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‘Assassin’s Creed’ (review)

Produced by Jean-Julien Baronnet, Gérard Guillemot,Frank Marshall, Patrick Crowley, Michael Fassbender, Conor McCaughan, Arnon Milchan
Screenplay by Michael Lesslie,
Adam Cooper, Bill Collage

Based on Assassin’s Creed by Ubisoft
Directed by Justin Kurzel
Starring Michael Fassbender,
Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael K. Williams

Video game movies usually fall into two categories; Campy or serious.  Assassin’s Creed definitely checks the serious box.

Based on the video game franchise by Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed is the story of Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) , a man on death row, who taken after “death” to become a part of a scientific experiment.

Through a series of experiments Cal becomes linked to his ancestor Aguilar, a master assassin.  With each memory of Aguilar that is revealed, Cal becomes entangled the Assassin’s centuries long battle with the Knights Templar for the freewill of all humanity.

It’s video game grandiose plot brought to the big screen.  I haven’t really played any of the Assassin’s Creed video games, so I can only judge the movie on it’s merits as a film.

Director Justin Kurzel has helmed an action, fantasy/sci-fi film that holds it own.  No prior videogame experience required to enjoy it.

Assassin’s Creed is surprisingly chock full of award winning talent.  Oscar winning Marion Cotillard plays Sofia, the head scientist that you are never quite sure if she is a naive academic or something more sinister.  Fellow Oscar winner Jeremy Irons is her conniving Templar father.  Fassbender brings plays Cal with the dedication he brings to all his roles.  The three together bring a gravitas to the film that was unexpected. The cast is rounded out by a number of excellent character actors included Brendan Gleeson and Essie Davis that will tickle the back of your mind until the credits roll.  I spent a good deal of time wondering how the heck this cast ended up in a videogame movie.

Although the story’s linchpin is based on some pretty silly pseudo silence, it is refreshing to have a filmmaker who doesn’t treat their audience as the lowest common denominator.

In an era where even George Lucas won’t subtitle his movies because Hollywood believes audience won’t want to read (let’s face it, Jar Jar would have been so much better with an alien language and subtitles), the film takes a chance by having a third of it take place in the past in Spain with it’s dialog in Spanish with subtitles.  It’s a brilliant move to make the story feel more real.

The action is dynamic and well choreographed. From what I have observed of the video games, fans should be pleased to see the look and the feel of the worlds created in the games brought to the silver screen.  Much of the film reads like an origin story, and if the film is financially successful, I see many sequels in the future.

There have been many terrible live-action video game films; Street Fighter (it’s a tragedy that it was Raul Julia’s last film), Super Mario Brothers (I was so embarrassed for Bob Hoskins), Bloodrayne (If you haven’t seen it, don’t. If you did, I’m sorry).  Resident Evil and is one of the few that have been able to build a strong franchise with a devoted fan base. Although Warcraft did poorly in the US, the overseas market take proves that the international box office is as integral to domestic profits.  Assassin’s Creed has all it needs to grow into respectable series.  The games have road mapped story arc’s for several films.

If the same creative team of actors, writers and everyone behind the camera can execute future moves, they will have me happily returning to see the fate for Cal Lynch.

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