Video game movies seem to be cursed and like so many that have come before, Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed is the latest member of the cursed club.
Critics and fans are assassinating the movie and as a fan myself I must confess they are right to do so.
As we analyze what went wrong with #AssassinsCreed let's also take a look at how the film could've been fixed.
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The Characters Don't Connect With The Audience
Emotion is what drives a story forward and the Assassin’s Creed movie had more in the trailer than the actual film. We are introduced to Callum Lynch/Aguilar (Michael Fassbender), Sophia Rikkin (Marion Cotillard) and Alan Rikkin (Jeremy Irons) early in the movie, but never do we get to empathize with these characters. As Perri Nemiroff of Collider said:
“The biggest problem with this movie and it’s my biggest problem with any movie that has this issue, is to not give the audience any reason to connect to any of the characters. Every person in [Assassin’s Creed] walks around like they are absolutely miserable.”
The movie makes it extremely difficult to even find a link to these characters’ purpose. Callum Lynch is a murderer on death row whose past is loosely touched through newspaper cutouts. Sophia Rikkin is a scientist who like any other scientist wants to achieve success, but her motives are invisible. Alan Rikkin is the CEO of Abstergo Industries and belongs to the Templar Order, but other than that, not even his love for his daughter is perceivable.
It’s peculiar how much emotion was lacking in these characters when we have a phenomenal cast of decorated actors playing these roles. As Jesse Hassenger from A.V. Club said:
“What the hell are Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard doing in Assassin’s Creed?”
A great way to have fixed this would've been to simply add meaningful dialogue rather than what were essentially dead conversations. One example is the first time Callum Lynch meets Baptise (Michael K. Williams). Baptiste explains that every prisoner in Abstergo serves the Creed, but to Lynch and to the audience that carries zero emotional appeal. Show us the why, not only the what. Give us a reason to care.
The movie exercised this aspect to some extent when Lynch later met his father and when Maria (Ariane Labed) was killed in front of Aguilar. Unfortunately only those two scenes were the ones with even a hint of emotion.
Understanding The Movie Could Be Hard If You Are Not A Gamer, So Avoid Intricate Concepts
I’ve played almost all of the Assassin’s Creed games, but the person next to me in the theater never had. He knew the movie was based on the video game but he had absolutely no idea what the game was about. Like any general movie-goer, he simply just loved watching great movies. That's why after watching Assassin’s Creed I was surprised when he told me, “I didn’t understand a thing. What's that about an apple?”
It’s bad when a movie doesn’t resonate with the audience and it’s ignorant to say that a movie was made for one specific group of people. Assassin’s Creed may mostly serve the likes of Assassin's Creed players, but regardless, the movie is a movie.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story is a perfect example of a movie that’s targeted for everyone. Not only does it serve the likes of devoted #StarWars fans, but a person that doesn’t know Star Wars will understand the premise with ease.
While #RogueOne clearly presented the danger of the Death Star and the motives for the rebels to destroy it, Assassin’s Creed failed to establish the importance of the Apple of Eden and the motives for its protection from the Templars.
As Glenn Kenny of the New York Times said:
The new sci-fi film Assassin’s Creed, based on the popular video game series, is 70 plus 46 minutes of "Huh?"
Again, an easy way to fix this is by making the protection of the Apple of Eden meaningful. An even better way to fix this would've been to not have the movie center solely around the Apple.
Heck, the Apple shouldn't have even made an appearance for reasons that follow:
Assassin's Creed could have easily been a trilogy, with this first movie introducing the concept of the Apple and the later movies expanding on it.
The concept of the Apple of Eden may have confused a lot of moviegoers, so like the Infinity Stones in the #Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ubisoft should've slowly introduced the Apple through a series of movies.
Why Stay In The Boring Present When There's An Exciting Past To Explore?
This seems to be the biggest issue fans of the video games have with the movie. Assassin’s Creed takes place both in 2016 and in 1492.
Specifically, the issue is that the movie cuts between those times almost spontaneously, so when you are immersed in the beautiful action sequences of renaissance Spain, all of a sudden you are back in the depressing blue Animus present.
The whole entire movie, as mentioned by Collider, should’ve taken place exclusively in 1492, as that is what the fans wanted to see and what the general audience was ultimately expecting to watch. The video games barely explore Desmond Miles’ adventures in the present day and recently the games have even abandoned its modern-day sandbox maps.
Youtuber Jeremy Jahns couldn’t have said it any better:
“Keep us in the past for God’s sake. There is a good movie in this movie, it’s called everything when they are in 1492.”
And that's how you fix this issue. The entire movie should've taken place in 1492 Spain. Abstergo and its modern setting could've made an appearance at the end of the movie or in its sequel.
"Everything Is Permitted"
Everything was permitted and that seems to be the problem. Assassin’s Creed had the potential to be one of 2016's greatest films and one of the best video game movies ever made, but in the film there was a lot going on and that made it difficult to portray a cohesive story that would connect with the audience.
Hopefully Ubisoft has learned from its mistakes because everything was there to make a fantastic movie. So with a fantastic cast, incredible costumes, an amazing musical score, beautiful cinematography and mesmerizing special effects, how did it all crumble?
What did you think of Assassin's Creed? Will you take the Leap of Faith and see it soon in theater? Let me know in the comments.