Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is, at the time of writing this, sitting comfortably atop the box office both in the U.S. and overseas. The Star Wars spinoff movie will face competition from a pair of bid-budget tentpoles arriving on December 21st (less than one week after Rogue One opened in theaters): Sony Pictures’ sci-fi romance/thriller Passengers, with stars Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence leading the way, and the Assassin’s Creed video game movie adaptation that is being headlined by Michael Fassbender, as well as Oscar-winners Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons.
The Assassin’s Creed film is particularly noteworthy – not only because it’s based on the popular Ubisoft video game franchise of the same name, but also because it is the first of several video game-based adaptations that Ubisoft Motion Pictures intends to release. Early reviews for Passengers has not been flattering and indicate that the film will struggle to compete with the critical/audience favorite that is Rogue One at the box office. Unfortunately, for those fans who had been hoping the film would break the infamous video game movie “curse”, the first reviews for Assassin’s Creed (which 20th Century Fox is releasing in theaters) aren’t much better – if not worse – than those for Passengers.
The following review excerpts for Assassin’s Creed – a project that reunites Fassbender and Cotillard with the director of their critically-acclaimed Macbeth (2015) film adaptation, Justin Kurzel – are SPOILER-FREE and include links to the full reviews. For those unfamiliar, here is the official Assassin’s Creed plot synopsis:
Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks his genetic memories, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) experiences the adventures of his ancestor, Aguilar, in 15th Century Spain. Callum discovers he is descended from a mysterious secret society, the Assassins, and amasses incredible knowledge and skills to take on the oppressive and powerful Templar organization in the present day.
Based on these reviews (negative and less-negative alike), it seems that Assassin’s Creed boasts handsome production design and slickly-constructed sequences similar to those from Kurzel’s Macbeth, as well as that William Shakespeare play adaptation’s relentlessly po-faced and self-serious tone – for the worse. It also sounds as though Fassbender delivers the type of committed performance here that everyone has come to expect from the actor, regardless of whether he’s appearing in the latest X-Men film or a new offering from 12 Years a Slave director Steve McQueen. The problem, however, is that all of that is (apparently) in the service of a half-baked narrative, mythology and characters.
Theses results aren’t necessarily surprising, as the trailers for Assassin’s Creed had (suspiciously) placed far more focus on the film’s spectacle and style over its characters or world-building. Fox even released a trailer dedicated solely to explaining the movie’s plot not too long ago, suggesting that the studio may have recognized that the film’s mythology (which was scripted by several screenwriters over the course of the project’s development) was messy enough to need a promo that offers a straight-forward explanation, for those unfamiliar with the original Assassin’s Creed games.
In other words: based on word of mouth so far, it sounds as though Assassin’s Creed falls into the same boat as Warcraft – a video game adaptation that, like the former, was criticized by many for struggling to translate its source material to the big screen, despite the creative involvement of the original games’ developers behind the scenes. The video game movie “curse”, it seems, is still alive and well.