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Assassin's Creed reviews: Critics pan Michael Fassbender's action flick

Updated

Kerry Brown

Nearly 10 years after the first installment in the massively popular Assassin’s Creed video game franchise was released, a movie adaptation is about to hit theaters. Michael Fassbender stars as Callum Lynch, a criminal who is conscripted by modern-day Templars to help them uncover a secret. How? By placing him in the super high-tech Animus machine so he can relive history as experienced by his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha, an assassin during the Spanish Inquisition. Marion Cotillard plays scientist Sophia Rikkin, and Jeremy Irons appears as her father and the mastermind behind Animus. The Wire vet Michael K. Williams plays Moussa, another Animus user.

But early reviews are in, and despite the film’s star power, critics are so far unimpressed. “The year 2016 has been full of surprises, so in some ways, Assassin’s Creed, Hollywood’s latest attempt to mine gold from an industry that rakes in more dough than it does, is a reassuring tonic,” Harry Windsor of The Hollywood Reporter writes, tongue firmly in cheek. “Video game adaptations remain plodding affairs.”

The Guardian‘s Peter Bradshaw pulled no punches: “It’s an action movie, with dollops of thriller and splodges of Dan Brown conspiracy; and hardly five minutes go by without someone in a monk’s outfit doing a bit of sub-parkour jumping from the roof of one building to another. And yet it is at all times mysteriously, transcendentally boring.”

David Ehrlich, writing for IndieWire, is one of the few voices to praise the film, directed by Australian filmmaker Justin Kurzel. “Declaring Assassin’s Creed to be the best video game movie ever made is the kind of backhanded compliment that sounds like hyperbole,” he writes, “but the description fits the bill on both counts. Regardless of what you call this peculiar, arrestingly uninviting nonsense, the fact of the matter is that it’s the only blockbuster of 2016 that left me desperate for a sequel.”

Assassin’s Creed opens in theaters on Wednesday. Read more reviews below.

Owen Gleiberman (Variety)
“Shot in somber sci-fi Renaissance tones, Assassin’s Creed has a Masterpiece Theatre cast that’s ten times classier than it needs, it cost more than $150 million to make, and it’s deeply self-serious about its long-ago-and-far-away setting … In Assassin’s Creed, Michael Fassbender is like the ultimate special effect. Just by showing up, he confers respectability on two hours of semi-coherent overly art-directed video-game sludge.”

Stephanie Zacharek (TIME)
“The plot of Assassin’s Creed is very confusing. No, scratch that: It’s a mess. You might not really care, but the movie — directed by Justin Kurzel, the Australian director whose last picture was a supergritty version of Macbeth, also starring Fassbender and Cotillard — is rife with squandered opportunities. ”

Harry Windsor (The Hollywood Reporter)
Assassin’s Creed reps Fassbender’s first film as a producer, though it’s hard to see what excited him about it, given that he’s got nothing to play. Game characters are ciphers by nature, with none of the idiosyncrasies that might complicate our ability to slip into their avatars frictionlessly. And although the film’s hero is a new one invented for the big screen, writers Bill Collage and Adam Cooper (Exodus: Gods and Kings, Allegiant) and Michael Lesslie (Macbeth) haven’t bothered to overlay anything fresh, like personality.”

David Ehrlich (Indiewire)
“Few studio offerings of this scale so proudly express the violence of their creative process, so openly confront their genetic makeup in order to become something better than what was written for them. Declaring Assassin’s Creed to be the best video game movie ever made is the kind of backhanded compliment that sounds like hyperbole, but the description fits the bill on both counts. Regardless of what you call this peculiar, arrestingly uninviting nonsense, the fact of the matter is that it’s the only blockbuster of 2016 that left me desperate for a sequel.”

Peter Bradshaw (The Guardian)
“There is no animus in this film, however. It’s rare to see a film quite so lacking in animus. It exists only to gouge money out of gamers. They might well want to stick to the game.”

Lucy O’Brien (IGN)
“As soon as it’s back to the grim monotony of Callum and co, however, any inkling of life dies. As Assassin’s Creed struggles towards its conclusion — and a nonsensical heel turn from a major character — one can’t help but feel disappointed in a film that got the style of the series so right, yet its heart so wrong. ”

Adi Robertson (The Verge)
“There’s inevitably a hint of shameless money-grab to any film adaptation of a ludicrously popular video game franchise, especially one that specifically appeals to people who must uncover every secret in the mythos. Still, Assassin’s Creed’s creators have the courage to always take themselves seriously, even when they’re working with material that sounds fundamentally silly. There’s no great leap of faith in Assassin’s Creed, but a surprising amount of the time, it at least finds steady footing.”

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