Assassin’s Creed review – Things happening in front of your face

Apparently we’re still doing computer game adaptations. I thought we’d finally unplugged the life support machine from that cancer-riddled idea, but then came the colossal cock-up of Warcraft, a film I guaranteed would be shit, the director promised me it wouldn’t, but in the end it definitely was. Now it’s time for Assassin’s Creed to fill the silver screen with its own brand of unwatchable things, things that just sort of happen in front of your face until the film suddenly ends.

Having played enough of the game to know that it primarily consists of running along walls and clinging onto window ledges like a man trying to sneak out of your wife’s bedroom, I feel as though the film should be familiar enough to follow. Although I’m not sure how far familiarity will get you when the plot is communicated with all the grace of a baby throwing its shape blocks at you.

Michael Fassbender is related to a brotherhood of assassins from the Spanish Inquisition. They’re the protectors of the original Apple of Eden, which isn’t actually an apple, but an orb of green smoke that somehow lets you control free will. Futuristic Bible bashers Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons want to use Fassbender’s DNA to access his ancestor’s memories and locate said apple. And just because it looks cool, they hook him up to a VR machine that pointlessly requires him to physically re-enact everything that happened.

According to Google, this is more or less the storyline of Assassin’s Creed 2. But the obvious problem there is that the game encourages you to do things like press buttons and have fun, both of which distract you from the fact that this plot is clearly the scribblings of a maniac. For the film, however, you just have to sit there and let it happen to you – a bit like going to the dentist or being the recipient in a German scheiße video.

But unlike the perverse form of pleasure you might get from having a tooth ripped out of your skull, Assassin’s Creed does very little to raise excitement levels. Scenes inside and outside the Animus – the virtual reality world where the fun stuff is supposed to happen – are equally monotonous, to the extent that I started playing with an imaginary controller, hoping I could get the characters to do something more interesting, like dive head-first into a rock.

At which point, I decided this wasn’t even capturing the feel of the game. The enema VR machine is like a marauding ventriloquist hand that stuffs itself up Fassbender’s arse and tosses him around in time to his ancestor’s movements. Even then, the fighting only mildly resembles the intricate fist-flinging and deft penetration of assassin blades. It’s all grey, gritty and metallic – not at all like the clinical whiteness of the game, the sort of cleanness you’d expect from a scientific company who have lovely business cards.

All of which is made even more confusing by the fact that Fassbender is the producer. If this is a passion project for him, why is it so profoundly boring? Why do the aesthetics look more suited to Monty Python’s Life of Brian than Assassin’s Creed? Then again, we should not pass judgement on such a serious, Academy Award-nominated actor, whose integrity should never be doubted. I’m sure he had artistic reasons for wanting to star in a film where at least half of the characters might as well not have names.


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