Well, 2016 is well and truly over and 2017 has begun. With the vast majority of potential Academy Awards nominated films beginning to hit U.K. cinemas in January, I thought it was wise in my 20-year-old naive mind that this year’s video-game adapted movie Assassin’s Creed would be the best way to begin the year…
It’s fair to say that attempting to adapt a video-game franchise to the big screen is a daunting task for any director working in film today. The track record so far for game adaptations have been far from what fans have wanted, but nonetheless, Justin Kurzel took on the mantle of bringing the globally acclaimed Assassin’s Creed franchise to cinemas, and whilst we acknowledge the risk in doing so, we can’t help but feel it’s not that good…
If you’re familiar with the gaming franchise you’d know the Assassin’s Creed formula: an individual gets placed inside the animus, a device capable of allowing you to live the life of an ancient ancestor, in order to find the whereabouts of ‘the Apple of Eden’. Both the Assassin’s Brotherhood and the Ancient Templars battle against one another in a race to find the ancient artefact, with the Assassin’s hoping to hide it in order to prevent humanity from desolation. Kurzel, despite a few minor tweaks, conforms to this formula, only this time they seek ‘the Apple’ to potentially cure violence, something very similar to Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange.
Where Kurzel does deviate from the source material is his choice of protagonist, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender). Lynch, a prisoner sent to death after committing murder, is ‘resurrected’ by the Templars for his ancient heritage, with his ancestor bearing the location of the sought-out artefact. Fassbender, despite attempts to salvage the movie, provides a hyperbolic performance; one that unfortunately doesn’t live up to his previous accomplishments in roles such as Steve Jobs in, you guessed it, Steve Jobs, and Archie Hicox in Inglourious Basterds.
Where the problems for this movie lie is that Kurzel can’t decide how to handle the source material. An unfamiliarity with the gaming franchise will leave you completely confused due to its complex nature, yet a familiarity with the source material will leave you wonder why a series of games are condensed down to a mere 2-hour long movie. The hard truth is that there’s so much information and lore to delve into that the movie becomes a convoluted mess. The script becomes too heavy, and instead of trusting the audience into keeping up-to-date with all the new information, the dialogue is rich in forced exposition and uncanny exchanges between characters. It’s at times like these that you think a television series approach would be more effective, allowing audiences to gradually understand the lore over a ten episode span.
When you think ‘Assassin’s Creed’, you think kick-ass fight sequences with over the top choreography. The movie, I’d argue, does adhere to this style, it just isn’t executed well enough. Each battle contains a series of cuts of rapid-fire motion presented through an absurd amount of shaky cam, leaving the events unfolding on screen to be completely intolerable. The fact that they use techniques such as shaky cam and rapid-cuts isn’t necessarily the problem, as directors such as Paul Greengrass have shown in movies such as The Bourne Identity, it’s when they are employed in a manner that is unwatchable it results in an immediate loss of interest by the viewer.
With that being said, it’s by far not the worst video-game adaptation that has been developed for the big screen. There’s undeniably a sense of promise for the franchise, we know Fassbender can do better and we also know that the source material has promise in regards to potential plot lines. As a generally obvious statement, you’re going to enjoy this movie more if you’re familiar with the gaming franchise as opposed to never playing the games before.
Promising, but also disappointing.