp or someone worse than him so you know, we can root for him) by a shady corporation who are basically a cover for the Templar Order (the ‘bad’ guys). The Templars force Lynch to participate in the Animus project and this is the film’s hook. The Animus project enables Lynch to relive the memories of his ancestor Aguliar De Nerha, a member of the Assassin’s Creed (the ‘good’ guys) who killed a bunch of people during the Spanish Inquisition.
The Creed are attempting to stop the Templars from getting their hands on the Apple of Eden, a device that eradicates free will. If like me you think that sounds insanely stupid then don’t worry because several well respected actors will repeatedly show up throughout this movie and utter nonsensical dialogue in an attempt to express the seriousness of the situation, even if they sound really stupid doing it.
Seriously though, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Marion Cotillard and even Charlotte Rampling show up throughout this movie uttering utterly atrocious and stupid dialogue. Some of these people are Oscar winners and it begs the question, can any of them actually read? Because if they can, why would they do this movie? A cynical person would say money, but surely they have to care a little bit about their credibility?
Stupidity can be forgiven if it’s self-aware or even if it’s well done stupidity (Con Air comes to mind) but Assassin’s Creed takes itself far too seriously to be self-aware and the script is just too muddled and nonsensical. By the end you’ll be left utterly perplexed and confuddled with no idea what’s going on and what the Apple of Eden is supposed to do! It’s the dumbest McGuffin I’ve ever come across and McGuffins are kind of silly anyway but it does make you look back fondly on the Crystal Skull from Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull.
The action looks false and like so many modern action movies it suffers from an inability to stage an action scene. It’s hard to know what’s going at the best of times and when you do, you simply don’t care. If you do still care, the film’s numerous plot-holes will surely break what little patience you have left: why does a high tech corporation hire security guards to look after descendants of dangerous assassins and not give the security guards guns? Why does the same corporation also leave dangerous and pointy weapons lying around for some reason?
Fassbender is probably the finest actor working today but like any actor, he needs good direction and he simply doesn’t get it here. The director Justin Kurzel (best known for his adaptation of Macbeth also starring Fassbender) doesn’t have a grip on the character or the story and it shows. A scene with Fassbender laughing manically at the preposterousness of his situation is the best example of this. It’s simply out of place in the movie and Fassbender really goes for it but you just feel bad for him, the actor, rather than the character. He looks really dumb in it and it’s painful to watch a genuinely great actor in such a mess of a performance and a movie. To add insult to injury, this is Fassbender’s first movie as a producer under his DMC Film production banner. He was in on this too and if this script got past him and his people, he needs to hire better people. And he possibly needs to take a break for a while.
Assassin’s Creed is a depressingly bad movie. It doesn’t even fall into the so bad it’s good territory. It’s just plain bad. Don’t waste your money on this. If you want a good action film that not enough people went to see, watch Guy Ritchie’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E. It knows exactly what it is. Plus Guy Ritchie knows how to direct an action scene.