‘Assassin’s Creed’ (2016) – Making The Wrong Kind Of Killing

Assassin's-Creed

Let’s be real: movies based on video games suck. A common explanation for these adaptations’ failure is a lack of similarity or respect to the source material. Assassin’s Creed takes the unorthodox route, and shows exactly how a movie chained to its video game predecessor would really fare.

Based on Ubisoft’s video game series of the same name, Assassin’s Creed follows death row inmate Callum Lynch (Michael Fassbender) when Abstergo Industries forces him to face his past. Now strapped to the Animus machine, Callum relives his ancestor’s life, (the assassin Aguilar) to find the key to free will itself – the Apple Of Eden. As Callum gets closer to the Apple, so do the rivaling forces of the Assassins and Templars, and he must decide which side of the eternal war he belongs to.

Having never played the Assassin’s Creed video games, I watched this movie with few expectations. But since I do enjoy playing video games and watching movies, Assassin’s Creed surprised me by doing what these entertainment mediums are not supposed to be: bore the fuck out of me.

Assassins On A Loop

On paper, Assassin’s Creed had everything going for it: A multi-million Dollar budget, an all-star cast, and Ubisoft’s involvement. But staying true to the subgenre of films based on video games, Assassin’s Creed squanders what it had and screwed it all up.

Despite having a strong cast, Assassin’s Creed wastes talented names such as Marion Cottiliard  (as Sofia) and Jeremy Irons (as Rikki) on a weak script that has more mysterious exposition than human dialogue. It seemed as if the actors didn’t know what to do with their brain-dead roles, so they just floated through their scenes in the hopes of earning that paycheck. Granted, Assassin’s Creed has to maintain a sense of intrigue, but it came to a point when 30 minutes of dialogue has passed but nothing still makes sense. Characters repeat vague threats and ramble about motivations as if to intimidate, but only confuse the hell out of Cal and the viewers, by extension.

In fact, the writing is so repetitive that the movie begins thrice, introducing Michael Fassbender’s character three different times in the opening minutes. Being the great actor he is, Fassbender gives it his all, but even his acting caliber couldn’t salvage a script that didn’t know what it wants to do with Callum. To say that the ex-con’s transformation from mindless pawn to captain of his fate is jarring would be too nice, since the change in mindset happens abruptly after Rikki gives him a stern scolding.

If Assassin’s Creed were to be judged on looks alone, it would win awards if even just for its costumed actors who look like they came right out of the game and history itself. But the issues with Assassin’s Creed go deeper than actors who didn’t know what to do, but with a movie that just didn’t know what the fuck it wanted to be.

Putting The Ass In “Assassin”

Assassin’s Creed deserves praise for looking great. The Assassin’s Creed games love period settings, and the movie does this aspect justice. The Spanish Inquisition is brought to life in its fanatical beauty, complete with dusty landscapes and the ashes of burning heretics.

At least that’s the case, when the movie actually showed the fucking time period.

Assassin’s Creed takes assassinations for granted and instead, favors focusing on redtape. Majority of Assassin’s Creed takes place in Abstergo Industries, where exposition takes center stage. This may have been necessary to build the setting, but when a movie was advertised to be action-oriented actually has more lectures than killing, it’s obvious that someone’s priorities got lost in the shuffle. Even worse, what little assassinating occurs is bland at best. The parkour is impressive, but the actual killings are as hard-hitting as a slap to the wrist.

This creates an identity crisis, since Assassin’s Creed couldn’t choose between being a grounded Science-Fiction movie, or a fictional period piece. Individually, both stories work. One features a different and appropriately modern take on time travel, while the other offers a more kinetic and mystical interpretation of history. Combining the two, on the other hand, muddles the story’s priorities and results in clashing, polarizing tones.

Worst of all, Assassin’s Creed meanders and stalls for time, resulting in too much padding and a whole lot of boredom. There may be many dialogue-driven scenes, but nothing really important or compelling is said by any of the cardboard cutouts walking around in hoodies. Plot points and personal motivations that were said earlier are repeated as if to drive in something important, when it’s really the movie’s way of slapping audiences silly to keep them awake for the ongoing drag that is the hunt for the Apple of Eden.

