Friday, 30 December 2016

Assassin's Creed (4 Stars)

This is a film based on the popular Assassin's Creed games designed by Ubisoft for PlayStation, Xbox and Microsoft Windows. I've never played the games myself, but from my understanding the film only uses the fictional universe of the games as a premise while telling a new story. The story concerns two ancient organisations, the Templars and the Assassins, who have been battling for centuries. They both have the same goal, but have different methods of achieving it. The Templars want to have peace on Earth by reconditioning mankind to give up their free will. The Assassins want peace on Earth by killing those who oppose peace.

Callum Lynch is a criminal on death row awaiting execution. However, after receiving the lethal injection he wakes up in Spain. He's told that the execution was faked, because the Templars want him to carry out a mission for them. He is the last living descendant of an Assassin who fought in Spain in 1492. With the help of a device called the Animus a person can directly experience the life of one of his ancestors. The Templars want Callum to reveal to them the location of an artefact called the Apple of Eden, supposedly an apple from the tree in the Garden of Eden that first gave man the ability to see the difference between good and evil. Using this apple the Templars want to undo the effects of the first apple and make mankind innocent again.

Callum agrees to assist the Templars in their quest, but as he continues he begins to understand his heritage as an Assassin.

The film features incredible acting by Michael Fassbender as Callum Lynch. In contrast, the film's main actress, Marion Cotillard, is bland and uninteresting. I fail to understand her current popularity in Hollywood. She hasn't impressed me in any films she's made until now.

I have a few thoughts about the film's background, in particular its representation of the Templars, often referred to as the Knights Templar. Did they exist in 1492? According to historical records the Templars were a military organisation within the Roman Catholic Church from 1129 to 1312, when they were officially disbanded. The film identifies the Templars with the Spanish Inquisition, asserting that Tomas de Torquemada was the leader of the Templars. There is no historical support for this theory.

Today's Templar organisations were founded in the 18th Century, different organisations arguing with one another over which of them is the real organisation. The truth is that none of them are. The new organisations are all Protestant in their theology, whereas the original Templars were Catholic. The only connection between the old and the new organisations is a determination to fight against the spread of Islam.

The film's action takes place in 1492. Is this the correct year? Sultan Muhammad XII surrendered on January 2nd 1492, but the film's action seems to take place while he was still in power.

Apart from these minor quibbles, it's an exciting action film. A lot is expected from it. Even before the film was completed it was stated that two sequels were planned, and some scenes for the second film were shot in advance to save money. Critics are unhappy with the film, but the initial reports suggest that "Assassin's Creed" will be a box office success, though maybe not as big a success as expected.

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