This review is going to contain FULL SPOILERS from the Assassin’s Creed movie so if you don’t want to know what happens prior to the films New Years Day release then read my NON-SPOILER REVIEW equipped with a score and all that. So, there are things in this film i wanted to talk about but left them out of my non-spoiler review and other things that i just wanted to elaborate on a little more, so here is the place for that.
Firstly i will start off with the modern day content which as you would know if you read my review is boring as shit. I was not invested in any of the characters including the main protagonist which is quite possibly the worst sign. It all began with the opening sequence where are young Callum Lynch comes home to find that his father had killed his mother in the name of the Assassin’s Creed. Probably the most personally annoying thing about this scene is that you have Essie Davis in the film……. as a corpse, i know it’s just a cameo role but the more Davis the better. Anyway, this scene was supposed to get us emotionally invested in Lynch’s story, siding with the kid who just lost both of his parents. But the fact that you know nothing about the parents (yet), and you don’t get the aftermath of the event (other than the fact that he kills a guy like 20 years later) means that this scene was void of any emotional connection, the entire tone of the scene was supposed to hook you in and peak your interest in the character but it was very poorly executed. From here it was a slow journey with Lynch in jail, being executed, being awoken, roaming around Abstergo, learning his purpose, learning about the animus, all before going back to 1492. None of this was at all interesting because what took the film over 20 minutes to introduce took the trailer under 2 minutes, so mostly everyone could figure all that out from the beginning.
And then we got to the animus, now here is what i have to say about the way the animus is represented in this film. I completely understand and support the changing of the Animus design from a bed/lounge chair to a massive moving claw from a visual and cinematic standpoint. If the film was going to be spending more time in the present day i entirely agree that you needed something that wasn’t going to mean the present day scenes consisted entirely of Fassbender lying motionless on a chair. But from a practicality and common sense point of view this may have been the stupidest decision in the movie. The technology behind how this thing works is very questionable, and even the filmmakers don’t have the answers to these questions hence why you only see the animus during brief combat sequences. It shows any fighting moves Aguilar does on a 1:1 scale of distance in the modern day, so if Aguilar takes 5 steps forward and stabs a guy, Lynch will take 5 steps forward and stab the air. So what happens when Aguilar runs 50 metres ahead? Does the animus just stop? Does he run into a wall? Does he just run rings around the area? You don’t see this because not only would it look stupid but whoever designed it clearly didn’t have practicality in mind. And from my understanding, this claw design doesn’t have any benefits over the conventional bed design…… the subject still picks up assassin skills, still relives the memories and desynchronises, and still suffers from the bleeding effect. So in a world where both designs exist, the use of this high tech garbage just doesn’t make sense from a narrative point of view.
Seeing the bleeding effect come into the picture in the modern day sequences was a really cool addition for fans of the video game series. It made for a few haunting sequences, wasn’t a big part of the main plot, and a nice little bit of fan service.
In these modern day sequences, two characters had the potential to be greatly written and expertly evil. Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter Sofia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) were set up to be these great forces leading this operation to find one of the Apples of Eden. Plus the fact that they are played by two fantastic actors suggests they are going to have a lot of content to show off their talents. But they do nothing menacing or noticeably evil and Alan Rikkin especially is very rarely featured. He walks around a lot, and talks with Irons’ commanding voice but is just another lifeless character who isn’t interesting at all. Great way to take a character people have wanted to see more of for a while and do nothing with him right before you kill him off. Sofia Rikkin is another wasted character and wasted talent in Marion Cotillard, i mean, her only purpose in this entire film is constantly explaining the lore and giving tonnes of exposition to Lynch and us as the viewer. They try to do something with her character by giving her a conscious, something that will have her question whether she is doing things for good or for evil. But they just establish it and don’t really explore it further, sure she lets Lynch kill her father in the end but it was one of the most predictable turn of events of the entire film. There is also one shot at the end where it looks as though her bloodline has an Assassin ancestor in there, as this isn’t referenced at all in the rest of the film it looks like it was setting something up to be explored in an unlikely sequel.
And although every character in the modern day period was dull, dry, and uninteresting, one side character, Moussa, played by Michael K. Williams was surprisingly one of the more intriguing people there. He gets shit all screen-time and only has a handful of lines throughout the movie but i was more interested in his character than any other modern day character who lacked personality. His quest through Abstergo to plan and stage an escape is something you only get snippets of but would have been tonnes more interesting than listening to Callum and Sofia talk about shit again and again. In his brief scenes i gathered that he was the most charismatic person in that building and i just wanted to see more of him every time it cut to Lynch boringly training in his room.
Also what the fuck was up with Brendan Gleeson’s role in the film? He has the 4th acting credit and gets less screen time than a fucking CGI eagle. He plays Joseph Lynch in one broken up scene where his only purpose is to give Callum some moral stability, briefly reveal more about why he killed his wife (who cares), and then be stabbed 5 minutes later for no reason. He wasn’t escaping, he was standing there staring at nothing, yet 3 guards felt the need to let other prisoners escape and kill an old man for what? Emotional impact? Give me a break…….
