Assassin's Creed (2D)
Cert: 12A / 115 mins / Dir. Justin Kurzel / Trailer
Imagine, if you will, a video game where levels are about four-to-six minutes long, and each one is punctuated with a thirty-minute interlude of plot-exposition and needless padding. I've only played through one Assassin's Creed game, but I don't remember it being like that*1...
Attempting to adapt a massively successful game-series for the big screen is Justin Kurzel, crouched in the wings as his cast stand around in a circle watching Michael Fassbender remembering things that didn't happen to him. I don't really need to explain more as a) if you don't know the premise to begin with you're unlikely to be watching the film, and b) the film spends most of its time explaining things which make no sense, anyway. Oh, this takes itself far too seriously.
The problem, once more, is that game-logic is not film logic. While players are willing to sit through overly-long introductions and training sequences in anticipation of unleashing carnage with a controller, the same patience doesn't apply when you're only waiting to watch someone else playing the game.
When we do finally get to the action, the implementation of shakycam, fast-cut editing and smoke machines (no, seriously) serve as a cover for freerunning stunt-doubles and the violence (in a film about murderers, remember) being nerfed down to 12A-compliant levels*2. Threading through the film is the un-subtle suggestion that the harmless expression of pent-up violence is a good thing, and that attempts to subdue that are akin to the forced removal of free will. That idea would be bollocks enough on its own, but in a film which is basically an advert for a gaming-franchise, it's nothing short of shameful.
For all the great lengthsAssassin's Creed goes to in showing us the Animus simulation software and hardware, it's never quite explained why all this is needed when a hypnotherapist could do the same job (because you either believe in past-life regression or you don't)? Indeed, the main plot-mechanisms here are a macguffin that Dan Brown would have discarded unused, and a thing called ‘genetic memory’, the narrative equivalent of homeopathy. Michael Fassbender grumbles his way through the script with minimal dialogue*3, Marion Cotillard stumbles awkwardly through her part, and Jeremy Irons just sucks the whole thing up and Thinks Of The Money, with the practiced ease that his co-stars have yet to master.
Justin Kurzel's film is certainly ambitious, but ambition's not enough. Although for all my grumbling, I didn't detest the movie as much as some, and I've certainly seen far worse game-adaptations in the last twelve months.
In gaming-parlance, Assassin's Creed is a literally two-hour cutscene. In cinematic parlance, it's a two-hour trailer for a game.
Best two lines of dialogue in the movie:
Fassbender: ...what the fuck's going on?
Cotillard: ...this is wrong.
Oh, probably Hitman, or something.
Well you'll be used to watching the game through your telly, so...
I hope not.
That would depend on the specifics of our disagreement...
Level 1: This movie features Rufus 'Lt. Casido from off of Rogue One' Wright.
*1 But the fact that I only played through one would suggest that maybe I'm not the target audience, admittedly.
*2 It's perhaps interesting to note that the games in the series are mostly rated 15, yet it's okay for 12yr olds to watch characters bloodlessly killing each other. Okay, then.
*3 Although one thing this film does do brilliantly is casting Brendan Gleeson as Fassbender's father. When we hear his soft Dublin tones in the second act, it suddenly makes perfect sense that his screen-son's American accent should be skittering about like Bambi, pissed on an ice-rink...
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
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