Movies based on video games. Most people shiver when they hear this concept. I mean, in theory it’s good. When it comes to reality the results often (always) differ.
“What are you talking about?” Some of you are probably asking as you start listing some of your favourites.
Resident Evil, Hitman, Mortal Kombat, Resident Evil 2, Street Fighter, Silent Hill, Resident Evil 3….
Resident Evil 4, Max Payne, Prince of Persia, Resident Evil 5, Tekken, Need for Speed, for god’s sake they made 6 Resident Evil Films? Really!?
Granted, there are some that I like, Tomb Raider (the first one), Ratchet & Clank; actually I do like the first Resident Evil film too. But my point still stands generally they do not make good films. Recently I saw the newest entry to make this list, Assassins Creed. Here are my thoughts on it. Be warned, everything is true (probably(probably not)), spoilers are permitted.
Going into the film I had a lot of hope, I know and love the games and all though over recent years they have fizzled out a little – although Syndicate was definitely better than Unity – Ubisoft did a good thing last year by not releasing a new game, and by trying to put a fresh spin on an established franchise like this is definitely a good idea. Unfortunately because the quality of the games has decreased I think a lot of the audience drawn to the film from the games will not have much excitement towards it, potentially causing the box office takings to suffer.
Let me start by saying that you do not need to be a fan of the games to enjoy this movie. They do a really great job of introducing the concept without over explaining it. The first Assassins Creed game – released in 2007 – spent a hell of a long time inside cut scenes telling the player exactly what is going on. Breezing through this quite quickly in the film worked well, I wouldn’t even know how to begin to go through the idea that your DNA contains genetic memory of your ancestors and that by using a machine these memories can be replayed in order to find traces to a holy relic that two warring factions (one inherently evil and one trying to stop them, even if this means doing the wrong thing to complete their task – namely killing people.. Assassinating essentially) have been fighting over for centuries. I mean that makes sense right?
One thing that the film had going for it straight away compared to other video game adaptations was the use of original characters. The film writers could have easily chosen one of the protagonists from the games – the obvious one being Ezio Auditore da Firenze. I am so glad they didn’t. Callum Lynch although not the strongest character is one that I would like to see more of. Michael Fassbender does an amazing job (when doesn’t he?) at portraying a confused, lost and broken man. One scene in particular where he believes that he is losing his mind and just lets it happen is really actually amazing. The maniacal laughing and then singing to ‘Crazy’ written by Willie Nelson is just brilliant cinema.
Fassbender also plays Aguilar de Nerha a 15th Century Spanish Assassin. The movie opens with an induction ceremony for Aguilar, he gets told what his mission is and then promptly gets his finger chopped off. Fans of the series will know that this is what happens to Assassins so that they can effectively make use of their signature weapon, the Hidden Blade. All of the scenes set in the past were amazing! I loved the fact that the decision was made to speak Spanish with subtitles. It made it feel real. The action sequences were truly incredible, one particular scene in which Aguilar and Maria – played by Ariane Labed – are free running away from their pursuers perfectly captured the feel of these sequences in the game. The ‘bleeding’ effects that blended the modern day motions of Callum while he was in the Animus were also great and really worked well with the story. The fight scenes were all amazingly choreographed and honestly I didn’t want these parts of the film to end.
One of the bigger and more controversial changes from the games was the Animus. This is the machine that allows the user to live out their genetic memories. The games has always shown it as effectively a bed that the main character laid on, the machine taps into the users nervous system and shows them sections of their ancestors lives. In the film it is robotic arm that not only shows the memories but actually allows the various actions to be played out. It was awesome. Never in the games has it properly made sense how the user of the Animus learns the moves of their ancient family member. This did that brilliantly.
The overarching enemy of the film is Alan Rikkin A modern day Templar played by the normally great Jeremy Irons. He was good but something didn’t feel quite right with him playing that part. I liked the connection to the game, the head of the facility being the shadowy figure that watches over, controls and ultimately manipulates his way to victory. It was some subtle but great fan service. I really wanted to see more of Ojeda – played by Hovik Keuchkerian – he really was a formidable adversary to Aguilar. Again, it all comes down to wanting more of the the scenes set during the Spanish Inquisition. Another main character is Sophia Rikkin the daughter of Alan, she is the scientist that puts Callum into the Animus in the hopes of finding the Apple of Eden. She is played by Marion Cottillard and overall is pretty good. I like what they did with her character, they even have a line in the film that sums it up perfectly, ‘you are a scientist first and Templar second.’ When Alan Rikkin said this it actually sent a small shiver down my spine. Showing this manipulation in Jeremy Irons character was a highlight but still not good enough to be the main antagonist for me. Come on Jeremy! We know you can do better.
After saying all of these fairly positive things about the film the question remains. Did I like it? Meh. I found that the fact that I was a fan of the game both gave and took away from my enjoyment. Something as simple as the brotherhood of Assasins sneaking and pushing their way through a crowd of people really made me smile but not getting enough of Aguilar really let me down. The ending was just awful. It felt forced, rushed and the need to set it up for a sequel was not necessary. It was always going to happen though so I can accept it. If we do get a sequel, I would like to see more of Callum and the exciting thing is we can explore other eras and Assassins from history. That has always been the appeal of the games and if they learn from their errors it could work.
A special shout out goes to the Eagle. It was the star of the show and the sequel would definitely benefit from more eagles. #moreeagles
Although I included some spoilers I have tried not to give too much away so that you can enjoy it for yourselves. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @JackGeekstalk and let us know what you thought of the film. Until next time remember – We work in the dark to serve the light. We are Geeks.
Luke (not a good Assassin name)