Assassin’s Creed movie review: A hit or miss?

The Tuesday I have been waiting for arrived yesterday. We went to watch Assassin’s Creed, the movie adaptation of a popular video game series that blends science with historical fantasy themes.

It was our first time going to the theaters over here so we were pleasantly surprised to find no lines and that it was totally okay to buy your tickets 15 minutes before the movie began. The nice and sunny morning was destroyed by my awkward mumbling to the box office lady who asked me to repeat myself.

We went inside the building, gawked at how different it was from home, stared at the ridiculous popcorn prices, took a few pictures outside the auditorium and went in, ready to watch our first movie in what seemed like years. It felt strange that we got to choose our own seats and that it was so darned bright inside. Even the ads were sectioned into fun facts and then other movie trailers (and I swear there’s a sequel for Planet of the Apes every other year).

You don’t know how tempted I was to start my post with “As a fan of Assassin’s Creed for EIGHT years…” but I figured it would be too cheesy, too boring, too pompous. I have not played a video game in more than a year until last week, a shocking comparison to my high school days (video games, I love you), so you could say that I didn’t think too much about what the plot was going to be like and that I didn’t have many expectations.

This is the part where you look away if you hate spoilers!

As a non-gamer looking for some good entertainment over winter break, the movie was decent. As a gamer, the movie was mediocre at its best. There wasn’t enough action at all. The three times that the main character went into the Animus was all we got. And if you’ve never played the game, Assassin’s Creed is 90% historical and 10% modern day. The way important moments in history are intertwined with an entirely fictional storyline is part of what makes the game so rich and so compelling. And the movie was quite the opposite – 80% modern day, 20% historical.

There was far too much focus on the modern day story, which, I suppose, was used to appeal to a wider audience and not just those who have played the game. Some parts could have been shorter. It was obvious that the movie was only building and focusing on the main character, Cal, to set up a nice background for its movie sequels. The huge miss for me was that Aguilar, the assassin from 500 years ago, did not have a story of his own. The appeal of AC games lie, as I mentioned earlier, with the historical scenes and characters. We don’t care about the main character but we care about his ancestors.

With that said, I loved how dedicated Michael Fassbender was to this adaptation. In 2011 or something like that, I read he was attached to the project and was very surprised that he did not drop out all this while. I was glad because I thought he really looked similar to Desmond Miles (main guy in the modern day part of the games) and his acting was great in X-Men. He was successful in creating a great character out of Cal who seamlessly fit into the AC universe unlike new characters in movie adaptations of video games or comics who often seem out of place. I thought the other actors/actresses did a great job as well. Some part of me wished that they had kept the original modern day characters like Lucy, Shaun and Rebecca, but oh well.

I also did not expect the historical scenes to entirely be in Spanish. It certainly made it more realistic and interesting but there was something lacking about it. I figured it was because the characters didn’t have enough lines. It made everyone seem really stiff because there was less talking so the characters were either nodding or staring at each other with intense gazes.

The cinematography was messy. I thought the Prince of Persia movie did a better job at recreating the feel of the games. I could barely see the parkour because the scenes were cutting wildly from spurring horses to wide angles of mountains to dark silhouettes and blinding white lights. The eagle was iconic but there was no need to keep following it around because it made the panoramic shot of the city lose all its magic (it’s freaking magical in the game). Another appeal of the games (because I can’t help but compare) is the beauty of the historical cities. With the lack of exploration, there was nothing to appreciate about the dusty and poorly lit locations.

While the movie’s Animus didn’t make me cringe as much as I expected to, though there were cheesy sci-fi elements about flying around with metal arms and football field lights, it was extremely distracting to have the scenes cut from the past to the present just to capture Marion Cotillard’s wide-eyed look of anticipation. It made it more difficult to get immersed in the action that was happening in the historical timeline.

I’m glad they did not throw romance into the storyline. I thought Aguilar and that female assassin were going to have a scene together or something but it didn’t happen, thankfully. That would have racked up the cringe factor. I hope that they won’t in future sequels because that would turn it into another romance/action/sci-fi thing. What they should add is some wit and humor but just a little. Like, really little. Too much would take away its essence. In the game, Desmond Miles was a crappy character but his sarcasm made up for all that he was lacking. At the same time, I suppose the serious tone in the movie wasn’t all too bad either.

I enjoyed the soundtrack. I actually thought Jesper Kyd (musical genius who composed the soundtracks for the games; this might be a bit outdated since I only played until AC3) composed it because it sounded similar, but it wasn’t him. It was good though. The rock music at the beginning was also very AC-like because all the game trailers have really awesome non-mainstream songs that sound epic.

