Review by Lauryn Angel
It’s a widely-accepted belief that movies based on video games are not very good. Sure, Resident Evil and Silent Hill did well enough at the box office, but they’re not regarded as great cinema. Even with a great director – I’m thinking of Duncan Jones’s recent World of Warcraft, here – they don’t seem to do so well outside of the fan base of the game in question. For example, I really enjoyed World of Warcraft, as did many of my friends, but we all played the game, and thus got a lot of enjoyment out of seeing the world we knew on the big screen. I can’t say this about Assassin’s Creed, however – because I’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game, and I still had a heck of a good time watching the movie.
The movie opens by explaining the long-going battle between the Knights Templar and the Assassins. The Knights Templar are looking for the Apple of Eden, a device which contains the key to ending human violence. Unfortunately, this also means the end of free will, and the Assassins will do anything to keep the apple out of Templar hands. Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is dropped into the middle of this centuries-old battle. As the descendent of an Assassin named Aguilar (also played by Fassbender), he is taken prisoner by the Abstergo Foundation, whose leaders, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter Sophia (Marion Cotillard). The Rikkins want to put Cal in The Animus, a machine designed to sync his consciousness with the memories of Aguilar, the last known person to have the Apple in his possession.
Director Justin Kurzel previously worked with Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard on 2015’s Macbeth, and there are a lot of parallels between that movie and this one. In her dealings with Cal, Sophia Rikkin could very easily be seen as a descendent of the wily machinations of Lady Macbeth, manipulating Cal to do what she wants. As with Lady Macbeth, Marion Cotillard shines as Sophia Rikkin, who is really the most developed character in the film.
What really makes this movie, though, are the “memories” Cal experiences in The Animus. While these memories are only snippets of the story, they are action-packed and a lot of fun. This is where the movie really comes to life. Aguilar and his partner Maria (Ariane Labed) are excellent Assassins and the action is packed with parkour, death-defying plunges, and incredible escapes. These scenes are the best part of the film, and it’s fascinating to watch Cal mirror the action whilst attached to the mechanical arm of The Animus.
With its fast-paced action and solid performances, Assassin’s Creed is a much better movie than I expected from a video game adaptation. It’s not a perfect film, and no doubt people who have actually played the game will have a different take on it than I did, but I give it a solid 3.5 stars out of 5. It’s definitely a movie of style over substance, but if Rogue One is sold out when you go to the multiplex, it’s not a bad second choice.