Running time: 1 hour 55 minutes
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling
Spoiler alert in effect.
Let me start off by saying that I don’t ever recall watching a movie based on a video games in the cinema before. I’ve probably watched a few at home on the TV, but I’ve never gone out and watched at the theatre. There are 3 main reasons why I gave Assassin’s Creed a shot: my friend really wanted to see it, I love playing the game, and Fassy. I’ve played Assassin’s Creed 3 before and I really love the storytelling element of the game and the feeling of belonging to a group of very dedicated people, the Assassins. I felt a real sense of loyalty in upholding the creed and opposing the Templars. Basically, Templars are a group who seek to gain control over everyone, and believe that by taking away everyone’s free will, this will ensure peace for the world. The Assassin’s are essentially their ultimate enemies, who want to protect the world from the Templar’s rule and ensure freedom for all. How the Templars seek to gain control is through the Apple of Eden that Adam and Eve had. It’s not actually a real apple (obviously, because how could it possibly survive thousands of years), but it’s this orb-looking object that supposedly contains the power to make people obedient (I’m still not 100% sure on the details here). So the Templars want this Apple, and the Assassin’s want to hide it. And so it goes. The story is told from the side of the Assassin’s, which are portrayed as the ‘good guys’ who are willing to sacrifice their life to ensure the Apple does not fall into the wrong hands, and who seem to love the idea of having a hidden blade.
Now, I’ve only played the third game in the series, so I don’t know the full story of characters or how they got the Apple and what it really is. I initially assumed that the movie would be based on the first Assassin’s Creed game. But after looking it up, the movie is apparently an original story, using some characters and devices from the games, but largely telling its own story. They still had Abstergo in it, the Animus (although no longer in a chair form), leaps of faith, the Apple, and hidden blades of course. The main character is no longer Desmond Miles, which is fine with me, because I found him a really dull character in the game, but rather, it’s now Callum Lynch. With the film being its own original story, I’m not sure what is and isn’t canon. Since I’ve never played the first two games, I wonder if the overall story of the Templars vs Assassins is roughly the same as what is captured by the movie. Regardless, I had a much better understanding of the whole dynamic and the importance of the Apple, which made playing the game more enjoyable for me.
So the story in the movie is essentially split between present-day Callum and his assassin ancestor Aguilar, set during the Granada War in 1492. This is the typical set-up in the games as well. At the start of the film, Callum is on death row, and is given a lethal injection before waking up at Abstergo, where he is greeted by Sophia Rikkin, the daughter of Abstergo’s CEO. She created a machine called the Animus, allowing Callum to essentially live through his ancestor’s life. She uses this to track the location of the Apple, since Callum’s ancestor was the last known person to have had possession of the Apple. Now, the setup of the Animus is slightly different to that portrayed in the game. In the game, it’s a reclining chair that looks like the one at the dentist. Here however, it’s more of a contraption that hooks onto the person and allows one to be lifted in the air. I don’t mind this difference, because it would be pretty boring to watch someone writhe around in a chair. Using the new setup, we get a more dramatic view of Callum fighting and jumping. The rest of the film is your typical action-stunt fanfare. Sophia discovers the location of the Apple. Then Callum breaks free from the Animus and is joined by other inmates (who I think are also assassins?) who run riot in the facility. At the end, Callum kills the CEO and takes back the Apple, with Sophia vowing revenge. This suggests a sequel is possible, which I would be pretty happy to watch, so as long as Michael Fassbender reprises his role.
What really stood out for me was the music and stunts. There was a scene where we follow the point of view of an eagle as it soars through an epic battle below, and I vividly remember the soaring orchestral music making my heart pound with the beat of the drums. I loved that feeling, the same rush of adrenaline I get from watching live music. I don’t recall the last time music in a film made me feel that way. The stunts and visuals were also stunning in the film. A feature of the games are these so called ‘Leaps of Faith’, whereby the assassin would jump off tall buildings or structures and dive gracefully into the water or a soft area, almost like an eagle sweeping down to catch its prey. I love this part, and I’m glad they used a real stunt guy to do it, because it added to the authenticity of the moment.
Finally, to the acting. It’s a strong cast, littered with Oscar winners and nominees. The performances were good and believable, but when you watch a movie based on a game, you tend not to focus much on the acting, more on the action and thrill of it. The acting is good enough that it doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment of the film.
So, did this movie change my life? Will it be showered with accolades? No. The plot at times is hard to follow and I found the pace a little too fast for my liking. Even with some knowledge of the game story, I still found myself confused at who each character was and what they were doing. There were a lot of characters and it was hard to keep up at times. Other than that however, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was pleasantly surprised with the quality of it, contrary to what critics have said.
1. Do you like the idea of an original story being told in the films or would you prefer it to stick to the game’s storyline?