Now, moving on the the good stuff, everything set in 1492. This is what i came to see, and from the trailers i bet it is what everyone came to see, now although it was awesome, it made for a quarter of the entire films runtime and only left me wanting more. It wasn’t just the action that i loved about these sequences, it was the lore, the story and the mission being told in that era, with those characters that i really wanted to see. Right from the scene where you get Aguilar’s acceptance into the Assassin’s Brotherhood with the dismemberment of his finger from his master i was hooked into this story. Who was his master? What is the story behind the brotherhood in this time period? These are the questions i instantly wanted to know more about, but the film said no and threw me back into modern times. Sure, they throw us back to the past just in time to see the three major action sequences in Aguilar’s journey to finally finding the Apple of Eden, but i wanted to see what led up to that fight, the investigation, the planning, all of this would have been infinitely more interesting than what we actually got in Abstergo. The relationship between Aguilar and Maria is something that the film tells us was really strong and had emotion tied to it. When she dies, the way it is shot is done in a way to tell us that we should feel for this character, and that the bond with her and Aguilar was strong, but there wasn’t a single second of the film spent showing us that making it hard to be really invested.
The action in these sequences was great, it was fast paced, exciting, and gave us everything we wanted from an Assassin’s Creed movie. The cinematography of these scenes was electrifying and just stunning to look at with the orange hue adding to the experiential elements. The only changes that would have enhanced these scenes a little more are firstly the number of cuts, and secondly the splices to modern day events. Some of the action scenes are very cut up and very choppy, i didn’t mind it on most occasions but if it was cut down to maybe highlight a little more of the choreography that would have been a better experience. Also one of the elements i didn’t mention in my normal review just to not reveal everything were those stupidly annoying splices of modern day injected into most of the action sequences. It was so jarring and was constantly making it harder to focus on the good stuff when every time Aguilar does a different move it cuts to show what it looks like when Callum does the same thing. We didn’t need those splices, they were pointlessly stupid, and guess what, opting with the bed version of the animus would have eliminated any reason to cut back to modern day so often….. problem solved.
Now we move on to the ending sequence of the film, and the only moment in which the modern day portions of the film somewhat entertained me. Firstly you get an action breakout sequence which was fun to see but would have been better and had higher stakes if i had a reason to give a shit about the characters. So you see the Templars retrieve the apple from its final resting place after finding of its location from Christopher Columbus himself. This was something again, straight out of the way the end of an AC game plays out where the opposing factions compete to receive the piece of Eden before the other. Then you have Alan Rikkin take the Apple to a Templar organisation celebration. Seeing this massive Templar convergence where you have the Templar Elders, and other Templar Agents converging in this hall was very very cool, especially from a fan’s perspective where this type of large scale modern Templar presence hasn’t been represented in the games so far. It really establishes this cause that is very much like a religion and establishes to the audience their place in todays society. It plays out in a way most people would expect, with Aguilar one way or another securing the Apple of Eden from Rikkin and escaping into the night. But one thing i didn’t particularly pick is the killing off Alan Rikkin, now this is a cool way to offer a connection between the films and the game as repercussions of this will no doubt be explored in either forms of media.
Now although this particular ending sequence was well done, the way it handles everything else makes it very hard to do a good sequel to this film……. assuming this actually gets a sequel which it most likely wont. They essentially wrote themselves into a corner with this ending that may have a very very slight opening for a way out that i will get to later. But the way it ends is essentially; they end the story of the main characters in 1492, you see Aguilar’s final moments and obviously Maria’s death, and they look at continuing the stories of the modern day characters you couldn’t care less about. Meaning, all of those characters that were so interesting and compelling enough to demand their own film are gone, so if any sequel is going to be made you can count out ever seeing Aguilar again. So the stupidest decision they made is ending it by eluding to the fact that we were going to get the continuation of Sofia’s story and Callum Lynch & co’s story. Because, if this movie was profitable AND the critical and fan response was positive then ok, this decision would have worked out. BUT, if the movie is profitable AND the critical and fan response is pretty garbage then telling people the sequel would be focusing on the same bland characters would not make people want to pay for a sequel. And seeing as though if this film makes a profit (which it probably wont) the latter option will be the final result, but that doesn’t mean it’s all over, there is a way out for a successful sequel.
EDIT: So it turns out what i was writing will take a while so i’m going to save it for a seperate post.
So they are my more in depth thoughts on the Assassin’s Creed movie, i hope you enjoyed it and would be cool to hear anyone else’s thoughts. If you are one of those people who read this without seeing the movie first, then why? But anyway the film does come out on New Years Day in Australia so see for yourself whether you like it or don’t seeing as though you basically have spoiled it for yourself at this point.