I’m a gamer. I have played most of the Assassin’s Creed games and I have enjoyed most of them. The world that the games built is impressive. It features two shadow organizations that have spanned through the ages. Each looking for The Apple of Eden for their own gains to enslave or set free humanity. It is a convoluted story that, even after playing through the games remains ambiguous.
Now, we have the movie. A video game movie. I have to say that the talent tied to this video game movie gave me high hopes. Some serious, dramatic heavy-hitters make an appearance in this one, it made me think that they would be able to reverse the bad video game movie curse. I mean the Cubs won! Anything was up for grabs this year.
We first meet Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) as a child. He watches his mother murdered. His father looks to be the one guilty of the homicide and tells young Cal to live in the shadows and to go into hiding. Flash-forward to Cal as an adult, imprisoned and on death row. When he is “executed,” he wakes in another prison, called “Abstergo,” to Sofia (Marion Cotillard).
Sofia fills Cal in on a heaping ton of exposition. She tells him about The Templars and The Assassins, two groups who have feuded with each other for years. Through the use of a device called the Animus, Abstergo is able to search ancestor memories for historical relics. Think of it like being able to read your ancestors DNA memory as their experiences unfold in real-time.
Once Cal is connected to The Animus, he is transported into his ancestors memories and era. He begins to seek out The Apple of Eden while in the Animus and finds out more about Abstergo while he is outside of it.
Like I said, this movie is filled with exposition. There is actually a scene where there is exposition injected into more exposition. This is all in order to shove a few games worth of knowledge into a two-hour film. The first act is painful due to the weight of over explanation. It also made me realize how confusing ‘Assassin’s Creed’ will be to the non-gamer.
The best bits of the film are in its action and stunts. While in the Animus, Cal becomes one with his ancestor Aguilar and teams up with a group of Assassins. These scenes are filled with insane stunts that bridge together martial arts and parkour. They are also an exact mirror of big set pieces from the games. Running on clotheslines, weaponry and every piece of production design (down to bird poop and doves at ledge grapple points) are all in place. These scenes are full of big action and are the high mark for the film as a whole.
Once Cal is pulled from the Animus he enters the bleak, wordy-world of Abstergo again. This is a hard thing to watch become unstitched with Fassbender, Cotillard, Irons Gleeson and Rampling all putting themselves into various roles. The film has brief moments of levity that are doused by the before mentioned exposition.
High hopes have been extinguished. I’m willing to bet that any hopes of a sequel are out of the question. Sad too, this film had such a hard time telling a convoluted plot; that it would have been able to be its own narrative in a sequel. The cast or director were unable to stop the curse of video game movie. For now, this remains quite the task. If anything at least we get some pretty cool action and an attempt to take the video game movie genre seriously.