Review: 'Assassin's Creed' – What Parents Need to Know
If your kids are into video games, they probably want to see “Assassin's Creed,” an action-adventure film based on the video game franchise of the same name.
I went to see this movie with my husband, who has been playing Assassin’s Creed for years. We also have two teenage boys who are into the video game, but we wanted to see this film for ourselves before allowing our kids to watch it.
As a mom, I’m usually busy washing the dishes while my family plays Assassin’s Creed. Call me old-fashioned, but I’m uncomfortable with murder as a premise for a game. My husband and sons assure me that it’s just a sci-fi game, perhaps even an excuse to make-believe you’re on a secret mission, equipped with a weapon and espionage tools. You can take a “leap of faith” to escape from the bad guys and engage in time travel. Okay, so maybe videogames are a guy’s version of a romance novel. It’s an escape from the mundane of everyday life. It’s a way to live vicariously through a character that’s more exciting than your wildest dreams.
As a heads up, this movie is very violent and not for the faint at heart. "Assassin’s Creed" is rated PG-13 for intense violence and strong language. Be forewarned there is a scene of death by lethal injection, in addition to intense fighting and combat, stabbings, assault, plus slow and painful death sequences. Actually, "Assassin’s Creed" is so disturbing that it should have been rated R.
In all honesty, I had my eyes closed for most of the film. Yes, it is that intense and violent. My husband was intrigued by the sci-fi aspects of the movie, especially the time travel. The basic premise of the movie is the same as the video game: A man is sent back in time, on a secret mission, to capture the “Apple of Eden.” The action scenes are well-done — with lots of climbing, flips, jumps and daredevil stunts. Plus, my husband thought the fighting scenes were exciting, realistically-staged and well-choreographed.
On the downside, the movie just doesn’t do justice to the video game. Things weren’t explained very well. Characters are shallow, and the audience is left scratching their head as to what their motivation is. For instance, the viewer discovers that the main character was sentenced to death by lethal injection for killing a pimp, but is never told why he killed the man or the circumstances of the murder. Another example of the vagueness of the film occurs in the beginning of the film when the main character discovers his mother was murdered by his father. The viewer learns very little about the motivation for her murder or the background of her life. It’s all very frustrating, but to their credit, the filmmakers packed a lot of punch into the plot, which holds your attention to the very end.
The movie isn't a direct adaptation of the video game. Instead, it introduces a new character, Callum Lynch (played by Michael Fassbender), who is imprisoned because he is a direct descendant of Aguilar de Nerha, who was an assassin during the Spanish Inquisition. A biotech research company uses Callum in order to dive into Aguilar's memories — and re-capture the Apple of Eden. The researchers tell Callum that he must get the Apple to put an end to the violence and restore world peace. Callum is also promised personal freedom. Once he completes his mission, he will be given a new life and identity, and he will no longer be a mind-control slave of the biotech researchers.
To get in touch with Callum’s memories, the researchers use a machine called the “Animus” to decode the history hidden in Callum’s DNA. Actually, the Animus is not a time-travel machine, but a memory-travel machine.
The Animus machine gives Callum a jolt to the back of his neck, and then he is transported back in time. It’s like a virtual reality device, because all the while, he remains in the biotech laboratory, being supervised by guards. Using this framework, the game transports characters to the Italian Renaissance, the Crusades, American Revolution, the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean, and Revolutionary France.
The game rivals are the Templars versus the Assassins. Evidently, the reason they’re fighting is humanity's free will. Being captured means being mind-controlled by governing authorities — so personal freedom is at stake.
If you’re not familiar with the Assassin’s Creed video game, you’ll probably find this movie to be very confusing. The plot focuses on capturing the Apple of Eden, but the movie never explains what the Apple is, how it works, and why it’s so important. It looks like a Christmas ornament – like a ball—and sometimes it whirls and appears to have a camera lens come out of it. It’s also implied that the Apple is some sort of detonator, like a bomb, but who knows?
Overall, the movie is dark, and best suited for teens age 15 and up. Folks who like the Assassin’s Creed series will probably enjoy seeing this movie, as it’s an action-packed adrenaline ride. Even so, gamers will probably leave the theater feeling like the medium fares better as a video game than a movie.
"Assassin’s Creed" is now playing in theaters.