Assassin’s Creed (Movie)
My first instinct regarding a video game movie is always to shout “video games cannot be translated into another medium!”, but since I know that this wouldn’t make for an entertaining read and paints me a bit close-minded, I will judge Assassin’s Creed as a movie and whether it holds up and succeeds as such. You can translate a story into another medium, but never an experience, that is just blatant. That being out of the way, let’s take a look at Ubisoft’s attempt at a movie.
When a movie begins with a textcrawl I am usually slightly put off, but if the textcrawl is also horribly worded, I am almost offended. Anyway, we get a basic set-up for the conflict between Assassins and Templars which apparently could not have been done in a more elegant or organic fashion. We then cut to our main Assassin, Aguilar: During the Spanish Inquisition, this assassin was doing some stuff and we are there to witness his inauguration into the order and the ceremonial cutting-off of the finger. We transition into the present day with a horrible licensed music track and meet the present-day protagonist as a child, Cal Lynch. After he finds his dead mother murdered by his father he runs away. Fast forward again to him in prison with the death penalty awaiting him shortly after. Time-skip again, and it turns out he wasn’t actually killed, but taken in by Abstergo to use him and his link to his ancestor to find the apple of Eden, an artefact containing the key to controlling free will. Cal must enter the Animus, a device enabling him to experience the memories of his ancestor, under the close watch of Sofia, the scientist who invented the Animus and her father Rikkin who is there to speed up the plot and stand around menacingly. Soon Cal experiences hallucinations and is forced into a conflict that has been going on for centuries. You know the drill by now. The biggest problem with the plot and the entire movie is the absolute lack of characters. None of the ones presented here display any motivation that is in some way relatable or go through an arch. Cal goes along with what is happening for 90% of the movie. Sofia is bland and uninteresting as she never displays any emotion or moral. Rikkin is a classical bad guy who is interested in results and not the way to them. His main contribution is standing on a viewing platform and looking slightly pissed off. It is so uninspired and lazy I can’t bring myself to pour more words out. The ancestor story is even thinner, if that is possible. We never learn anything about Aguilar and his female sidekick, but are supposed to feel attached to them. The entire plot does not resolve anything, it moves down a straight line, fast and never looking back. But it is not a pleasant ride, more like one you wish you could get out off. There are no scenes, merely justifications for certain set-pieces.
– Good costume design, but that is hardly a saving grace. –
Acting-wise Michael Fassbender does a fairly good job, like he always does. Marion Cotillard has one expression the entire movie and provides us with the best overdose-of-Botox performance in the movie. Jeremy Irons is just there to be shady and he achieves that to some extent, but his entire character is so flat it is hardly worth praising. There is one good scene in the movie very early on when Cal is visited by a priest in his prison cell and one could reasonably assume that he was supposed to have more character at some point during the production, since all the paintings in his room certainly hint at one. But the idea is immediately dropped and he remains unexplored and underdeveloped. Another scene in the cantina of Abstergo admittedly made me smile, but that is about it. I have a strong (a very strong) feeling that this entire movie in large parts was an unused game concept. Especially early on, too many scenes seem like tutorials for game mechanics: Here is the fight tutorial, here is the horseback riding tutorial, free running, your first assassination, exploring Abstergo in a limited way. It all fits together far too perfectly not to be true. And that is why these scenes lack any punch. They need to be played, not watched. Originally they could have built connection if you were the one enacting them, but now it is like watching a perfect video walkthrough of the opening sequence of Assassin’s Creed Inquisition.
– A scene I actually liked and wouldn’t you know it? It does not have a million cuts in between. Did someone else film just this one scene? –
Another huge problem that plagues the movie is the lack of Assassin’s Creed-ness. What I mean by this is the absence of extended climbing sections, any sneaking in general, or working in the shadows like an assassin probably would. Assassins here are just knights. They fight and kill, quickly run away, then fight and kill some more. There are some free running scenes which sort of capture the essence of the source material, but they are destroyed like so many other scenes by an aggressive number of cuts. This movie cuts to different points of view all the time. There is not a single action scene that has the same perspective for more than five seconds and this gets annoying really fast. Not only do you have no sense of place, it also is really unpleasing on the eye. Which brings me to the 3D really quickly: it sucks. Not only is there no reason for the 3D, all the ancestor scenes are fittingly subtitled and reading those in 3D is migraine fuel. Trying to focus on a 3-dimensional line of text and keeping the scene in focus as well is impossible. You can either watch what is happening and understand nothing, or read what they are saying and lose the visuals. It is atrocious. But returning to the cuts, it is not just action scenes. A lot of scenes where it is unnecessary to show different angles, is cut up about 10 times for no reason. The movie also has an ugly cinematography, that is the best way I can describe it. Camera shots often feel off and oddly placed to frame a specific scene. I cannot wrap my head around the reasoning behind this.
– Did I mention that all the ancestor scenes have no context? Well they don’t and it gets annoying really fast. –
A really funny part of this movie is the soundtrack: There is a licensed song very early on and then it is just drumming. Drumming all the time. There is not a single stand out piece in this entire movie and the worst part is that this is a huge missed opportunity since this series has a backlog of great music from different games. It would have evoked some pleasant nostalgia at best and replaced the horrible mess that was used instead. Now some will say that the music of the different games is linked to the time period and would not have fit with the new one. But the adrenaline pumping escape themes or anything not ambient would have been perfect. Instead prepare your eardrums for some annoying and monotone drumming.
– (right) Sort of my face while watching the movie. –
What we have here is a mess: The movie is full of characters I cannot sympathise or even connect with since they are all so shallow. I was trying to give this movie a chance and for a time it looked promising. Briefly both Assassins and Templars were not strictly black and white and both had arguments for and against themselves, but this was all thrown out the window for some unconnected ancestor scenes. I liked the new Animus, since the robot arm kind of explains the muscle memory attained by using it, but later on “things” happen which are just stupid. The ending is, of course, set up for a sequel and the final fight before that is laughably comical at best. I felt disappointed and robbed by this movie. It is a horrendous piece as a movie and it does not get better when compared to the games. Everything feels unconnected and out of focus. All the Easter eggs weigh the movie down and could have been used with a lot more restraint. I have been spending my time after the movie with naming things I did not like or which did not work at all. Due to that, the movie left me tired, tired and exhausted. I can give it one thing though: it was better than Suicide Squad…
Image sources in order of appearance:
- https://i.ytimg.com/vi/JDoD3XekhxM/maxresdefault.jpg (Last date of access: 14.01.2017)
- http://www.giga.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/michael-fassbender-in-assassins-creed-der-film.jpg (Last date of access: 14.01.2017)
- http://www.giga.de/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/assassins-creed-der-film-szenebilder.jpg (Last date of access: 14.01.2017)
- https://ubistatic9-a.akamaihd.net/resource/de-DE/game/assassins-creed/ac/ac_movie_gallery-02_248047.jpg (Last date of access: 14.01.2017)