Assassin’s Creed, the latest video game movie to hit the big screen, is gaining mostly bad reviews. This isn’t surprising, even if the film does manage to entertain.
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is entertaining, but it’s still considered one of the worst movies ever made, to the point where Michael Bay apologized for it. After all, simply being entertaining doesn’t make a movie good.
Of course, nobody expected Ubisoft’s first foray into big-screen adaptations to be the second coming of Citizen Kane. It’s clear that they did try to make the movie like the game in many ways, but that’s one of many reasons why it failed to be the one video game movie to wow critics.
Many video games are known for their action and visual prowess, especially now. Once again, Revenge of the Fallen had both. Amazing visuals don’t make a movie great. Visuals are a prerequisite for video games today, as even the consoles are pushing 4K resolution, which consumers demand.
Video games aren’t generally known for their stories, though. With the exception of The Last of Us, the Batman: Arkham series, and the Telltale Games titles, as well as many role-playing games, the story is usually rather weak. The problem with the better stories that is that they often take several days to unfold through the efforts of the gamer. Your average motion picture has to tell a complete story in the span of three hours at most. Any video game you can finish in three hours is considered a rip-off unless it’s one you picked up in the Walmart bargain bin.
Assassin’s Creed games often have barely any story to them. This is probably why the most fleshed-out tale became a trio of beloved classics having been re-released as The Ezio Collection. The story of Desmond and his Italian ancestor spans literally from the moment Desmond was brought to Abstergo to the day Desmond died, with Ezio seeing his end in an animated short film subtitled Embers.
The short films included in The Ezio Collection were well-done, but they both had a simple goal to accomplish. One was about how Ezio’s father, Giovanni, who hid his real job from his own family to protect them, and the other was Ezio passing the proverbial torch, however begrudgingly, to a young Chinese girl. These stories were simple and didn’t need to amaze us.
The Assassin’s Creed movie did need to amaze us and do so much more, all within a couple of hours. It had to introduce Callum Lynch, as well as his ancestor in 15th century Spain, and tell both stories while reminding us of the video game franchise it was based on. Basically, the film had to tell two different stories and not remind us of Inception, since the series was literally a game within a game for years.
Reminding us of the game was a risky venture to start with, since anyone who’s beaten an Assassin’s Creed game will tell you that most of your early game time will be spent climbing towers or cliffs to “synchronize.” That would make for an extremely boring movie if it’s about that one concept, and it wasn’t.
Thankfully, Ubisoft didn’t force us through that, instead focusing on the story of an assassin in Spain, the ancestor to Michael Fassbender’s Callum Lynch. For this to be successful, they would have to introduce at least two sets of characters (heroes and villains) to make us care about the entire plot. This would have to be balanced by a sub-plot about an ancient war between assassins and Templars.
Bad things happen when you try to introduce too many heroes and villains in one action movie, as Joel Schumacher and Sam Raimi both learned, through Batman and Robin and Spider-Man 3, respectively. Even Bryan Singer failed when he made X-Men: Apocalypse after having experience from three successes behind him.
Slant Magazine states that the Assassin’s Creed film tried too hard to over-explain and made a mess of itself. By embracing the idea of “desynchronizing,” which is how the game series avoids actually killing off its heroes for bad jumps, combat mistakes, or sometimes even being detected, the film interrupts itself in the middle of massive stunts. This breaks the flow of the story and helps to ruin the film itself.
At one point, the Hollywood Reporter claims, Micheal Fassbender makes an inside joke about the confusing story and literally asks what’s going on. It’s almost like the film’s writers knew they’d be confusing the audience.
Some fans, however, have considered this to be the best video game movie ever made, raising the proverbial bar for how they’re created. It may all be a matter of perspective, but the Assassin’s Creed movie had a lot going against it. Being a video game movie and going up against a Star Wars film didn’t help.
Thankfully, Rogue One suffers from a crawling pace from the start, so Assassin’s Creed could still make a decent amount of money and warrant a more successful second installment, just like the game series.
[Featured Image by Debby Wong/Shutterstock.com]