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Friday, 28 July 2017

D&DVD Of The Week: Assassin's Creed (2016)


Not being a video game player, I came to Assassin's Creed (the film) knowing next to nothing about the franchise, and after sitting through this 100-minute movie I still know next-to-nothing.

This poorly scripted adaptation of the popular computer game managed to somehow be overstuffed with exposition and simultaneously obtuse in its plot and goals.

The script felt like it had been produced by either a troop of monkeys flinging their own shit at a wall to see what sticks or someone transcribing the stream of consciousness ramblings of a young child telling a story ("Then this happened, then this, and whoooosh, then this person came in...").

Or maybe a bit from column A and a bit from column B.

The wonderful Michael Fassbender stars as condemned killer Cal Lynch, who sits in prison under sentence of death.

Only, his execution turns out to be a fake, and he wakes up in an experimental facility in Spain, where he is soon plugged into a machine called The Animus.

This allows him to experience - but not influence - the life of his ancestor, the 15th Century assassin Aguilar.

The secret society operating the machine, modern day Knight's Templars', headed by Jeremy Irons's Rikkin and his daughter Sofia (Marion Cotillard), need Cal to find out what Aguilar did with an ancient artifact they are after, called The Apple Of Eden.

This object (and there's even a fleeting hint that it might be a remnant of Ancient Alien technology, which got me all excited) supposedly contains the DNA code to free will (the evil Templar scientists want to end violence by removing free will from mankind; there's a nice line about how religion and consumerism have failed in this task, so why not science?).

And here's one of the major problems with the film. The sequences where Cal is "living the life" of his ancestor are a 'film within a film'.

And we're often watching him watch this "film".

Although Cal is 'acting them out', while attached to the Animus, he can't change anything that has gone on in the past, so although they are spectacular sequences (and the rooftop escape is stunning), that's all they are. Spectacle.

Except for eye candy, these extended sequences add nothing to the contemporary sci-fi story, where all we - and the evil scientists - are interested in is the end result.

Storywise it would have made more sense to 'insert' Cal into Aguilar's life nearer to when he disposes of The Apple.

We just wouldn't have had so many fight scenes and rooftop chases...

Now, I try to make it a rule not to criticise films for what they don't do, and instead focus on how well they do what they do.

However, Assassin's Creed feels like two disjointed films forced together by Hollywood/video game science. And both of these could have done a better job on their own.

I'll be honest here: I'd have a preferred a film set entirely in 15th Century Spain following Aguilar and his fellow members of the Assassin's Creed trying to steal the Apple Of Eden from The Inquisition and The Knight's Templar.

Those sequences - which were sadly fewer than I was expecting - were the highlights of the movie.

All the modern sci-fi nonsense simply diffused and distracted from the excitement of these "flashbacks".

All the plot holes, clichés, and groan-worthy moments of Assassin's Creed come in the contemporary parts of the story (for instance, why did the Templar scientists operate The Animus in a building where they also allowed all their Assassin's Creed prisoners' free rein?), which then all got wrapped up in a very hurried ending that left me mentally shouting at the TV screen: is that it?

But I'm guessing all the weaker parts were essential elements of the video game's mythology and so had to be there for it to be an Assassin's Creed movie, rather than a straight-up thrilling Medieval action romp.

And the bizarre thing is, this film has a cast to die for: as well as Fassbender, Irons, and Cotillard, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, and Michael Kenneth Williams all put in not insignificant appearances.

Either this was some bizarre Hollywood dare; they are all fans of the video game (or have relatives who are); or they all needed some pocket money, but I can't believe a coterie of such calibre could all agree to take part in a film so clearly riddled with inconsistencies and brazen silliness.

4 comments:

  1. Thanks for the warning. I might have watched this in my solitary madness.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Just doing "my job": watching this stuff so you don't have to ;-)

      Delete
  2. Yeah, I thought this one looked kind of interesting, too. I also say thanks!

    Is it possible, by the way, that Mortal Kombat is the best video game movie of all time. That can't be right, can it?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You could be right, although along similar lines I hear DOA represented its source material quite well.

      Delete

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