Susan Granger’s review of “Assassin’s Creed” (20th Century Fox)
Based on Ubisoft’s popular video game, this time-tripping sci-fi film rarely rises above incoherency.
The saga begins with a series of ominous biblical texts, informing us that a device known as the Apple from the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden contains “the key to free will itself.”
Which is why in 1492 during the Spanish Inquisition, the Knights Templar were searching for this artifact so that they could enforce peace through “the power to control all freedom of thought.” Their opponents, the secret society of Assassins, are all about free will, even if that includes violence.
Flash forward to America, where “a career criminal,” Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender), is on Death Row in Texas, about to be executed by lethal injection for murder.
Instead, he’s transported to an Abstergo Industries laboratory in Madrid where – under the supervision of Dr. Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and her creepy CEO father, scientist Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) – he’s hooked up to a virtual reality/time machine called the Animus.
(Abstergo is Latin for “cleanse,” serving as the super-secret research facility of the contemporary Knights Templar.)
The Animus technology enables Cal to participate, via holograms, in the actions of his genetic ancestor, a hooded Assassin named Aguilar de Nerha (also played by Fassbender), a counter-revolutionary fighting in 15th century Spain with his companion Maria (Ariane Labed).
Filled with parkour-like jumps off medieval rooftops, their shadowy mission is to make sure that besieged Sultan Muhammad XII doesn’t surrender the precious relic – “the seed of mankind’s first disobedience.”
Based on a scrambled screenplay by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, Australian director Justin Kurzel (“Macbeth”), working with cinematographer Adam Arkapow, concentrates on the swashbuckling visuals rather than the choppy, seemingly endless exposition, augmented by Kurzel’s younger brother Jed’s musical score.
Although Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson and Michael K. Williams appear briefly, their talents are wasted on triviality.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Assassin’s Creed” is a fantasy 4, presumably following the gamers’ franchise.