Kurt Loder Movie Reviews

Movie Review: Assassin's Creed

Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in another terrible video-game flick.

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Assassin's Creed
Twentieth Century Fox

Assassin's Creed is a movie of sprawling awfulness, and you might initially to wonder why. The story, a gaudy concoction of time-travel exotica derived from a long-popular video game, would seem to have strong sci-fi-fantasy potential; and the expensive cast includes two Oscar-winners and two Oscar nominees. So what went wrong?

Everything. The movie is incoherent both narratively and visually—not a winning combination. After some introductory silliness about the Spanish Inquisition circa 1492, and an Islamic sect called the Assassins (Burroughs alert!), and a search by the Christian Knights Templar for a mysterious Apple of Eden ("The Apple is everything!" they seem to feel), we are suddenly winged away to 1986 Baja California. Here we see a kid coming home to find his mother dead. He notices a monk-like man in a medieval-style cloak standing by a window. "Dad?" he says.

Cut. Thirty years later, the kid—Cal Lynch, his name is—has grown up to become a frequently shirtless Michael Fassbender, and he's about to be executed for murdering somebody. The needle is jabbed home, but Cal doesn't die. Instead, he wakes up in a sleek medical suite where a glum woman named Sofia (Marion Cotillard) welcomes him to Abstergo Industries, which is run by her father, Rikkin (Jeremy Irons). Abstergo is a modern-day front for the Knights Templar, who are now more intent than ever on finding the Apple of Eden, which they believe will provide a cure for violence. "The Apple is within our grasp," says Sofia. "I have to report to the Elders," says Rikkin. "What the fuck is goin' on?" Cal wonders.

Since the Apple is still stuck in the 15th century, Cal has been selected to be hurled back there by a formidable dude-hurling machine called an Animus. Upon arrival, he will be inhabiting the body of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, an Assassin warrior who does a lot of running around and roof-jumping, and who might have a line on the Apple. The Assassins believe the Apple contains "the genetic code for free will," something of which the Knights Templar appear to disapprove. I've just wasted precious seconds of your time even mentioning this nonsense.

Director Justin Kurzel, who also teamed Fassbender and Cotillard in last year's bloody rendition of Macbeth, has doubled down on this story's inscrutability by shooting much of the movie through a bronzy scrim of smoke and haze, not always for any good reason. He also leaps back and forth between time frames in a way that ensures maximum annoyance. And he naturally has to take the fall for the movie's clunky pace, as well.

Kurzell's writers might have had a slightly more instructive entertainment in mind: among the historical figures they march through the picture's proceedings are Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella and the Grand Inquisitor Torquemada. But the insertion of these characters is pointless embroidery on the movie's rampant plot confusion. especially when we're already puzzled enough by the mini-casting of Charlotte Rampling as some sort of Templar bigwig, and an out-of-nowhere appearance by Brendan Gleeson as Cal/Aguilar's long-lost dad.

January is the traditional release graveyard for movies like this—movies being frankly abandoned to box-office defeat. Who thought we shouldn't have to wait for this one?

NEXT: (1) Immigration from countries where jihadist sympathy is high; (2) Turkey and the E.U.

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  1. Yes but have you played the game? It’s obviously catered towards fans so they should be the ultimate judge of it being a success or a travesty. I didn’t think the Warcraft film was all that but it was still loved by legions of gamers (the ones who are bad at PVP). The Assassins Creed games themselves play out like a series of movie’s, so If I had to guess I would say you’re probably right and it’s going to be a let down for everyone involved.

    1. I think if you have to play a game to appreciate a movie, the movie has failed….

      1. What a *quaint* mindset, KL!

    2. Nope. ‘Its obviously catered towards fans’ is just an excuse to cover up a cash grab. Which all videogame movies are. Which is why they are all shite.

      The Warcraft film was as hated by as many ‘legions of gamers’ as loved it. Some people have no taste and are simply happy that something with their favorite title has been produced – which is why AC games keep getting sequels – doesn’t make it a good movie, just makes it one where some people are willing to overlook its serious flaws.

  2. “People ask me why I’m playing in this picture, the answer is simple. Money, dear boy.”
    – Laurence Olivier

  3. Seems to me that all of the things you hate about the movie are the way the game actually played. So… *shrug*

    1. And when you spend several gameplay hours inside each section that works – when you’re only spending a few minutes, jumping back and forth, it doesn’t work.

  4. I can see both sides…. but the best way to make money on a movie is to make it accessible and compelling to EVERYONE and not just the core, niche audience that geeked it to popularity in the first place….

    1. Yeah, this is completely wrong.

      The only reason someone’s making a VG movie is because the game is insanely popular. You want to cash in on that popularity.

