Confusing mess fails to lift curse
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