A Leap Into Mediocrity

With how low the bar is set, movies based on games can only go up. Assassin’s Creed was an ambitious gamble, and should be commended for giving its all and exerting the effort to give fans the movie that they deserve. Assassin’s Creed delivers by looking like the big-scale historical fiction, Science-Fiction espionage epic its games offer fans. But as a movie, Assassin’s Creed trips more than it kills.

Buried under flat acting, poor writing, some shoddy visual effects like smoke that obscured everything, fucking horrid pacing, and an overall forgettable experience is a creative idea that was muddled by too many flaws that dulled what should have been an excitingly murderous trip through time. Assassin’s Creed centers on a fight for human life itself, but the movie has no life of its own to speak of.

Assassin’s Creed may be a lifeless bore, but it’s comparatively better than most of its contemporaries. But given how majority of video game-based movies are either laughable messes or outright cinematic clusterfucks, that’s not saying much. Gamers and movie buffs alike deserve an adaptation that does justice to a popular game, and Assassin’s Creed may have accidentally assassinated any hope for this niche subgenre.


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‘Independence Day: Resurgence’ (2016) – Close Encounters Of The Boring Kind

ID4-Resurgence

In 1996, Independence Day took the world by storm to the tune of upwards $800 million at the box office while also becoming a pop culture phenomenon. Being the lazy fucks they are, the movie’s producers shelled out Independence Day: Resurgence almost two decades later, in the hopes of repeating a success story from the ’90s.

20 years after failing to exterminate humanity, the aliens from Independence Day return with a deadly vengeance. More powerful and angrier than before, the aliens face a united and now technologically advanced humanity that won’t go down without a fight.

Resurgence is the kind of movie that’s inoffensive yet so fucking boring that watching it only begs questions regarding its existence, not a sense of escapist fun or even jaded anger. In time where the cynical business side of filmmaking is more obvious than ever, Resurgence is a slight relief – but that’s like saying a fart is better than the unfiltered stench of feces.

Lazy Space Invaders

Resurgence deserves credit for showing a post-alien invasion Earth, where humanity not only achieved interplanetary travel, but attained world peace as well. You know Resurgence proudly embraces its Science-Fiction trappings because it depicts a united humanity – not one on the eve of destruction thanks to a bunch of immature motherfuckers in public office.

But Resurgence can’t work on world-building alone, and applauding it because of a nice backdrop is as shallow as praising an atrocity like Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers because the director had the courtesy to take the cover off the camera’s lens. Resurgence simply fails to do what makes a movie good and entertaining. It’s hard to worry for humanity’s fate in the movie, making it more difficult to care about what’s happening onscreen.

This is because the new characters are a bloated collection of tired action movie stereotypes; including and not limited to: a Hotshot Pilot, his Brooding Foil, an obvious Love Interest, the Hot Foreigner, and too many obnoxious Comic Reliefs who fuck the tone up with ill-timed quips made during scenes of destruction. What little creative energy Resurgence has is used to justify the return of old characters like everyman turned unlikely hero David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum) or former American President Whitmore (Bill Pullman), who make extended cameos while phoning in predictable one-liners and call-backs to the much superior first installment.

The worst thing about Resurgence is not how its most interesting part is a promotional website detailing its alternate history, but how little effort was exerted in the actual film. Even with the original creators on board, Resurgence has a strikingly poor understanding of what made the first Independence Day a hit, resulting in a forgettable follow-up to an unmistakable cornerstone of the 90’s.

Days Of Aliens Past

Independence Day is no thought-provoking classic, but it set a standard for big-scale movies at the time, and it was one hell of an entertaining ride. Independence Day knew it was a cheesy melodrama that took place during an alien invasion, and it gave no fucks. This resulted in one of the best examples of cinematic junk food ever put to film that people can still enjoy today.

Its sequel has no interest in making a name for itself, instead, content to retrace the footsteps of its predecessor. Resurgence is a pale imitation of the first movie, but with none of the energy and excitement. Where Independence Day could be seen as an underdog story in a war between worlds, Resurgence is the very same fight but only with the cheat codes on. The fights may be faster and flashier, but they lack the tension that made the previous conflict worth watching in the first place.

