Try as they might, year upon year, and with some getting agonizingly close, there have been no truly great video game movie adaptations to date.
Despite its pedigree of talented director in Justin Kurzel and a prestige cast including Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard (reuniting as a trio after their bold version of Macbeth last year), this at once ridiculous and tediously self-serious action-adventure does nothing to increasing the standings of video game-to-movie translations.
Injecting a newly created story into the universe of the ongoing game franchise, we follow Fassbender’s Cal Lynch, a criminal put to death only to find himself awoken in a medical facility run by a shadowy group headed by Jeremy Iron’s self-righteous CEO Adam Rikkin and his daughter Sofia (Cotillard).
They are after one thing: his past. Strapping him to a machine called “he Animus’, he is sent back in his mind to 15th century Spain and into the body of his ancestor Aguilar de Norha, who was part of an ancient order of assassins vowing to protect the world from the clutches of the Templar Order.
Its overstuffed, needlessly complicated plot pitches its tent somewhere between The Da Vinci Code and National Treasure, as Cal is forced to track down something called the Apple of Eden, which holds the genetic code to free will (or something…).
It would be enjoyable fluff if it didn’t take every second of itself so damn seriously, with clunkily portentous dialogue. Cotillard’s wide-eyed scientist at one point actually whispers, “it’s the leap of faith” as Cal does the franchise’s signature ‘jumping off a building’ move. The murky cinematography gives it a drab tone and it doesn’t have the clout to properly tackle its themes of morality and free will.
The action proves repetitive in the extreme; mildly entertaining at first, as the Assassins bound and flip across rooftops and up walls, even if the ADD editing often makes it difficult to work out exactly what’s going on. But it’s a one-trick pony and is ultimately about as enjoyable as sitting beside someone else playing the games, wishing you could have a go.