Review Assassins Creed
Review Assassins Creed
It’s always a wonder why film producers pursue video game properties. Sure, there’s brand recognition, squeezing money out of the faithful, but these screen-to-screen adaptations rarely work out, especially with open world games that don’t pursue a direct narrative path. And yet, in 2016, there was “Warcraft,” which managed to achieve a sense of scale and fantasy life, finding ways to crack source material that’s famous for its lack of boundaries. And now there’s “Assassin’s Creed,” which, much like “Warcraft,” is incredibly flawed, but there’s something to the confident execution of the feature that gives it a cinematic presence and passable respect for console origins.
It rumbles and leaps, and is just bonkers enough to cover for the multitude of head-scratching ideas it introduces, especially to newcomers.On death row for murder, Callum (Michael Fassbender) is taken from the brink of death and relocated to a fortress in Spain, made a test subject for the Abstergo Corporation, with top scientist Sophia (Marion Cotillard) his primary contact.
Callum is part of a long lineage of Assassins, a brotherhood devoted to preserving peace through free will, with his DNA capable of providing a direct link to his ancestors. Hooked up to machine known as the Animus, Callum’s system is shocked into duty, reliving the experiences of top Assassin Aguilar (Fassbender) in 1492, who, joined by Maria (Ariane Labed), is tasked with protecting the Apple of Eden, the key to human behavior, from the Templar Order. Sophia answers to her father, Alan (Jeremy Irons), a longtime Templar who supports his daughter’s efforts to eradicate violence, while Callum is dragged through a brain-smashing trial of identity, surrounded by other guests, including Moussa (Michael K. Williams), who have already been picked clean by the Animus.
Giving “Assassin’s Creed” some edge is director Justin Kurzel, who last helmed “Macbeth,” which starred Fassbender and Cotillard, with the trio reuniting for a distinctly less Shakespearean production. While dealing with material that threatens to dissolve into camp, Kurzel retains similar widescreen fury that was found in “Macbeth,” treating the adaptation (scripted by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill College) with propulsive energy, helped along by Jed Kurzel’s thunderously percussive score, which gives the feature a wonderfully imposing presence.
It’s a herculean directorial assignment, not only dealing with two primary time periods and split identities, but there’s an expositional challenge that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. The Apple of Eden? Templars vs. Assassins? The Animus? A lesser talent would pass out, but Kurzel maintains a groove to the picture. It’s not always easy to track the plot, but it’s not impossible either, which makes up half the battle of “Assassin’s Creed.”
The feature feels big, mixing sci-fi with historical fantasy, following Callum as he’s attached to a giant KUKA arm and dialed into Aguilar’s survival challenges, experiencing the Assassin life without permission. The brotherhood is skilled at evasion, using parkour moves to keep away from Templar threats, and they have a particular affinity for jumping off mountains and towers, showcasing amazing free-fall control. They’re superheroes in a way, fighting for the natural order of chaos while the Templars seek total control, though both sides appear to be fighting for the same goal: peace.
“Assassin’s Creed” has lots of a razzle-dazzle moments, highlighting battles and chases that keep Aguilar and Maria on the move, and Kurzel does relatively well with action, though he’s afraid to let kinetic energy play out in full, finding editing too aggressive at times and cinematography by Adam Arkapaw (who also shot “Macbeth”), while beautiful and moody, is also a bit too fond of shadows and darkness. The production almost seems allergic to faces, which can be frustrating to watch.
Coherence hangs in there during “Assassin’s Creed,” partially due to Fassbender and Cotillard’s commitment to character, doing their best to sell the movie science and fantasy touches. Perhaps the effort isn’t up for repeated inspection, but one trip around Kurzel’s vision is appealing, grasping the eternal war at the heart of the source material, which eventually explodes in both time periods, leading to a provocative conclusion that takes the apple idea to its natural conclusion.