Game to movie adaptations never go well. NEVER. There’s one huge and fundamental flaw in the plan. Story based games tend to have about eight hours of content. Movies tend to be about two hours long. I’m no expert but I can see a discrepancy here. Game to movie adaptations can’t fit the content, so they come across as rushed and painfully compressed. They try to maintain the same level of depth and integrity and it NEVER works. Assassin’s Creed is certainly no exception.
Gamers are notoriously hard to please. We’re a fickle bunch. We hate repetition but we dislike too much change too fast. And we’ll complain like hell if things take too long to change. Movie critics are also incredibly difficult to please. For the purpose of this review, I’m kinda both.
DISCLAIMER: I have a bitter relationship with Assassin’s Creed because of the stunt they pulled with Ass Creed II, so I might be a little jaded. I am however a lover of movies. I’m not exactly a buff, but I know my stuff okay? So I’ll try not to let Ass Creed II‘s failure colour things too much.
Assassin’s Creed has been one of Ubisoft’s most loved IPs since it’s conception. The franchise has grown steadily since Assassin’s Creed launched in 2007. It’s had its ups (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag) and its downs (Assassin’s Creed II) but this is most certainly a down.
DISCLAIMER PART II: I’m a man of science, so the whole “genetic memories” thing has never quite sat right with me. Sure we’ve got a whole bunch of “junk DNA” floating about in our bodies. Even though we aren’t sure what it does, it’s possible that it stores some kind of memory data (like instincts and stuffs) but it’s certainly unlikely that it stores your ancestor’s memories. Just sayin’. Won’t let it bother me much, promise. Video game turned movie, I can suspend my disbelief.
I really liked Assassin’s Creed for Xbox 360. Honestly.
So where to start? The beginning I suppose. Arriving at the venue of the press screening was pretty overwhelming. It’s a swanky looking hotel in the heart of London. It’s got a bowling alley and a cinema in the basement (obviously, that’s where we were). Weirdly though they were asking for people to hand in their phones before entering the theatre….little odd but whatever.
Movie time! The movie starts with a scene in the 1400s with some moody looking assassins (because you have to be moody looking) and the elevation of Aguilar to being a fully fledged murder man. The scene is dark but it sets things up reasonably well. These here are people dedicated to their cause for sure.
Flash forward to young Callum Lynch (main protagonist – young Fassbender) in 1986 and he’s confronted by his dad standing in a room with a bloody knife and his dead mum on a chair. A bunch of federal looking dudes turn up and his dad tells him to run. So he does. You think, okay, so here we go with the dark induction into things.
Nah. Fast forward thirty years and Callum is now grown up and on death row, being executed for murder. He’s got all these drawings and pictures and writing on the wall of his cell that all look very biblical. A priest comes in to have a chat and you think “Oh, okay this is gunna build into something awesome, right?”. Nope. Never really mentioned again. Sorry.
So without giving too much away, Abstergo have been kinda stalking everyone who may have lineage tracing back to the Assassins and the 1400s so they can find the Apple of Eden. They abduct our boy Callum after his “execution” and throw his ass in the Animus to relive Aguilar’s memories.
From here things get a bit… inconsistent. Michael Fassbender is fantastic, as you’d expect, but the writing just makes no sense. First he’s kinda dragged into the Animus, then he goes into it singing maniacally like a man unhinged, then he goes into it as a man with conviction and determination… pretty quick change of heart there.
The leading lady, Dr. Sofia Rikkin (who isn’t Lucy or played by Kristen Bell) is equally changeable. She starts out all sympathetic for what she’s putting poor Callum through in order to further her father’s (and the Templar’s) designs. Then there’s a scene when she is confronted by Callum and is all “I can’t let you do that, Dave”, but stands there and lets him do it anyway. After he’s done it though, she’s all like “Oh god this is my fault. I will recover the Apple for the Elders.”. Stars above woman! Pick a goddamn side!
