Assassin’s Creed

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Release date: 1st January 2017/Watch the trailer here

It’s no secret that Hollywood doesn’t have a great history when it comes to making movies based on video games, but there was hope that Assassin’s Creed might have been the film to finally break the curse. After all, it had the director of 2015’s Macbeth, Justin Kurzel, behind the camera, as well as Macbeth‘s two lead actors, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, in front of it. Unfortunately though, it would appear that a talented cast and director still aren’t enough to save a truly terrible script.

Fassbender plays convict Callum Lynch, who after being ‘executed’ for murder awakens to find himself in Madrid under the care of Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard). Sofia informs him that the organisation she works for wants to use the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar, to find the Apple of Eden in fifteenth-century Spain. Through a piece of machinery called the Animus – a strange sort of mechanical arm that Callum is strapped into – he relives Aguilar’s memories and in the process discovers that his ancestors were part of a secret order known as the Assassin’s Brotherhood.

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It’s every bit as far-fetched as it sounds, but with a decent script it could have worked. As it happens, however, the screenplay (by the talented writers of beloved classics such as Tower HeistExodusThe Transporter Refuelled, and Allegiant) is a complete and utter nonsensical mess that makes no attempt to explain the plot or the motivations of any of its characters. Each actor is assigned to the role of either Plot Device Character, Expositional Character, or Villain. Half of them don’t even get a name, let alone a personality.

The best moments of Assassin’s Creed take place inside the Animus, where everyone is talking Spanish anyway, so the script doesn’t seem quite as stupid when you only have to read it via the subtitles. Visually, these moments are stunning, and a welcome change of pace from the oppressively bleak feel of the rest of the film, while the action is exciting and well-choreographed. These are clearly the high points of the film, above and beyond the rest of it, which makes the decision to spend so little time within the Animus so puzzling.

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Eventually, it appears that even the writers grew bored with things, as there’s a sudden rush to wrap the film up in the space of fifteen minutes. This means that actions that feel as though they needed an entire scene to explain how they came about are instead given all of thirty seconds, and any hint at character development (for Cotillard in particular) is confusingly discarded. Perhaps these were things that the writers hoped could be explained more fully in a sequel, but if the current box office figures are anything to go by, a sequel isn’t looking likely. It’s probably for the best: the video game movie curse remains unbroken for now.

★★

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