Gaming · Movies

Movie review: Assassin’s Creed

Note: Hi everyone. Sorry for possible weirdness at the weekend. Sometimes WordPress does strange things when I try to schedule posts ahead of time. If you got an email with a link you can’t follow anymore, don’t worry, it’ll show up soon. In the meantime, I guess I’ll send WordPress another irritable email myself. Ok, on with the blog!

I know, I know, I know. It’s a golden rule: If the movie is based on a video game it’s going to be rubbish. It’s not like this is new information. Everyone know’s it’s true. On the other hand, I really, really, liked the Assassin’s Creed franchise, especially Assassin’s Creed II and I also really enjoy bad movies, so I figured this would be a fun use of an afternoon.

A scene from the Assassin’s Creed games. The gamers’ favourite, Ezio, doesn’t appear in the movie, but a new character is just as compelling. Image credit: Flickr User BagoGames

And you know what? The worst thing that came out of seeing it was that it made me want to go back and replay Assassin’s Creed II. I actually kind of enjoyed the movie. I suspect movie critics will just hate all the stuff about the “Apple of Eden” but that’s straight out of the games which they’ll sneer at playing, and the Templars/Assassins thing is hardly beyond what you might expect from a non-video game movie with a similar theme.

The action sequences were very well choreographed and the addition of the animus (which takes a different shape to that which appears in the games) makes them feel fresh and unusual; a step above your standard action movie’s version of a mad parkour-style dash with occasional punching. I saw Assassin’s Creed in 2D, but during the action scenes, I couldn’t help wondering if 3D might actually have been better.

Michael Fassbender played the protagonist, Callum Lynch (who, if you played the games, is our Desmond but with a past of his own) and did a good job of it. I also liked Marion Cotillard’s and Michael K Williams’ characters. The score was nothing to write home about but it didn’t distract either. The more I think about it, the more I have to admit that I just liked this movie.

So, I have to wonder, given that I liked the games and, given that everyone knows video game movies are always dreadful, am I just fangirling? Am I just getting nostalgic about the game-play I enjoyed so much? Well, I don’t think so. After all, I’m a fan of the Final Fantasy series and, as much as I tried, I couldn’t bring myself to enjoy The Spirits Within or Advent Children (and I really did try).

I think what might be happening here is this: Video games have always leant on great gameplay to make up for iffy story telling. The best and most successful games have had both, but these are rare. As technology improves it becomes easier to have both (and not just from the huge studios, as is clear from the rise in indie gaming over the last 10 years). While Final Fantasy usually did story lines very well, it alienated a lot of players thanks to its turn-based combat. Assassin’s Creed has a great story line and a great blend of different aspects of game-play – a blend that happens to lend itself perfectly to the action movie.

All it took was for someone to make it into a movie, with the use of a good screenplay, some smart directing and some great actors and suddenly, for the first time, you have a video game movie worth watching. For me, this is a first. Let’s just hope it’s not the last.


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