There are some really beautiful sweeping vistas of sepia toned Spanish cities from the middle ages in Assassins Creed that emblazens your imagination. Why the art director decided to hide these views under thick layers of fog and smoke and dust is not only beyond me but it’s symptomatic of the film simply missing the fucking point.
If you’ve played the games then you should probably avoid the film because it focuses more on Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) and his relationship with his dad than it does the perpetual fight between Templars and Assassins which is disappointing.
If you haven’t played the games then good luck because the lore is publicised as well as your local drug dealer’s P&L accounts.
Let me help.
There is an order of people called the Templars. You can think of them as your current government; they are the ruling classes and could care less about your liberties but hey, they do get shit done.
The Templars want rid of the Assassins who are rebels and freedom fighters. The good guys… as long as you are happy to overlook the whole merciless killing of power figures and any grunt foolish enough to do their job and try to keep the peace. Obviously you’re happy to do that because assassins are cool as shit!
Whilst this dichotomy of values between the two factions and indeed within themselves is only skirted over in the games it’s non-existent in the film. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard), Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) in fact all Templars are one-dimensional “seedy” types and all the Assassins are moody and unlikable.
In the film the Templars are chasing the Apple of Eden which, again, isn’t really explained but it is a literal mind control device of mysterious and unknown origins. It’s been lost since the 1300s.
The Animus is a device that will help locate the Apple. It scrubs your DNA looking for “memories” of your ancestors and allows the user to re-live past events. In this case Cal’s ancestor was the last known person to hold the Apple so relive his life, find the Apple, control the people, rule supreme.
In the game you have to synchronise these memories which provides a loose set of universal laws to the game. You can’t wander too far from your intended location or die or fulfil your inner psychopath by killing everything in sight… unfortunately. Try it and you de-sync. Game over. Start again.
This could have been so brilliant to play with on screen. Think about how wonderful Edge of Tomorrow (or even Groundhog Day!) was simply by failing to fulfil your destiny. Lynch could have tried to run away at first. De-sync. Tell his fellow assassins they are ass hats. de-sync. Be rubbish at assassinating. De-sync. Started disco dancing in front of the town guard. De-sync.
What actually happens is he gets put in the Animus and instantly he is a total badass. What a let down. Where’s the learning curve? Where is the fun?!
At least, being a total bad-ass, means that you get to see some really cool action scenes and to their credit it does convey the freedom of movement and elaborate fight scenes found within the game but that isn’t good enough.
Director Justin Kurzel has managed to strip out almost everything that was interesting and unique about the Assassins Creed game series and settle for a middle of the road generic blockbuster. This film puts the ass in assassin and the mustn’t in Animus!
The Good, The Bad and The Outcome:
+ Unlikable characters
+ Epic scenery hidden by smoke and fog
+ Doesn’t explain the animus or the Templars or anything
– Awesome fight scenes
– Free running
– Some nice costume designs