Assassin’s Creed and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Justin Kurzel
We all knew it was only a matter of time until they took a stab at making the next great video game movie, and since Warcraft turned out to be such a disaster there’s a nice big opening for Ubisoft to take the throne as the first company to get this right. Now the trailers really don’t inspire much hope as it looks like a bunch of overqualified actors in a routine action film, but then maybe that’s enough to make this a GOOD film (a feat unto itself at this point) even if it can’t quite be a great one. Does this manage to be the sign of things to come as studios begin to buckle down and seriously try to crack the code on adapting video games to the big screen, or will Resident Evil and Mortal Kombat still be the high bar that no one else has inexplicably been able to reach? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Cal Lynch as a young boy (Angus Brown) walking in on his mother (Essie Davis) with a stab wound in her neck and his dad (Brian Gleeson in the flashbacks and Brendan Gleeson in the present) with a bloody Assassin’s blade and wearing a very uncomfortable looking coat considering the scene seems to be set in New Mexico or something. Little Cal doesn’t have long to contemplate this as a whole bunch of black vans with hired goons rolls up on the house and tries to kill the both of him, but Cal manages to escape. Well, not for TOO long as we jump to present day where Little Cal is now Handsome Cal (Michael Fassbender) and is on death row for… some reason. Except not really! Apparently a super science corporation named Abstergo arranged it so that the state would PRETEND to kill him and then hand the poor sap over to Sofia and Alan Rikkin (Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons) who want him for their nefarious ends… I think. Apparently Cal is the Great Great Great Great Great Great (and so on) grandson of some Assassin from the fifteenth century and was ALSO the last known person to have the McGuffin of ultimate power… I mean the Apple of Eden. Using this giant crane device which is supposed to the Animus, they’re gonna send his brain back in time to live out the memories of his ancestor Aguilar de Nerha and find where he left the damn thing so they can find it and use it for whatever the hell it is they want to use it for. This of course is assuming that NO ONE MOVED IT OR FOUND IT IN FIVE HUNDRE YEARS, but I’m sure This all makes sense if I played Brotherhood or something. Will Cal be able to locate the Apple and gain his freedom in the process? What about all these OTHER assassins that Abstergo has collected and are housing in this Science Gulag? Are they gonna be all that happy that Cal is working to help find this artifact? Is there ANY reason this fucking thing had to be so damn complicated!?
This is a fucking embarrassment. All those resources, all those fantastic actors, all the potential that this series brought to the table, completely wasted. ONE HUNDRED AND TWENTY FIVE MILLION DOLLARS and they couldn’t make anything better than a straight to DVD John Cusack thriller. Is this the worst video game movie ever made? Of course not. Hell, it’s not even the worst one this year. What it is though is most depressing and soul crushing one we’ve gotten since… I don’t know, The Super Mario Bros movie? Warcraft I guess? This is the one that was supposed to change things. This is the one where Ubisoft put their full backing behind it, and was aiming to be more than just a fan film blown up to the big screen. I personally didn’t have much hope for it, but the depths of this film’s failings are not just enough to make this a bad film but will probably be enough to discourage a studio taking this kind of risk on a video game property going forward. Sure, Warcraft was an unmitigated disaster, but it at least felt like a passionate failure and fortunately made enough money internationally to not sink the concept of big budgeted video game movies forever. This one? Yeah, this is what happens when everyone is asleep at the wheel and the few who ARE trying don’t know what the hell they are doing. It’s a cynical cash grab that inexplicably has a bloated budget which makes it all the more baffling that it actually made it to theaters instead of just crashing and burning. At least then, people could have wondered what might have been instead of being fully aware of just how awful the final product turned out.
Now inside all that doom and gloom, I DID say that this wasn’t the worst video game movie of all time and I do mean that. This movie, just like the games, are set in two different locations; one being the Abstergo Laboratory set in modern day, and the other being set in 1492 Spain with Fassbender’s past self. The parts set in Spain, while not GREAT, are at least a reasonably well made interpretation of what makes Assassin’s Creed so interesting. The acrobatics, the period sets, the awesome cloaks, all of this is present and accounted for whenever we go back in time and it’s what kept me going throughout. Unfortunately, the problem with the scenes is that they aren’t filmed particularly well, and they aren’t around long enough to get a solid feel of the story outside of key bullet points. The cinematography suffers from the classic (fast cuts etc) problem, only this is probably the worst example I’ve seen of it in quite some time which is doubly inexcusable considering how much money they had to throw around. The best part of the movie is towards the middle where it’s a ten minute roof jumping escape scene, but it never has a decent flow as it will regularly start quick cutting and you lose all sense of the action for a few seconds until things calm down again. There’s one scene where the two assassins enter a house, and I have no idea what the hell happens until they jump out the window. Not only that, but these scenes are also inexplicably murky which make them a total drab to watch. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure that fifteenth century Spain wasn’t a desert wasteland with billowing clouds of dust everywhere. Even if that IS historically accurate (I doubt it), it doesn’t even do a good job of portraying as we’ve seen movies like Mad Max Fury Road pull off this aesthetic flawlessly.
