A great videogame-to-film adaptation will happen in my lifetime, and I will be there when it happens. There will be confetti. There will be cheers. I will probably sob a little. But over this past year, there was no celebration for Duncan Jones’ Warcraft, Rovio’s Angry Birds or Michael Fassbender’s Assassin’s Creed.
Director Justin Kurzel follows up his excellent 2015 take on Macbeth with an equally serious treatment of a story about a guy who is placed in a machine called the Animus that uses “DNA memory” to revisit his assassin ancestry in the hopes of finding a magic apple that could enslave the human race. Yes, it’s as silly as it sounds, but you’ve got to admire Kurzel for taking this spaghetti splat plot as seriously as Ubisoft did.
Doing so means the story has to have empathetic or sympathetic characters – preferably both. But it’s damn hard to connect with Michael Fassbender’s lead, a man who we see on Death Row for the murder of a pimp that we’re meant to be totally cool with. You feel a little more for Marion Cotillard, a scientist looking to make her mark but questioning the methods. This, however, goes nowhere. Meanwhile, Jeremy Irons and Charlotte Rampling show up to sound sinister while refusing to move a facial muscle. At least Brendan Gleeson’s character has a reason to be numb for both his scenes.
The assassination flashbacks could have been something to make the drollness all worthwhile, and you can recognise how hard the stunt choreographers worked to make these scenes unique and exciting. But too many frustrating filmmaking choices turn the coordinated action into a blur – it’s only a few quick cuts and a camera shake shy from being Taken 3.
At least the panning shots look nice.