There are two kinds of people in this world. People who can’t watch the Assassin’s Creed movie because they know the lore, and people who can’t watch the movie because they don’t.
Here’s the thing with movies based on videogame franchises: I keep hoping that, somehow, one day we will be blessed with one that does more than deter its audience. November 14, 2016, when the Assassin’s Creed movie was released, was not that day. Today, I am not here to explain why the AC movie is a good or bad movie – plenty of people have done that before me. (Needless to say, I am not a fan and it will show.) Instead, I am here as a fan of AC to discuss why the AC movie is about as “AC” as that time I tried to wall‑run and broke my ankle. There will be no spoilers, partly because this movie has very little substance to spoil. It’s safer to think of it as processed canned food instead. It will not spoil in your lifetime, but only God can help you digest it.
Let’s start with what few things the movie does do the Assassin’s Creed way. First of all, Jed Kurzel’s music is a pleasant callback to Jesper Kyd’s soundtrack to the games and fits the atmosphere very well. Secondly, the costume department deserves a complimentary barrel of wine and a pat on the back for their efforts. The actors/stunt doubles also perform a good deal of that sick parkour AC is famous for and I hereby acknowledge the many hours of training that must have gone into that. And finally, Michael Fassbender, who plays the main character, should be immediately taken to a masseuse to relieve the back pain he must be experiencing after carrying this entire movie for two hours.
That’s it. That’s all this movie does that is in any way lore-friendly. The rest of it is a jumbled mess of Apples, eagles, genetic memories, varying shades of blue, and Jeremy Irons is there for some reason.
Probably the most glaring issue with the movie lore-wise, and one that best embodies the reason it’s not a decent AC flick, is its Animus. I will do what the movie never considers doing and explain to the uninvolved reader: the basic premise of Assassin’s Creed is that memories of all our ancestors are stored in our brains but inaccessible to our conscious selves. The Animus is a device that can access the user’s genetic memories and make the user (re-)live them by “synchronizing” with their ancestor. Templars (or the Abstergo Corporation, or The Evil, whatever you may call them) use Animi to search through people’s memories in hopes of finding the Apple of Eden, an artifact passed down from an ancient civilization of gods that is said to possess unimaginable power. Templars seek the Apple to put an end to free will, which they believe will end suffering. Assassins, on the other hand, are rather fond of free will, even if people do some gentle stabbing every now and then, as one does.
In the games, the Animus is a comfy little therapist’s seat that you take a nap on and dream about your great great great granddad’s past life while a templar scientist watches the footage on a 4K LCD screen on the side. In the movie, the Animus is a torture device.
It lifts you up (but only if you have some of your great great great granddad’s clothing!), it jams its metal talons into your spine and waves you around while projecting memories around you, moving you along with them. Besides the fact that you would be dead after smashing your face on a wall when the memory goes “out of bounds” of the room, there is no reason for it to be so much larger, more physically taxing to use and so much less effective than the original 2007 Animus. I’d add another strike for Fassbender being half-naked every time he gets animus’d for some reason, except I don’t think anyone actually minds.
But that is just the tip of the strike iceberg. Anyone who has played any AC game for longer than a couple hours will find themselves muttering “but that’s not how it works” repeatedly throughout the movie’s runtime. Among other issues, “the bleeding effect” of the AC games is essentially new muscle memory allowing you to do cool parkour after you’ve spent enough time in an Animus. It is not, as the movie suggests, the graveyard scene from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire allowing you to talk to and physically fight your ancestors – I would suggest a psychiatrist for that.
The lesson to be learned here is that either movie directors or game companies (Ubisoft in this case) severely underestimate the intelligence and/or memory of their audience. Throwing some action, trademark logos, and one-liners in a pot together does not a good videogame movie make. It makes for a very elaborate and very expensive insult that leaves both sides disappointed with what could have been.