Assassin's Creed, C-
Rated PG-13, 140 minutes
Movies based on video games are a tricky thing, in that it's rare to have one that is actually any good - though some do make money at the box-office ("Tomb Raider" and "Resident Evil" fans take note). The latest attempt to turn a video game to a movie, "Assassin's Creed" is an expensive, joyless mess that wastes an intriguing premise and a solid cast.
Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) travels back in time to 15th-century Spain through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA. There, he lives out the experiences of Aguilar de Nerha, a distant relative who's also a member of the Assassins, a secret society that fights to protect free will from the power-hungry Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to battle the oppressive organization in the present.
Directed by Justin Kurzel, who directed last year's promising "Macbeth" with the leads here, Fassbender and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard, with a script from Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage, based on the video game with an original story, "Assassin's Creed" is a laborious, ambitious and overlong effort that even fans of the video game will find tedious. With a decent cast, first-rate visuals, production values and an energetic score from the director's brother, Australian musician Jed Kurzel, it isn't a total waste, but as with many films in this genre, style wins out over substance, and "AC" is largely a vacuous, sluggish affair at best.
The film's more memorable moments come with the memories that Cal experiences back in time during the Spanish Inquisition, and outside of that, it's a bit of a snooze fest back at the facility where all of this is going on, with some needless back and forth between Fassbender and a miscast Cotillard as the Spanish doctor trying to help him; also watch for Brendan Gleeson as his long-lost Dad, who has a strong connection in all of this, and "The Wire's" Michael K. Williams, stealing scenes as a fellow assassin who prefers voodoo and magic to martial arts.
The central problem with Kurzel's "Assassin's Creed" is that it's much too long and much too repetitive, not a total surprise given the source material, but we really get the point after the umpteenth time he goes back to relive some memories of his ancestor, and it only sets up a predictable climax and ending that could leave it open for more of these (let's hope not).
Based on the lavish sets and handsome CGI, it's evident a lot of cash was spent on the film - to the tune of $125 million - and it will be difficult to get some of that back, unless it does great business overseas, something that helped the recent and ridiculous video game effort "Warcraft" to stay in the black. A mildly entertaining but otherwise forgettable, lackluster "Assassin's Creed" will make you long for the more enjoyable days of Pac-Man or Pong.