Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) travels back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha (Fassbender), a distant relative who’s also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present.
I play video games on occasion (not as much as I should but I try) so I am aware of the Assassin’s Creed series. I’m also aware that most films based on videogames are bad. I’m sure that if any video game series can work as a film, it would be the Assassin’s Creed series, although my expectations were not very high. I am a big fan of Fassbender, however, and he does look the part so there is some reason for optimism.
For those unfamiliar with the video game series, the film offers a text crawl at the beginning, explaining the battle between the Templars and the Sultans. This was probably intended to set the tone but the film never gave us a sense of this as it dropped us within a subsection of this world without ever fully explaining anything. This is the problem with most franchise starting films, it always seems to be more interesting in setting up the franchise than focusing on its story and this was the case here.
Even that, it didn’t do right as its convoluted story made things hard to follow. The film was going in so many directions from all of its subplots. Along with the fact that the film was slow at times, it was easy to forget what was happening. Most of the film almost didn’t matter as it felt like a prologue to what the series was going to be. The film introduced all the pieces but they didn’t quite fit together. Maybe they will later on but that doesn’t quite forgive it here.
Lynch is a descendant of a member of the Assassins and because of this, he is taken by a man named Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter Olivia (Marion Cotillard). Lynch had a difficult past which the film didn’t fully explore. This made him a willing participant in the Rikkin’s quest to connect him to the Animus and use his memories to find a relic called the Apple of Eden (they couldn’t have thought of a better name?), the secret to free will or something. It wasn’t always clear what it was or did or even the Rikkin’s (but specifically Alan’s) intentions for it. His plan kept changing. Alan and Olivia weren’t always on the same page, causing some conflict between the two as they were doing this for completely different reasons.
Video game fans know that the series take place in both the present and the past, alternating between the main character and the memories of their respective ancestors. Some may be disappointed with the fact that the majority of the film takes place in the present (which doesn’t look to change anytime soon). Lynch’s moments as Aguilar were kind of fun to watch but that subplot never went anywhere (for now at least). It wasn’t always clear what was happening but every time it ever gained any momentum, he would just get pulled out again.
Lynch’s participation did not sit well with the other captives, who were also descendants of assassins. Moussa (Michael Kenneth Williams) approached Lynch early on as more of a guide but pretty much disappeared afterwards. The film ignored the other captives, having them hate Lynch for helping the Rikkins and then joining him once he has a moment of self-realization. This led to a revolt, leading to the inevitable future films.
The action and the cinematography were the best parts of the film. The film did not have as much action as expected but what we got was fun to watch for the most part. It was exciting, well shot, and the choreography was well done but the occasional obvious CGI moments and the cutting between Aguilar and Lynch in the animus were distracting and killed the momentum. The film was nice to look at though with shots of the Spanish countryside in the past and the facility in the present.
The acting was okay but the terrible script with bad dialogue certainly did not help. Fassbender was definitely committed to the film and handled himself admirably in the action sequences. Lynch was not an overly developed character which made it difficult to connect to him on a personal level. The lack of any real stakes also made it difficult to care about him. Cotillard did her best despite her bad dialogue and being miscast. Irons was nothing more than an evil British guy. Williams didn’t do anything.
Overall, this was a bad action film with decent action which was nice to look at and featuring a convoluted story and a terrible script.
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