*. OK, first of all I just want you to know that I get it. I’m aware of the fact that comic books and video games are now our dominant cultural templates, and that today’s blockbuster movies have to speak their language. I also realize that such movies aren’t meant to be thought-provoking or intellectually challenging. They are all about CGI effects and lots of action. If they don’t make sense then that’s your problem because who told you to think about any of this?
*. I get all of this. But still. Do you think the brain trust behind Assassin’s Creed might have come up with a better idea for this movie than a quest to find the apple from the Garden of Eden? Apparently possession of this apple (which, it turns out, has been hidden in the tomb of Christopher Columbus for the last 500 years!) will rid the world of free will, sending us all back to a state of docile prelapsarian innocence. There will be an end not only to war, but all human suffering. And want. And climate change. Don’t ask how. Don’t ask any questions at all. Don’t even think.
*. This is a premise that I would be embarrassed to have written. It’s a premise that Dan Brown would have been embarrassed to have written. It’s really hard to overstate just how stupid it is. I think if you got a group of 8-year-olds of average intelligence to brainstorm an idea for a blockbuster movie even they wouldn’t be able to come up with an idea this dumb.
*. If only they could have dialed it down. What would have been wrong with the Templars looking to recover the Maltese falcon? Why does the fate of the entire world always have to be at stake in these movies?
*. The people looking for the apple are the Templars, who are apparently still quite a going concern in the twenty-first century. If they get their hands on it there will be world peace but at the admittedly steep price of submission to a one-world (Templar) order, overseen by Charlotte Rampling. Scary. Opposing the Templars are the assassins. They have a creed, which consists of articles like “nothing is true, everything is permitted, and assassins work in the darkness to serve the light.”
*. I’m not even going to bother making any more jokes about this. Basically, pitting Templars vs. assassins is just the vampires vs. werewolves set-up from the Underworld franchise. The plot is a dumbed-down version of The Da Vinci Code. The action is the usual comic book/video game fare. Our hero jacks into a virtual-reality device with the Jungian name of the Animus, allowing him to access genetic memories of his assassin ancestors and relive past battles. In effect, he’s playing a video game. We’re watching someone play a video game in a movie based on a video game. He’s also kitted out with blades on his wrists that turn him into a medieval Wolverine. This is all stuff we’ve seen before.
*. Director Justin Kurzel and leads Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard were just coming off working together on Macbeth. Does that seem like a big jump? It isn’t. Their Macbeth was terrible too.
*. Fassbender poses a lot without a shirt on, thrusting his chest out. I guess he’s been spending some time in the gym. Jeremy Irons does his usual villain thing. Cotillard’s character (she’s Irons’ daughter) seems entirely superfluous. People run around on rooftops and jump from heights. There are a bunch of fights that don’t look very interesting.
*. I’ll confess I’m not a gamer and I haven’t played any of the Assassin’s Creed video games. I don’t see how that makes any difference though. Indeed, not being a fan or otherwise invested in the franchise I may have been predisposed to cut the movie a little more slack.
*. For what it’s worth — and the near universal consensus is that it’s worth very little — Assassin’s Creed is considered to be one of the better video game adaptations to film. This may be true. What I wonder is why even bother moving in such a direction. To cash in on a successful franchise’s brand awareness, sure, but do the producers plan to actually make use of the differences between the two media to make something new, or are they just cashing in by making a derivative and inferior product? Thus far it seems they’ve been going for the latter, and I have no problem extending that observation to Assassin’s Creed.
*. I can forgive brainless comic book action. What I can’t condone is how dull a movie this is. They should have cut at least half an hour from the running time. Since there is absolutely no uncertainty about where any of this is going, and not even an attempt at creating characters we care about, they should have kept things moving a lot faster. As it is, scenes play out predictably and at tedious length, and the silly Animus machine becomes a repetitive device. Then, to cap things off, the ending is surprisingly anti-climactic. Of course they had to leave things open for the sequels, but I was still left open-mouthed at the final scene. Was that it? Not that I wanted any more, but was that all there was? This movie is a sugar crash without any rush.
Thanks for watching these so we hapless moviegoers don’t have to. The closest I can come to slackjawed wonder at how awful things have gotten was a recent vacation where Battleship (2012) was playing on motel cable. Every cliche and wads of CGI nothingness filled the screen and it was only later, after it was over, that I realized it was based on the old pencil and paper game played with Xs on a grid.
I haven’t seen Battleship! But I’ve heard it was just awful. Still, it seems to have done better with critics than Assassin’s Creed. What gets me is just how much money, technical ability and other resources go in to making such bad movies. It all seems like such a waste.