by Toby Woollaston
Based on the hugely successful video game series of the same name, Assassin’s Creed is another attempt by a studio to transfer onto the bigger screen the success of its gaming origins. Although other efforts (such as Warcraft) have been met with critically tepid responses, there is no doubt that the sheer size of the video gaming industry means a ready-made market for box office success. Yes, I am one of the many who have played Assassin’s Creed … well, at least one of the nine releases within the franchise, which puts me in better stead at knowing the film’s labyrinthine mythology than its star, Michael Fassbender, who hadn’t even heard of the game prior to being approached for the role. To his credit however, he heavily involved himself in the production and went to significant lengths to canvas Australian Justin Kurzel to direct the film. They had previously worked together, along with Marion Cotillard, on the visually arresting Macbeth.
Set in the present, Callum (Fassbender), with the help of Sofia (Cotillard) explores the genetic memories of his 15th Century Italian ancestor Aguilar by plugging himself into the Animus — a scientific invention that taps the genetic memory of its subject and projects them like a futuristic Playstation Virtual Reality headset (… hmm, there’s a billion dollar idea in there somewhere). In doing so, Callum’s newfound skills garner information that unwittingly helps the present day Templars to locate the whereabouts of the mysterious Apple of Eden — an object that will eradicate violence by removing the free will of humanity.
There is a lot to like about the visual style of Assassin’s Creed, and it was good to see plenty of practical effects and stunts that lent a great deal of heft and physicality. The film would have been worse off had it been tempted by a heavier diet of vaporous computer generated hullabaloo, as there was enough of this already. This physicality extended to the painstakingly handmade costumes and intricately constructed sets, filmed on location in Malta and Spain. Such visual grandeur and stunning set pieces might have won me over, but unfortunately they were overshadowed by a narrative that was in desperate need of livening up. This was in part due to a necessity to explain the film’s mythology which bogged proceedings down a bit, and also due to some overdrawn action sequences. These quibbles aside, Assassin’s Creed operates as an adequate summer blockbuster, and is perfectly serviceable for fans of the video game series.
3 stars out of 5
You can see the published review here