There are two kinds of people most likely to watch Assassin's Creed: Michael Fassbender fans, and those who played the video game. While Fassbender fans will be more than glad to see him brooding from under a hood and watch him effortlessly climb towers, there's certain disappointment in store for the gamers. Director Justin Kurzel (who directed Fassbender in Macbeth before) has fleshed out an entirely new and different back story, and set much of the film in the present.
In the film version of Ubisoft's game, Callum Lynch, on the last day of his life as an imprisoned criminal to be executed for murder, is “saved” by Sophia (Marion Cotillard). She holds him captive in a lab at Abstergo Industries, a mysterious science research organisation that we learn nothing about, except that it promotes the modern-day agenda of the Knights Templar.
Daughter of the CEO of Abstergo and a scientist, she leads a project called Animus, an experimental equipment that can trace the history of a person's ancestry hidden in their blood and let the person relive the memories through a virtual projection. The science of it is hazy, but somewhat convincing.
Multiple mentions are made about the Apple of Eden, which contains the “seed of mankind's first disobedience”. Whoever acquires this orb (which looks similar to the Orb from Guardians of the Galaxy), holds the key to understanding how to control free will and convince people (how one can practically use the power is unclear).
For centuries, the Assassins, the protectors of the Apple, have fought, killed and died to keep it from falling into the hands of the Knights Templar, whose singular aim is to use it to end all religious violence and make humanity bow down to the power of the Church.
The Assassins have successfully hidden the Apple since the 15th century, and Sophie uses the Animus to push Cal to reveal where his ancestor, Aguilar of the Assassin's Brotherhood, has kept it. The Animus takes him back to the Spanish Inquisition in the 1400s (these parts are all in Spanish), which is where we see all the slick action sequences of the film.
The second half is likely to remind you of The Da Vinci Code. Some of the sequences here are predictable, and the action much less cooler than the costume-clad, knife- and sword-fighting scenes set in the 15th century.
The film fails to sketch out nuances in its characters. We have no idea who Cal is and what characteristics define him, except that he broods a lot. Sophie, at one point, attributes his predisposition to violence to his DNA. Aguilar, also played by Fassbender, barely feels different from Cal. Fassbender's emotive mastery is not fully utilised, but he does his best.
Even Sophia, her father Alan (Jeremy Irons), as well as the rest of the supporting cast are cut out characters boxed neatly into good and bad people. A little more time spent detailing the personalities of Cal, Aguilar, Sophie and Alan would have helped make their characters less obscure.
Heady philosophical ideas about the history of violence in humanity, the “cure” for violence and the power of religion are barely touched upon, and are, instead, mentioned dispassionately.
But with impressively choreographed action sequences, the film saves itself from becoming an aimless bore. Visually, the camera takes a broad, sweeping bird-eye views of ancient cities, following the ever-present eagle to the site of action. The medieval costumes with the hood and the trademark weapons (knife gauntlets and rope launchers) add to the visual charm. The violence is downplayed and less bloodier than the video game, earning the film a U/A certification (the game is M-rated).
Film: Assassin's Creed
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson