Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Assassin's Creed

As best as I can cobble together from the film, this is the background of Assassin’s Creed.

There are these assassins, and they have an initiation creed:
Assassin: "Where other men blindly follow the truth, remember..."
Initiate: "Nothing is true."
Assassin: "Where other men are limited by morality or law, remember..."
Initiate: "Everything is permitted."
Assassin: "We work in the dark to serve the light. We are Assassins."
Yikes. (Anti-hero...check!) What is so important that they are permitted to do anything immoral or illegal to serve this vague light?

Apparently, when Eve ate the apple, she exercised free will and as a result seeded the first sin into the world. Since then, everything has gone downhill: violence, greed, poorly made movies, etc. The Templars at some point decided that they would find the apple and genetically undo the damage that has been done (apparently sin is biological). Sounds great, but that also means free will goes out the window as everybody does what the Templars want them to do. The Assassins formed to stop the Templars from doing this.  

Fast forward five hundred years. The modern Templars are on the verge of getting the apple. They have apparently captured all the modern Assassins and managed, through some sci-fi wizardry, to find a way to send a modern descendent of an Assassin back to relive the life of a former Assassin. By doing this, they will be able to figure out where this elusive apple has been hidden for the past 500 years. One super naïve scientist, Sophia, is convinced the Templars will use this power to bring worldwide peace by deleting the genetic basis of violence in everybody (hello, Nobel Peace Prize!). I don’t think it will give much away to say that her plan is not the same as the other Templars.

* * * * *

I’ve not played the game on which this movie is based. If the action sequences are any indication, the game looks like a lot of fun. It was fun to watch a lot of the time, which I suspect was the main goal. That’s about all the positive props I have. Magneto - sorry, Michael Fassbender - felt wasted in this role, and I frankly didn't care about anybody as the credits rolled (except maybe Sophia, who actually had a moral compass of sorts and whose confusion through most of the movie mirrored mine). 

However, it’s worth a fly-over of the one serious subject the movie attempted to tackle: the question of free will.

Sophia claims that science has apparently proven that violence is genetic. In other words, biological history is destiny. Anything bad anybody does is the fault of biology. If one had the apple, one could deconstruct DNA and eradicate violence – and any other character flaw, for that matter, as the film notes at one point. So if Sophia is correct, then the apple didn’t bring free will at all; it brought genetic fate. The Assassins and Templars, on the other hand, think the apple brought and therefore controls free will. The Templars plan to control humanity through genetic engineering - which also seems a tad counterintuitive seeing how the apple was all about free will. Oh, well.

Assassin's Creed tries to show people in different places of coercion or freedom. 
  • Are the Assassins really free if they have sold their lives and morals to the Creed? 
  • If doctors are violently coercing people to help them find a cure for violence, are they acting freely are they, too, caught in the genetic web of that darn apple? 
  • If you take away someone else’s free will to protect free will, is that okay?  
  • Callum (Michael Fassbender) doesn’t know what to do with the idea of being genetically predisposed to violence, but he boldly declares his free will toward the end of the movie – as he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. 

This had the potential to be thought-provoking. It wasn’t. In fact, I think I am giving the movie far more credit than I should. This movie wasn't made so audiences would ponder the question of free will. Assassin’s Creed is about assassins following a fairly disturbing creed so they can violently stop even more disturbing people.

If that's all you are looking for, you will get your money's worth. If you are hoping for something thought-provoking or coherent, you may want to use your free will to watch something else. 

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