History, which is foundational to the captivatingly bonkers story of Justin Kurzel’s “Assassin’s Creed,” tells us that this should be a very bad movie. For one thing, this dense, dour, and oft-delayed holiday spectacle is based on a popular series of video games — a grim omen in a year that brought us the likes of “Warcraft” and “Ratchet & Clank.” For another, Kurzel’s moody adaptation is told on a massive scale, budgeted to compete with other franchise monstrosities like “Rogue One” and “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” — the familiar trouble with making a film like this is that it’s too expensive to afford any risks.
But “Assassin’s Creed,” in which Michael Fassbender’s blank protagonist quite literally repeats history, refuses to be defined by the past. On the contrary, this bizarre, borderline incoherent action movie becomes the most interesting blockbuster of 2016 because of how defiantly it confronts the expectations of its heritage. As cold and weird as anything a major American studio has released since they started gearing all of their products for a Chinese audience — it borrows almost as much from “Under the Skin” as it does “The Matrix” — Kurzel’s film illustrates how free will can wiggle its way into the franchise system, how the messiness of bloodshed can be the only way to break free from the shackles of bloodlines.