Assassin’s Creed

The world of video games is rich with storylines and characters that should translate to the big screen, the problem lies in the viewer’s involvement. The depth of potential narratives are there for the taking, but in the world of the gamer they are interspersed with action steps from a controller.

This combination of interactive experience and film has not successfully translated to cinemas in the past. This may have changed with production of Assassin’s Creed. Taking along a resident gamer to explain the nuances of this dark and detailed world does help in translation, but it is not necessary to enjoy the film that has the potential to be the bedrock for a new franchise. It is not a perfect film, but it may have done something that no adaptation has done before, become an entertaining film. 

For those unfamiliar with the games, the bloodline of Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is critical for the progression of Abstergo Industries’ goal of finding the Apple of Eden. This ancient artefact is the key to control humanity’s free will. Up to this point, Lynch’s life has been plagued with tragedy and violence, but he is given a second lease on life after being put to death for murder. He is awakened to find himself in a laboratory with Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard). She and her team have developed the Animus Project that can transport Lynch back to the 15th century to live the life of an assassin as his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha. With the aid of this advanced technology, Lynch finds himself in both the modern and ancient worlds battling the dark forces of the Templar Order. As part of the Assassin’s Creed, he must live in the shadows and kill his enemy. While in the world of the state-of-the-art laboratory, Lynch must determine if the goals of the corporation sponsoring the initiative are for the good of humanity or if something sinister lies beneath the  surface.

For the fan of the Assassin’s Creed games, the storyline will provide the needed familiarity to draw them to the theatres, but not at the expense of their non-enthusiast friends. Director Justin Kurzel (MacBeth) manages to deliver a film that is accessible for both audiences. The gamer can enjoy the subtle twists that cannot occur in the virtual world that will allow them to connect with their favourite gorilla fighter. The nuances of the initiation process, the recognisable names and the unique weaponry will bring a smile to the lips of these devotees as holders of inside information to this historical journey. Yet, Kurzel does not allow the story to be reliant on this special knowledge to enjoy the action. Even if someone has not held a controller in their hands prior to entering the theatre, they will be able to appreciate the action and the subsequent narrative that is played out on screen. 

One evident hold over from the Fassbender/Kurzel combination of Macbeth is the dark hopelessness of humanity. There is little light to combat the shadows, which means the intensity is prevalent, but it becomes unrelenting. Humour is non-existent and hope barely makes a showing in this battle of religious orders. It is understandable in a world dominated by assassins, but it does take away some of the potential enjoyment of this historical journey. On top of the darkness, character development is a glaring weakness of Creed. Callum Lynch is front and centre and there is much to know about his dark past. This is at the expense of the multitude of personalities in both the contemporary and ancient realities that are introduced, but not defined making it difficult to care care about their involvement in the drama. This may not be surprising from a film named after an exceptionally violent video game, but it does diminish the emotional connection with the characters.

Even with these weaknesses, Kurzel seems to have broken through the adaptation glass ceiling and delivered a new cinematic franchise. For those looking for a dark, violent, action-packed and pure escapism option this holiday season, Assassin’s Creed is the right choice to draw you into the shadows.

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

Is religion the cause of all wars?  In the world of assassins and the Templer Order, religion is at the heart of all that has gone wrong in society in history. Yet, religion is not the cause of all violence in the world. Atheist regimes have just as much blood on their hands in the mistreatment of humanity. The real problem is that the heart of mankind is desperately wicked. If left to our own devises, the human race would be the demise of itself. Thankfully God stepped in at the beginning of humanity and with His Son, Jesus, provides the answer to this ‘heart’ issue.

Passages on the ‘heart problem’ of mankind: Genesis 3, John 3:16-17, Romans 3:23, Romans 6:23, 2 Timothy 3:1-7

WATCH THE TRAILER

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Russell Matthews

Russell loves film and enjoys engaging in discussions about the latest cinema offerings and then connecting this with the Gospel. He has worked for City Bible Forum for over 10 years, is a reviewer for Insights Magazine and Entertainment Fuse and has a blog called Russelling Reviews. He moderates events for Reel Dialogue which connect the film industry with the general public.

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