Darke Reviews | Assassins Creed (2016)

Nothing is True.
Everything is Permitted.

Forewarning. I have played through the Ezio Trilogy of the video game twice. Played through AC3 once which was a slog and lost interest during AC4 as I didn’t find the actual plot engaging. That’s right folks, this is a video game turned movie. We all know there are only a handful of exceptions to the rule that these will be horrible.

  • Silent Hill
  • Mortal Kombat
  • Warcraft (it wasn’t horrible!…just not great)
  • Resident Evil (again not horrible. even good)

You can argue Mortal Kombat, but I’ll fight you. It’s fun. It’s actually pretty good for the 90’s. The litany of crimes against video games largely began with Super Mario Bros., but really took off with Uwe Boll rampage through the German tax code and movie industry with beauties like Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, Bloodrayne, and more.

So does Assassin’s Creed break the curse or should it have stayed in the shadows?

Looking behind the curtain as usual, we have the invocation of the three writer rule. Michael Lesslie (Macbeth 2015), Adam Cooper (Exodus Gods and Kings, Allegiant), Bill Collage (Exodus Gods and Kings, Allegiant). Now Allegiant was so bad and droll I didn’t even have the energy to write a review for it. But did they do a bad job here? Actually…mostly no. They went with as an original story as they could tell. You see when adapting a story based game like Assassins Creed, or say Mass Effect, you have to be original. You won’t tell the story that got to the heart of a player that made it their game. You need to make it YOUR story, but in their universe. They succeeded here. It has all the right story elements to tell me this is AC, but their own story for it – mostly.

Where they fail though is continuing to use the Apple of Eden McGuffin. They could have made up their own artifact that Abstergo and the Templars wanted and the Assassins have to protect. Slight spoiler, but if you didn’t figure it out from the trailer – the Assassins are the good guys. The logic fails sadly extend to the characters who shift motivations inexplicably and without sufficient justification. The other, perhaps biggest failure is the contrast between past and present. People play the game to spend 80% of their time in the historical period, the other 20% is dealing with the framework and setup for how it all happens – the Templars & Assassins in the modern age still clawing for supremacy over each other and the lives of the planet. The movie reverses this with more time in the modern period than the past.

Sure in the past they give us beautiful fan service that the players of the games will like (or wince depending on what you thought of the section). You have your carriage chases, leaps of faith, rooftop runs, blades, darts, ropes, all of it. It made me happy to see so much of the game realized in a live action environment, but this excitement was dampened by poor filming and bringing me back to the “real world” in the middle of scenes.

Which leads into the next failure, the directing. Justin Kurzel. Director of the Snowtown Murders and Macbeth (2015 version) shows what I can only judge as having been done in an altered state. He apes styles of three or four other directors, that shouldn’t be combined together. This is where production behind the scenes things lie to us. Knowing that the Leap of Faith was done practically was amazing. The final execution could have been CGI and we may not have noticed due to the intense colour correction, computer enhancements, and outright computer built worlds and lighting. Oh the lighting was so horrific through this. There were a handful of inspired shots that meant little because they were ruined by either a bad cut or bad effect. I mean when 2004’s Nightwatch (really good by the way) has a better pan down on a mass combat than this does twelve years of technology later – we have a problem. The colour correction made me want to join the Brotherhood and off someone.

The acting is…flat. No one is in it. It’s not as bad as M. Night Shaylaman directing flat, but not too far off. That’s a horrible thing to do to Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard. Jeremy Iron’s doesn’t care anymore and quite frankly neither do we. He’s just fun to watch when he’s allowed to go full Ham on Rye. Sadly he does not here. What impresses me though is how diverse the cast is; while sadly the mains are Caucasian, the rest has some really good diversity and characters that are at least interesting if not under utilized. I really wanted more of Ariane Labed’s character Maria (the awesome female assassin from the trailer) as she was engaging and believable.

Another point in the movies favor is that in all the past life sequences they speak Spanish and Latin. They didn’t shortcut this and I have to give them props here. The costumes were good. The idea on how to visualize the Animus was kinda cool. The city running scenes were what I expected and looked appropriate.

 

TL;DR?

Assassins work in the shadows to protect the light. The movie wasn’t quite ready for the light. It’s not horrific and I was entertained for the better part of the viewing – but it also wasn’t that good either. The directing and camera work were largely poor and the CGI environments were under rendered. It’s surprising to find out this movie cost $125 million to make because I cannot tell you where the money went. Character motivations were all over the place without a good plot reason to support them. The nods to the video game are good and there’s some nice little easter eggs.

It isn’t a crime against the AC Games -it’s actually very true to them –  or movies in general, but it also isn’t worth a theatrical viewing either.

It’s not great, its barely good – but at least it wasn’t BAD.

Should you see it?

Netflix, streaming, rental…yeah if you like the games.

Going to buy it?

Probably…depends how I feel the day it comes out. May wait for discount bin.

So…double feature?