And that’s about all I’ve got to say about what’s good here. EVERYTHING else is a complete cluster-fuck of poor decisions, terrible acting, and lousy writing. The biggest mistake here that seems to be the root cause of most of the problems is what the filmmakers and writers decided to focus on. This is the same mistake that EVERY terrible video game movie makes (minus the Uwe Boll films which are their own thing entirely), and that’s to worry more about the PLOT than the CHARACTERS. This is what Hollywood never fucking get about video game writing. It’s not the plot that matters; it’s the story and characters, along with the game play, that bring us into these franchises and have us coming back for more. You think ANYONE out there fully understands what the hell is going on in every Metal Gear Solid game? I certainly don’t! That doesn’t matter though because video game stories (the MGS series in particular) are about mood, scenery, setting, character moments, EVERYTHING ELSE except for whatever justification there is for why we’re saving the world. Hey, if you can get a solid and well-structured plot ON TOP of that? Kudos! You just went above and beyond! Based on this movie however, I doubt that’s the case with the Assassin’s Creed series if this is even the slightest bit reflective of the plot in there. Again, that’s not to knock the game series! I’m sure all this stuff about the Templar’s taking over the world with some magic (or scientifically advanced) apple is perfectly serviceable to keep the games going and to focus on what really matters which is the characters and open world game play. This movie though, for some INEXPLICABLE reason, decided that ALL the Abstergo bullshit is what people REALLY care about, so a good seventy to eighty percent of this movie is in shitty drab hallways with people talking to each other about nothing. Just straight up babbling about bullshit.
It gets even worse when the actors have to SOMEHOW act around this shitty plot and a convoluted script that gives them mixed motivations and terrible dialogue. Marion Cotillard is so wasted here in a role that is critical to this movie working and yet she has NOTHING to work with. Her motivation is that she wants to use SCIENCE to end all violence in the world. WHAT!? That’s the stupidest damn thing I’ve ever heard in a movie that takes itself THIS seriously, yet she is forced to say these lines with a straight face and to her credit she never cracks a smile or lets on just how awful this material is, yet it’s a wasted effort in a film that utterly fails to capitalize on such a great talent. Michael Fassbender doesn’t get off quite as easily considering he’s not just the star but a producer on this, and he just looks bored throughout as he growls his way through this performance. There’s one scene early on where he’s strapped to the lethal injection chair for his execution (we never really find out what the hell he did by the way. Something about a pimp I think?) and the guy acts his ass off when faced with his own demise, but after that it’s just one note throughout as he puts on that childish I DON’T CARE ABOUT NO ONE BUT ME affectation which you see in a lot of popular video game protagonists, but I don’t even remember being a part of the Assassin’s Creed games (at least the ones that I played). Actually, I have to correct myself there. He starts singing randomly in some sort of lame show of resistance, so there’s that at least. His motivation, while I wouldn’t say is as stupid as Marion Cotillard’s fairy tale goal (her next projects are presumably making energy free and preventing mean people from being born), it still doesn’t make any damned sense and he switches allegiances on a dime without explanation. If there’s a bright spot in the acting, it might be Jeremy Irons as THE JEREMY IRONS BAD GUYTM, and for some reason they dragged Charlotte Rampling into this who’s always nice to see in mainstream films. They’re not in the movie all that much though, so most of the time we’re dealing with the dumb scientist and Bummer Man bouncing off of each other with nothing much to say.
We really just couldn’t end out the year without ONE MORE freaking disaster? I have no idea if anyone else was genuinely excited for this, but I feel really bad for them. I may not be the biggest fan of this series, but I understand what it’s like watching something you love being ruined right before your eyes (*cough* Terminator Genisys *cough*) and this is a fucking travesty. I already didn’t have much hope going forward for video game movies after the freaking year we had, but this puts the nail in the coffin. Maybe we’ll get some okay stuff in terms of family films considering that Nintendo is making a move towards releasing movies and Sony is already working with Sega on a Sonic movie, but anything else (particularly franchised aimed at an older audience) is either gonna stall in production after this crashes and burns, or it’s gonna be the same damn thing because no one has learned how to do this in over twenty years. Fuck Ubisoft, fuck Fox, and fuck me for having to sit through this damn thing.
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