Have we ever had a good video game adaptation?
It’s a highly debated question, but safe to say, we’ve seen a heap ton more bad video game-based films than good ones. Why we’re constantly having to ask this – and, at the same time, request one – is beyond me. Sadly, our great hope has once again died with my bae Michael Fassbender’s attempt to bring a good one to the big screen. Visionary director Justin Kurzel’s ASSASSIN’S CREED (or “FASSASSIN’S CREED,” as I’ve been calling it) is a big pile of non-interactive, non-engaging nonsense.
Callum Lynch (my Fassy) has seen a lot – as it turns out, not just in this lifetime, but in others. At a young age, he witnessed his dad kill his mom. Thirty years later, a hard life on the streets earned him a death row sentence for manslaughter. He’s rage-filled and fueled. However, on his deathbed, he earns a second chance at life – as the star guinea pig in Dr. Sofia Rikkin’s (Marion Cotillard) elite program in Madrid. There he’s forced to relive the genetic memories of his ancestor from 1492, a Spaniard named “Aguilar.” You see, he’s part of this special clan called “the Assassins” who protect “the Apple” (a baseball-sized metal orb containing seeds from the Garden of Eden apple) from a malevolent group, “the Templar.” Sofia and her boss/ father (Jeremy Irons) want the seeds in that Apple so they can eradicate violence in mankind, and they suspect Cal/ Aguilar can lead them to where it is in the present day.
There are glaring problems left and right with this film. The script by Kurzel (MACBETH), along with Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, never posits any motivations for its hero. Cal wants nothing and isn’t trying to achieve much of anything for himself. When reliving Aguilar’s memories, he is merely an observer – dragged along for the ride like a puppet, not controlling them, not doing anything proactive. We only learn a few superficial details about him during the 100 or so minutes spent with him. While it’s a blessing to not have to sit through an expository speech dump of a backstory, we do need to be shown more to root for his triumphs. The filmmakers treat him with such astounding coldness, holding him constantly at a distance. It’s surprising Cal lacks in depth, dimension, vulnerability and gravitas given the fact Fassy himself has these qualities in spades. Oh well. At least they have him perform the entire third trip on the Animus mechanical arm sans shirt – one he rips off. [Side note: Hey Fox? I’m going to need a GIF of this for personal reasons. PERSONAL REASONS.]
Perhaps what’s most confusing is their “strong female character.” Sofia seemed to be in on the scheme to scam Cal with her father at the beginning of the film, but experiences an illogical turn when she, all of a sudden, acts as if he’s betrayed her during the third act. She becomes a crippled mess of daddy-issues. Similar to Cal, she doesn’t exhibit any personal growth either. Though she bonds a bit with Cal, it’s clear she’s not softening her own ambitions, so this change in her doesn’t make any sense at all.
Other logistical problems abound: If Cal is the last living Assassin, then why do Sofia, her dad and their menacing henchman McGowan (Denis Ménochet) keep other prisoners – like Moussa (Michael K. Williams), Nathan (Callum Turner) and Lin (Michelle H. Lin) – at the facility? And why do those prisoners even care what happens to Cal if they have no blood ties to the order?
Listen, the filmmakers try to get deep with its philosophy – but they wind up being only as deep as a puddle of melted snow. The fact this sect has to commit violence in hopes to end violence is laughable irony. Cal questions Sofia about this point far past when it’s acceptable. They also have Sofia quote from the Bhagavad Gita, “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds,” and it’s as groan-inducing as you’d imagine.
I’ve never played the video game on which this is based, so I’ll never know how similar it is in feel and story. I can’t imagine it got to be one of the most popular titles based on the lackluster quality of this cinematic narrative. That said, I will admit that I wasn’t ever bored – just confused and angry. Kurzel and company leave this open to further sequels, but guys. I’m ready to call it:
1.5 out of 5
ASSASSIN’S CREED opens on December 21.