Overall, I would give this movie a 7/10. It was a hit AND a miss for me. Would I watch it again? Probably, because Fassbender’s sport shoes and sweatpants look is fab! Just kidding. I wouldn’t mind watching it again but not so soon. People actually clapped after the movie was over! I didn’t yawn or complain which tells me that I found it entertaining. It was nice to be reunited with in-game jargon and understand all the references. I would probably watch the sequel. I was mostly disappointed that people who have never played the game did not get to experience the feeling captured through AC’s use of history as its playground because it was, and still is, a great feeling that inspired me to delve deeper into the subject of history and see video games as a wonderfully unique form of art.

If you want a great story, play the game (preferably, most definitely, infinitely, the second game, AC2) but if you’re not picky and got about 2 hours to spare, I would say give the movie a try.

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This Means War – a movie review

 

So we watched This Means War yesterday. And let me just say: It was amazing… for the first thirty minutes. If you think it looks as exciting as it did in the trailer (which showed practically the whole movie), then I’m here to prove you wrong.

FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) sabotage each other’s dates with Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) to win her heart. That’s basically how the story goes and as far as it can get. I don’t have to include the fact that there was an antagonist, Heinrich (played by Til Schweiger) because the main plot barely included this part.

Firstly, I was fooled into thinking that there would be lots of action in a steady and consistent, maybe funny, storyline. The first scene looked very much like a captivating spy-action film. The next few minutes into the movie was even better with some witty and smart conversations. Everyone was smiling and laughing. But as the movie progressed, it became clear to me that the ‘romantic comedy and spy film’ was actually a B-class (with some Hollywood production of stunts and effects) movie of crude humor and poorly developed characters. In short, it was boring.

I don’t know if the part was supposed to be played like that, but Witherspoon’s Lauren was flawed, fake smiles and everything. Lauren’s personality was similar to the foolishness of Cameron Diaz’s June in Knight And Day. Don’t get me wrong. Witherspoon acts in great movies I’ve watched and loved, but her role as Lauren was just unlikable. In fact, all the characters were not likable at all.

Moving along to Chris Pine as FDR, good-looking womanizer who actually has a heart of gold by the end of the movie. Let me quote his IMDb profile before I start.  “Trademark: Frequently plays charming and likeable characters.” Yeah. Right. Perhaps Pine wants to head in another direction for his acting career or is trying to play different characters a la Johnny Depp. Sometimes, different is bad. FDR was not only a very stereotyped character, but an annoying jerk with a shallow personality. Pine was plain disappointing in this movie. (I thought he was excellent in Unstoppable.)

Tom Hardy’s Tuck exceeded my expectations. A little. Okay, I actually had no expectations. Like any other movie, Tuck’s personality had to contrast with FDR’s nasty behavior, so Tuck was the nice/pleasant/good/honest/modest guy. Obviously, Tuck was a much better character to watch but either the audio was just bad or Hardy mumbles because I had a tough time deciphering his conversations.

Trish, played by Chelsea Handler, was by far the worst character in the movie. I get that female main characters of romantic comedies need their gaggle of best friends, but seriously? A foul-mouthed friend with the crudest scenes in the movie? Wrong move, McG (or the one to be blamed).

SPOILER ALERT!

The only scene I found entertaining and maybe enjoyable, sandwiched between a bunch of boring scenes where FDR and Tuck spend what feels like a lifetime in different surveillance rooms to spy on each other, was the scene where Lauren danced in her kitchen while the two loves of her life darted in and out of her house. I liked how the camera rolled continuously across the rooms.

I disliked the ending. Immensely. FDR didn’t deserve to end up with Lauren. It should’ve been Tuck, although he had a fair conclusion to his own story. There was not much difference in the chemistry between Lauren and Tuck compared to Lauren and FDR, but at least Tuck seemed more sincere and humble (?). Ah, why do I even need to justify a meaningless movie? I won’t even rate it because it’s that bad. (Okay, maybe not as bad as What’s Your Number, but still.)

Well, if you like an anti-climatic movie with some crude humor and a lacking storyline, then be my guest. If you prefer movies with depth and significance, watch Leap Year (one of the most satisfying romantic comedies I’ve ever watched) or Just Go With It (hilarious movie for those who want to hurt their stomachs laughing) and heck, even The Bounty Hunter (which received poor rating despite its amusing humor).

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