Con­fus­ing mess fails to lift curse

Rutherglen Reformer - - Reviews -

With the di­rec­tor (Justin Kurzel) and stars (Michael Fass­ben­der and Mar­ion Cotil­lard) of 2015’s scorch­ing Mac­beth adap­ta­tion be­hind it, the odds seemed to be in Assassin’s Creed’s favour to break the video game movie curse.

But while it’s no Street Fighter or Su­per Mario Brothers, we’re in no bet­ter ter­ri­tory than mid­dle-of-the-road ef­forts like Tomb Raider and Prince of Per­sia.

The con­vo­luted plot – penned by Michael Les­lie (who con­trib­uted to Mac­beth’s script), Adam Cooper and Bill Col­lage – fol­lows Fass­ben­der’s Cal­lum Lynch as he delves into the mem­o­ries of ances­tor Aguilar (also played by Fass­ben­der) and dis­cov­ers he is a de­scen­dant of the se­cret As­sas­sins so­ci­ety.

Fol­low­ing on from Mac­beth, and mem­o­rable fea­ture de­but Snow­town, Aus­tralian Kurzel’s third big screen out­ing is his most main­stream yet and in mak­ing con­ces­sions to the block­buster crowd, he loses much of what made his ear­lier ef­forts so spe­cial.

The script does him no favours, though, as Lynch and Aguilar’s cross-cut­ting ad­ven­tures hop from time pe­riod to time pe­riod – and be­come in­creas­ingly hard to fol­low.

I’ve never picked up a pad to play any of the Assassin’s Creed video games and as a non- con­vert, found it quite dif­fi­cult to keep up with the cav­al­cade of in­for­ma­tion, char­ac­ter name­drop­ping and tech­no­log­i­cal talk.

For­tu­nately, the set pieces are much eas­ier to regis­ter and Kurzel fol­lows his in­deli­ble im­agery in Mac­beth with fre­net­i­cally staged ac­tion be­fit­ting its com­puter-gen­er­ated ori­gins.

The game’s “Leap of Faith” is a truly ex­hil­a­rat­ing vis­ual and Fass­ben­der and Ari­ane Labed’s Maria prove a dab hand at sword­play and bone-crunch­ing, body-flip­ping dust-ups.

Fass­ben­der again shows his lead­ing man met­tle and while he could’ve done with a sprin­kling of Mag­neto’s rogu­ish charm and wit, he shows an im­pres­sive amount of de­vo­tion to the ma­te­rial.

Cotil­lard (Sofia) and act­ing heavy­weights Jeremy Irons (Rikkin), Bren­dan Glee­son (Cal­lum’s dad Joseph) and Char­lotte Ram­pling (Ellen) form one of the finest sup­port­ing casts ever as­sem­bled in the genre – but are given very lit­tle to do in un­der­writ­ten roles that ex­ist to add ex­po­si­tion and flesh out Fass­ben­der’s story arc.

The fi­nale – set in a mod­ern day Lon­don – is a damp squib that can’t help but feel in­fe­rior to the ear­lier su­perbly shot 15th cen­tury Spain-set se­quences.

Per­haps in­evitably in th­ese uni­verse-buildin­gob­sessed times, the clos­ing scene lays the ground­work for a se­quel.

But it’s a fol­low-up that may never see the light of day as I doubt many will be cry­ing out for more cin­e­matic Assassin’s Creed.

It just goes to show, no mat­ter who is in front of – and be­hind – the cam­era, video games are per­haps best left on the smaller screen.

Sword­play skills Fass­ben­der’s hero fights for sur­vival

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