Reviews: Assassins Creed 2016
A Tediously Bad Cutscene
I won't mince words; this is one of the worst films I've ever seen. The plot opens, as all good stories do, with white text on a black screen. It briefly explains 'Templars = Evil. Assassins = Good.' And then we meet our hero, Callum. As a kid, his mother dies, and then he's an adult and he's being sentenced to death for something, and then he's at Abstergo. This is as close as he ever gets to having a personality. I'm not kidding. For all I know this was filmed with a Michael Fassbender cardboard cutout that was somehow also CGI. But the problem isn't Michael, it's everyone. Every character in this film is utterly devoid of personality. Callum is the most noticeable case by far as he's the main character, but the villains, past and present, are evil, bland, and boring. Sophia might be the worst character because she seems to have a revelation that maybe the Templars are bad and she gets angry that they misused her work or lied to her or something, but... look Sophia, you've had thirty fucking years of being a Templar to figure out that being a Templar is bad. How did spending a few days with a man who has the personality of a dead snail change your entire belief system? There's also a pointless 'We don't need the Apple of Eden, because society and consumerism have defeated the people!' scene that never comes up again and only exists to give the film false depth with some wanky pretentious attempt at social commentary. There really aren't any highlights, but there are moments where the badness is limited. While he doesn't deserve fourth billing for one scene, Brendan Gleeson shows everyone up by actually acting. The action scenes are alright, although it's hard to care when you're not invested in anyone. The parkour is honestly very impressive, and the visual effects are great. The chase in the second Animus sequence is a big positive. But the garbage is just too frequent for me to salvage anything from this. There isn't a single line of dialogue that isn't cringeworthy and unnatural - like they didn't know what they wanted to use in the trailer until they made the whole movie, so every single line is trying to be deep or thematic - and characters with no names go on monologues for no reason that don't fit with what little personality they're supposed to have. The nameless head of the Abstergo security forces tells Callum about how much he respects the assassins, for no reason at all, before the final Animus trip. He also watches Cal perform a mixture of yoga and invisible hadoukens in his cell and says, dead-faced 'We're feeding the beast.' It's bad, but not funny-bad. So all in all, underdeveloped plot, characters that would be lucky to be described as one-dimensional, and painful dialogue, broken up by several long tracking shots of eagles. When they say 'Nothing is true', in the Creed of the Assassins', they're referring to positive reviews of this pile of dreck.
Couple rough spots on a great work
I came into the theater with high expectations. In fact, it was the trailer for this film that got me interested in the game series enough to purchase the first one. I was not disappointed. The film does a sufficient job of providing background/setting information on stuff like the Assassin vs Templar war and how the Animus works. A working understanding of the games is helpful but one could say that about any adaption. The visuals are amazing. The re-designed Animus looks cool and functions like some kind of Augmented Reality thing. The 1492 Assassin scenes are thrilling whether there's fighting or free-running. Callum's Bleeding Effect hallucinations are creepy. Then there's the eagle panning shoots which are always appreciated. Considering that the film is based on a game series that basically has two plotlines (past and present) it does a good job developing both. There could have been more on the past side of things but the reason for the brevity is accounted for in-universe and I feel it is sufficient. Although developing the full cast of both plotlines is a harder lift. Callum and Sophia are the most fleshed out, as is proper for the two leads. The former is a complex guy and the later has an intriguing mix of Templar and Assassin ideology. As far as I can tell from what I have read about the games and related media, this film is extraordinarily faithful to its source material. It is also canon to the game series (it may even count as a wham episode) so I recommend it to fans of the games. Non-fans will still appreciate its aspects like the historical figures and the visuals etc. but I really think this movie was made with the game series fans in mind.
I entered the theater with extremely low expectations.
- Fassbender, Irons, and Cotillard do excellently. As mentioned in the Cons, Fassbender is especially good due to the lack of character he gets.
- Nice cinematography.
- Stunt work is beautiful.
- Some of the fight scenes were pretty good. I'll give special points to the Mirror Match between Aguilar and Callum.
- Not very dreary compared to what I expected.
- Characterization is nonexistent. Sofia is the only character that feels like a character, not a setpiece. Fassbender's character is especially bland, despite the "Character Development" he supposedly receives.
- The film's writing is mediocre.
- Jump cuts. Too many. They interrupt the action.
I did not enjoy this movie.
It did not, for me, pass the 'Would my time be better spent cleaning toilets?' test. Halfway through, I started pretending it was a foreign-language film without subtitles which helped, slightly. There's some marvellous acting talent with some very bland lines. I hope Cotillard, Irons, and Fassbender were paid well, because I do not think they will look back on this with pride in their craft. Moana made a better argument for the occasional necessity (and pitfalls) of 'antisocial' behaviour. And reconciling with your ancestors, it did that better, too. But hey, the cinematography was very pretty. And if you enjoyed yourself, good for you.
Flawed, but Admirably Faithful
From the outset, this movie adaptation of Assassin's Creed was going to be troubled. Who it chose to follow, how much lore it was going to incorporate, and the inability to let viewers explore the world at their own pace like the games do were all hurdles to overcome, and unfortunately, they stumbled on pretty much all of them. The new protagonist is kinda bland and the ancestor doesn't get enough screentime, the lore feels very condensed and lacks a lot of explanation for newcomers, and the inability to flesh out Spain of 1492 leaves much to be desired. However, I do not think the film is a failure on all fronts, and in fact is a welcome reprieve from the standard vidja game movies we've gotten in the past few decades (Warcraft, Tomb Raider, and Prince of Persia come to mind). The depiction of the Assassins, the Templars, Abstergo, and the ideological conflict of each are all perfectly in line with those of their video game counterparts, even if they are a bit simplified due to time constraints. The Assassins in particular are portrayed spectacularly, from their clothing to their styles of fighting, and the combat sequences (at least the ones set in the past) feel very much like watching part of one of the games play out. You can tell that the production team really cared about being faithful to the source, especially with their creation of functioning Hidden Blades for the sake of realism in the fights. I think the problems that this film suffers from - a jumbled plot, fairly shallow characters, and relatively little time actually being set in the past - stem from its 2-hour runtime, which in turn is most likely due to not having enough budget for an extra 30 mins/1 hour; the Spain sequences look like they must have eaten up a lot of the production budget for their scale and complication. With any luck, if there's a sequel (which the ending sets up for), Ubisoft will realize this and make it a 3 hour movie. I honestly believe that would resolve most, if not all the issues of this film.