Resurgence had the chance to be different by focusing on a world in the aftermath of a thwarted alien invasion. There’s a lot of lore that’s glanced at in the opening minutes of Resurgence (such as the decades long ground war in Africa, a generation of the first invasion’s survivors, and how humans reverse-engineered alien technology), and these would have been far more interesting than what the sequel actually settled for. Instead, Resurgence falls back to the formula of 90’s action movies, never realizing how dated and petty shitty quips and love triangles are – especially when these are put at the forefront of a global cataclysm where millions of lives are lost every second.

It took two decades to make Resurgence, and this shows in the worst ways possible. If the goal of Resurgence was to feel like it was 20 years too late, then it did a stellar job at being outdated. Where the campiness of Independence Day has a nostalgic charm to it, Resurgence only annoys viewers by rehashing material that lost its luster way before the sequel even began production.

No Will, No Thrill

While Resurgence isn’t the worst delayed sequel ever made, it’s still insignificant and wholly pointless. Independence Day stands on its own thanks to its charisma that’s best represented by its star, Will Smith – whose absence in the sequel leaves a lot to be desired. Resurgence merely exists, being yet another orgy of special effects that means nothing despite the excess of explosions that leave viewers indifferent.

Resurgence even ends with one of the most blatant set-ups for a sequel since DC’s sad attempts to create a shared universe. This, despite the fact that Independence Day never earned the right to bear a franchise in the first place. Independence Day succeeded as a stand-alone movie back in 1996, and it still does now. All Resurgence does is shit on this legacy by turning a cinematic alien invasion into a tedious chore instead of the spectacle it should be.

Make no mistake, the first movie is fucking corny, but it gets a pass for being a product of its time that provides fun, nostalgic memories. Independence Day: Resurgence is the equivalent of the first movie reliving its glory days while refusing to acknowledge the changing times, and the final product is as pathetic as it sounds.


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The 5th Wave (2016) – Stupid Kid Friendly Invasion

The-5th-Wave

NOTE: This review/rant will have spoilers in it because fuck it, this movie doesn’t deserve a fucking spoiler embargo

If the Young Adult genre is finally near its death with the recent conclusion of THE HUNGER GAMES movies, then shit like THE 5TH WAVE are this pathetic genre’s desperate final gasps of breath for life.

That being said, I think it’s pretty fucking obvious that I won’t be mourning the loss of this particular formula of storytelling because it’s more predictable than a shitty fucking local soap opera from the country I hail from. Hell, I’ll be fucking celebrating its demise because finally, one of the laziest kind of movies made in recent memory since the fucking evil surge of PG-13 butcheries of 80’s classics is where it belongs: in a fucking coffin thrown alongside the Fine Brother’s reputation.

As far as I’m concerned, the Young Adult genre is this generation’s form of cinematic laziness come to life and THE 5TH WAVE is the epitome of this effortless crap.

Once again, a Young Adult series of novels is adapted to the big screen in the hopes of creating the next big franchise despite not putting any fucking effort in the very first installment that’s supposed to spike interest in the license at hand. Obviously by my manner of speaking, this movie did a shitty job of making me give a fuck about an alien invasion that can only be stopped by (SURPRISE) a group of spunky non-conformist teenagers who fight an army of walking talking symbols of anti-individuality while they deal with quirky things like a love triangle and family issues. Seen one Young Adult movie, you’ve seen them all.

In this case, the obligatory “Strong Independent Female Lead” who don’t need no man (but in truth she totally does) Cassie is faced with the end of times as the wrath of a hostile alien landgrab that’s about to launch the final stages of their invasion to finally succeed in taking over the planet. On paper, giving a female character a lot of agency such as surviving the looming apocalypse is a great idea that I’d promote any day but Young Adult fiction has a bad tendency to fuck this up big time by always going for the most melodramatic character arcs imaginable, and THE 5TH WAVE is yet another example of this sad error. For the nth time, our female lead’s biggest problem in the end of times or the encroaching evil society’s rule is a romantic one. Rather than focus on the search-and-rescue mission Cassie initially has to save her brother, the movie grinds to a fucking halt to waste nearly an hour on a predictable romance angle with some farmhand beefcake whose only role in the movie is to look as hot and brooding as possible when he’s not taking his shirt off to flex his arms.

