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Assassin's Creed (2016)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 3/21/2017
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/17/2017
1997 was a very important year for me. It was the year that I got married and it was the year that I discovered video games could have a comprehensive narrative. (Please note that I listed the marriage first, and thusly more important. I'm not crazy.) Yes, it was Resident Evil that show me that a video game could have a true plot, as well as characters. Today, multi-layered games like this are the norm, and it's not surprising that Hollywood would want to turn them into movies. However, Hollywood has a bad habit of unnecessary meddling, and the bulk of these movies have seen the original games' story left behind for a new, less-impressive plot. Will the action series Assassin's Creed suffer the same fate as it moves to the screen?
As Assassin's Creed opens, we meet Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender), as he is being executed. Cal awakens in Abstergo Industries, which is run by Dr. Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) and his daughter, Sofia (Marion Cotillard). It's here that Cal encounters the Animus, a device which can tap into the memories of a person's ancestors. Sofia places Cal in the Animus, as she's convinced that he's the descendent of Aguilar, an Assassin who lived in 1492. The goal is to use Cal's memories to discover the whereabouts of "The Apple of Eden", which is also being sought by the Knights Templar. It's believed that whoever holds The Apple who either be able to help the world embrace free-will or enslave it. Cal's experiences in the Animus help him to realize that he has the potential to be an Assassin.
My children often accuse me of making them watch bad movies, and I then have to explain to them that there's a difference between a low-budget movie which is trying its best and a movie which should have been good that fails miserably. Assassin's Creed falls squarely into that second category. Here we have a movie which costs $125 million and features a cast full of Oscar winners and nominees. The sets are impressive and the action scenes have an epic quality. The director made the 2015 version of Macbeth, which apparently brought a gritty realism to the "Scottish play".
Assassin's Creed is proof-positive that a pedigree cannot save a movie and I'm not sure who to blame. As noted above, the movie is based on a series of video games which have sold nearly 100 million copies, so there was a lot of source material from which to choose. But, based on some comments from the extra features, the makers of Assassin's Creed have decided to take some ideas from the games and do their own thing. So, I guess that Screenwriters Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, and Bill Collage should bear the brunt of some of the criticism. Of course, Director Justin Kurzel was supposed to be in charge of all this. Several of the actors here were in Macbeth, so I guess that they trusted Kurzel.
In the end, it doesn't matter whose fault it is -- Assassin's Creed is a shockingly bad movie. Video game movies are often accused of being shallow or lacking substance, and this film only perpetuates this idea. The problems here boil down to the editing and the story. The overall story, that the Assassins and the Templar both want some vague artifact is the least of the film's problem. Again, we meet Cal when he's in prison, but we aren't told why he is there. He is placed in the Animus, but we are never given any idea of how this machine works. The second half of the movie is just one long, drawn-out, and pointless action scene after another. The finale offers a twist which makes no sense and then the movie just ends. Apparently, somebody thought that this was guaranteed to have a sequel, but I doubt that's going to happen.
Last month, I calledShut In the worst movie of the year. I may have to alter that assessment. Assassin's Creed proves that video games aren't movies and vice versa. Playing a game in which a character must travel to the past in order to find clues to a mystery sounds like a cool idea. Watching Cal become engaged in battles which are just memories, where, therefore, he's in no danger, is simply ridiculous. And what's with all of the shots of soaring birds which stall the action? This movie is the epitome of a bloated, big-budget mess which has no idea what it's doing or what it wants to be. Game over.
Assassin's Creed also never explains where Abstergo Industries got all of its money on 4K UHD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains a 2160 Mbps HD transfer. The picture is very sharp and clear, showing no noticeable grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture has a distinct crispness to it, especially in the action scenes which take place outdoors in the daytime. The level of detail is impressive and the picture shows off a nice amount of depth. The Disc carries a Dolby Atmos 7.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. This is a muscular track which really takes off during the action scenes. The surround sound and subwoofer effects make their presence known during these moments, delivering detailed audio in which we can make out individual sounds. The stereo effects also work well, revealing sounds coming from off-screen.
The extras in this set are found on the accompanying Blu-ray Disc. "Take the Pledge: Behind the Scenes of Assassin's Creed" (41 minutes) is a five-part featurette which begins with an exploration of how the games were translated to the screen. From there, the piece examines the cast & characters, the stunts & fight choreography, the costumes & the look of the film, and the location shooting. "Conversations with Justin Kurzel" (20 minutes) offers four segments in which the director speaks with Composer Jed Kurzel (coincidence?), Editor Christopher Tellefsen, Visual Effects Supervisor Ged Wright, and Screenwriter Michael Lesslie. "Deleted Scenes Conversation with Justin Kurzel & Christopher Tellefsen" (22 minutes) has the director and editor talking about the scenes which were lifted from the film, including a character and subplot which were removed from the movie. (You mean this movie was longer at one point?) We then get to watch ten DELETED SCENES which run about 15 minutes free from any commentary...not that this makes them any better.
Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long