The historical setting in the Assassin’s Creed movie is definitely sadly underutilized. The film takes place mostly in the modern day, while also exploring a bit of 15th century Spain in a few Animus segments and we aren’t exactly given much context or background on its characters. While this is disappointing, it does open up the possibility of Ubisoft exploring some of what has been created by the movie in upcoming games.
The historical segments of the film focus on an assassin named Aguilar in 15th century Spain, who joins the order after his entire family is executed by Templars. Unfortunately, this is a detail we’re told of in the movie instead of shown, meaning we never see the emotional impact the event had on the character. Even past that one example, we’re never really given any description as to Aguilar’s personality or the kind of person he is.
The past segments in the movie are almost entirely filled with action, leaving little room for character development or growth. We do see that there are multiple assassins that are part of the current order who battle alongside Aguilar, including another prominent character named Maria. There’s a romance between Aguilar and Maria that’s hinted at, but again we get very little context for how this relationship developed.
That’s really the heart of the issue with the historical setting in Assassin’s Creed. It isn’t given any time for development or exploration. Whereas the past has always been the focal point of the game series, the modern story takes precedence in the movie. We only understand how 15th century Spain fits into things insofar as that’s where the Apple of Eden, an important historical artifact in the series, was at that point of time.
Ubisoft has a prime opportunity to fix some of the holes in Aguilar’s story, and actually provide us with an intriguing new assassin. Aguilar doesn’t seem boring as it just feels like there’s more lying beneath the surface of the character, and he’s incredibly talented in combat. As it stands, we have no reason to care about him in the film, because we know nothing about his beliefs and motivations. We do know a bit more about his descendant Callum Lynch, but his development is also threadbare.
There are definite ties to the video game series and its lore, and the film also continues the series tradition of having famous historical figures appear in the story by putting in Christopher Columbus. Despite this, the movie feels almost like a skeleton for a story, with the Animus sequences being big crescendos in a plot that is otherwise missing.
Because of this, Assassin’s Creed falls victim to the problem many video game movies have. It feels like there’s hours of gameplay missing from the experience. The narrative, especially in the past, isn’t clear and concise enough to stand on its own and honestly feels like there are large chunks cut out. It makes you wonder if the story told in the film truly would be better served as a video game.
Exploring Aguilar’s life before, or even after the film, would allow us to see more depth to the character and how he fits into the endless war against the Templars. Gameplay segments would give us a feel for how the character became one of the most skilled assassins in the series, and how the relationship grew between him and Maria. One option Ubisoft could take would be to set a game after the movie, and interweave the narrative with flashbacks providing more detail and context on Aguilar’s life. There are plenty of options ripe to explore with this character.
With Ubisoft returning to the series in 2017, it’d be interesting to see them return to the time period. The film definitely succeeds in capturing the look and design of Assassin’s Creed, with convincing sets and costumes that feel right at home. The action is exciting, if a bit hard to follow, and is definitely inspired by what we’ve experienced in the games all these years.
There’s definitely a framework of something engaging, and Aguilar and Maria are just begging to be fleshed out more. The assassins in the movie feel distinct and individual because of their design, but next to their video game counterparts they just feel hollow. It’s just unfortunate that the movie insists on telling instead of showing, detailing key moments in Aguilar’s past during conversations rather than actually showing them on-screen.
There are so few scenes in the past that even following that storyline becomes confusing. The poor pacing and overall narrative only muddle the experience in general, and figuring out where the film fits into the series will most likely require a trip to the Assassin’s Creed wiki. More than anything, it’s an experience that simply leaves you wanting more, and I sincerely hope Ubisoft picks up these plot lines in the future.
Continuing Aguilar’s story would be better served by transitioning it to video game form, letting Ubisoft flesh out the character and his brotherhood even more. Based on how the film ends there’s some kind of sequel planned, but it ultimately may be a better idea for Ubisoft to explore that avenue with a video game rather than another big budget film.
The genius of Assassin’s Creed comes when the series uses history to its advantage, to tell a unique and original story with equally unique characters. There are hints of that in the new film, and it’d really be a pity if Aguilar and 15th century Spain never end up getting their due.
Have you seen the Assassin’s Creed movie? Would you like to see Ubisoft revisit the setting in a game? Let us know what you think down in the comments below.