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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Jan 13, 2017

Assassin’s Creed Movie Review: Another Unsuccessful Action Flick Adapted From A Popular Video Game

BASED ON A popular video game, “Assassin’s Creed”, its fans are hoping it will be a good adaptation on the big screen. Most video games-turned-movies are flops, like “Super Mario Bros.” in 1993 (the very first one), “Mortal Kombat”, “Street Fighter”, “Doom”, “Silent Hill”, “Need for Speed”, “Max Payne” and “Warcraft”. The more successful ones are “Pokemon” (which had three sequels), “Lara Croft” (one sequel), “Resident Evil” (several sequels).

You’d think “Assassin’s Creed” would be a success since it has a budget of $130 million and stars Oscar winners Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard, plus the very talented Michael Fassbender who’s been nominated for the Oscar twice. But it isn’t.

“Assassin’s Creed” is about an ancient cult of killers whose creed is the protect the original Apple from the garden of Eden who members of the Knights Templar (remember them from Da Vinci Code?) want to get hold of it to remove dissent and free will from human kind.

The movie starts in 1492 during the era of the Inquisition in Spain when the assassins assign Aguilar (Fassbender) to protect the Apple of Eden from various fanatics who want to possess it. From there, we jump to the 1980s in Texas when a little boy, Callum Lynch, sees his mother being killed by his own dad. That boy grows up to be a convicted criminal (Fassbender) who, in present times, is about to die from execution through lethal injection.

When Callum regains consciousness, he’s already in a secret research laboratory under the care of a scientist, Sophia (Cotillard), who works for an organization led by her dad, Alan Rikkin (Irons). He is said to be genetically predisposed to kill because of his aggressive genes because he is connected to the assassin Aguilar we first saw in the 14th century. Callum is then strapped to a huge machine called the Animus that will enable him to travel back in time and experience the genetic memory of his ancestor Aguilar so they can locate where the lost artifact Apple of Eden is hidden.

The movie is helmed by Australian director Justin Kurzel who also did Fassbender’s updated version of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” (with Cotillard as Lady Macbeth). We see Aguilar going through fight scenes and parkour chases where they jump and somersault through various rooftops while Callum in the present relives the same sequences strapped in his machine and while scientists monitor him.

Fassbender obviously prepared hard in the gym for this movie to be sure he’s in good shape as he’s shown shirtless in many scenes. We’ve always like him as an actor ever since we saw him as Magneto in “X-Men: First Class”. He has since gained acclaim as the slave owner in “12 Years a Slave” and in the title role of “Steve Jobs”. Here, he gives Callum his own brand of incipient madness while singing the Patsy Cline hit song, “Crazy”. But despite giving all his powerful intensity in his dual roles of Callum and Aguilar in the movie, everything comes out quite dull. Maybe if we’ve learned to care for Callum, it would have been more exciting. But as it is, he’s supposed to be the lead protagonist but we don’t really know much about him other than he’s a recidivist. Was he just a victim of their justice system?

The basic trouble is in the screenplay, which demonstrates once again how hard it is to make a good film out of a hit video game. We don’t know if it’s trying to be faithful to its source or what, but the fact remains that the narrative, which switched back and forth in time, is never really that involving or absorbing. We don’t really get to sympathize with any of the characters. There seems to be an interesting character in Aguilar’s co-assassin, Maria (Ariana Labed), but we aren’t told anything much about her until she suddenly just died.

Maybe it would help if you’re really a fan of the original computer game. But even the fight scenes are not engrossing for us, simply because they keep on jumping between the period point of view and a virtual perspective where the same fight scenes are repeated. Visually, it’s exciting to watch because the camera really swoops and soars to follow the characters, but all the exciting scenes belong to the distant past, none in the present.

We are introduced to a whole bunch of other characters inside the research laboratory but what their significance to the story is not fully explained and they seem to be wasted until the climax. The ending is really so unsatisfying (so bitin) and it’s presumably because they’re thinking franchise here and viewers should just watch out for the sequel which will explain all the missing parts and elements in this first movie. The trouble is that it’s a flop at the U.S. box office and is listed down as one of the biggest flops of 2016, along with Spielberg’s “The BFG”, “Allied” and “Ben Hur”. We doubt if there would be a part 2, unless the movie does better at the box office worldwide.