Assassin’s Creed

Assassin’s Creed is a 2016 American-French action-adventure film based upon the video game series of the same name. The film was directed by Justin Kurzel and written by Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper and Bill Collage. Assassin’s Creed stars Michael Fassbender (one of my favorite actors), Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, and The Wire’s Michael K. Williams.

Assassin’s Creed was first released in 2007. It is an open-world stealth-action game set primarily during the Third Crusade. A young man named Desmond is abducted by Abstergo, a multinational technology giant that is a front for the mysterious shadow organization known as The Templars, on the hunt for mysterious and powerful artifacts which they will use to control the world. The Templars have been engaged in a centuries long shadow war with the Assassins, who are sworn to protect the world from the Templars by any means necessary. Desmond, though raised as an Assassin, left the clan and had been working under assumed names in New York City to protect himself. Under threat of death, Desmond begrudgingly agrees to assist them. He uses a machine called The Animus to access and relive the memories of his ancestors, first Altaïr ibn-La’Ahad. The majority of the game is spent as Altaïr, and you traverse the vast city of Jerusalem uncovering a story of betrayal and intrigue while… you know, doing Assassin things. Desmond later escapes with help from Assassin’s working undercover in Abstergo, and once again must enter the Animus and search for the mysterious Apple of Eden, which was hidden by Assassin Ezio Auditore da Firenze during the Italian Renaissance. Desmond and his allies end up in a desperate hunt for the Apple, which brought about the end of an entire ancient civilization. He is aided by holograms of the leaders of this ancient civilization: Jupiter, Minerva, and Juno.

The film version forgoes any of the more interesting aspects of the game’s storyline for something much more streamlined (and boring). Callum Lynch is the son of an Assassin who, for reasons unexplained, ends up on death row. His death is faked by Abstergo and he is then forced to relive the memories of Assassin Aguilar de Nerha during the Spanish Inquisition. Callum is put under the watchful eye of well-meaning doctor Sofia Rikkin, daughter of the head of Abstergo. The Templars want the Apple because it contains the genetic code for free will, which they will use to subjugate the human race and create “a world of peace.”

Assassin’s Creed was often borderline nonsensical and often just plain boring. The action featured in the movie is very pedestrian, bland, and nothing special, and several of the characters’ motivations are either poorly set up or not set up at all. Sofia eventually betrays her father and assists Callum in rescuing the Apple, but she has no reason to do so. Callum and her never develop a romantic relationship, unless you call a strange, sorta, kinda friendship in a scientist-subject dynamic a romance. Not much in the present-day narrative made much sense to me. In the games, “synchronized”was just a way of saying you had finished a portion of the game. (i.e. If you had completed a task, quest, section, or objective, then that portion of the memory in the Animus was 100% synchronized.) In the film, there is a part where Callum is in the Animus, reliving the memories of Aguilar, and Sofia overdramatically states “He’s synchronized!” They never explain exactly what this means.

So the plot of the movie is bad. Badly plotted movies can still have interesting characters, action, or good acting. Assassin’s Creed has nothing. It isn’t even noteworthy in its badness, just boring. The fatal flaw in Assassin’s Creed is the way in which it is set up on a basic level. Unlike the game, in which the memories of the past are in order with logical progression, with only minimal interruption, the film constantly switches between the perspectives of Aguilar and Callum, which is very jarring. Not only that, but when Callum goes back, Aguilar is suddenly captured and must escape, and is later giving the Apple to Christopher Columbus. You have no idea how he got captured or why he gave it to Columbus. Aguilar also has a girlfriend you never care about. In fact, you do not give two craps about anyone because A. The script has nothing to make you care and B. Nobody ever emotes. Nobody has any real emotion, except Michael Fassbender’s acting switch is apparently stuck in “brooding and vaguely angry” the entire movie. This confuses me, because nobody in this movie is a bad actor, some are actually quite good. Also, considering Fassbender also produced this film and had actual stake in its success, I would assume he would at least try. But no, not even Evil Alfred, Jeremy Irons, tries at all.

