In a genre where very few films actually succeed, it seems like Assassin’s Creed may have found a way to push all the right buttons.
Dating back to Super Mario Brothers, video game adaptations have never had a very good reputation in Hollywood. In fact, you can probably count the amount of successful adaptations on one hand. Well, maybe you can, since I can’t really think of many to begin with. Which is the Michael Fassbender led Assassin’s Creed may end up being the best video game adaptation in the history of film, primarily by default. With a cast including Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, and several other more than capable actors, the seeds of success were definitely planted from the start.
Assassin’s Creed follows a story that is primarily similar to that of the video game series. The movie is actually within the same universe as the video games, the only difference is the characters are all original and it expands on the actual mythology of the video games. As a child, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) stumbles upon his mother’s lifeless body, with his father standing beside her in a robe with a knife in his hand. In that moment, the house is invaded by a bunch of masked assailants and Callum runs away from his house.
Years later, Callum is sitting in a prison cell, awaiting his execution for committing a murder. Only the execution doesn’t take, as Callum wakes up in a hospital room. Standing over him, Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) let’s Callum know that he was rescued by the Abstergo Foundation, the modern-day incarnation of the Templar Order. Sophia wants to let Callum get settled in to the foundation before running tests on him, but her father and CEO of Abstergo Industries, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons), wants none of that. He takes Callum and forces him into the Animus project, which allows Callum to re-live the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha during 15th century Spain.
Callum discovers that his ancestry has ties to the Assassin’s, who are battling in an on-going war with the Templar Order. Alan’s reasoning for wanting Callum? Since Alan believes it was Aguilar who last had possession of the Apple of Eden, an item that Alan believes will bring about peace throughout the world and end all war and hatred that may exist with the idea of free will.
Heading into Assassin’s Creed, I knew little to nothing about the mythology and the lore of the universe as I never played any of the games before. But it’s safe to say that without having any prior knowledge to the universe, director Justin Kurzel is able to create a smooth film that doesn’t delve too much into the exposition of the universe. Instead, Kurzel does an impressive job on showing what’s going on in the universe, both in the past and the present areas of the movie.
But what puts Assassin’s Creed on a different level compared to any other video game adaptation is the acting. Bringing in a cast of this caliber is only one part of the equation, but the fact that they all bring their A-game will help put Assassin’s Creed on top as the best video game adaptation to date. Does the mean the movie is perfect? Not at all. As someone who just started playing the first game a couple of days after watching the movie, I only began to understand some of the visual choices and cues that Kerzel decided to go with. Those unfamiliar with the franchise may find those moments odd, but luckily they’re few and far between.
Where Assassin’s Creed also falters is providing a quality third act. Throughout most of the film, we’re provided with an overall good film that slowly was building up to a pretty climactic finale. Only it never feels like the buildup really got to reach its peak moment. Maybe there was something cut from the film previously or Kurzel and his crew couldn’t think of a better way to end it, but the last 15 minutes really were disappointing. There was so much more that could’ve been done, but it ended with a whimper. That being said, the way Kurzel handled war between the Assassin’s and the Templars for most of the movie provided an intriguing story that is worth delving into for multiple movies. Hopefully, others see it that way as well.
Assassin’s Creed is directed by Justin Kurzel, written by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage, and stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brandan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael K. Williams. Assassin’s Creed will be in theaters December 21, 2016.