Wednesday, December 21, 2016

"Assassin's Creed" is the first real video game adaptation...but is that a good thing?

Assassin's Creed Review
I saw "Assassin's Creed" in 3D today. If you want to see this movie, this is the best way to see it. I usually don't advocate for 3D films, based solely on personal preference and my desire of not liking 3D. However, in "Assassin's Creed" case, it actually elevates  the material to a degree. I joined the "Assassin's Creed" video game party a little late. The only games I have played have been for XBox One, and I have played "Black Flag" and a tiny bit of "Unity." That is as far as my "Assassin's Creed" knowledge goes, so I am by no means an expert on these games or these stories. I can say that from my knowledge, that this movie captures the very essence of the games, at least the games I have played. I feel the 3D takes that essence to a whole different level entirely. There are moments here where you feel like you're flying. There are moments here where you feel like you are with the characters. I feel like this is an experience you can't necessarily duplicate for home viewing, so I would label "Assassin's Creed" a movie you should see in theaters if you have any desire to see it at all. It makes for a hell of a 3D experience.

I am by no means a huge gamer, but I do like to play video games from time to time. I would say most stories within the video games are usually wacky and illogical, because of course they are. We are visiting worlds in video games we would never see even in most movies. I have noticed most story lines for games to be a little lacking and the characters a little stiff, but that's because that's not quite the experience. The experience is for you to numb your thumbs on your controller, kicking ass, driving cars or whatever you choose to do. I would say the video games that have had me playing the most are those that are rich in storytelling, which have never been the average video game's MO. Because again, its not the point. Which has always made adapting games into movies a difficult task. How many video games have been adapted into movies? Now, think of how many of those adaptations which are actually good? Not many, if any at all.

I would say that "Assassin's Creed" the movie is the best video game adaptation so far. We have never seen another video game adaptation with such a stellar cast; which includes Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling and Michael K. Freaking Williams. (any movie or show's worth skyrockets with the inclusion of Michael K. Williams) We have never seen another video game adaptation presented on the scale that "Assassin's Creed" is on. The cinematography by Adam Arkapaw is beautiful. There are moments here, all throughout the film that are going to make fans of this game squeal in delight. The set up for a sequel within the final moments of the film are going to be too much for any fan of this series to resist. (If we get to a sequel, of course. And after this week so far, that is not a for sure deal. Note to self: stay away from Star Wars weekends!)

But everything I have mentioned so far is extra, its the icing on the cake, its the steak sauce you have muddled on your plate as you begin to cut through that juicy piece of meat. But if the meat isn't cooked to your liking, then how can the meal taste good? The extras of "Assassin's Creed" are fantastic, its just that everything else comes up short. Despite great actors committed to this enterprise, the movie never really comes to life as it should. Jeremy Irons, Marion Cotillard and Brendan Gleeson all look bored as hell throughout the entire movie. They aren't really playing characters, but these are types. Just like with video games, these types of characters are required in order to keep the story moving. Whether the story is engaging or not, doesn't really matter. Its like the filmmakers didn't even bother giving these actors actual characters to play, so they just kind of float through the movie, never making it come to life.

Michael Fassbender tries to make this come to life, but again, he barely has a character to play. Fassbender's character isn't really that likable. He's a guy on death row for murder and once he is given his lethal injection, he appears in front of Cotillard's Sophie Rikkin, who is a scientist for the Abstergo Industries, which is apparently a company bent on finding a cure for violence. He is forced to participate in the Animus Project; which allows him to live in the memories of his ancestor from the Spanish Inquisition. (Because a red-headed, pasty-skinned English-German man looks Spanish) We learn that his ancestor was an Assassin who gave his word to protect the Apple of Eden, which can control the free will of all people. The Apple is being hunted by the Knight's Templar and Fassbender's character needs to find where the Apple is located so that Abstergo Industries can use it to stop violence in the world. Fassbender's character isn't really a hero, just a guy who got lucky, and Fassbender works overtime to make him a smarmy human being, so why root for him? Simply because the movie makes us?

The fight scenes are actually quite superb. But it feels like you are watching somebody play a game instead of getting lost in the battle scenes. I guess that is the ground that gets covered in video game adaptations. If you are not a fan of shaky cam, there are only a few fight scenes in that camp, which is a good thing. For the most part, the fight scenes are clear to see and they are actually quite badass. It's just that they run way too long, and begin to look cartoonish after awhile.

I may have said that "Assassin's Creed" was the best video game adaptation so far, but that doesn't necessarily mean the movie is good. I liked definitely liked some things about it, but the good doesn't add up, and the bad certainly overcomes the good here. "Assassin's Creed" very much feels like a video game; a muddled plot, stiff characters, going along with the story just for the sake of it. This would be cool if we were actually playing the game. But we're not. We are watching a movie, and in this case, we are watching somebody play a game featuring a story and characters we could care less about.


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