Review of "Assassin's Creed (DVD)"

published 23/06/2017 | afy9mab
Member since : 11/07/2000
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All of my DVD reviews are film only, so do not include pricing information. If you have time, please read and rate my Batman V Superman review.
Not for me
Pro A good cast.
Cons Nonsensical script, terrible performances, confused direction.
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Characters / Performances
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"A Pain in the Assassin"


Criminal Callum Lynch is captured by a secret society, who want to use revolutionary technology to unlock his genetic memories. In doing so, Callum discovers he is descended from a member of a secret society known as the Assassins. He experiences the adventures of his 15th century ancestor Aguilar, who lived through the Spanish Inquisition. He amasses incredible skills and knowledge that will allow him to take on the powerful and oppressive Templar organisation in the present day.

Before watching “Assassin’s Creed”, I’d never seen a good computer game adaptation on the big screen. After seeing this movie, nothing has changed. In contrast to many video game movies, the production is terribly earnest, features a big-name cast and has clearly had a great deal of money thrown at it. But in still manages to be absolutely dreadful in every respect.

Australian director Justin Kurzel reunites with the two stars of his bloody interpretation of “Macbeth” and tries to imbue his latest project with the same bleak aesthetic. The present-day sequences play out in a sterile concrete bunker overlooking Madrid. It’s very much like a Bond villain’s secret base as designed by Apple, from the weirdly angled, spotlessly white concrete walls to the seemingly endless supply of uniformed guards. And for some reason never sufficiently explained (in in film where EVERYTHING is tediously over-explained) a robot arm boingles the hero up and down and somehow sends him back in time to the body of his distant ancestor. It never looks anything other than ridiculous. The scenes set during the Spanish Inquisition are shot in flaring sepia and grainy golds, where the good guys all wear hoods and have facial tattoos and/or eyeliner and the baddies are all wearing black leather and chainmail T-shirts. It’s as close as we get to character development.

The director tries manfully to inject some grittiness into the battle scenes, with some good old-fashioned physical effects. There are some pretty decent horse stunts and a lot of flashy and highly improbable, not to mention anachronistic parkour chases. There are also some hack and slash swordfights. But it’s a shame that all of the tightly choreographed stunts and fight scenes are all but obscured by clouds of smoke and nosebleed editing that is positively dizzying in places. The CGI itself is pretty shoddy. Attempts to replicate the experience of playing a game are limited to using first-person point-of-view shots during chases and fight scenes. But it is a poor substitute for actually controlling the protagonist’s movements. The shaky hand-held shooting style in these situations also makes me feel queasy. It cannot recreate the interactive experience of controlling a character and having some influence on the outcome of various situations. Watching a film is a passive experience, in which someone else has made all of the decisions for you and the outcomes have already been decided. As a result, you miss the thrill of discovery and the spikes of adrenaline as you take on the bad guys or your character comes a cropper because of something you have or haven’t done.

The tone feels confused throughout. I get the impression that the director wasn’t sure if he was making a traditional swashbuckling romp or a super-serious dystopian sci-fi movie. Regardless of his intentions, the two genres do not mesh well, leading to a series of grinding shifts of style and pace as the action lurches from hectic, over-edited chases and fights to tin-eared exposition and cod-science that seems to go on forever.

The roster of award winners in the cast proves it takes more than great actors to make a great movie. They intone their lines portentously no matter how ridiculous the script is and with the po-faced determination of the serious act-or. The problem is that we aren’t given any reason to care about what’s going on. Attempts to give the hero a tragic backstory are perfunctory and every single character is a paper-thin stereotype. Consequently, it’s impossible to give a damn who lives or dies. The pacing is sluggish and the hundred-and-fifteen-minute running-time feels excessively long and utterly joyless.

