The early buzz for Assassin’s Creed wasn’t exactly inspiring. The video game adaptation was called “convoluted hokum” and “peculiar, arrestingly uninviting nonsense,” which is the consensus among film critics. Over the holiday season, we’ll see how audiences respond to Justin Kurzel‘s film — a mostly distancing experience from start to finish.
Below, let us know what you think of Assassin’s Creed, but beware of spoilers from here on out.
Assassin’s Creed is busy and overstuffed. The first 20 minutes rush from one expository scene to the next, explaining the fight between assassins and templars, how the Animus works, and the “apple” Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) needs to find by reliving the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, who’s in 15th Century Spain.
We learn so little about Cal in Assassin’s Creed. He’s aggressive, as he points out, and doesn’t have the best sense of humor. We explore the world with a character we hardly know. By the time the Kurzel and the screenwriters try to give Cal some substance, some arc — What kind of man am I? — it’s last-minute. The movie is too busy setting up the stakes and the world that Lynch gets left out to dry.
Marion Cotillard has a more substantial role as Rikkin’s (Jeremy Irons) brilliant daughter, Sofia, who wants to cure the world of violence. Cotillard brings the most emotion and interior life to her role. Not only is Sofia the one character with a genuine, lifelike personality, but she also faces real conflicts, and her story goes somewhere, although she does get shortchanged by the script thanks to a muddled and underwhelming ending.
The cutting back and forth between present day and the 15th Century is a problem, especially during the action. There are some elegantly choreographed fight scenes with the assassins disrupted by cuts to the present day, where Sofia watches Cal reliving the memories. It’s frustrating because it doesn’t even seem necessary to cut so much to the present day. It’s established — many times — what’s happening with Cal’s body in the present, so why do have to see what it looks like when he crawls up a wall when he’s hooked up to the Animus?
The scenes in Spain are beautifully photographed by Adam Arkapaw (True Detective). When Jed Kurzel‘s memorable score starts and the camera flies over Spain, it’s impressive from a technical perspective, but it doesn’t grab the audience like it should. Assassin’s Creed is a cold movie with equally emotionless action. The set pieces are never truly thrilling because nobody we care about or fully understand is ever in danger. In a film where free will is what’s at stake, there should be much more humanity, danger, and excitement on display.
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