After so many terrible translations from console to cinema, video game adaptations have a stigma attached to them. That’s about to change this year, however, with the release of Assassin’s Creed. Gamers, prepare to take a leap of faith…
In bringing Ubisoft’s best-selling game franchise to the screen, Australian director Justin Kurzel (Snowtown, Macbeth) has done for video game adaptations what Christopher Nolan did for Batman comics, delivering a dark and dazzling fantasy-adventure that’s grounded in the real world and juxtaposes historical context with the contemporary problem of curbing violent behaviour.
A fantastic cast adds further gravitas: Assassin’s Creed reunites Kurzel with his Macbeth leads Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard, and the supporting roles include Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling. Yes, you read that correctly, Charlotte Rampling in a video game movie – Assassin’s Creed means business!
Convicted murderer Callum Lynch (Fassbender) is snatched from death row execution by Dr. Sofia Rikken (Cotillard), a scientist with Abstergo Industries, who have developed a machine called the Animus, which facilitates a DNA memory meld with a genetic ancestor. Lynch is thrust into the mind of 15th century assassin Aguilar to discover the whereabouts of the Apple of Eden, an ancient artifact that contains the “seeds of disobedience” and could hold the key to eliminating human aggression.
The Apple is also coveted by the Knights Templar for a more sinister purpose, one that will end their centuries-long conflict with the Assassins and eliminate free will.
The action alternates between the Abstergo facility and 15th century Spain in thrall to the Inquisition, with the Animus allowing Lynch to manipulate his ancestor in much the same fashion a gamer will play their avatar – it’s a cool nod to the movie’s roots, with the finely choreographed parkour and fight sequences remaining true to the game’s visual aesthetic.
The mythology surrounding the Assassin bloodlines and their war with the Templars is also crucial – and dense, so you’ll need to pay attention (another first for a video game movie). It’s this blending of historical detail and frenetic action – coupled with a moody ambience – that distinguishes Assassin’s Creed from its peers. It’s got style and substance.
With audiences becoming increasingly desensitised to all the generic FX-laden blockbusters of late, Assassin’s Creed is the visual and creative departure that the genre needed. Kurzel has demonstrated that video game movies don’t need to be vacuous action-fests, and having now triumphed with true crime, Shakespeare and Ubisoft’s finest, it’s exciting to contemplate what he’ll do next.
In cinemas: January 1, 2017
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons
Directed by: Justin Kurzel