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

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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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‘La La Land’ (2016) Review – No Road But The Jazz Way

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It’s been a while since moviegoers saw a purely original, full-fledged musical hit the big screen, and last year’s critical darling La La Land set out to fill in the void.

La La Land follows the interconnecting lives of the aspiring actress Mia (Emma Stone) and the determined jazz musician Seb (Ryan Gosling) in their hard search for fame and fortune in the place where dreams come true: Hollywood. Though they have differing hopes and dreams, Mia and Seb cross paths and their lives are changed forever.

La La Land scored high critical acclaim from pretty much anyone who paid for the price of admission. Being the pretentious motherfucker that I am often accused of being, it goes without saying that I didn’t like it as much as everyone else, but that doesn’t make La La Land a terrible movie by my standards.  

Dance-Off From The Past

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La La Land was billed as a throwback to the musicals from the ’50s, and this claim was mostly true. In a time when blockbusters are dominated by orgies of computerized special effects, it was both surprising and refreshing to see well choreographed dance numbers done to the tune of uplifting original songs get the praise it deserves. A musical’s visuals may not be as demanding as a superhero movie’s, but it still requires an equal amount of energy and dedication to get them right – all of which La La Land executes perfectly.

Yet as catchy as the songs may be, La La Land’s efforts would’ve meant fuckall if not for its main characters. Credit should be given to both Stone and Gosling for delivering fine performances with what they were given, as they were able to elevate what could have been run-on-the-mill flat characters right out of any generic romance story into grounded, relatable people who you want to find their happy endings.

For movie buffs (aka nitpicky fucksticks with no lives such as myself), La La Land serves as a nostalgic treat that hearkens back to the naive days when movies didn’t acknowledge that people of color actually existed. La La Land is destined to become one of the most memorable modern musicals made, thanks to its heartfelt tributes to a bygone kind of cinema, but not much else.

Jazz Is Love, Jazz Is Life

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La La Land has a bad tendency to lecture its viewers about the importance of art and music instead of getting on with the story. In doing so, the musical aspect (i.e. the most important part) suffers because it’s forced to take the backseat in favor of lessons about how fucking sweet jazz music is. This describes the entire middle act of La La Land, since the musical literally grinds to a halt after the energetic opening act just so that the director can use mouthpieces and strawmen to debate about the importance of traditional, old-school jazz music in today’s modern time period.

Spoiler: Jazz always wins.

It could be argued that the second act of La La Land was meant to deconstruct the whimsical and idealistic nature of old-school musicals, and while this argument does hold water, it doesn’t excuse the movie’s decision to stop being creative and consistent, just to point out the obvious in a monotone voice. The bittersweet and realistic aspects of the Mia’s and Seb’s relationship could’ve been executed in their own musical numbers, but La La Land prefers to just narrate things as is while jazz music plays in the background. The leads do deliver the required emotional weight, but La La Land is the rare musical that would’ve benefited from more singing instead of otherwise.

Thankfully, La La Land gets its musical groove back just in time for one of the best musical finales ever filmed. But given how much of a blast the few musical numbers are, it’s a shame that La La Land prioritized the director’s masturbation to all things jazz over the fucking selling-point of a musical. Audiences know that director Damien Chazelle loves jazz because he never stops talking about the fucking thing.

When compared to the director’s previous musical effort (Whiplash), La La Land comes out as condescending since it spells out its messages of artistic integrity to audiences instead of letting the musical segments speak for themselves. Whiplash worked to near-perfection because of its subtle character study, not through a loud show of musical force – lessons that must have flew over La La Land’s head. Ironically for a musical and a musically inclined director, La La Land suffers from a lack of immersive musical numbers due to an abundance of  monologues.

Sing That Joyful Song

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La La Land hits all of the right notes when it comes to giving audiences what they paid for. It has memorable songs, a likable main cast and the filmmakers’ obvious passion for the project at hand. What it lacks, though, is both staying power and a sense of self-awareness, since La La Land is just a really well-made musical that breaks no new ground for the genre. Due in part to the trying and disheartening events of 2016, La La Land may have gotten a critical pass thanks to its bittersweet yet optimistic interpretation of the hardships of life.

Which is not a bad thing at all.

Without getting too fucking political because Lord knows I already went there, the next few years will be difficult for a lot of people, and movie magic can do its part in reminding people of why hope should not be lost. Yes, I am speaking from my personal experience of living in a glorified fascist-wannabe toilet of a country, so grant me this one fucking unfunny soapbox moment.

It’s far from perfect and somewhat overrated, but La La Land is a musical worth watching and it’s also a good reminder of the pursuit of genuine happiness. And most importantly, La La Land reminds viewers of people’s level best and why common human decency should be an everyday occurrence, not a rarity.


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