Assassin's Creed review roundup: The video game-movie curse continues

'This movie is akin to watching someone else watch someone else play a bad video game'

Like Warcraft earlier this year, Justin Kurzel’s adaptation of Assassin's Creed was supposed to be the saviour of video game adaptations.

Unfortunately, the middling bar set by Mortal Kombat has yet to be broken, as the Michael Fassbender film has flopped with critics.

Numerous reviews have emphasised one line in line, said by the leading character, in particular: “What the f**k is going on?”

One of the more positive takes on Assassin's Creed comes from The Independent, with reviewer Clarisse Loughrey saying: “This might be the best video game adaptation yet. Mind you, that's not saying a huge amount.”

Conversely, in his one-star review, The Guardian’s Peter Bradshaw notes: “Getting Fassbender to slap a coat of Dulux on the wall of his hi-tech prison cell and monitoring the progressive moisture-loss would be more exciting.” Read the critics’ thoughts below.

The Independent - Clarisse Loughrey - 3/5

Assassin's Creed has probably done the very best it can with the hand it's been dealt with and, really, this might be the best video game adaptation yet. Mind you, that's not saying a huge amount.

The Guardian - Peter Bradshaw - 1/5

I bet playing the game is much more exciting. But then getting Fassbender to slap a coat of Dulux on the wall of his hi-tech prison cell and monitoring the progressive moisture-loss would be more exciting.

The Telegraph - Robbie Collin - 2/5

Fassbender’s left likewise scrabbling around for depth that isn’t there. Like Ben Affleck’s new rendition of Batman, Lynch is another of those pandering, self-pitying, sullen-but-virile man-children with the weight of the world swinging between his legs. No-one understands his pain, not least of all women: when Cotillard describes finding the Apple as her life’s work, Fassbender barks back: “It’s my life.”

Variety - Owen Gleiberman

I won’t attempt to parse the fetishistic levels of “meaning” woven into the “Assassin’s Creed” video games, but in the movie the material is derivative in the extreme. Basically, we’re watching “The Matrix” and “The Da Vinci Code” get Cuisinarted into weaponized action sequences that look like they came off of old heavy-metal album covers. There’s an aura of cult doom hanging over the action, but that just makes everything on-screen feel glumly ritualized and abstracted. The Knights Templar, man! How sinister-theological-cool. It’s all a way of creating “mystery” where there is none.

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Forbes - Scott Mendelson - 2/10

It is a tired cliché to say that a bad video game movie is akin to watching someone else play a bad video game. But Assassin’s Creed takes that trope to the next level. Thanks to a plot device that turns a relatively simple premise into an “spend the whole movie explaining the rules” set-up, this movie is akin to watching someone else watch someone else play a bad video game. That extra layer of detachment creates copious layers of disinterest, rendering what could have been a passable action fantasy into a laughably bad botch.

The Hollywood Reporter - Harry Windsor

The Templars' grand scheme — "The history of the world is the history of violence," says Irons — is less interesting than the story's nod to themes of identity and religious strife, while the positing of the Christian Templars as oppressors of the obviously Moorish Assassins hints at a more subversive blockbuster than the one Assassin's Creed is content to be. Instead we get action sequences shorn of context propelled by characters who are anonymous, even if one of them looks like the star.

AV Club - Jesse Hassenger - C-

Assassin’s Creed is most compelling when Fassbender and Cotillard whisper at each other in close proximity. Both actors have such adult intensity that their participation in a juvenile fantasy (replete with simultaneous hood-flipping and at least a half dozen dramatic dives from great heights, along with the aforementioned self-satisfied libertarianism) becomes a source of bizarre fascination—for a little while, anyway. Assassin’s Creed pushes their charisma to the limits, then stabs it bloodlessly and jumps off a building.

Screencrush - Matt Singer - 6/10

Assassin’s Creed makes you actively work for its pleasures, and it’s heartening to see a film of this scale that’s strange and ambitious and doesn’t spoon-feed viewers every little detail. If most Hollywood blockbusters are Kraft Singles — familiar, mildly satisfying, vaguely artificial, a little bit boring — Assassin’s Creed is like Kraft’s attempt to replicate the weird stinky French cheese you try at a party that you’re unsure you like but find yourself going back to over and over again until you’ve eaten the whole block. Maybe they don’t entirely succeed, but you appreciate the effort.

Time - Stephanie Zacharek

Assassin’s Creed the movie is fairly innocuous. It’s also cheerless and dumb… At one point, some sort of 15th century enemy Knight scrambles along a rooftop on his horse. This is fascinating: A horse on a rooftop! How did he get there? How did he get down? These are questions the movie never answers. Cool image, though.

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