AS­SAS­SIN’S CREED

Empire (UK) - - CONTENTS - james Dyer

Michael Fass­ben­der plays the next op­po­nent for Rocky Bal­boa.

DI­REC­TOR Justin Kurzel CAST Michael Fass­ben­der, Mar­ion Cotil­lard, Jeremy Irons, Bren­dan Glee­son, Char­lotte Ram­pling, Michael K. Wil­liams

PLOT Death row pris­oner Cal­lum Lynch (Fass­ben­der) is taken to a se­cret fa­cil­ity af­ter his ‘ex­e­cu­tion’. There, he’s in­tro­duced to a se­cret so­ci­ety who want to im­port him into the mem­o­ries of a 15th-cen­tury an­ces­tor, Aguilar de Nerha, so they can track an im­por­tant arte­fact...

WHEN IT COMES to video game adap­ta­tions, cin­ema has no­to­ri­ously been an ele­phant’s grave­yard. Af­ter War­craft be­came the most re­cent ti­tle to stag­ger in and im­me­di­ately keel over, all eyes now turn to As­sas­sin’s Creed...

The film’s pedi­gree is im­pec­ca­ble, hav­ing been made by the trio that drove last year’s Macbeth to no­table heights: di­rec­tor Justin Kurzel and the star­ring duo of Mar­ion Cotil­lard and, of course, star/pro­ducer Michael Fass­ben­der. Af­ter suc­cess­fully tack­ling Shake­speare, a Ubisoft game must have seemed like lit­eral child’s play, but while the re­sult is of­ten spec­tac­u­lar, the story is not. It is, as the Bard once phrased it, “a tale… full of sound and fury, sig­ni­fy­ing noth­ing.”

The prob­lem from the off, as Kurzel whips us through mul­ti­ple time pe­ri­ods and in­tro­duces his main char­ac­ters, is that it’s all taken far too se­ri­ously. As­sas­sin’s Creed is a game that, for all its grim and gritty trap­pings, re­volves around a plot de­vice — port­ing into the mem­o­ries of an an­ces­tor via a ma­chine called the An­i­mus — that is stu­pen­dously daft. And As­sas­sin’s Creed is a movie that re­volves around a Macguf­fin called the Ap­ple Of Eden. That kind of ma­te­rial de­mands a light­ness of touch. In­stead, the whole en­deav­our is heavy-handed and po-faced, cloaked in murky browns and cold cobalt.

The only time Fass­ben­der flashes his megawatt grin, it’s in a mo­ment in­flected with ironic bit­ter­ness. In ad­di­tion, all of the past-set se­quences are sub­ti­tled. While we ap­plaud the nod to au­then­tic­ity, it ex­ac­er­bates the sit­u­a­tion: not only are they be­ing far too earnest, they’re do­ing it in Ital­ian to boot! The as­sas­sins are deadly with a fork from 300 paces, but you sus­pect the thing that would re­ally kill them is if some­one asked them to crack a joke.

The story is a ta­pes­try of old-world

mys­ti­cism and sci-fi tech that hangs to­gether but also proves hard to fol­low if you haven’t played Ubisoft’s games. Mean­while, the char­ac­ters, while ap­peal­ing in their own right, would have ben­e­fited from proper def­i­ni­tion: the most we learn about Fass­ben­der’s Cal­lum Lynch is that he killed a pimp, and he’s an­gry at his dad. Mean­while, Cotil­lard’s Sophia, who runs the fu­tur­is­tic clinic where Fass­ben­der keeps be­ing sent back into his fore­bear Aguilar’s body, has sim­i­lar fa­ther is­sues with Jeremy Irons, and forges a ten­u­ous bond with Lynch. How­ever, there’s lit­tle depth here, and the in­ter­est­ing threads that are de­vel­oped aren’t wrapped up in one go; in­stead, fate is tempted with an end­ing that leaves things wide open for a se­quel. Al­ways a risky game to play. All of that said, the fre­netic ac­tion is

As­sas­sin’s Creed’s sav­ing grace. In­ven­tively chore­ographed and beau­ti­fully ex­e­cuted, its game-in­spired brand of wushu-meets-park­our de­liv­ers some gen­uinely awe-in­duc­ing feats. A mid-car­riage-chase wall-flip and a dead-eye ric­o­chet shot steal the breath and are de­liv­ered with a dizzy­ing, ki­netic en­ergy that helps com­pen­sate for the dra­matic lulls. Mean­while, the Mal­tese lo­ca­tions pro­vide an im­pres­sive stand-in for 15th-cen­tury Con­stantino­ple, lend­ing the past se­quences an ag­ing grandeur that proves an ef­fec­tive counter to the cold steel and stark halo­gens of the An­i­mus seg­ments.

Nei­ther a di­rect hit, nor an­other body for the pile, As­sas­sin’s Creed is one of the bet­ter pixel ports. The ac­tion de­liv­ers in spades, but as Lynch runs around an­cient build­ings try­ing to de­ci­pher clues, it’s hard not to see this as a Dan Brown novel with added gym­nas­tics.

VER­DICT of­ten con­fus­ing and far too po-faced, Kurzel’s stabby pe­riod piece is re­deemed by its sump­tu­ous vis­tas and top-notch fight work.

The live-ac­tion adap­ta­tion of chess put the knights in some se­ri­ous peril.

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