      Most VG movies fail because they try to “make it accessible and compelling to EVERYONE and not just the core, niche audience that geeked it to popularity in the first place”

      The core, niche audience that geeked it to popularity in the first place….is the same core, niche audience that created the buzz around the idea, and the buzz over each trailer and viral marketing scheme. Long before the movie comes out that core, niche audience has created legions of new fans, introduced many people to the games, and are anxiously awaiting the release.

      Only to find that some Hollywood moron decided that the movie had to be “accessible” to people who DON’T like the game.

      And was thereby ruined.

  5. I played one of the early AC games years ago. All I remember is that I don’t like the stealthy assassin games and jumping off the top of churches into wagons of hay 300 feet below and yelling “WHEE”.

    1. My son playing Hitman:

      Sneaks halfway through mission. Gets bored. Pulls out guns and murders everyone.

      1. Or, decides not to play.

        1. Yeah, like that would ever happen.

        2. Shit man – they *never* decide not to play.

          The other day I was reading a forum post by a dude seriously looking for help so he could enjoy playing FO4 on Survival. He had played through it once already on a lower difficulty and ‘it was all right’ but was getting frustrated with some of the stuff that Survival requires – if you’re not into that sort of gameplay it gets real tedious.

          Apparently ‘I just don’t like this game much and should probably go do something else’ never entered his mind.

      2. See, I’d complain about this, but my favourite method is putting rat poison into target’s drinks and then drowning them in the toilet when they go to throw up. Which may say something about me.

  6. I’ve just wasted precious seconds of your time even mentioning this nonsense.

    Indeed. Un Chien Andalou is a paragon of clarity by comparison.

  7. Umm the Assassins in Assassin’s Creed aren’t Islamic, unless that’s one of the things they ruined from the game.

    I don’t understand why Hollywood always tries to put its stamp on video game movies. The video games are copying Hollywood, stop trying to one up yourselves!

    1. In the first game the assassin order is the hashashin, a historical, Islamic group of assassins. In all subsequent games the group is untethered from any historical trappings and their ideology if anything is anti-religious, but I can see where the scriptwriters are coming from.

      1. I barely remember AC1 any more but you and KL are right, I forgot!

    2. The historical Assassins were an Islamic sect….

    3. This was a video game company trying to put its stamp on Hollywood.

      Ultimately, the point is to boost game sales, which I’ve read it has. Though this is the one year of this decade where there is not a new AC game, which is very odd timing.

    4. sooo stop the mutual masturbation? never gonna happen, unless the pivot man drops out of the circle jerk…

  8. Do they just go for a genetic fantasy framework about a mythical object, or do they keep all the random philosophizing about religion from the first game? The whole premise of the Assassin’s Creeds games is that the Abrahamic faiths are complete falsehoods used to control people. They’ve toned it down since the games have become more popular and mass-produced(bare-knuckle boxing the Pope aside), but the first game is really blatant about it. Hence why the games always had that “This game is made by a diverse set of developers” statement at the start, which is really just “please don’t make a controversy over this and/or blow us up.”

    1. This game is made by a diverse set of developers, except when it comes to shitting on religion in general, then they are a monolith.

      FTFY.

    2. Also, assuming Loder’s accurately portraying the plot as described in the film, the writers fucked up a couple pretty big parts of the plot. First, the Animus doesn’t actually send anyone back in time, it lets them relive the “genetic memories” of their ancestors (and, later in the series, of anyone whose genetic material can be acquired). Second, that matters because the point of the exercise is that Abstergo is trying to find the Apple of Eden in modern times, the Assassin’s having recovered and hidden it. Third, the Apple doesn’t contain genetic information per se; it’s a powerful artifact–think Ark of the Covenant–that can be used to do things like take control of other people’s bodies, cause them to see and hear things that aren’t there, see through time, all sorts of stuff.

      I’m trying to be vague in case anyone hasn’t played the series–and you should, it’s fun and the plot is actually pretty solid for the first several games.

      1. I think you’re right about the “genetic memories” and the location of the Apple — sorry/thanks. Even with this info slotted in, though, the movie is still unusually bad.

  9. They should have taken the hint from the far greater success and popularity of AC2, and had Fassbender portray Ezio Auditore instead of some rando Assassin.

  10. I really think that movie to video game renditions don’t need to happen. Games are already their own great thing, I don’t understand the urge towards taking this interactive medium and making it into a movie.

  11. After some introductory silliness about the Spanish Inquisition circa 1492

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WJXHY2OXGE

  12. January is the traditional release graveyard for movies like this
    Fuck you it’s January! Year!

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  16. I really think that movie to video game renditions don’t need to happen. Games are already their own great thing, I don’t understand the urge towards taking this interactive medium and making it into a movie.

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