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THE ANIMUS — Usually when news of a video game movie is announced, our immediate reaction is, “Oh boy. Here we go again. Destroy a game I love with a terrible movie.”
It’s happened with “Prince of Persia,” “Mario Bros.,” “Street Fighter,” and “Doom” twice. That’s just a few examples of many. So, when news of an Assassin’s Creed movie was announced, we were hopeful an awesome game could make an OK movie. Then it was announced that Academy Award nominee Michael Fassbender would star along side Academy Award winners Marion Cotillard and Jeremy Irons with proven director Justin Kurzel at the helm.
With all of these factors, we became cautiously optimistic that “Assassin’s Creed” would turn things around for the video game movie, but did it?
We’ll get into specifics here in a moment, but ultimately the answer to that question is, no, it has not ushered in the renaissance of good video game movies.
Here is why “Assassin’s Creed” is ultimately a letdown:
It’s kind of a mess
The film really needs to be seen to understand that you can’t really understand it. If you are a fan of the game, it will make more sense because you have a background of what is going on, but even then, it’s all over the map.
As a fan of the series, I at least knew the idea behind the Animus and traveling through time in a sense to relive the lives of our ancestors, but it still had no flow to it. We jump from modern day Spain back to 1492 to Spain and it’s hard to really make sense of what’s going on.
At its most basic level, “Assassin’s Creed” is a fairly simple plot, but so many little nuances are added that it eventually turns into a jumbled mess. Again, to understand the difficult-to-understand movie, you have to see it, but I’m not suggesting you do that right away.
Too much gameplay
I know that the gameplay in the Assassin’s series is what is so much fun, but the film did too much stylization to be like the game’s gameplay and it just didn’t translate.
I will admit that some of the fight scenes and chase sequences were fun to watch, but ultimately it didn’t mesh very well, and truth is, when you’re not controlling it, gameplay type action isn’t as fun.
Kurzel did a fairly good job of keeping the pacing up and the fight choreography tight, but ultimately the really good moments are too few and far between to really make it good. This was more proof to me that in order for a video game movie to be really good, you need to focus more on the story and not so much on gameplay.
No character depth
While the script wanted to create really deep and intriguing characters, what we ended up with were shallow caricatures of more interesting players and weak and shifting motivations.
Fassbender’s character has a layered backstory that is brushed over, and weak prompts and unbelievable tipping points spark his motivations. Cotillard’s character suffers the same fate and makes a total 180-degree turn in personality in a matter of moments at one point.
We are then introduced to a number of other characters that disappear from the screen as quickly as they showed up and leave you wondering why they were even there.
Fassbender, Cotillard, and Irons are all passable in their roles, but it almost feels like they were there to collect paychecks and move on with their day. Both Cotillard and Irons are stiff and seem to just be delivering lines, and Fassbender seems overly dramatic at times — to the point that I tried to keep myself from laughing at moments that were supposed to be serious.
I know I am pretty harsh on this, but there are a few things that at least make the film entertaining like the aforementioned action scenes and the set designs of Spain from the 1400s is impressive — when the screen isn’t too murky to see it, that is.
Ultimately, I think there was a good movie hiding inside “Assassin’s Creed,” but it just didn’t have a chance to come out and show itself fully. With that said, it’s actually better than many of the video game movies to date, but we still have a ways to go.
“Assassin’s Creed” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic elements and brief strong language. To get a better idea if this movie is appropriate to take your older kids and teenagers to, check out Dave Clyde's parent's review article on Wednesday.