“Assassin’s Creed”: A Dull, Messy Effort

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“Assassin’s Creed” is directed by Justin Kurzel and stars Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, and Jeremy Irons. The film is based on the 2007 video game that has turned into a very popular series of games, and is about a man who is saved from his death sentence in order to help an organization retrieve information from the past through his ancestors who were part of a group of assassins.

While video game movies have almost universally been panned since their creation, and one that looked to have potential already burned me this year with “Warcraft”, I had so much hope that this film was going to break the mold. The cast here is superb, and the director is certainly a competent one, and from the trailers, this appeared to be a very fun film, so my expectations were high coming in.

The Good

The performances are mostly good, with each of the main members of the cast doing what they usually do in their roles. Michael Fassbender isn’t given all that much to shine with, but he is certainly as great as always in the lead role here. Marion Cotillard is also sufficient, though I wish she was given a chance to really bring some depth.

There are some very cool action scenes that take place in the past when Fassbender’s character goes back in time, and these were definitely the highlight moments of the film. These scenes in the past are filled with some real solid action and are visually grand to look at, and I just wish the film centered more on these moments than they had.

There are some cool-ish concepts thrown in towards the opening half when looking at the idea of going through ancestries to find information. The concept is of course from the video game, but it was nice to see that the ideas from the game were being well adapted, at least in the beginning.

The Bad

When the movie moves away from the past and back into the present, it is a boring, confusing, exposition-spewing slog of a time. There are scenes that consist of Cotillard doing nothing but explaining every little piece of information that the audience would ever need to know, and it just felt like such a lazy method for storytelling.

Coming into the movie, I expected well over half of the film to take place in the past, just as the video games are. That is not the case in the slightest, as way too much time is wasted in the present with awkward conversations and confusing storylines that had me all but lost by the end, and this is coming from someone who has some experience playing the video games.

Michael Fassbender does his best, but he really can’t save scenes that involve discussions with any of the supporting cast besides Cotillard. The dialogue from other people in this corporation is so wooden and so stiff it was laughable, and I couldn’t help but wonder why it even existed. Take these awkward dialogue moments out and you have more time to really explore moments of the past and make a more exciting film, but instead time is wasted attempting to add new characters and plotlines that I just couldn’t get around.

Most of the first hour is excusable, there are some great moments of action and, while there were long, boring scenes between, “Assassin’s Creed” was looking to become the best video game movie to date. The last act of this film ruins a lot of that, as it is a confusing mess that all happens way too fast and with little reasoning. There are moments that should have some real impact emotionally, but they just don’t, and for the film to have the audacity to leave it on a cliffhanger, even though nearly every video game movie before it has failed, is just the icing on the cake that seal’s this movie as a disappointment.

Conclusion

“Assassin’s Creed” has some terrific action sequences, a solid performance by Michael Fassbender, and some ideas early on that looked as if it would create an interesting, coherent story. What happened instead was not nearly enough usage of the past, dreadfully boring scenes of exposition, and a conclusion that is uninteresting and complicated enough to have me checked out almost completely by the end. There is a good movie deep down in this source material, but Justin Kurzel tries too hard to add too many things without focusing in on what is truly fun about this video game series. “Assassin’s Creed” is not the video game adaptation that breaks the mold, but it also isn’t a total failure, as it certainly has more of a pulse than “Warcraft” did.

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