Movies: “As­sas­sin” bet­ter than most game-based films

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Michael O’Sul­li­van

My first thought, 20 min­utes into “As­sas­sin’s Creed” and the sonic as­sault of the sound­track’s mix of bom­bas­tic gui­tar riffs and body-blow sound ef­fects: This movie isn’t nearly loud enough. Af­ter all, I could still make out some of the di­a­logue.

My sec­ond thought? No­body goes to a movie like “As­sas­sin’s Creed” for the di­a­logue.

The di­rec­tor Justin Kurzel’s last film was the ex­cel­lent and un­der­ap­pre­ci­ated “Mac­beth,” which boasted a screen­play by Wil­liam Shake­speare (more or less, cour­tesy of a smartly abridged adap­ta­tion by Todd Louiso, Ja­cob Koskoff and Michael Lesslie). In­spired by the pop­u­lar video game se­ries about a time-trav­el­ing as­sas­sin, Kurzel and Lesslie are slum­ming a bit here — abet­ted by co-writ­ers Adam Cooper and Bill Col­lage of “Ex­o­dus: Gods and Kings” — with a script that fleshes out the game’s back­s­tory about the cen­turies-old con­flict be­tween the heroic Broth­er­hood of As­sas­sins and the evil Knights Tem­plar with a script that is larded with of­ten turgid (and oc­ca­sion­ally un­in­tel­li­gi­ble) dec­la­ra­tions of mis­sion and pur­pose.

Al­though the movie, like the games, is clearly about lit­tle more than fight­ing — and run­ning, climb­ing, jump­ing, kick­box­ing and bounc­ing off walls — all that park­our-like ac­tion has a lot to do with the search for Adam and Eve’s ap­ple, a relic that’s ad­ver­tised as hold­ing the se­cret to world peace. The movie’s hero Cal, a con­demned mur­derer, is the last descen­dant in the blood­line of the 15th-cen­tury As­sas­sins, who have sworn to pro­tect it. A day af­ter he is ex­e­cuted in a Texas prison, Cal awak­ens to find him­self in a mys­te­ri­ous fa­cil­ity in Madrid, where sci­en­tists are about to plug him into some­thing called the An­i­mus, trans­port­ing him — or, rather, his con­scious­ness — back to In­qui­si­tion-era Spain and the body of his an­ces­tor, Aguilar.

Two-time Os­car nom­i­nee Michael Fass­ben­der re­unites with his “Mac­beth” co-star, Os­car­win­ner Mar­ion Cotil­lard, as Cal aCnh d riS s oP­fi­raa, tt t ha e nd d oJcetn or nwifeh r o Li­sawrence are trapped on a om­vael­rf­suenecinti g oC­ni­anl’ gs sep­a­r­cce h shfo ip rt ih n e“Pas­sen­gers.” sJaoi-mciae lTleru d ebAlopopdl, e Col f uEmd­bie a nP. iWc­tuhre y s/iS­sony a des­ic­cated piece of fruit so im­por­tant? As nearly as I could figure out, be­cause it con­tains the ge­netic code for free will and the cure for hu­man ag­gres­sion. Its last known where­abouts were with Aguilar.

Other big-name stars ap­pear­ing in the film in­clude Jeremy Irons, Charlotte Ram­pling and Bren­dan Glee­son, all of whom, col­lec­tively, lend it a patina of pres­tige and grav­i­tas that it, for the most part, nei­ther de­serves nor even at­tempts to jus­tify.

Their sac­ri­fice, how­ever, is ap­pre­ci­ated.

Pre­ten­tious pop­py­cock aside, “As­sas­sin’s Creed” isn’t quite as bad as one might fear, as mea­sured against the abysmal track record of movies in­spired by video games. In other words, it’s in­cre­men­tally more fun than it is silly. And Kurzel cer­tainly knows his way around a cam­era, aided by “Mac­beth” cin­e­matog­ra­pher Adam Arka­paw, who con­jures a pleas­ingly muted pal­ette of grimy browns and grays for the scenes set in the past, in sharp con­trast with the coldly clin­i­cal blues and whites of the present day. And the fight chore­og­ra­phy, hap­pily, is just co­her­ent enough to make out who’s hit­ting whom. Not

Why they’re hit­ting each other is a whole dif­fer­ent story. “What the (bleep) is go­ing on?” says Cal at one point, ex­press­ing a sen­ti­ment that those in the au­di­ence who’ve never picked up an Xbox con­troller — if they’re think for a sec­ond that this movie is for them — will no doubt be ask­ing them­selves.

Kerry Brown, 20th Cen­tury Fox

Mar­ion Cotil­lard, left, helps send Michael Fass­ben­der, right, back in time to fight the evil Knights Tem­plar in “As­sas­sin's Creed.”

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