Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Assassin's Creed (2016)

"You were the chosen one! It was said that you would lift the curse, not strengthen it! Bring video game movies out of the hole, not dig it deeper!"
 - quote from Michael Kaye. Check out his review for the movie here:

Plot: Callum Lynch is a murderer who is sentenced to be executed but is rescued by Abstergo Industries. He is told that the Templars are searching for the Apple of Eden, which contains the genetic code for free will, in order to subjugate the human race and they need the memories of his ancestors back in the time of the Spanish Inquisition to do it. There Callum finds out that he comes from a line of Assassins who fight the Templars with the goal to free people from the Templars' tyrrany and the Assassins must find a way to obtain the Apple of Eden before the Templars do.

In my opinion, making a good video game is not impossible. All it takes is giving it to the right people who won't pretend to be anything else or talk down to their audience and above all will stick to the source material and what makes it good. Assassin's Creed by its concept alone is a great example of that. The movie got so much hype long before it hit theaters because the idea was perfect for an interesting movie. It's a story about a battle between good and evil and going back in time with the genetic code of your ancestors with all these different weapons, gadgets, mythology and unique opportunities to be both violent and educational at the same time. So with all of this material available, Assassin's Creed was deemed as the one video game film to finally destroy the curse of bad video games movies once and for all. Now I came to see this in theaters slightly nervous about it just from seeing the cover for Jeremy Jahns' review of the movie where he is pinching his temples while standing right next to the poster for the film. I was hoping that I would find a movie that somewhat similar to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice in that this would be a misunderstood film that has a few notable flaws but has good ideas that make it an all-around enjoyable movie. When I left the theater, I and the guy I saw the movie with, Kevin thought that it was a mixed bag at best, but the more I thought about it later, the more I realized that this film is deep down another film where they almost completely dismiss the heart of the source material.

Let's start with the good stuff. First of all, I liked Michael Fassbender's character even though his backstory felt very generic. The action scenes - while surprisingly lacking in blood which is one of the most notable aspects of the video games, has some really cool moments. Some of the costumes and sets look are good and faithful to the time period of the Spanish Inquisition and the faithful design of the Abstergo Industries building was nice to see. The visual effects had some noticeably good moments too. I saw this movie in 3D and for the most part, the 3D in this movie was neat to see. It wasn't blow-me-away fantastic like the 3D for movies like Avatar, Titanic 3D or Pacific Rim, but I appreciate that it wasn't supposed to be something as big as the 3D in those films. It's mostly there to be used for extreme wide shots of the locations or specific points of view that looked really neat to see making it a good way of incorporating the 3D without making it a theme. I also really appreciate that the film does give us the basic idea of what Assassin's Creed is about. Could they have done better? Absolutely, but I appreciate that it didn't waver from the general story and mythology as a whole.

 Okay so with all the good stuff by the way, what's really bad about this movie? Well, I'd say the biggest complaint for me is that there are a lot of things that are left unexplained. For one thing, we don't quite understand what is happening during the time of Callum's ancestor. We get the gist that they're trying to protect this young prince from being used to get the Apple of Eden, but we don't really dive into why the apple is so important. In fact, when I was talking to Kevin after the movie was over, he made a really good point that they don't really explain what the Apple of Eden even does. All we get is Sophia and her father saying that it's going to rid the world of violence and things like that, but we never see it happen. In the video games, you see people use the Apple of Eden to control people, making the danger behind the artifact real, but in the movie, nobody uses it. If they showed the Templars using the Apple of Eden against other people to show how important it is to keep it away from them, then the audience would be on board with what is happening. In fact, there were moments where I thought a character was going to use it on another person to get what they want, but for whatever reason, they decided not to. In a way, the lack of establishing the danger is right up there with the execution seen in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Incubus' tentacle attack in Suicide Squad and Krall's weapon in Star Trek Beyond; meaning the characters are expressing how serious the problem is, but not in a way where the audience can connect to what is happening.

The biggest problem with many fans is the fact that they focus too much on Callum, Sophia and her father in the real world and not nearly on Callum's ancestor. Not to be fair, I get why they made this decision. From a storytelling standpoint, I can see how it made more sense to the filmmakers to focus more on what's happening in the present than in the past because the general plot line is about who gets the Apple of Eden in the present. But the fact is part of what made the Assassin's Creed games so good is the fact that we are focusing on the past. We get to know all these fictional characters who interact with these famous people in history and have their own adventures that tie into specific moments in history, because like I said before, one of the strengths of the Assassin's Creed games is how they're violent but also educational in they're own special way. But here, we get so little of what takes place in Spain that I hardly got to know any of the characters that were in that time period. I had a general gist of who they were and their relationships with one another but I wanted much more than that. I wanted to get to know them more than I know Callun or anyone else from the present but instead, I know so little that I don't know who their names are or even if the movie told us who they are. This is a particular problem because it's this kind of information that's where I thought this movie could have been the one to break the curse of bad video game movies. It's set during the Spanish Inquisition, there's bound to be plenty of people both fictional and non-fictional that Callum's ancestor could interact with, and we could have gotten a fictional, action-packed version of some notable points in history. By all accounts, substance like this I think would have secured in this movie becoming good, but instead, they left it out to focus more on Callum, which - while not horrible, is boring by comparison.

 Show me the biggest let down in this movie is the ending. I'm not going to spoil it for anyone who hasn't seen the movie yet, but while I do understand why they made this choice, it still led to an anticlimatic ending with a forced 180 on Sophia's character. Obviously they were hoping that this was going to lead to sequels, but given all the other problems I already listed, that isn't happening any time soon.

And that's my review for Assassin's Creed. I think I understand why they made the decision to focus more on the present then in the past, but it's the past that gives Assassin's Creed as a video game franchise its meat and what we really wanted to see. When we do see the Spanish Inquisiton and all the action that goes with it, the film is good, but since it's not as much of a focus as it should have been, Assassin's Creed has sadly fallen victim to the video game movie curse like so many before it. There are more insulting adaptations to video games than this, but sadly this is another film to prove that the curse is going to stay for a little while longer. 

Rating: 35% 

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