Stay on target MovieBob Reviews: ‘Shadow’MovieBob Reviews: ‘The Curse of La Llorona’ Assassin’s Creed is a series of popular video games (or rather, a series of video games that were popular for a couple of years – a couple of years ago) set in various meticulously recreated historical periods and chronicling the centuries long battle between the world-domination scheming Templars and their nemesis The Assassins. The “gimmick” of the games, however, is that despite this, they’re technically set in the present: The historical periods we’re seeing are actually the visions of various protagonists who are hooked up to a machine called The Animus that lets one relive the genetic memories of their ancestors… who without fail tend to have been Assassins, because nobody was going to play Accounts Receivable Manager’s Creed.Ostensibly, this gimmick is meant to be Assassin’s Creed’s in-game explanation for why time-jumps, invisible boundaries, pop-ins and other “video-gamey stuff” is happening in Rennaissance Italy (or The Crusades, or Colonial New England, or wherever,) but in practice it’s also an interesting example of a narrative conceit that really only works in the context of a game: Unlike in a passive viewing scenario, it doesn’t really matter that what we’re seeing is “just a simulation” of something that already happened – and thus doesn’t really possess any real tension – because we’re playing it and still have to trigger the proper sequence of events. Clever and functional!But in a movie? Yeah, that was always going to be the problem: The actual plot is telling us that all the Assassin stuff doesn’t actually matter because it’s just a video feed of a wonky sci-fi flashback device, but the Assassins are all anyone really cares about – that’s why they get the fancy hoodies and the parkour and the elaborate martial arts business. So instead, the Assassin’s Creed movie decides to relegate the Assassins themselves to the B-story and focus on the present-day… which anyone who’s played an Assassin’s Creed game can tell you is always the most tedious fucking part. What could go wrong?Well, everything – but yet also nothing. We’ve pretty much known for over a year that the Assassin’s Creed movie was going to be a pile of ass because otherwise why would they dump something fairly expensive (and full of fairly well-regarded movie stars) to die at the holiday box office against all the family-friendly blockbusters, after all. But what’s shocking is just how empty it is. The action is barely passable, the look of everything is hopelessly generic, the story is stripped bare and totally uninvolving, there isn’t a single memorable or remotely interesting thing going on in it.The only noteworthy thing I was able to take away is that it’s ugly as all hell – every scene looks like it’s been processed through a different hideously-unpleasant Instagram filter. The present-day “laboratory” scenes are bathed in a blue-gray sheen that evokes nothing so much as pretentious cologne commercials. The Assassin flashbacks are a muddy brown mess where a constant haze of smoke and grit works to obscure shockingly weak CGI and a paucity of things actually going on. A drawn-out finale involving the modern-day Templars looks like a direct rip from the same basic faux-Illuminati nonsense from the last James Bond movie, only somehow more boring.In case you were wondering, we aren’t following any of the known protagonists from any of the various games – after all, that might have been interesting. Instead, we’ve got Michael Fassbender trying to chomp his way through the scenery in a nothing role as a death row inmate. He gets grabbed up by the Templars because he’s the last known descendant of an Assassin from Inquisition-era Spain who was the last person known to possess the magic McGuffin (“The Apple of Eden” – no, really) the bad guys are looking for. Jeremy Irons is the Templar running the program at Abstergo Inc.; Marion Cotillard is the scientist running the Animus, Michael K. Williams, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling are… also in this, for some reason (well, okay, Gleeson is playing Fassbender’s estranged father, but I couldn’t explain who Williams and a handful of fellow Animus lab-rats are or what they’re meant to be doing.)It’s pretty obvious that the studio knew they had a bomb on their hands for awhile because it shows every sign of having been cut to shreds in the vain hope that it’ll at least be fast-paced enough to function as a disposable second choice for action fans. There are dozens of characters in both time periods, but we barely learn their names and their motivations remains murky outside of who’s a Templar, who’s an Assassin and… that’s kind of it, I guess. The Inquisition-era scenes feature a female Assassin played by newcomer Ariane Labed who has the most screen presence of anybody (and looks more dynamic in her action beats than Fassbender) but I’d be at a loss to tell you her character’s name or the nature of her eventually plot-necessary connection to the hero. The sheer level of apathy the film inspires is really something to behold.I mean, let’s be clear: This might have at least been mildly enjoyable. The plot is a bunch of nonsense, but it has all the same basic components as those DaVinci Code movies and those are usually entertaining on their own dopey merits. So taking that and adding a bunch of parkour ninja stuff with a dash of National Treasure should be a slam dunk for at least some dumb fun at least if they aren’t going to bother to try and be good. But what puts the final nail in Assassin’s Creed is that it’s so incredibly self-serious: It doesn’t just fail to see the inherent humor in its ridiculous premise, nobody in the cast ever seems to be fully awake. They’re as bored by this as we are, blandly mouthing expositional dialogue without a sign of life. All except Fassbender, who for some reason digs into this bullshit like he thinks he’s about to morph into Daniel Day-Lewis any second now (a particularly contrived sequence lets him get dragged around-mid breakdown while belting out a manic cover of Patsy Cline’s “Crazy,” so yeah – one of those.)I wish I could even muster some righteous anger here, but the plain fact is Assassin’s Creed is a nothing movie that isn’t even good at being disposable… which maybe makes it the perfect piece of shit to close out a genuinely miserable year on this planet. Don’t take the leap.