Assassin’s Creed was a nonsensical and boring critical and commercial flop, and for good reason. Even though (contrary to popular belief) there are video game plotlines that would make great films, there has yet to be a good adaptation which would legitimize the medium. This is because, for whatever reason, screenwriters choose to needlessly alter the plot when the original plot worked just fine. In fact, both the film and the games would’ve been better if they had eliminated the present-day storyline until you wanted to focus entirely in the present, and instead gotten us invested entirely on the Assassins of the past. Instead, the film is all over the place from a narrative perspective, and you either don’t care or don’t understand what is going on as a consequence. Assassin’s Creed is a big-budget borefest, a failed franchise launch that proves that people have yet to take video games seriously as a medium, and is disappointing as a stamdalone film and a horrible adaptation.

 

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Atomic Blonde: Red Band Trailer

Atomic Blonde is an upcoming spy thriller action film directed by David Leitch, John Wick co-creator and future director of the Deadpool sequel. The film is based upon the 2013 graphic novel The Coldest City by Anthony Johnston and will feature a script by Kurt Johnstad. The film will star Charlize Theron, James McAvoy, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Sofia Boutella, and John Goodman.

Atomic Blonde, as well as its original source material, tells the story of Lorraine Broughton, an MI-6 agent sent to Berlin to investigate the death of an undercover agent and retrieve a list of every Western officer working in Berlin, which is in possession of a Stasi agent that the undercover man was able to flip, codenamed Spyglass. Set in 1989, the story is set in the backdrop of the extremely volatile and dangerous period  leading up to the eve of the collapse of the Berlin Wall on November 9th. Lorraine is forced to partner up with Berlin Section head David Percival, and the two forge an uneasy alliance with each other.

As John Wick remains possibly my favorite film of the straight-up action thriller genre, I was immediately interested in what its creators, Chad Stahelski and David Leitch, were planning next. Stahelski went on as the sole director of the equally brilliant John Wick: Chapter 2, as Leitch was busy with this new project. As he has been attached to direct this film since early 2015, I immediately purchased and read through the source material as I knew I was automatically going to see this film, as, at the time of writing this, I am automatically interested in anything either of the two men create. The graphic novel presents an old-school le Carré-esque story with much more focus on tradecraft and double agents. That type of story is very much a niche and is not for everyone, as tradecraft and mystery-driven spy thrillers are often deliberately slow moving and cerebral, which is a turn-0ff for mainstream audiences. So when it comes into converting The Coldest City into the action-focused Atomic Blonde….

I have absolutely no objections whatsoever. The trailer starts with a sampling of what I assume will be a breathtaking long take action sequence. I have often described what a long take is in other reviews; it is a portion of the film that is shot continuously, meaning no fancy camera tricks and no breaks. Normally for fight sequences, it’s “kung fu move, cut, kung fu move, cut, kung fu move, cut.” With a long take, there are no breaks. For further examples of long takes, see both seasons of  Daredevil and the first season of True Detective. I am overjoyed that both these two men know to cast people who can actually pull off action sequences like this themselves without a stunt double. Keanu Reeves is apparently immortal, and Charlize Theron has proved her action chops in Mad Max: Fury Road. The sequence in question, though it certainly stole the show in this trailer, is not the only thing of note here. There are several glimpses here of sequences that are sure to give the film’s spiritual predecessor a run for it’s money.

All of this focus on action is not to discount the fact that Charlize Theron is an Academy-Award winner and a truly talented actress in her own right, on top of being physically fit enough to pull off a film like this, and James McAvoy, though overshadowed by X-Men co-star Michael Fassbender, is a very talented actor, whom I hazard will have some awesome highlights of his own throughout the film. On top of that, the wonderfully skeevy Toby Jones is here, being wonderfully skeevy. With such plot-heavy source material to work with, even though they are certainly not following the graphic novel to the letter, there’s more than enough to create an engaging plot; if you can make one of the most engaging action films in the past few decades using a dog and a car, a good story with the material here should not be hard at all.

Atomic Blonde might sound like a cheap California-produced porno, but make no mistake; this neo-noir spy film, directed by the guy who created one of my favorite films of all time, starring a very beautiful, award-winning, and talented actress and a woefully underrated and talented Scotsman, is officially my most anticipated film of the summer. Atomic Blonde is set to be released on July 28th, 2017.