Although it opened in the US in 2016, Australia’s New Year’s Day opening makes Assassin’s Creed the first big movie of 2017.
Having played and loved many of the Assassin’s Creed videogames and having suffered through many mediocre attempts to spin other great games into movies, I went into the cinema today with mixed expectations.
In 2016 the Warcraft movie was better than expected and the trailers and press statements for Assassin’s Creed suggested that Lesslie, Cooper and Collage (writers) and Kurzel (director) had made the right decisions to make a good action movie inspired by the concepts of the game rather than trying to adapt all those hours of plot into a 2 hour run time.
Any and all high hopes are dashed in the first half hour.
Assassin’s Creed somehow manages to suffer from both too much and not enough exposition in the first act; clumsily navigating an opening crawl, Callum Lynch’s (Michael Fassbender) backstory, the Abstergo facility and the current and past Assassins and Templars in both the present day and 15th century time periods.
Despite all this, many of the characters are not ever fully introduced and the incredible technology of the Animus is barely explained in any satisfactory way meaning the audience laughter when Cal asks “What the fuck is going on?” feels almost sympathetic.
When all is said and done the key plot of this movie is thankfully simple enough to grasp and the failings of the awkward opening sequences don’t really cost the audience in the long run, though there are plenty of unanswered questions even in the final act.
As with the games the most exciting action happens inside the Animus (the sci-fi device that allows people to experience the genetic memories of their ancestors) and once Cal’s 15th century Assassin forefather Aguilar takes over the movie really starts to impress with genuinely excellent chases and fight scenes bringing the movie home strong. Where the movie exceeds expectation is in the satisfying action that continues in the real-world, leaving most of the audience more than a little interested in the already announced sequel.
The performances from the main cast are all solid, though the plot only serves to weaken Marion Cotillard’s Sofia in the end, the attempted twist to make her Templar affiliation less sinister instead making her just about the stupidest scientist in history.
Assassin’s Creed is ultimately a good action movie but it doesn’t break the curse of terrible videogame adaptations in quite as convincing a fashion as Warcraft did and with very similar opening US Box Office takings, but it’s still too early to tell whether that sequel will be earned.
Assassin’s Creed probably won’t be the Best Movie of 2017, but we’d love to hear your votes for the Best of 2016 right now!