Assassin’s Creed is a strange franchise. Initially a Prince of Persia game which spun off into being its own franchise during development, then a series of historical sci-fi games following different ancestors of a generic video game guy, then a series of increasingly bug-ridden annual releases, and more recently a trilogy of decent historical RPGs. It’s a franchise with some incredibly convoluted lore, covering thousands of years, where a film could be used to gently introduce people to the key principles of the franchise whilst getting rid of some of the more confusing parts of the lore. Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed (2016) doesn’t do that at all.
Assassin’s Creed (2016) is a completely bland take on the franchise, one that feels ashamed of being a video game adaptation in a way very few modern game adaptations are. All of the main cast, especially Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, is phoning in their performances, either because they are just there for the paycheck or because of the horror of being in a video game adaptation. Nothing else about the film is particularly enticing either. Dull action with far too much CGI and far more plot than an introduction to a franchise could possibly need doesn’t help.
The film also fails purely on the grounds of being an adaptation, changing too much for hardcore fans yet not enough to improve some of the issues with the original games. A lot of fan complaints about the changes the film made centre around one thing and one thing only: how they changed the Animus. For those of you who are not familiar with the franchise, the Animus is the in-universe explanation for how people from the 21st century can relive their ancestors’ experiences. In the games, it is basically a gaming chair that people are plugged into Matrix-style, although it evolves into something that’s basically a VR headset in the later games. In the films, the Animus is instead a massive chamber that involves strapping Fassbender into a robot arm that wiggles him around. In reality, it doesn’t really change much and was a change made to differentiate Assassin’s Creed from The Matrix.
Other than changing the Animus the film tries to pander to fans, recreating the franchise’s iconic Leap of Faith without visual effects and including references to several fairly deep cut characters from the games, but that was never going to be enough. I’ve been done with the Assassin’s Creed franchise for a long time now, mostly due to the actions of the company behind it, Ubisoft, and the masses of abuse that went on during the creation of the games. Despite that, I still look back at the games I played with a lot of fondness and find the world of Assassin’s Creed really interesting. There are so many stories and characters from that universe who I would love to see on the big screen at some point. Unfortunately, the film we got is one of the blandest and uninteresting films that I have had the displeasure of watching.
Image courtesy of Joshua Livingston via Flickr