Review for Assassin's Creed 3D
Video games are bigger business now than they have ever been, although to be honest, I haven’t seriously played a videogame in years. It’s got to the point now that I barely even know if a movie is based on a game until after I’ve watched it. In some ways this is a good thing, as having grown up with the earliest movie adaptations like Super Mario, Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, I have the preconception that films based on games will always strive to suck in new and innovative ways. Not knowing what a film is based on lets me go into it with an open mind. But even I’ve heard of Assassin’s Creed, even if I’ve never played it. However, as console and computer hardware has become more and more sophisticated in terms of graphics and complexity, game scripts have become more and more cinematic. Maybe the days of movies based on videogames sucking are now past.
Once again, I found the 3D Blu-ray release at a bargain bucket price, which has the 2D disc in the case as well.
In Spain, 1492, the Knights Templar had almost completed their victory over the Moors, and had driven them from most of the country. But more important to them was the retrieval of the Apple of Eden, a biblical artefact which purportedly contains the secret of thought control. Removing humanity’s free will would bring peace to the world with the Knights Templar in control. But the Assassins stand against the Knights Templar and the Inquisition, and the assassin Aguilar’s mission is to prevent the Apple of Eden falling into the wrong hands.
In 1986, Callum Lynch witnessed the murder of his mother at the hands of his father. 30 years later, the boy has grown up, and is awaiting his execution on death row for another murder. But he gets an unlikely reprieve when he’s surreptitiously recruited by an Institute seeking a cure for violence. They have a radical new technology called Animus that allows for a user to access genetic memories, with the theory that a person’s tendency to violent acts is encoded in his genes, passed down through their ancestors. They want Lynch to access the memories of his ancestor, an Assassin named Aguilar. It quickly becomes clear that this Institute’s motives are far from altruistic.
Assassin’s Creed gets a 2.39:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 7.1 Surround, DD 5.1 Surround English Audio Descriptive, Spanish, French, Portuguese, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, with subtitles in these languages and Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Norwegian and Swedish. The audio is nice and immersive, effective when it comes down to the action and the music, but a little too often demands that you skip back and flick the subtitles on to reveal what a character just said. The image on the other hand is a disappointment, especially in a film from 2016. It may be shot digitally as most films are, but in terms of poor contrast, limited black levels, a hazy over-filtered feel, and post processing up to the gills (especially the aggressive colour timing), it feels ten years older. It’s a shame as the film really pushes the boat out when it comes to the production design, with some lavish sets and locations. The action too is disappointing, all quick cuts and confusing choreography, made all the more confusing as the action cuts back and forth between time periods.
You get two discs on either inner face of a BD Amaray, and there is a digital download as well. The disc boots to an animated menu.
The extras on the disc comprise the following.
Take the Pledge: Behind the Scenes of Assassin’s Creed, a making of in 5 parts (41:05)
Conversations with Justin Kurzel (x4) 20:22
Deleted Scenes Conversation with Justin Kurzel and Christopher Tellefsen (22:23)
Deleted Scenes x10 (15:44)
Gallery with Concept Art, Costumes and Weapons, Unit Photography.
“Pretentious, silly and overly dour” is what I had written in my notes by the end of the film, which might be a little unfair. Watching it, I had the distinct impression that if they’d just told the 1492 story, and ditched the 2016 framing device with the Animus maguffin, it would have been a lot more interesting, but then I subsequently learned that the Animus is one of the game mechanics, and leaving it out would make the film pointless. At least this much is certain, fans of the Assassin’s Creed games will appreciate the film more than your average layman.
The thing is that Assassin’s Creed is actually better than I expected. The premise is pure bunkum of course; the quest for a gizmo played out in two time periods, and a conflict between heroes and villains, but the film actually has some smarts in its script. The look at the particular time period, 1492 Spain is a compelling one, the time of the Spanish Inquisition, and there are some interesting philosophies explored, the idea of free will being linked to violence and aggression, the idea that we are all the sum of our ancestors’ lives, and the idea of sacrificing free will to ensure the safety of society, which as a concept is certainly pertinent. The characters are well written, and the dialogue is really quite compelling, well considered.
It’s also an interesting way to do time travel, the fanciful notion of genetic memory coupled with the virtual reality of the Animus, which is realised really quite effectively on screen. Callum experiences his ancestor’s life through the Animus, in an attempt to determine where the Apple of Eden wound up, but it turns out that the link works both ways.
I can’t believe I’m saying this, but the smartness of the dialogue, and the thoughtfulness with which the ideas are presented actually work against the film, as its ridiculous premise doesn’t deserve it, and is actually harmed by the seriousness of the story’s approach. It needed to be a little more tongue in cheek, a little more ironic. Also, the film is rated 12, which makes it the most bloodless violent movie I have ever seen. It makes the theatrical release of Die Hard 4 look like a bloodbath in comparison. I don’t know if it’s the Blu-ray or how the film was shot, but Assassin’s Creed is a dull mess on this disc, while the film itself is watchable, but hardly memorable, although a couple of ideas might stick in the mind, with the vague hope that maybe some other movie might do better with them some day.
And no film... no film warrants 15 minutes of end credits!