Assassin’s Creed (2016)

(On Cable TV, September 2017) Videogame movie adaptations have a terrible track record, and Assassin’s Creed won’t do much to counter the prevailing opinion. Some things that only make sense when you have a game controller in your hands don’t survive the transition to the big screen very well, which is demonstrated as Assassin’s Creed piles up a mythology that sounds ludicrous from the first time “genetic memory” is mentioned. Even after watching its conclusion, I remain unconvinced that the Assassins are the good guys we’re supposed to be cheering for (and the film does have an unexamined propensity for using violence as a tool that I find off-putting for all sorts of reasons, but again: look at the source material). It doesn’t help that the plot seems to be twisting itself in all sorts of needlessly pointless shapes, grandly referring to things that are of no interest to most viewers. (Deep and sombre contemplation of a “leap of faith” had me scurrying to the nearest explanatory web page, only to discover that it was an overblown game mechanic.)  Still, even as mired in its own lore as Assassin’s Creed can be, it does sport one or two interesting things. Michael Fassbender is vastly overqualified as the lead actor, but he does bring his own kind of interest to the proceedings, helped along by Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons. The quality of the images show just how well CGI can now be used to create historical environments and bathe the rest of the film in gauzy haze. The production values are very good, including some impressive costume and set design work in its historical segments. Sadly, little of this leads to a film that can be enjoyed. In between the lengthy moments in which nothing happens, the ludicrous mythology, the confused morals and the self-important nonsense that passes off as dialogue, Assassin’s Creed remains a disappointment and another piece of evidence that no one has yet mastered how to bring interactive entertainment to the movies.

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