Anyone who’s frequented this blog knows I’m totally on the Assassin’s Creed bandwagon, so I was pretty stoked when it was announced that there’d be an Assassn’s Creed movie and that Michael Fassbender would be part of it.
But I also know better than to get my hopes up too high when it comes to video game movies (damn you, Super Mario Brothers!).
Still, I had cautious optimism after seeing some of the trailers:
Sadly, the movie failed to even reach my very low bar.
The movie starts off awkward, with a young Cal Lynch (Fassbender’s modern character) finding his mom dead and his dad hooded and wearing a hidden blade. Templars come and young Cal escapes (somehow). The very next scene is adult Cal Lynch about to get lethal injection. It’s a weird jump and we don’t even find out why Lynch was on death row until like halfway through the film. And it’s a throwaway line at best.
The Templars via Abstergo “rescue” Lynch after he “died” and bring them to their research facility to toss him into the Animus. They want him to help them find the Apple of Eden so they can “eliminate violence” (in reality, they want to control man’s free will).
The “historical” part of the plot is simple. The Templars know the Apple of Eden is in Granada and look to steal it back. The Assassins must stop them. That’s basically it. It’s pretty straight forward.
Back to the Animus. The whole thing is… a thing. It looks nothing like the games. In the games you just sit down and get plugged in and off you go into your ancestor’s memories. Doesn’t make for thrilling watching, so the changes they made, I understand.
However, they don’t even explain what the Animus is or what it does until later on in the movie. The filmmakers are either expecting only Assassin’s Creed fans to watch the movie or… I have no idea. Poor writing?
The film also does a ton of cutting back and forth between Cal in the Animus and what he’s experience in his memories. I get they wanted to show off the Animus tech in action, but it’s really distracting to jump back and forth. I would’ve preferred them to go with the game version of the Animus and we just stay in the historical memories. None of this cutting back and forth stuff.
Sadly, every scene in 15th Century Spain is difficult to watch.
All those cool promotional images isn’t what the film looks like. Instead of “bright and bold” colors like this:
We get an overlay of brown and orange haze. Dust, dirt and smoke screen almost everything that happens in the historical parts of the movie, especially the fight scenes that are pretty much unwatchable. Minus a few cool clips, you can barely see what’s happening in the fights.
There’s also more to the modern day portion of the movie’s plot, and lots of plot holes and questions like “Why did Abstergo give their Assassin prisoner hidden blades when they plug him into the Animus? Why do they keep so many Assassin weapons in easy to reach places?” etc. But it’s too much of a headache to go more into it.
One of the strengths of the Assassin’s Creed franchise has been that they do a pretty solid job at illustrating history. It’s not perfect and I never would expect a video game to be 100% spot on, but it’s close enough to give a good sense of what life was like, how people dressed, and what the major political/social incidents were of the time.
Alas, we never got any of that in the movie. We never learn about the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, the Granada War, or the end of the Reconquista. Those things appear in the movie but only barely. Really, they could’ve made the movie in any time setting and the plot wouldn’t have changed.
What I did learn was apparently Spain was dusty all the time. Dust, dirt & smoke in the air 24/7, so you could barely see anything. Also, apparently everyone had face tattoos in 1492 — even Isabella I of Castile.
As a fan of history and the franchise, it was disappointing to see the history be such an afterthought.
There were some good things about the movie.
- The “bleeding” effect where Fassbender’s modern day character has visions of Aguilar when he’s outside the animus was pretty cool.
- The major “escape from the Inquisition” scene was pretty well done. It was such a long run, fight and parkour scene that I felt exhausted just watching it. The Assassin’s didn’t even break a sweat — amazingly.
- Also, the CGI eagle we see between the “chapters” gave us some really nice panorama views of super dusty Spain. That CGI eagle was the unsung hero of the film.
Yea… that’s about it, really.
Overall, Assassin’s Creed movie is joyless and flat. I never got the real sense of adventure or excitement that I was dying for. It was just a string of action scenes loosely sewn together — which would’ve been fine if we could’ve seen any of the actual fight work and choreography.
TL;DR version: The movie is meh at best. If you want to watch really good Assassin’s Creed stories, just watch someone play one of their games on Twitch for two hours.