I could see one movie to review this week and the choice came down between Assassin’s Creed and Sing. One of these had already been given substantially lower viewer ratings than the other but it has also been given Michael Fassbender, one of the most handsome men ever. The choice was obvious. And for those of you facing a similar choice, I am here to tell you – Michael Fassbender spends an unnecessarily large amount of screen time without a shirt and because of that I enjoyed this show a lot more than I otherwise would have.
Assassin’s Creed was beautiful to watch, and not just because of its star. There were great sweeping shots of historical Spain, there museum-like rooms full of notes and artifacts from the Assassins and countless more wonderful sets and props that made this a joy to see. Visually I loved Assassin’s Creed. The way all the Assassin characters moved and fought was wonderful to behold as well, the stunts were amazing and the fight scenes were quite good as well. The video game, on which this movie was based, was fun to play because it was so gorgeous and I was glad to see that transitioned so well into film.
The writing did not work quite as well. I think Assassin’s Creed suffered from some loss in translation from video game to film; I’m not quite sure why. It’s possible that film has greater writing demands than than games (though I know some folks who might disagree on that point) I only played the first Assassin’s Creed but it seemed to be well written. I enjoyed its story, but I also enjoyed the gameplay a lot too, and gameplay doesn’t really make its way into movies very easily. Pacing was a bit off too. The midpoint of the movie, where the stakes are raised, pretense is abandoned and the action starts for real, occurred too late in the film. Usually this should occur almost exactly at the midpoint but instead this came quite near to the end of the second act.
The conflict between Templars and Assassins, the history of it and reasons for it, was basically handled in exposition. We were told what was happening and why instead of it coming out in the action. For example, everyone was after The Apple Of Eden and we’re told it ‘held the keys to free will’ but we were never shown what that looked like or what the world would be like if the villains succeed. It was just an object; they could as easily been after a banana or an accordion, for all that we saw was at stake. This works well in a videogame, when the player is furiously mashing ‘A button’ to skip the cutscene and get to the gameplay, but in film I’d like to see things develop and get a visceral sense of what’s at stake.
The Animus, a device that allowed Michael Fassbender to travel back into his genetic memories, drove me crazy. I think we were to be given the impression that it functioned like a Star Trek Holodeck for whoever was strapped into it. By gripping a person by the waist, it could lift them and allow them to run and fight as if they were really there. While the person dreamt they were in a vast city, they were really in a small room. What did the Animus do when Fassbender ran out of space? Did it pick him up and move him to the opposite end like he was on a mousepad? Alas we are not shown. In the game it was basically just a stasis pod/coffin-like thing, so I can see why they redesigned it but this contraption like it was badly in need of an ergonomic assessment.
So is Assassin’s Creed worth watching? That depends, I guess. Are you a fan of Michael Fassbender? Because he was awesome in this and so that would be a Big Yes. It was for me, despite my criticism of Assassin’s Creed, I really enjoyed watching it. Maybe the sequel, which I’ve heard they’re already making, will be better.