There’s a Merry-Band-Of-Men kinda group who are also incredibly changeable. They go from hating Callum and saying how he’ll betray the Creed, to attempting to kill him, to following him blindly in his endeavours. Callum speaks to two of them ONCE. He has a brief and cryptic conversation with one, the other one tries to steal Callum’s apple (he’s a hungry man and gets pretty defensive) and that’s it.
The only consistent performance is with Jeremy Irons, playing Alan Rikkin. He’s the bad guy, how do you know? ’cause he’s British. And because he’s been abducting people and driving them insane in the pursuit of the Apple. Keeping them locked up in a strange building in the middle of Madrid. Honestly though, he does a great job of being the bad guy, if only a little poorly written and under used. You’ve got Jeremy freaking Irons on side, USE HIM!
The cast seems to be jumping all over the place with where they stand and where their allegiances lie and it just doesn’t work. You’re pulled from pillar to post so fast it’s difficult to get a grip on who’s doing what for what reasons.
So we’ve got a bunch of characters who don’t really work all that well. What’s next?
Stunt work. Assassin’s Creed was a pioneer in its time. It brought parkour to everyone’s attention. And it was awesome. The mechanics were a bit broken but it was still great (kindled my interest and is motivating me to learn). The stunt play for the movie is actually pretty solid. The parkour sequences with our hooded dudes scaling building and running across rooftops are awesome. However they suffer from some sketchy camera work. All you want to do is follow them as they scale stuff and navigate tricky terrain, but for some reason they decided to introduce shaky cam (everyone’s least favourite technique) and it just leads to some crazy blurry motion shots where you can’t really follow anything. It ruins the best parts of the movie in all honesty.
Even the action combat scenes suffer from it. The camera is jumping all over the place and it’s just confusing. You don’t get to follow the combat or any of the character actions clearly and its a shame. The combat is undoubtedly incredibly well choreographed, just poorly shot and the same goes for the stunts. They focus on how great the stunt work is in the media leading up to release and then butcher the filming of it.
One scene that especially annoyed me was The Leap Of Faith. In the games they were cool (if scientifically impossible) but they were great fun. In the movie, events lead to a certain thing happening which is actually really well done. The attention to detail is awesome. HOWEVER it’s ruined by Sofia standing there and whispering “A leap of faith….” in awe, as if she’s just watched someone unlock a super move or something. It breaks the Animus as well. Whether that’s because of the sheer stupidity of the line or because it was stunned at how well it was shot. Either way, stupid.
SO we have poor characters, some poor camera work and shoddy writing…guess it’s time to handle the soundtrack and the musical score. These actually worked quite well. The movie straddles two timelines, so it gets to use two styles of music. The past sequences use a more orchestral soundtrack whereas things in the present/future use a soundtrack featuring licensed tracks. Honestly it works quite well. I am a sucker for a good soundtrack, and this one would have totally gotten the blood pumping if the rest of the movie didn’t let it down. It was also kinda loud in the theatre (not that that’s surprising), but that’s probably because of the migraine I suffered on my journey to the venue. So I’m not pinning that on the film, the soundtrack was great. Just made my headache worse.
Setting and locations are actually awesome. All the scenery and locations shown are incredible. The views are amazing, the terrain is brilliant. Cannot fault these in the slightest. The sets in the past when Callum is running about being an assassin and climbing everything are brilliant. Whoever chose the shooting locations deserves a damn medal. Him and the sound guy.
You’re probably reading this and thinking, “Stars Spud, you’re being BRUTAL!” and well…you’re not wrong but sadly this movie just wasn’t great. It’s not the film’s fault. It’s just suffering the Game to Movie adaptation curse. Hell most books don’t make it to being good movies, just look at the Hobbit.
Assassin’s Creed movie plot was rushed, the characters fell kind of flat because of how they changed so fast for little to no reason. The cinematography makes it difficult to follow most of the action scenes and parkour elements and the script is very lack lustre. The soundtrack is pretty great though and the settings are awesome. But all in all (I use that phrase a lot…) it’s not great. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re a fan of the games series, or even if you’re not. It’s hard to follow and just not fun to watch.
Assassin’s Creed hits UK cinemas Jan 1.