About a third of the way through Assassin’s Creed, Michael Fassbender’s Callum Lynch sits in a moment of quiet reflection, looks around, says, “What the fuck is going on?,” then laughs. “Ha ha!,” he bellows. A few “ha ha”s then came from the audience. Then I let out a, “ha ha.” We are all laughing – sharing a good laugh with Michael Fassbender. It’s nice to laugh. I like to think that was Michael Fassbender improvising because he, like me, had no real idea what this movie was about. I like to think this was a real moment of frustration, because I was frustrated! I like to think I shared a moment with Michael Fassbender. I want to believe we shared a laugh. After sitting through Assassin’s Creed, I just want to believe in something again.
Here’s the part of the review when I tell you I don’t have a deep knowledge of the Assassin’s Creed video game. Here’s the part where you start tweeting at me, “Well, that’s your problem. You should play the game, then rewatch the movie, dummy.” And here’s the part where I mute you.
Do you like Paul WS Anderson movies? Maybe you do. That’s your choice and that’s between you and your god. If you do like Paul WS Anderson movies — movies like Resident Evil and Pompeii — you might like Assassin’s Creed. I’m being serious. It’s like a pretty well done Paul WS Anderson movie, only starring one of the best actors in the world, stripped of all personality. But Assassin’s Creed was not directed by Paul WS Anderson, it was directed by Justin Kurzel – who directed Fassbender in last year’s Macbeth and who I now have to assume has seen a lot of Paul WS Anderson movies.
The film opens in 15th century Spain as a group of hooded people talk in vague, coded language. Then we flash forward to the 1980s where young Callum is doing bicycle tricks. (In my imagination, Callum had just watched The Dirt Bike Kid, but there’s no proof one way or another in the movie if this is true, but let’s assume it happened.) After a a good bicycle jump, Callum returns home to find that his mother has been murdered by his father. We then cut to 2016 and Callum is being executed by lethal injection for “killing a pimp.” All of this takes place in the span of like eight minutes. There’s no character development other than “this all happened.”
Callum doesn’t die after his execution. Instead, he’s awoken by Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) a scientist who needs Callum’s help. Well, more accurately: She’s going to get Callum’s help whether he likes it or not. Callum is taken to a room and hooked up to a giant mechanical arm – and from there he’s transported back to 15th century Spain (as giant mechanical arms are wont to do) and we watch him on an adventure.
Later, there’s some exposition to explain all of this: Sophia and her father, Alan (Jeremy Irons), are seeking the apple from the whole Adam and Eve incident. Ignoring the laws of decomposition (and evolution), Alan and Sophia seek this apple through a machine they built that allows them to access the DNA code of long dead people through their ancestors. And Callum’s long dead relative belongs to a group that was in charge of protecting the apple, so he probably knows where it is. What does the apple do? We are told it controls the free will of all people. (Man, I don’t know. It’s a movie and that’s what it said.)
At this facility (most of the movie takes place in this sterile facility; when searching for an image to use on the Assassin’s Creed media site, three of them featured Fassbender lying or sitting on a bed), there are many others, but we don’t really get to meet them. We assume they are like Callum, with dead relatives who lived much more interesting lives. It doesn’t really matter. We don’t get to spend much time with them, even though one of them is played by Michael K. Williams and is the most interesting character in this movie. I guess we will never know. Unless they make a sequel, which they probably will because this movie will probably make a fortune in international markets. So, we have that to look forward to.
I don’t make “worst of” lists, but if I did, Assassin’s Creed would be in the running to make such a list. At least most Paul WS Anderson movies are somewhat fun to watch, in a masochistic kind of way. Assassin’s Creed is a tedious experience. For the life of me, I don’t know why I was supposed to care about any of this, yet it wasn’t silly enough to be entertaining as a pure schlock spectacle.
Maybe someday a distant relative of mine will be hooked up to one of these machines, then they can come back and watch me watch Assassin’s Creed. “Oh, look at this human being from 2016,” they will say about me as I watch Assassin’s Creed, “he looks so sad.” They won’t know the half of it.
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