With hangovers barely cured from New Year’s celebrations, anyone hoping that 2017 will be a better year than 2016 had better ignore the warning signs of this 1 January release. Yes, just one day after we saw Passengers, one of the worse films of 2016, comes Assassin’s Creed, which is surely (and hopefully) among the worst of 2017.
If I used 100 words to explain the plot here, that would be more explanation that exists in the film itself. I just about managed to glean that there are two organisations, the Knights Templar and The Assassins, that are at war over an artefact with mysterious powers. Michael Fassbender sort-of belongs to one of them, and is used by the other, run by a father and daughter played by Jeremy Irons and Marillon Cotillard, to lead them to the object.
The Assassin’s Creed video game on which this is based is the spiritual successor to The Prince of Persia, both made by Ubisoft and using a similar style of gameplay: subterfuge, parkour and assassination. Where the Prince of Persia film failed was by trying to make a very cool game into the new Pirates of the Carribean, losing everything that was great, most crucially the stylish, Middle-East-does-Matrix action.
Assassin’s Creed, admittedly, contains more of this, but it’s confusingly executed, and intercut with utterly tedious scenes in a facility somewhere in the present day where Fassbender’s character is being held. Devoid of all fun or entertainment value, it’s dreary from start to finish, compounded by the bafflingly under-explained plot. If Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad looked like the death of narrative cinema, Assassin’s Creed defecates on its corpse.
As in BvS, Jeremy Irons could have filmed his scenes in a day as he stands around doing nothing, and Cotillard once again refuses to speak at an audible volume. Fassbender, who usually appears to exercise some discretion in his choices, seems not to know how to act in this, even though he produced it. Eventually the film makers obviously lose interest too and it just sort-of ends, with one big, unanswered question: “is that it?”
At the screening we went to, the audience filed out in deathly silence, stony faced, like they’d just sat through a three hour funeral of someone they didn’t know. It seems a little early to call the worst film of the year, but with only 11 months and 29 days remaining it’s hard to see how it can be beaten.