movies: assassin's creed

assassin's creed: your destiny is in your blood
Since they announced that they were making an Assassin's Creed movie, I'll be honest, I've had an equal measure of excitement and trepidation.

Excitement because it's my favourite video game franchise and the director was responsible for 2015's very beautiful version of Macbeth. And trepidation because when have they ever gotten a video game movie adaptation completely right.

Having now seen it I can say that as an action movie and as a video game adaptation it ticks most of the current boxes... in fact I'd go as far as to say that it's one of the better adaptations that I've seen (but then I do have a fondness for the Resident Evil series, although I've never played the games, so take that with as much of a grain of salt as you like).

But as a movie... it suffers from the same problem that far too many action movies do currently... it supplies action in place of actual characters. I can't even say character development, because many of the additional characters are barely even more than a thumbnail sketch... like the main female assassin in the historical timeline. I have no idea what her relationship with Michael Fassbender's character was supposed to be... are they lovers, could be related, are they just friends... who can say! But worse than that, I couldn't have told you her name without looking it up if you'd paid me.

Likewise with the other Assassins in the present day timeline... "thankfully" they picked a black man, and Asian woman, a bearded man and a young pretty man... otherwise they would have all just blended into each other... because beyond the fact that they exist, and do some stuff, they have no identifiable characteristics or discernible names (I'm pretty sure the Asian woman doesn't even have any lines).

The only character with an actual arc is Marion Cotillard... yet once again, I couldn't tell you what her name was. Even though Fassbender plays two different characters, neither of them really develop or have much of a personality (whether that was helped or hindered by the fact that director Justin Kurzel, Cotillard and Fassbender had a go at a version of the script, if something I read earlier is to be believed)... so while he certainly learns some things, it doesn't really have that much of an impact on his character.

And without spoiling anything very much, neither side, the Assassins or the Templars, is really presented as being "right" or "wrong"... which is something that a few of the more recent games tried to do with varying degrees of success... but, to be honest, if I'm a fan of the Assassin's Creed series, I'm a fan of the Assassins, and I want them to be the heroes, or at least to be present as less wrong than the bad guys.

As far as this movie is concerned, the only character you really empathise with is Cotillard. And even then, not very much.

It does look beautiful though... which I fully expected from Kurzel and his cinematographer (the same one from Macbeth), Adam Arkapaw... even though I often felt like the 15th Century Spain sequences where just half obscured by smoke and orange light and a lot of really fast cutting.

I'm also not sure if it was just a really, really loud movie or if the cinema I saw it in just had the volume jacked up way too high. Yes, I was in the fully surround sound cinema with all the sound... but it made it hard to hear a lot of the dialogue.

There were more than a few nice moments, especially thing that harken back to previous Assassin's Creed games, but it all felt a bit rushed and a bit shallow. The strongest impression I actually had was that it felt very much like the couple of hours you play in the games before the title screen comes up... it's all about getting you working with the mechanics and tease out a little bit of story, but all the actual character development will happen after that point.

I think at the end of the day it's was either as good or as bad as I was hoping/expecting.

yani's rating: 3 hidden blades out of 5

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