don’t think I need to mention how much of a big deal this is for gamers across the world. With over 100 million copies sold, the Assassin’s Creed franchise is undoubtedly one of the biggest games to hit our consoles. I myself own no less than 11 games in the series (admittedly, three of them are duplicates that are just reformatted versions for my dear little Xbox One) but I think it conveys my own passion for the games simply enough. Safe to say, I’ve been waiting a long time for this movie.
For those who aren’t aware (because despite its popularity there’s no reason that everyone should be) the Assassin’s Creed series is about an order of assassins (go figure) who have been entrenched in a secret war with the Templar brotherhood for centuries. This war has continued through to this present day but with the advanced technology known as the Animus, the genetic memory of Assassins and Templars throughout the ages can be explored during the time they lived in. This is all in order to unlock ancient relics of a society that supposedly came before mankind, and with these relics, the balance of power will shift to those who wield them.
So through all these modern day assassins, I’ve (yes, ‘I’ve’, because the games take a lot of time and effort so at this point it’s personal) explored the Crusade Wars, Renaissance Italy and Istanbul, America at the time of the Civil War, pirating in the Caribbean, and even Victorian London. The series’ popularity is so monolithic in size that while there is an ongoing plotline that is linked from one game to the next, there have been also been a fair few novelizations that carry on, meaning that the plot has become a vast web made up of many smaller webs, which brings us to the movie.
Stumbling straight into the thick of it then, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that I enjoyed it. I’m also going to temper this irrational outburst of opinion by also mentioning that it wasn’t perfect, and because of the high expectation for it to be so (especially with a budget of $125 million) they will be hard pressed to be given a chance to rectify anything, despite the more than obvious open ending to lead to a sequel.
Like many fans, I was going in with keen eyes looking for the slightest hint of cheeky winks, Easter eggs (gamer term meaning even more cheeky winks) and most importantly, fallibility. Because no-one is more sensitive about accuracy than gamers, trust me on this. And I speak as someone who has previously said ‘but it was like this in the book’ so I know what I’m talking about.
Now the plot-line seems similar to the very first game except with a bit more back story going in to it. Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a wanton criminal, apparently prone to aggression and violence due his assassin bloodline (and nothing to do with seeing his mother murdered by his assassin father), at least, according to Dr. Sofia Rikken (Marion Cotillard). When Callum is put on death row for murder and then summarily executed, he awakes to find himself in a strange, grim facility with other equally strange, equally grim ‘patients’, and is soon inserted into the animus to explore the memories of Aguilar, his assassin ancestor who existed in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition.
Now, the pleasure of the games is being in the past and parkouring your way through cities and landscapes how they would have been centuries ago. In the movie however, this balance is shifted as not only do we spend more time in the present day, but whenever we see the animus on-screen, it’s almost like a purposeful announcement that we’re about to be given some action to break apart the dialogue. While the single elongated free-running scene they have is more than enjoyable, everything we see about 15th century Spain seems to be done in varying shades of tan and amber and dust.
The irony is, that the scenes from the past are what the plot as a whole hinges on, and yet we see little to no plot development in them. It’s a simple thing to rectify that I hope director, Justin Kurzel, will hopefully adhere to in future should he be given another chance. But, I would be remiss if I didn’t give a little nod to how wonderfully fluid the combat scenes and choreography were as a whole, making the gamer in me cheer in delight. Really capturing that essence of the assassins was something that was done very well, especially headed by a particularly hench and lithe Fassbender who always has a great penchant for action roles.
There’s probably a great deal I could wax lyrical about in terms of what this movie failed and succeeded to deliver. I almost feel like it’s a younger brother who’s stepped out into the world for the first time and needs a little defending. So for example, the plot (to the casual movie-goer) may appear far reaching and somewhat reliant on its’ fanbase to see it through, whereas I feel it actually embodies a great deal of the original game, leaving many details as ambiguous to be further revealed in later parts of the story yet to come. For that and that alone I think this movie is worth the time and money of those who may be on the fence, and even those who came away with criticism.
While many will go on to ponder if this is the final nail in the coffin for video game movies, I simply respond with it’s too early to say and such arguments are left to people who like to look to the future. No doubt, the Assassins will see more of my money and for good reason.