Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Assassin's Creed Review

Video game movies were being held in the balance in 2016 with two major video game franchises heading to the big screen. "Warcraft" and "Assassin's Creed." These are the two franchises that seemed tailor-made for the big screen and if they couldn't make it, then maybe Hollywood should just stop trying. "Warcraft" struck first, was panned by critics and bombed hard. In the United States, that is. Personally I loved the world it set up and I thought the CGI was fantastic. But I was bored to tears with the story and I thought the characters were poorly written. Fans of the game seemed to like it, though, and it made bank overseas, bringing its worldwide total to $433.5 million, $220 million coming from China, despite only making $47 million in the U.S. Make of that what you will. For me personally I was disappointed. So then we come to "Assassin's Creed." Sadly I have to report that "Assassin's Creed" almost makes "Warcraft" seem like a masterpiece. I can't speak for everyone else and it's box office run is far from over, but I was shocked by how bad this movie was.

If you are one who has played the "Assassin's Creed" games, you'll be able to follow along pretty well as the movie does a decent job of sticking true to the lore when it comes to the setup. If you are unfamiliar with the lore, there's a chance you are going to get really confused really quickly. This movie jumps through the lore pretty fast and throws a whole bunch of crap at your face, kind of expecting you to already be fully aware of what's happening. As if they targeted this movie at people who have already played the game and know exactly what's going on. Personally I'm in the middle with this. I have never played these games, but I had roommates who did, one in particular who played "Assassin's Creed" for many hours each day and it watching him play became annoyingly addicting. Most of the time I wanted to do something else, but I physically couldn't. The game just sucked me and I had no choice but to sit on the couch and watch. Strange. Because of that, even though I never played the game myself, I became familiar with the premise. At least enough to know that if done right, this could make for an great film. Thus making me more frustrated at the final result.

The general idea of "Assassin's Creed" is that a dude in the present day has died and due to some sort of chain of events he ends up with a certain organization that has the ability to send him back in time into the mind and/or body of his ancestor to complete various missions and gain intel on past events that this organization would not be able to get otherwise. That's a pretty sweet premise, which is why the games are so popular. This also gives you the ability to go back in time to any time period to do some pretty sweet things. Which makes me confused as to why they chose what they did. In this movie, apparently this organization has the desire to stop all violence in the world and in order to do that, they need to gain access to the Apple of Eden, which I believe will alter the free agency of people and prevent violence? Like, what? So they send Michael Fassbender back in time to the Spanish Inquisition to locate the Apple of Eden and make sure it gets into the right hands. Or something like that. I was not invested in this story. And from what I gather, this was not based on any specific "Assassin's Creed" game. Which is a problem in and of itself. The games have a lot of good stories. Use one.

This reminded me of the movie "Project Almanac" where these group of teenagers discover time travel and out of all places and times to go to, they decide to go into the past only a few years back in order to attend an Imagine Dragons concert. For real? I mean, I love Imagine Dragons as much as the next dude. Especially since I went to one of their concerts back in 2011 BEFORE they were a household name. But that premise was straight-up laughable. If teenagers discovered time travel, that's not the first choice of past event that they would go to. Similar thing here. They had the history of the Earth at your fingertips. They could've chosen any premise that they wanted and dove into any time period they wanted. They also had a whole host of "Assassin's Creed" games that have done a whole heck of a lot of cool things that they could've chosen from. Yet they decide to go to the Spanish Inquisition in order to locate the Apple of Eden? And they are going to essentially use violence and murder in order to prevent violence and murder? Please, tell me how that makes sense. Granted it's a step above an Imagine Dragons concert. You can do some cool things with the Spanish Inquisition. But they completely missed the boat here.

Yet that's not even half of the problem with this movie. In theory, if you have a video game movie, you can get away with a sub-par story as long as you have a lot of good action and great acting. In some cases, you can even focus only on the action and get a pass based on being a fun popcorn flick. I obviously care about acting and storytelling, but this is a situation where I could've been entertained with a lot of fun "Assassin's Creed" style of action and given this movie a grade of 7 or something like that despite this bad premise. But if I'm being honest, I was not entertained one bit by this movie. First and foremost, if you are doing "Assassin's Creed," you do need to jump back and forth between past and present at least a little bit. But I would prefer a 90/10 ratio. 90 percent of the movie spent in the past with 10 percent spent in the present. This movie practically flips that ratio. I didn't keep track of specific time, but I would wager a guess that 90 percent of the movie is spent in the present with only 10 percent of the time spent in the past. We went into the past three different times for like 5-10 minutes each. And none of the stuff in the present was even interesting at all.

I have heard people say that the movie is slightly redeemable with the fun action sequences that it does have. But whenever we got to an action sequence, the movie would jump back and forth between showing the action from the past while showing Michael Fassbender moving around in the fancy machine that he was set up in. It did so very jarringly. And many times it would show both past and present at the exact same time with a fading style of editing. I understand that maybe doing this once or twice towards the beginning of the movie would be necessary to remind the audience that this was present day Michael Fassbender controlling the actions of his ancestor. But it did this for the entire run time of the movie. Every. Single. Freaking. Action. Sequence. I hated it. In addition to this, it implemented the very fast editing style that many action movies do nowadays. Sometimes that works. This is not one of those times. The most impressive action movies are the ones that use longer cuts to showoff some dang good stunt work. The editing in "Assassin's Creed" was so fast that it almost gave me a headache while watching it. Slow the freak down!

The acting in this movie is fine. Michael Fassbender and Marion Collitard do the best with what they are given. Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Williams highlight our list of supporting actors that are also fine. It does give off the vibe that the cast and crew were doing their best to make this a good movie. It's just that the narrative decisions with the story are so bad that no one had much to work with. I didn't care one bit about the story that was happening in the past. I cared even less about the story that was happening in the present, which was where we spent most of the movie. Speaking of which, they should've flip-flopped the time spent in the present and the past. And the action was so jarring that I couldn't even give that a pass. If you never played "Assassin's Creed," you're going to be confused and bored with what this movie presents. If you played "Assassin's Creed," you are going to be disappointed with the missed potential. With "Warcraft" and now "Assassin's Creed," I think it's about time to let video games be video games and stop trying to make them work as movies. I'm giving "Assassin's Creed" a 4/10.

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