In Defence of – Assassin’s Creed (2016)

Greetings my Movie Geeks!

We looked at Super Mario Bros. from 1993 and determined it wasn’t actually that bad. You can watch that video here! The lasting legacy of the film is that only 25 years later video game movies are only just becoming good films in their own right. Or are they? Tonight we defend Assassin’s Creed.

History

Created off the back of the Prince of Persia video games, Assassins Creed was a reaction to the changeover from the PS2 generation of consoles to PS3. Originally a Prince of Persia spin-off game following an Assassin of the Prince, it evolved into the story and franchise we know and love? Today!

After the first game, we got a massive expansion and a time jump. A new character and a change in location, Assassins Creed 2 became a massive release with additional games released in subsequent years. I didn’t realise until Assassins Creed 3 came out that the games between were still part of 2.

From then we have had a release a year growing to a massive 4 releases in one year. 2014. Not all the games were on PS3/PS4/XBOX ETC but the content has been coming thick and fast.

Then they decided to spread themselves into a movie universe. And surprisingly it wasn’t a reboot or retooling. It was just a story within the wider Assassins Creed Universe.

The Story

What is the story? Is it basically the same as the video games? The answer to that is a definite yes. What is the story of the video games though? Let’s get started.

Assassins Creed sees a man, Desmond Myles in the near future being used by Abstergo, to access the memories of his ancestors. He is the descendant of a line of Assassins who were the enemies of the Knights Templar, who later became Abstergo.

They are routing through the genetic memories of the Assassins to locate a McGuffin. Yes, it’s a McGuffin Hunt everybody. Aren’t they the best stories?

McGuffin

The McGuffin here is an artefact called the ‘Pieces of Eden’. These artefacts are supposed to hold great power and are able to control free will. Abstergo and the Knights Templar want this to Rule the World!

So that is the story. And what makes the story good is that the majority of the gameplay is set in the past. We live as the Assassin. It follows his story as we trace back the location of the Pieces of Eden. It’s clever and it makes for compelling gameplay. But unfortunately, it also means that the main story is set in the /Present/Future. This is the biggest reason why I believe Assassins Creed the movie failed to get anything higher than 19% at Rotten Tomatoes.

But having said that Assassins Creed was doomed to start with is an easy fix. It actually tells a good and entertaining story. It has some nice effects and has evolved the Animus to something that makes far more sense than a lay down pod. This helps to explain the bleeding effect better than in the games. If you’re physically acting out your ancestor’s memories, you have synced and that is what they want to achieve. SO if you go against what the ancestor did, that’s when you desync.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Characters

Michael Fassbender plays Callum Lynch a murderer whose death is faked by the Abstergo Foundation. The reason we don’t see Fassbender playing Desmond, and why he’s playing a new character is because this movie is canon with the video games.

When I first read this I thought, ‘How Stupid’. But after a while I thought, that’s clever. You can start the narrative afresh, allowing a new audience to come into the franchise. At the same time, you can build onto the already flowing stories set up in the games. I would like to see how many non-gamers picked up a copy of Assassins Creed due to this movie. Remember, despite the low tomato score, it did almost double its budget.

Michael Fassbender

Fassbender is a player of the game and was the studios first choice to star. He said:

“You know, we absolutely want to respect the game. There’s so much cool stuff in the game that we’re actually spoiled for choice in terms of what we can use and what we can’t, but we also want to bring new elements to it and perhaps our own version of things that already exist in the game. But we’re definitely making a feature film, and we’re approaching it as a feature film, as opposed to approaching it as a video game. But I love the world …”

He goes on to say:

“When I met up with the guys from Ubisoft and they started to explain this whole world and the idea of D.N.A memory – you know, I think it’s a very feasible scientific theory. I just thought, ‘This is so rich,’ and about the possibility of it being this cinematic experience. So I’m really excited about it, and we’re working very hard to make sure that we’ve got the best and most exciting, original package.”

Marion Cotillard plays Dr Sofia Rikkin a scientist at Abstergo and the daughter of Jeremy Irons Alan Rikkin, a character who appeared in the first game.

This level of detail is what makes this game accessible for the players, but doesn’t exclude new moviegoers.

