Why are Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard in this? I mean I know every actor likes to work and pick up a cheque, but the very presence of two such fine performers in this farrago of a video game adaptation seems the very definition of pointless.
Casting two unknowns would have been more useful – here, the star wattage, or more crucially, the star capabilities, make for embarrassment. You feel for these two as they struggle with crap dialogue and rudimentary effects. They both look pained. They both look like they know they’re too good for this crap, and actually, neither of them are big-headed enough to “star” it out, like Tom Cruise or Tom Hanks can, so you end up with them looking lost, with one eye constantly on getting the hell off this set.
They did in Macbeth, too, for this same director Justin Kerzel of Australia, but at least that was a (fairly ropey if you ask me) Shakespeare tragedy where seriousness and looming doom had their place, not some teenage video guff about a hooded band of assassins escaping Torrequemada in the Spanish Inquisition – and yes, it is hard to watch it without thinking to yourself at least once: I wasn’t expecting the Spanish Inquisition…
Worse, the film feels the need to fill in the game’s backstory, so we get oodles of Dan Brown-ish gubbins about genetic memories and ancestors to find that petty modern-day criminal Cal (Fassbender) is related to 15th century renegade Aguilar (“The Eagle”), who clearly should be known as the father of parkour, because he sure can climb those walls of ancient Ronda or Granada or Cadiz, or whichever CGI-created citadel the film sees fit to return us sporadically.
We’re forever in search of a mind-numbingly uninteresting MacGuffin called The Apple of Eden, an artefact which various Masonic-type organisations in the present-day need to get their hands on, in order for the modern miracle to happen: to make Charlotte Rampling smile.
You can’t have so many people looking miserable and serious on the screen without that mood seeping into your audience, so even if some of the action sequences in mediaeval Spain have a certain video-game energy, it all drains away every time Cotillard has to do her serious scientist frown or Fassbender has to figure out what on earth she’s saying.
There’s no need to have good actors in this sort of thing. You need bad actors, or at least competent unknowns, who don’t bring any iconography with them and who don’t make their intelligence visible between the lines. I hope we don’t have to see them do any more of these. It’s Moorish, but not moreish.