From what I understand (never having played the games), the screenplay by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and the oddly (but aptly) named Bill Collage, isn’t dissimilar to the plots of the games on which it is based. This leads me to conclude that there are things you accept when playing a computer game that seem ridiculous in a linear narrative. I found the story utterly baffling. For one thing, it has three beginnings (one in 1492, one in 1986 and one set in the present day, which is stolen directly from “La Femme Nikita”). For another, the MacGuffin the bad guys are after apparently holds the genetic code for free will. If that doesn’t sound daft enough, it’s been missing since 1492, so we’re meant to believe that people in the 15th century understood what DNA was. Not only that, but in spite of being extremely distant relatives, the hero’s DNA is apparently so similar to that of his ancestor Aguilar that once he’s strapped into a virtual-reality past-life-regression doohickey known as the Animus (which may as well be called the deus ex machina), he will somehow be able to experience everything his ancestor did, while the bad guys watch it played out as a giant hologram. This in turn, will somehow lead the evil organisation to the missing thingummybob. They will then use it to destroy free will in some unspecified way. Basically, the plot is utterly nonsensical. But nonsensical plots don’t always make for unentertaining films. The problems arise when the writers try to explain the nonsense, thereby unpicking the logic, even as they spell it out. And that is exactly what they do here – turning what could have been an enjoyable bit of brain candy into an overwrought, under-thought mess.

The characterisation is pitiful. Both of the leads (played by the same actor) are basically plot devices, so have as little personality as the disposable bit-part players. Callum Lynch is a death row criminal (it’s alright, he only killed a pimp!) saved from the needle so he can be puppeteered by a robot arm and act as a conduit for his assassin ancestor Aguilar. He’s also told how important he is. A lot. Aguilar is a highly skilled, acrobatic assassin, who only kills the baddies who are out to control the world. Sofia Rikkin is written as an idealistic scientist whose main purpose is to trot out increasingly meaningless exposition. Her father Alan(!) Rikkin is meanwhile a ruthless billionaire determined to bring about world peace by any ridiculous means necessary. The other assassins and bad guys (in both time periods) are faceless, interchangeable cannon fodder. The script puts the ‘dire’ into dialogue.

Michael Fassbender looks moody in the dual role of Callum Lynch/Aguilar, frowning and glowering his way through the turgid script and the action. Oscar winner Marion Cotillard carefully pronounces every word of exposition that comes out of her mouth, perhaps in the belief that it will make more sense. But you can tell she’s evil from her overly precise haircut. Jeremy Irons looks bored as the film’s modern-day baddie. Both Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling are utterly wasted as Callum’s father and the M-style leader of the Evil Organisation borne of the Templars respectively.

The original music by Jed Kurzel features lots of arrangements of tense, dark, yawing strings, heavy, rumbling percussion and occasional echoing piano and burring brass. It’s an epic score that hints at what the production might have been. However, the composer shows little restraint, accompanying scenes that would have greater impact without the music telling you how to feel. In addition, the score is too discordant and repetitive to warrant listening to it as an album in its own right.

I thought “Assassin’s Creed” was rubbish, but I can’t say I was that surprised. It’s a film desperate to be epic, but is just epically bad. The direction is confused, the writing is weighed down with an excess of exposition. The script is a complete waste of a well-known and well-regarded cast. It is pretentious when it wants to be meaningful and is ruined by a lack of self-awareness. If it committed to being a daft computer game spin-off, I think I could get on board with it. But everyone involved is so determined to treat the production like it’s Shakespeare that it collapses under the weight of its own self-imposed seriousness and exposition-fuelled stupidity. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it, even to the most hardcore of the game franchise’s fans.

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Comments on this review

  • danielclark691 published 20/07/2017
    very well reviewed
  • siberian-queen published 12/07/2017
  • mousy86 published 02/07/2017
    great review x
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Product Information : Assassin's Creed (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Product Details

DVD Region: DVD

Classification: 12 years and over

Video Category: Feature Film

Actor(s): Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Ariane Labed, Jeremy Irons, Michael Kenneth Williams

Director(s): Justin Kurzel

EAN: 5039036079488

Production Year: 2016


Listed on Ciao since: 10/03/2017