The cast that also includes, Michael K Williams, Brendan Gleeson and Charlotte Rampling is one of a fairly high standard. You’re not going to get any Uwe Boll type of crap here.

For the Players

If you read that quote from Fassbender you’ll see that he appears to be a fan of the games. That he wanted to add something new, build up the lore of the games and make a great feature film. It’s rare to have an actor be as invested in a property as this and it’s just a shame it didn’t take off. By what he was saying, he realised that the story was set in the future and that the past was just incidental, but unfortunately, the past needed to be at the forefront.

Set Design/Effects

As mentioned the effects in this film are great with some nice action set pieces in both the future and the past. We get a chase sequence that utilises the games parkour movements, which I would have preferred to have lasted longer, but was still very entertained. It also features the game’s signature ‘Leap of Faith’, which is the jump from a height that usually lands you in a hay pile.

Fassbender’s stunt double Damien Walters performed this feat rather than using CGI. He freefell from 125ft/38m, and it is said to have been the highest free fall performed by a stuntman for almost 35 years. This level of commitment and planning is one of the reasons why this film is one of the better-made Video game movies.

The sets are all different, from the historical setting of the ancestors’ memories to the angular boxed-in feel of the Abstergo Foundation’s ‘facility’. They do differentiate between the past and the future and the sets look great. We even have more game references with a artefact room that has details including: Altaïr Ibn-La’Ahad’s sword (Assassin’s Creed) Connor/Ratonhnhaké:ton’s bow (Assassin’s Creed III) Edward Kenway’s flintlock pistols (Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag); the cane sword of the twins Jacob and Evie Frye (Assassin’s Creed Syndicate) and the axe and guillotine gun of Arno Dorian (Assassin’s Creed Unity).

Legacy/Future

This level of detail goes to show how much they wanted this to succeed. It would have become an amazing story that interweaves the games and the films. This is almost how the MCU nearly made TV and Film work together with their ABC and Marvel shows linking with the films. Unfortunately, they didn’t mesh either. It would have been interesting to see if they could have carried movie elements over to the games. Maybe have a playable Callum Lynch in a game?

As of writing, it doesn’t look like there is a sequel coming off the back of this. But you could also say that we’re getting sequels and prequels with every newly released game. It is still a part of the same narrative and cannot be taken away. They may come back to a movie in a few years. I doubt it will have Fassbender, and may even be on a lower budget, but their base is in video games and that is where they excel. Although, I haven’t played an Assassin’s Creed game since Black Flag!

Conclusion

Assassin’s Creed was an attempt to make a movie based on a successful series of video games. It attempted to add to that story, to continue the story on a different medium. It did succeed, but it didn’t take into account that the story is firmly set in the future. What everyone loves about the games is the gameplay in the past. However, the problem with this is the past will always be the secondary story. The point of Assassin’s Creed is for the future people to learn what happened in the past. I think audiences wanted more of the past than the future.

If I was to tweak the film, it would be to set half the film in the past. Use a Cold open, with no reference to the future at all. We are following an Assassin from in whichever time period it is. We get so far into that story and become invested in the character. Then something goes wrong and the Animus desyncs. We are then thrust into the future and the story can progress. Have as little story in the future as possible.

But saying all that, Assassin’s Creed was an entertaining well-made film. It embraced the games and used what they had done before. Updating elements from the games that seemed silly, and incorporating reasons for the bleeding effect. The Animus was made to be a large moveable object that protects the user from harm as they sync and act out their ancestor’s memories.

 

This film deserves a lot more praise than it gets. It tried something new and failed. But hopefully, it will get another chance to reload the Animus and sync with the audience.

For the Readers

I hope you’ve enjoyed Defence of Assassin’s Creed. I will be hopefully getting my next IDO out next week and this one is a long time coming.

For listeners of the MAaD Movie Podcast, you’ll know that we sometimes rate our movies as Good James Bond films and Bad James Bond films. So let’s take a look at one!

Thanks for watching and reading. You can subscribe to my YouTube Channel and follow us on Instagram and Facebook @The Ultimate Movie Geek.

Nathaniel Jepson

I am the Ultimate Movie Geek and I love movies. I also have a movie based podcast called the Man About a Dog Movie Pod or MAaD Movie Pod.