Assassin’s Creed came out in 2016 and was hoped to be the film that showed that big screen adaptations of games were possible. It sounded like it was going about things the right way with telling an original story set in the Assassin’s Creed universe, this way they could avoid potential clashes with the games themselves, Michael Fassbender one of Hollywood’s top A-Lister signed on to play the main lead and Marion Cottillard the female lead. Things all looked good for Assassin’s Creed until the reviews came in and cinema goers eventually voted with their wallets. The film was relatively speaking unsuccessful. As such despite being a big Assassin’s Creed fan, having played each console game since release I too decided that it was a film I could miss. Fast forward a couple of years later and Assassin’s Creed is on a high, the reboot of the series mechanics in AC Origins got much applause from critics and fans alike and fans are eagerly anticipating a similar iteration this fall set in ancient Greece. (Ancient Egypt and Greece are two of my favourite historical periods funnily enough, alongside the roman empire).
I have just finished playing AC Origins, it took me time as its such a huge game and alongside work was difficult to play in just 60-minute chunks each night, so I waited until the days I could spend 6 hours playing at a time, wait and repeat. Therefore, when I noticed that Assassin’s Creed 2016 was available on my TV providers cinema service and in Ultra High Definition no less, I decided to take the plunge and see how bad this film really was.
I do not know what people were talking about……………
It’s a thoroughly enjoyable film in my personal opinion. Yes, it has its problems in places and we’ll get to those but in terms of enjoyment it was good. So on with the details of why I have come to this conclusion.
Michael Fassbender is a good actor and he does no harm to himself in this film. He suitably plays a troubled man who ends up as a lab rat for Abstergo and its hunt for the Apple of Eden (Assassin’s Creed’s ‘magic’ items used to control mass populations). At first, he is reluctant to help and quickly descends into what he perceives as madness when he starts having visions of his ancestors when not in the memory reliving machine that is the Animus. In these moments Fassbender shows his talents to be both serious, daft and at times scary. This is made even more impressive by his performance as the spanish assassin Aguilar. Fassbender speaks fluent Spanish to really sell this character, and despite his accent it works. His physical prowess is also put on show in superbly choreographed fight sequences, interspersed with cuts back to his current day character performing the fights but without the weapons at hands.
I think this is worth praise as it shows how well Fassbender must have learned his choreography to be able to repeat it without the objects themselves to hand and it comes away as nothing short of impressive.
I was surprised to learn that Jeremy Irons was in the film and while he is not given a lot to do as fictional head of Abstergo ‘Alan Rikkin, what eh does he does well. Sure much of it is standing still watching through windows as his daughter proceeds with the animus project or watching monitors of the same thing but it comes across well as a director keeping a close eye on what is going on around him. He comes across as equally creepy and calculating. You can almost see the gears turning in his head as he ponders his next move in order to gain the Apple of Eden. We are introduced to this character being told he stole his daughter’s speech at a recent conference, to which he replies ‘I only steal from the best’. It is both a rare touching moment of what appears to be genuine respect for his daughter (played by Marion Cottillard) and all she has grown to be but also shows he is not above using those closest to him to achieve the agenda’s set by his superiors within the Templar Order (Assassin’s Creed’s bad guys).
One scene did stand out as uncomfortable however and it is the same scene as mentioned regarding the speech. The touching moment of respect quickly closes in distance between Cotillard and Irons and could somewhat be read as an attraction from him to her that is not paternal but more romantic. I’m sure it is not meant this way but that’s how it came across to me and that made me feel unpleasant, perhaps this is an unexpected bonus however as it further shows that his character has more going on behind those eyes.
Cotillard gives a good performance of a cold and manipulative project lead for the animus program ‘Sofia Rikkin’. She clearly manipulates Fassbender’s character into getting what she wants as we are left to see that she has no intention of keeping her words regarding his freedom after the apple is retrieved. There is a part side story that is to her detriment that seems to imply her deceased mother was an assassin killed by her father and it plays into the films finale but then seems to be forgotten as she swears fealty to the Templar order anyway. The film did not need that but never mind.
This brings me to my final couple of gripes with the film. The CGI is not great, its clear that while they gave the film a good budget of $125m (to which it made back just over double in the box office) it must have been spent by the time it came to recreating war torn 15th century Spain. Smoke fills the air most of the time but this just seems a way to hide visuals they could not create, and while free running sequences are great the background architecture often lets the scenes down. This is a shame as Assassin’s creed has always successfully shown cast sprawling vistas of history long since passed. Fortunately these scenes are few and far between but it was enough of a pain, and in the films defence how you do you successfully show a man jumping from scaffolding that looks like tis 300m in the air to successfully land in hay?
My final complaint is just the throw away characters that come to be modern day assassins. Michael K Williams is given a few scenes to show an interesting character, one who thinks before acting. However, the others just simply have little to do other than being the ‘Asian king foo lady’ who I don’t recall saying one line in the film, or Callum Turner shouting ‘your gunna kill the creed’ at Fassbender in a crowded room of guards as he is dragged away. This feels just way to silly and the delivery is poor, it made me flinch even hearing him shout ‘creed’ and reminded me sharply this was a video game film. Also, why then would Cotillard character let him anywhere near this guy again who has just shown his intention to prevent the Templars getting what the want from Fassbender’s ‘Kal’.
Assassin’s Creed 2016 does well to portray a struggle between two opposing factions that has been around for centuries and at times shows the assassins are not the ‘good guys’ but perhaps they occupy a grey area so that others can continue to be free.
The films cast largely do well in their roles with a few characters being one dimensional and forgettable. The star of Assassin’s Creed is the fight and free running choreography and if you have played the games or are a fan of films with good set pieces like this such as ‘John Wick’ then you will enjoy them here.
Its not a great film but it certainly deserves more praise than it received and in hindsight people may regret not having a sequel return to tell further tales of the modern-day Assassin Templar conflict. Especially as its one of the less desirable portions of the games themselves but does hold potential for good and interesting stories.
I liked Assassin’s Creed, now please take a number for your turn to tell me I’m wrong. You can do this by getting in touch on Twitter, Facebook or sending me an e-mail. Or just comment here down below.