I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Jared McMillan // Film Critic
Rated PG-13, 115 minutes.
Director: Justin Kurzel
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams and Essie Davis
Every now and then, fandom comes to an intersection of different loves. It can be something that crosses the threshold of niche and into the mainstream. Take, for example, the comic book. Before the turn of the century, comic books were still something that had a stigma of being for a particular audience, and a symbol of being lesser than the status quo…nerd culture, as it were. However, the advent of the comic book movie has seen this subculture thrust into popularity, and has become a tentpole every year at the box office.
Conversely, the movies that are adapted from video games has seen nothing but misfire after misfire. The gaming industry, per Newzoo, saw $91.5 billion in global gaming revenues in 2015, with 2017 projections at $107 billion. So, of course, Hollywood will continue to throw out adaptations in order to capitalize on that industry. The latest attempt, ASSASSIN’S CREED, looked to be the one to crack the code. A highly popular franchise, with award-winning actors and an up-and-coming director, makes for an enticing setup.
ASSASSIN’S CREED makes a bit of a bold move to use an original story and new characters that differ from its video game predecessors. Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is put to death in prison, but it turns out to be a rouse so Abstergo Industries can use him in their quest to retrieve the “Apple of Eden”, which contains the genetic code of free will. There has been an eternal battle between the Mason-like Templars and the Assassins, who look to maintain balance in the world. Abstergo is a Templar front, headed by Dr. Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter Sofia (Marion Cotillard).
Sofia has discovered a way to use genetic coding as something of a time machine, allowing their descendants to retrace their steps in a different time period. This machine is known as the Animus, and Callum is the latest test subject. He is from an assassin’s lineage, a man named Aguilar, and linking to the Animus takes Callum (and the audience) back to the time of the Spanish Inquisition. As he spends more time in the machine, our hero gains more knowledge of his assassin heritage and skills, opening the story up for a chance of escape and justice.
The movie has a solid palette to work on, contrasting the cold setting of Abstergo with the warm textures of 15th century Spain. Directed by Justin Kurzel (who directed Fassbender & Cotillard in the fantastic adaptation of MACBETH), the story weaves itself through past and present, capitalized by excellent fight scenes that cross-cut between Aguilar fighting to protect the Apple and Callum learning how to fight as an assassin. Furthermore, there are a lot of details that fall in line with scenes and characteristics of the games.
While it keeps everything in line with the ASSASSIN’S CREED gameplay, it does a huge disservice to the non-gaming moviegoer. The movie does nothing to explain certain aspects, which can lead to confusion, as well as the perception of plot holes and out-of-place dialogue. For example, there is no explanation of the beginning of Templars and Assassins (in the game, they war because of the alien race that created humanity, the Isu). So, what seems like a holy war, is actually not, because Rikkin states that they use religion, politics, consumerism, etc. as a way to quell the human desire to expand mentally. There’s also something in the story about free will causes violence, and the Templars want the Apple to control free will and rid the world of violence; this is clearly a front, but it’s a question that is never answered.
These flaws speak to the bigger problem of adapting video games into movies: translation. For every reference to the game, there is someone who won’t understand the reference. Having Sofia gasp in awe in seeing the “leap of faith” does nothing for those who don’t understand why the leap of faith is special. You can have a cool-looking action flick, which ASSASSIN’S CREED falls under, but if you don’t consider the people that are just going in to see an action movie, then you’re confusing a lot of the audience. It’s a little better than previous video game adaptations, but there’s still much to improve past references. Once Hollywood fixes the strategy, video game movies should be able to reach the next level.
ASSASSIN’S CREED is now playing.