I watched this BEFORE Passengers, so I wouldn’t let my feelings for that garbage interfere with this. It did however make me want to play the game again this weekend.

Anything else?

It’s cute they think they will get a sequel.

Darke Reviews | X-Men Days of Future Past (2014)

I have to admit writing this I am a bit conflicted. I have not settled on an emotion right now as I start. I made it known at work today I was going in with fairly low expectations. I had a gut feeling from the way the marketing went. Too much product placement ads set my nerves on edge. It feels like the producers are trying too hard, especially when it’s something like Carls Jr. It creates a disconnect with me that I find unnerving and makes me doubt their faith in the movie on its own merits.

I think the other reason I am conflicted now is that I didn’t get the movie I thought I would. This is *not* a bad thing. It means I underestimated the film.

The movie returns original X-men and X-2 director Bryan Singer to the franchise. If you are not familiar with his best bodies of work, please look to the magnificent Usual Suspects and Apt Pupil. Despite it’s many sins he also gave us Superman Returns. What do all of these films have in common, along with the first two X movies? Characters. They focus on the characters, sometimes at the sacrifice of a logical story. He brings you into the characters and really makes you get people you shouldn’t and helps bring perspective to everyones world.

The story this time has a three writer issue and the rule applies. It shows. Jane Goldman (Stardust, First Glass, Kick-Ass) has her sensibilities in film clearly shown. Simon Kingberg (X3, Jumper, XXX State of the Union) shows his as well – which may explain the weakest aspects of the movie. Matthew Vaughn, director of First Class, also has a writing credit who also has credits on Stardust and Kick Ass. His appreciation for the characters and the ‘verse that he created. Respect is given to history and with a lot of little nods to both comic and animated history through out.

The story has issues though. It’s pacing is off as hell. It runs over two hours and sometimes feels it. It falls prey to too many locations and too many events it wants to include. It was a fear I had from seeing the trailers, so I will admit I may be judging harshly here. It tries to do too much and doesn’t quite nail it. It tries to tie up too many loose ends from *all* the other films and only gets half way to the finish line. It does a fantastic job where it can, but the places where story fails – wow. I give you this warning, it will also be in the bottom – DO NOT THINK TOO HARD! By all the powers that be do not think too hard on any aspect of the movie. It falls apart. I think I will lay that on Kinsberg as the weakest writer in the bunch and well if you think about the McGuffin at all or can do basic math..yeah. Ugh

So what does work? The actors. They own. They sell it with all they have and aren’t phoning it in at all. McAvoy and Stewart play Xavier at different stages of life and both sell the life they’ve lived. I thought I would be more annoyed with McAvoy’s Xavier, but I understood. I appreciated it and it helped. Fassbender and McKellen also play young and old fantastically well. You can see the man that was and the man that is. You can see the man that we saw in the other films and where he’d come from. Fassbender has more charisma than should be legal in a man when he’s on screen and we thank him for it.

Jackman returns to the role he was apparently born to play. I do hope this will be one of his last outings and let someone else take up screen time. I can’t say he does bad here, but its too easy for him and while he plays all he needs to and it works, its just there. Apparently for Jennifer Lawrence, two oscar nominations and one Oscar win get you more screen time and development. I see a transition from focus on Wolverine to Mystique and I have to admit it pleases me. She, of course is fantastic. While not someone I’d want my daughter looking up to, if I could ever have one, she’s got aspects worth looking up to. She’s a good actress with a good and complex character.

Peter Dinklage dominates every scene in which he has a speaking line. This is no surprise to Game of Thrones fans. Just like the other characters, while all of them are somewhat thin, the development they do get is enough to make him decently complex and relatable. He works and I believe it’s Dinklage as to why.

The future sequences give us a handful of our favourite mutants doing what they do and as per my rules no spoilers. I was stupidly ecstatic to see Blink though. Just a geek girl thing.

From a technical aspect, wow. Overall nice work. Some effects are rough. Rougher than they should be, but when they do work, WOW. I would point to raw entertainment whenever a speedster I didn’t expect to like was on screen. Also, they BUILT A SENTINEL. There was a real, physical sentinel that was built. Brilliant choice. Editing, well, again it runs longer than it shoud. I do not think 3D will add anything so no need for the extra ticket price.

Alright, TL;DR?

The movie still leaves me conflicted. I think its ok, a good character study. If I think too hard most of it falls apart. It had moments of entertainment, but not enough. The entire movie is heavy. Not dark, just heavy. There is no where near the fun or levity of some previous installments in the franchise. It does one thing I can’t say without spoilers, but it made me happy beyond words.

Overall, if you were going to see it nothing I say will stop you. Enjoy.

If you weren’t planning on it, you don’t need your mind changed. This certainly will only reinforce your decisions.

If you were on the fence, see it, but its absolute matinee.

I am seeing it tomorrow with another friend, hopefully I can have ANY emotion on this one after I am done, but I don’t think so. Stay for the end of the credits for your tease to the next movie.

Next week, I am watching the Mistress of all Evil. Maleficent.