It’s very easy to guess what characters would do in this movie because every single one of them is a stereotype. Outside of the engaging romance of Bland Heroine and Beefcake from the previous paragraph, the cast is swamped with even more memorable cardboard cutouts like Boy Next Door, Emo Girl, Nerd, Jock and god knows how many Stupid Fucking Children who do nothing but get everyone older than 10 into trouble. The measurement for trust in this movie is literally determined by how hot a character sees a person of the opposite sex, which doesn’t help in building tension, character development or anything that’s synonymous to good writing for that matter. Let me state right now that there is nothing wrong with following a genre’s template as long as something new is done to the established material like what KINGSMAN: THE SECRET SERVICE did to the Spy Genre’s tropes but in the case of THE 5TH WAVE, all it does is follow what’s on the provided checklist before calling it a day. Every time there’s a small hint of of actual creativity in the characters, it gets shot down when the writers decide to make every member of the cast walk the same fucking path that always ends in a potential love triangle (goddamn it, Julia). There’s no semblance of stakes or risk in this story because not only does THE 5TH WAVE do nothing new to this tried and tested subgenre of movies but it does it in the laziest ways imaginable. Characters bump into problem after problem and merely state the obvious without a single bit of emotion in their voice as if they knew long before the title credits even rolled up that the aliens’ plans were fucking stupid but they needed to pay the mortgage, hence their participation in this movie.

But if the leads are shit, the Pointless Villains don’t fare any better. Once again, we have another evil group whose motivations are never explained because, apparently, that’s what mystery should be: no hints of justification from the antagonistic characters, just evil shit happening because fuck you.  There’s mystery, there’s intrigue and then there’s unjustified crap like these aliens who want to wipe out humanity but chooses to leave the fully combat and survival trained children alive because they apparently need child soldiers.

The logic that these alien motherfuckers follow is possibly some of the dumbest and most basic shit I’ve seen in quite a while. In a desperate effort to show that these guys are evil, THE 5TH WAVE makes its alien adversaries manipulate children to do their violent bidding and while that may sound interesting in an INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS kind of way where you literally don’t know who to trust but THE 5TH WAVE executes this idea in a juvenile manner that removes all sense of dread because rather than look nefarious, the aliens look stupid as fuck. The logic behind the child soldiers is that they’re easy to manipulate hence them being the choice for the alien’s final attack on the remnants of the human resistance but considering that the aliens managed to control all the human adults via parasitic mind control, doing so made the aliens look lazy as fuck. Then again, these are the same assholes who have the (galactic) Weapons of Mass Destruction that Dubya Bush has been looking for since 2003 and some who decided to take their sweet dandy time in wiping out the stupid humans by executing their genocide in 5 stages instead of one.

This idea only becomes even more cartoonishly ridiculous instead of being the poignant political commentary on a real world problem it aspires to be when the movie makes fucking 8 year olds take up an M4 Carbine and shoot some people because the dude in a military outfit told them do so. Yes, that kind of evil shit sadly happens in parts of the world as we speak but THE 5TH WAVE paints this ordeal to look like a fucking inconvenience that hinders characters from falling in love, holding stuffed bears or hugging people instead of showing just how traumatizing it really is. When all is said and done, the cast of former child soldiers who now (SURPRISE AGAIN, MOTHERFUCKER) represent humanity’s last hope forgets all the trauma of being tricked into killing fellow human beings for the new alien overlords by eating some sweet canned pork n’ beans and the possibility of teenage sex looming in the horizon.

What the fuck.

The movie precedes the end credits by proudly announcing the ultimate action movie cliche that “This is only the beginning. The war has just begun.” as if it’s been set in stone that a bunch of sequels will follow along with spin-offs and prequels literally no one was begging for, but considering how lame and lazy the intro into this story was, THE 5TH WAVE better shove that pride up its asshole because it just drove the final nail in the Young Adult genre’s coffin with enough force to break through the wood and accidentally skullfuck the corpse resting in it.

No, this isn’t the worst movie ever made (that’s got to be an Uwe Boll movie or something from my country) but it was a pretty shitty way to start the new year.

 

 

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