The ASSASSIN’S CREED Movie Should Have Done Everything The Opposite Way Another video game adaptation stumbles
Did anyone working on the Assassin’s Creed movie actually play the game? Or, at the very least, poke around the many criticisms of the story of Assassin’s Creed? Because it doesn’t feel like it at all.
The film follows a man named Callum Lynch, who was saw his father murder his mother and was on death row. His introduction is actually unique. He’s about to die via lethal injection, and when he wakes up he’s in a laboratory of some company called Abstergo, who wants to use him to “end violence.”
This opening sequence is great, but it’s muddled by two other opening sequences: we get an early introduction to the Assassin’s during the Spanish Inquisition and we see Callum stumbling upon the murder of his mother. These two scenes keep the movie from establishing any momentum early, because they feel like scenes they threw in front because they had no where else to put them. They think they’re both important, but they’re really not.
Assassin’s Creed then has us following Callum as he, well, he doesn’t really do anything. Abstergo wants to farm his DNA for some magical thing called the Apple of Eden, which has the genetic code for free will. So they hook him up to the Animus, a big machine that can allow you to relive the memories of your ancestors, because memories live inside DNA, or something.
It’s not important. It’s really not. The whole idea was originally constructed to give Ubisoft a framing device for a franchise where they could make big, open-world games in historical settings, like the Spanish Inquisition. The Assassins’ Creed movie somehow doesn’t understand this, opting to make that framing device the entire movie.
The movie is obsessed by a barely-there plot. Callum just wants to be freed of this place, so he readily heads to the animus to help Abstergo find the Apple of Eden. But it turns out he’s part of the Assassin’s Creed, a line of assassin’s that keep the world safe from the evil Templars, who infiltrate government and corporations with ease. They’re kind of a yin and yang. The Jedi and the Sith, if you will.
The other Assassin’s at Abstergo, they all just kind of hang out there, are mad at Callum for wanting to give them in. Problem is he doesn’t know what the hell is going on, he just wants to leave. Rather than actually trying to tell him what’s going on, they talk to him in riddles and threaten to kill him if he turns on them, even though Callum doesn’t know he’s with them or they have anything left in common.
It’s convoluted and weird and a total mess. None of it is interesting, and it’s one of the first times in a movie theater this year I was tempted to walk out. It’s that bad. The silver lining is that everything during the Spanish Inquisition is more cool and interesting. The Templars during this time are also after the Apple, but they’re going about it in a more interesting way.
Instead of having to force a dude to jump into their weird machine, they’re hunting for the Sultan’s son. They want to kidnap him so they can use him as bait to get the Sultan to give up the Apple. The Assassin’s are working to stop that. Like, actively stopping it. They slink around and kill people. There are big chases. There are elaborate fights. It’s all good, until the movie decides to warp us back to Abstergo, watching Michael Fassbender jump around in the Animus.
Why the movie tries to neuter the only interesting parts of the movie I’ll never know. It’s incredibly frustrating to finally see something good, only to have the movie kneecap you. It’s like if you were drinking a cold soda on a hot day and someone kept pulling the straw from your mouth.
You can see how Assassin’s Creed could have been good. The movie could have lopped off its two opening sequences, it could have used the framing device as a framing device instead of making it the focus of the movie. We could have had two hours of Assassins and Templars running around 1400s Spain trying to save the Sultan’s son rather than two hours of Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons trying to manipulate Michael Fassbender into trying VR.
Assassin’s Creed is a frustrating experience. It’s not often you can say a movie would have solved most of its issues by doing everything backwards, but Assassin’s Creed has given us that opportunity.
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