Assassin’s Creed (Review)

Assassin’s Creed (Review)

Wow, there was a lot of smoke in this movie.

After being rescued by Abstergo Industries from his own execution, Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is forced to go into a device called the Animus by Dr. Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and her father, Alan Rikkin (Jeremy irons), CEO of Abstergo.  They are members of the Templar Order, a secret society with the goal of subjugating all of mankind for their own good.  They are at war with the Assassin Brotherhood, who Callum has ancestry with.  In the Animus, Callum relives the memories of his ancestor, Aguilar de Nerha, who fought the templars during the Spanish Inquisition.

As you can tell by the description, this is undoubtedly a movie based on a video game, and one of my favorite video game series from developer Ubisoft.  This is a video game that I played a lot and enjoy quite a bit (when it’s not as convoluted as the above paragraph).  I feel I can speak for all gamers when I say that I really wanted this movie to be good.  Fans have been due a good video game movie.  That one movie that paves the way for other movies and finally shows that video game adaptations can work and can be as good or even better than other movies.  I am saddened to say that Assassin’s Creed is not that movie.  Though it is also not a bad movie either.

It is a strange movie to say the least.  The beginning is pretty weak, going for an opening crawl that explains the war between the Templars and the Assassins that’s just plain boring.  Show don’t tell.  Star Wars gets away with it because it’s against a star field background and John Williams rocks the music.  The only music in this scene comes right at the end and it’s a really dated and tacky rock number that completely clashes with the period scene they just set up.  The only reason they put that explanation at the beginning is probably the same reason any one makes any decision when making a video game movie: they’re ashamed of the source material.  They need to quickly explain this “silly” plot so people can get over the fact it’s silly and then show them the awesome stuff.  I’m sorry.  It doesn’t work like that.

People seem to have the impression that anything video games do is just silly, even when it’s not.  It’s almost like these people don’t realize that people spent a lot of time and effort making these worlds and crafting these stories so they could be the best that they could be.  If you’re going to make a movie based on their efforts, take their efforts seriously.

It’s not all bad, though.  Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard are the duo that really carries this movie.  It’s a rare thing to watch an action movie and realize that you care more about these two’s relationship and it’s growth than the actual action.  I was surprised to find that these two people are actually three-dimensional characters.  I wasn’t watching Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard; I was watching Callum Lynch and Sophia Rikkin.

This movie also makes the mistake that the video games have been making for a while: taking place primarily in the present day.  About 70% of the movie takes place in the present day, whereas only the action scenes take place in the past.  While it makes more sense in the movie than in the video games, the past scenes serve only as action set pieces.  While they are amazing set pieces, it’s marred by the fact that a good chunk of it is CGI.  How do I know it’s CGI?  Because they try their hardest to cover it up with smoke.  Like, a lot of smoke.  It’s a good technique, really.  Use smoke in the foreground to cover up the CGI and make it look realistic.  The problem with that is that there’s smoke in the foreground.  Meaning you can’t see any of the action happening.

I really wanted this movie to be good.  It should have been good.  It’s definitely not the worst video game adaptation I’ve seen, but it is not the video game adaptation that proves that video game adaptations have a place in serious film.  All it does is solidify video game adaptations as the B-Movies of Hollywood.

X-Men: Apocalypse (Film Review)

X-Men: Apocalypse (Film Review)

Directed by Bryan Singer, X-Men: Apocalypse is the newest film in the X-Men franchise that follows the alternate timeline X-Men series that began in 2011 with X-Men: First Class.  It follows the past iterations major characters such as Professor Charles Xavier aka Professor X (James McAvoy), Eric Lehnsherr aka Magneto (Michael Fassbender), Raven Darkholme aka Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence), En Sabah Nur aka Apocalypse (Oscar Issac), Hank McCoy aka Beast (Nicholas Hoult), Moira MacTaggert (Rose Byrne), Scott Summers aka Cyclops (Tye Sheridan), Jean Grey aka Phoenix (Sophie Turner), Elizabeth Braddock aka Psylocke (Olivia Munn), Alex Summers aka Havok (Lucas Till), Peter Maximoff aka Quicksilver (Evan Peters), Kurt Wagner aka Nightcrawler (Kodi Smit-Mcphee), Ororo Munroe aka Storm (Alexandra Shipp), William Stryker (Josh Helman), Warren Worthington III aka Angel/Archangel (Ben Hardy) and Jubilation Lee aka Jubilee (Lana Condor).

Good god that’s a lot of people.

This time around, an ancient mutant from the past awakens in the form of Apocalypse, who sets out to remake the world again the way he thinks it should be.  Typical villain stuff.  Again, its up to the X-Men to stop them.  This time around, the X-Men are pretty much scattered around the world in the 80’s trying.  Professor Xavier and Hank McCoy are teaching mutant children how to control their powers at a special campus.  Mystique is rescuing mutants from oppressive humans.  Magneto is living in Poland with a wife and daughter.  And, of course, Apocalypse eventually brings them back together.

The problem with having an ensemble cast, especially one of this size (I mean look that first paragraph), is that you need to spend time making sure that each character get a satisfying arc that makes sense for their character.  This is the root of the problem with the film.  If I were to watch this movie by itself without having watched the previous eight films, I would think these characters have no arc.  In fact, I think the only one that seems to have any kind of an arc would be Magneto and maybe Jean Grey.  And even then, they’re arcs aren’t that satisfying because time is taken away from them in order to accommodate the other people.

This film requires that you have seen the past three movies of this timeline (First Class and Days of Future Past), in order to feel as if this is a satisfying conclusion.  If you’re interested in watching the X-Men movies, this is not the movie to start with.  It does not stand on its own and requires too much of my memory of the past films to make it emotionally engaging.

Oscar Isaac plays the part of Apocalypse well, even if he reminds me a lot of Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy.  He is not a villain that is very interesting to me.  He does his whole “this world must be cleansed” spiel and we’re just expected to go with it.  Magneto ends up as the character with the most depth as a man who believes that war and destruction is all he will have in his life.

He’s not the only one who plays his part well.  Every actor and actress in the film plays their role admirably, but again, not enough time is spent on the characters that matter to make me feel emotionally invested in their struggle.  In the end, I was just watching for the action, which was disappointing.  I came for an X-Men movie, not a Michael Bay movie.

In the end, it’s a competent summer blockbuster.  It does the job it set out to do even if you won’t really spend a lot of time talking or thinking about it once you’ve left the theater.  It just doesn’t feel as polished as previous films.  It’s no X-Men: The Last Stand by any means but it’s not Days of Future Past.  If you’re looking for fun X-Men action, there are worse options, but this won’t be the film you immediately turn to if you want to watch an X-Men movie.  It’ll just be the third movie of the trilogy that you’ll have to watch because you might as well because you’ve seen the other two.