Back in 2007 when Ubisoft released their first game in the Assassin's Creed video game franchise, I was instantly hooked on what I consider a now classic video game series. The games see multiple assassins in present time and in the past, at the forefront of a centuries' long war against the Templars - building the facade in the present time as worldwide tech and entertainment conglomerate, Abstergo Industries. The Assassins and the Templars fight for a common goal: world peace and the betterment of mankind. However, whereas the Templars mean to force humanity into submission and peace, the Assassins aim to allow mankind the freedom and self-confidence as they shepherd humanity into a golden age.
At the center of this epic conflict are artifacts from what are known as The First Civilization or "Those Who Came Before", an advanced, technological race who call themselves the Isu. The Isu were responsible for creating Mankind, enslaving them as a labor race, before the humans rose up and overcame their creators. All that is left behind of the Isu as far as many of the Templars and Assassins are concerned, is the powerful technology they left behind, one such artifact of power being the Apple of Eden, which is a device that can control the minds of men, a major development in the plot of the Templars' hope for control by force.
In the movie's understanding, the Apple contains the seeds of the first acts of violence, something Maria Cotillard's character, Sofia Rikkin hopes to cure through science as an Abstergo employee, and daughter to Abstergo's CEO Alan Rikkin, played with cold, menacing fervor by Academy Award-winner Jeremy Irons. In order to find the Apple, they turn to the last remaining candidate who's bloodline made contact with the Apple in the distant past. Enter Assassin's Creed producer and star, Michael Fassbender, as Callum Lynch, a man with a violent past who sits on death row for capital murder when the film begins.
Sofia tells "Cal" that she means to cure him of his violent tendencies, in true Templar fashion, hiding her real motives from him. She claims the Animus - the device in Assassin's Creed lore, which allows users to explore their ancestor's memories locked away in their DNA - will do just that. Now in an Abstergo facility in Madrid, Spain, Cal is thrown back into 15th century Spain during the Spanish Inquisition as his Assassin ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha. Whereas Cal is cold and bitter about the world around him, Aguilar is simply a straight up killing machine, machine being an appropriate term as he barely emotes much other than his forbidden fondness towards his fellow female assassin, Maria, played by Greek newcoming actor, Arian Labed, whose character soaks up more dialogue than Fassbender's deadly Aguilar.
Aguilar's discrepancy for idle chit-chat fits appropriately for a new assassin who's sole purpose is following the Creed and completing the mission. Be it an assassin, hitman, contract killer, etc., these types usually care more for the kill rather than getting to know their potential targets around them. You don't murder countless fellow human beings and potential future targets while attempting to form attachments to them. Aguilar's attachment is clearly to the Creed and the Creed alone.
The cinematography creates a gloomy, dark, sci-fi atmosphere in the present day sequences, while the past makes for a dusty, yellowed, 15th century Spain, the air choked by smoke due to the open fires in lieu of gas or electric lighting, in addition to the assumable hundreds of non-Catholic Christians being burned at the stake by the Catholic Church, a gritty reminder of humanity's brutal past. Adam Arkapaw returns to work with director Justin Kurzel after having also worked on MacBeth together. The visuals are very reminiscent of the style the video games achieve.
Whereas we were all unpleasantly taken aback by the debut trailer's decision to cut in a Kanye West track over iron clad warriors doing battle with sword and shield, this questionable decision is thankfully absent in the film's score. Justin Kurzel's brother, Jed Kurzel, an Australian singer-songwriter who also scored his brother's directorial debut, MacBeth, returns to offer a nuanced yet effective score in Assassin's Creed. While there are no reused themes from the video games' recognizable score, Kurzel's remains original and driving.
As a big fan of the games, the only drawback I could see was a fairly sparse and slightly rushed plot, not spending much time on character introductions, only offering a quick childhood sequence to Cal's past, giving exposition to his cynical perspective of his life. This can be off-putting for some, though I can understand that with a trilogy planned for the franchise, Assassin's Creed is not only an introduction to the universe, but also an introduction to the characters themselves, their stories to continue in future movies, where we can have the opportunity to explore them further. Whether or not the film can find enough success in its audience to realize these future installments, is up to whether or not people continue to see the movie, despite the disappointing reviews critics have decided to serve the film.
Overall, Assassin's Creed holds great talent in its actors, an intriguing original story set within the video game universe, great action from the choreographers, convincing special effects, and most important of all it doesn't deviate from what makes the video games great. These factors for me, make for the best video game adaption from Hollywood yet, and a potential franchise that this fan would be very happy to see continue.
- Josh Price
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