Action Adaptation

'Assassin's Creed' Film Review: Video game adaptation asks moviegoers to take a leap of faith

December 20, 2016Ben MK

Video game adaptations aren't exactly Hollywood's strong suit, so it's logical that moviegoers would approach a film such as Assassin's Creed with a healthy degree of trepidation. But even though the movie does star two of the most reliable and recognizable actors in the industry — Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard — is that enough to ensure a successful leap from game consoles to the big screen?

Based on game developer Ubisoft's popular franchise — which spans nearly a decade's worth of entries, from last year's Assassin's Creed: Syndicate to 2007's Assassin's CreedAssassin's Creed stars Fassbender as Callum Lynch, a hardened convict who finds himself sentenced to death, only to be seemingly resurrected. The reason behind his second chance at life? So that he can become a human guinea pig in a cutting-edge scientific experiment, one that attempts to harness the memories of his ancestors, which happen to be hidden away in his DNA.

You see, Callum descends from a brotherhood of Assassins, elite warriors whose sole purpose was to stand up against the oppression of a sinister, secret society known as the Order of the Templar Knights. Now, he's all that's left of his bloodline, and, as such, he has attracted the interest of the Abstergo Foundation, a shadowy conglomerate that tasks scientist Sofia Rikkin (Cotillard) with training him to tap into his genetic memories, using a device called the Animus, which enables him to relive said memories in a virtual recreation of 1492 Andalusia, Spain.

Without spoiling too much of the plot, what follows hews fairly closely to the overall premise of the award-winning game series, as Callum — taking on the identity and wielding the deadly weaponry of his long-dead ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha — is thrust into the midst of the Spanish Inquisition, where he and his fellow Assassins must outwit and outkill Templar agents in the battle for a powerful artifact known as the Apple of Eden. Meanwhile, back in the present day, Sofia promises Callum a new life for his efforts — a promise which may or may not be fulfilled.

Directed by Justin Kurzel and scripted by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, Assassin's Creed does a good job establishing the story's mythology, but it does an even better one delivering on the swift and brutal violence gamers are no doubt craving, realizing it through a combination of melee combat and parkour-like action. On the downside, however, these moments don't actually comprise the bulk of the film's running time, which is actually set in modern-day Madrid, within the retro-futuristic confines of the Abstergo compound.

Still, Assassin's Creed registers as a cut above your average video game movie. And with a highly respectable cast that includes Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams, it's clear that the filmmakers aren't just looking to start a cinematic franchise — they're also aiming for a more dignified demographic than your run-of-the-mill, sci-fi/fantasy beat-em-up. The good news for the games' fan base is that Assassin's Creed mostly achieves those lofty goals, despite the fact that it does stumble somewhat along the way.

Assassin's Creed releases December 21st, 2016 from Twentieth Century Fox. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic elements and brief strong language. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 55 Mins.

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