I got a good haul of presents this year: socks and pants, which make me inordinately happy, lots of sweets, a recipe book, a nice shirt and a t-shirt, and two tickets to the Gold Class cinema in Singapore, which is like the normal cinema, except the seats are huge, they give you a blanket, and they bring meals to you. There’s not much on between Christmas and New Year; we’d already seen Rogue One, Pasengers has had all the plot spoiled to me, and so Assassin’s Creed seemed the least worst alternative. (I’ve had an obsession for watching dreadful films made out of video games for quite some time, although I know nothing about Assassin’s Creed except there’s a bloke wearing a hoodie jumping around a lot and, I surmised, assassinating people.)
Assassin’s Creed was nothing like I expected, not that I had any real expectations. I spent most of the film thinking “this is strange, how on earth did this get made?” It is, after all, a Hollywood film where the heroes are a bunch of suicidal super-insurgents who are up against the might of the Christian Church. Is it a metaphor? Is it the Canadians at Ubisoft sneaking some kind of political metaphor into the cinema? How does a film where people keep getting huge knives rammed through their windpipes just a PG-13?
That is to say, I really enjoyed it. It’s not the most cohesive of films (the narrative structure demands that it switches back and forth between the 15th and 21st century without really making a good case to do so) and Marion Cotillard sleepwalks her part, clearly slumming it for her paycheque. But both Jeremy Irons and Michael Fassbender throw themselves into their ridiculous roles. Fassbender spends half the film hanging from a giant robot arm while having an epidural (although they stick it into his neck rather than the base of his spine like they did with my wife – epidural, that is, no giant robot arms were around when she had her babies delivered). Irons, meanwhile, has to make the idea of being able to remove everybody’s higher cognitive functions seem like he thinks it’s a Good Thing. Which he does pretty well.
Brendon Gleason also turns up, but typecast as “gruff old man who stands around for a bit” and then there’s Omar from The Wire playing the long-lost descendant of a voodoo poisoner and a lanky bloke who looks like a sex pest and … look, the whole things is too ludicrous for words. My wife was disappointed that Fassbender doesn’t actually turn into an eagle at the end of the film and fly away, which should indicate something about the values of this film. The ending apparently made everyone who watched it angry, because there’s no enormous battle at the end, but that sort of switcheroo should have been assumed to be par for the course for a film that’s already declaring Western morality to be nothing but violent Spaniards while still espousing the values of the liberal project of enlightenment.
Oh, and bloody enormous swords and people riding horses like they’re motorbikes, and more sneaky plot elision than you can shake a stick at. Fassbender falls off a cliff. Fassbender turns up and gets ready to be burnt at the stake. Fassbender runs up a very tall building and then jumps off. Fassbender turns up on a boat in Cadiz. And so on.
So, come for the computer game homage. Or the parade of quality actors who may not be clear about what they’re doing there. Or for the unexpected political commentary. Or for the Spanish dialogue that is always subtitled and never “English with a Spanish accent” which I assume is the real reason people are angry at it. Or come because it’s Christmastime. What a blast.