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January, 25, 2017

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Video game flick 'Assassin's Creed' is anything but fun

In "Assassin's Creed " a death row inmate is saved by a shadowy organization because they need him to unlock the memories of his 15th century ancestor Aguilar to find the location of an apple that contains the genetic code to free will because Marion Cotillard wants to end violence ... or something. There have surely been sillier film premises, but even in a year that gave us "Independence Day: Resurgence," I'm hard pressed to think of anything as convoluted and, in the end, as joyless and unrewarding as this.

Yes, "Assassin's Creed" is attempting to give a serious narrative origin story to the popular video game, ostensibly setting up interest in possible future films. But it's hard to even feign interest in this one, let alone what might come next. Director Justin Kurzel's film embodies the worst tendencies of modern blockbusters to feel not like a full movie, but a tease for what's to come — a television pilot on the big screen. It's become the de facto operating mode for franchise storytelling, where instead of relying on a natural interest, the studios force audiences to want more by simply not giving them a full story in the first place.

In the case of "Assassin's Creed," they try to give an emotional entryway into understanding the ancient conflict between the Templars, who want order, and the Assassins, who have sworn to preserve free will at all costs, through the story of Cal Lynch. We meet Cal as a kid — a daredevil troublemaker who bikes home to find Patsy Cline's "Crazy" blaring over the speakers and his mother dead at the kitchen table. His father, sporting a dramatic hooded cape, is there with a knife and tells Cal that he needs to get out and "live in the shadows." Then some government types in black SUVs storm the house as Cal escapes on the rooftops.

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