Tag Archives: Jeremy Irons

Assassin’s Creed (2016)

I don’t like to just accept the word of other people when it comes to shit movies. I have to experience it for myself before I can call a movie shit. And so, despite the negative reviews, I decided to throw down some cash to watch Assassin’s Creed, the long awaited adaptation of the popular video game franchise that I have always wanted to but never played. And NOW, I can finally say it: Assassin’s Creed is indeed shit. Very shit.

Like Warcraft before it, Assassin’s Creed was hailed as the possible saviour of the future of game-to-film adaptations. There was certainly every reason to be optimistic: It is directed by Aussie filmmaker Justin Kurzel, who first shot to fame with the harrowing true story Snowtown. Kurzel has a way with gripping storytelling and a flair for visuals, and seems to always manage to bring out the best of his actors, as he did with Michael Fassbender (henceforth “Assbender”) and Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard in Macbeth. And guess who also stars in Assassin’s Creed? Yes, Assbender and Cotillard, plus Academy Award winner Jeremy Irons, Silver Bear winner Charlotte Rampling, Brendan Gleeson and Omar Little himself from The Wire (ie, Michael K Williams). So you know they had every intention making a great movie.

Sadly, it feels like Assassin’s Creed to was doomed to failure from the start. Sure, the visuals are great — it’s exactly as how I imagined an adaptation would look from the snippets of the game I’ve seen. The action is solid (though not spectacular — I felt it could have been more inventive and there was a lot of killing but not much “assassinating”). The performers do their best to give emotion to their wooden lines of exposition. However, nothing could save Assassin’s Creed from its ridiculously silly and non-sensical premise and convoluted plot.

I haven’t played the game so I don’t really know how much the script is based on the game, but essentially, there is some ancient mystical item called the Apple of Eden (roll eyes), which contains the genetic code for free will. You read that correctly. The Knights Templar want it for world domination, and the Assassin Order (why not just call it Assassin’s Creed?) are a clandestine group sworn to protect it. I could probably work with that premise, except they chose to set the film in the present day and have a scientist (Cotillard) send a descendant of one of the assassins (Assbender) — who, by the way, looks exactly the same as his ancestor — back to the past using some sci-fi machine to access his “gene memory” so they can trace the Apple of Eden back to the days of the Spanish Inquisition in the 15th century. Yeah.

I knew the film was in trouble right from the opening text explaining the above premise on the screen. It’s just too non-sensical and unnecessarily complex for a movie like this. Kudos for making everyone speak Spanish for the 15th century scenes, but apart from that, the decision to have this dual timeline made it virtually impossible for Assassin’s Creed to be any good. Knowing that everything you see from the 15th century has already happened and cannot be changed (it is, after all, just “gene memory”) really saps the excitement and tension out of it. And let’s face it: None of it makes any sense. The modern rock music choices were also quite jarring, kind of like how Nirvana’s Smells Like Teen Spirit was blamed for ruining Pan in 2015. Rather than wasting all this time on this split/dual timeline, they could put more effort into character development, of which there was virtually none to speak of.

As I mentioned earlier, Assbender and Cotillard do their best, though all throughout they had this sad look on their faces that screamed, “This isn’t working.” I actually whispered to myself during the movie, “What the f*&% is going on?”, and, I kid you not, only to hear Assbender’s character say the exact same line just seconds later.

Some ideas work well for games but stink for movies. I’m more convinced than ever that Assassin’s Creed is a perfect example of this. The filmmakers were probably afraid of offending the game’s fanbase and tried to mirror the premise as closely as possible. It’s a fatal mistake that crushed any opportunity for the movie to succeed. Instead of a film that gives hope to future video game adaptations, Assassin’s Creed should make film studios very, very afraid. If all this talented cast and crew can produce is an incoherent, ludicrous, lifeless piece of garbage, what chance does everyone else have?

1.5 stars out of 5

PS: I forgot to mention the anti-climatic ending that presumes a sequel is coming. Assassin’s Creed has made around US$150m off a US$125m budget, so that should (with the addition of marketing costs) equate to a loss that will keep everyone safe from a sequel.

Lolita: Novel, 1962 Film and 1997 Film

Recently for class I had to experience Lolita in its three most popular forms — the original 1958 novel by Vladimir Nabokov and the two film adaptations, the 1962 version directed by Stanley Kubrick and the 1997 version directed by Adrian Lyne.

Novel

The 1958 novel doesn’t really need any introduction from me.  It’s considered one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, with one of the most controversial characters and storylines in literary history. I read it for the first time last year (review found here) and wasn’t surprised that Robertson Davies once wrote that the ‘them is not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child.’

The protagonist and narrator, the pathetic Humbert Humbert, is so clever and funny that you’re momentarily willing to put his transgressions in the background and go along for the ride.  Momentarily, of course.

1962 Film

The 1962 film by Kubrick was an interesting one.  It starred James Mason as Humbert, Sue Luon as Lolita, Shelley Winters as Charlotte Haze and Peter Sellers as Claire Quilty.  The screenplay was attributed to Nabokov (and he actually got an Oscar nomination for it), but in reality it was mostly re-written by Kubrick and James Harris.  Nabokov published his version of the script separately in 1974.

The 1962 Lolita was a product of its time, unfortunately, meaning it was heavily held back by censors.  Needless to say, Kubrick is no prude (one only has to watch Eyes Wide Shut) to know that, but his version of Lolita was very tame, with almost none of the sexual innuendos littered throughout the novel — in fact, there was very little physical contact between Lolita and Humbert, the scenes often fading to black before anything happens.

Kubrick in fact said that if he could have done it again he would have emphasised the erotic aspect of the novel with the same weight Nabokov did, and that if he knew censors were going to be so tight he might not have made the film at all.

I liked the 1962 film a lot.  I wouldn’t say it’s one of Kubrick’s best efforts but considering what he had to work with I think it was a splendid effort.  The film managed to capture both the tortured soul of Humbert and his cunning.  Obviously, it was impossible to replicate nuances of the book, but Kubrick came closer than I could have imagined.

I don’t know if this is a complaint, but Quilty was given a much bigger role in the film than the novel, which threw me off a bit.  He didn’t really feel like a character that deserved more screen time in the book, but I guess because Sellers played him Kubrick decided to give him free reign to do his impersonations.

The other thing was Sue Lyon’s Lolita.  It was a good performance but she looked too old to be the target of a paedophile.  I thought she could have easily passed for 18, which kind of defeats the purpose of the whole thing.

1997 Film

This one, directed by Adrian Lyne (who was at the helm of 9 1/2 Weeks, Fatal Attraction, Indecent Proposal and later, Unfaithful) was made at a much more liberal time, so it was more explicit in the eroticism.  It was also more faithful to the original as Stephen Schiff, the first time screenwriter who penned the script, lifted a lot more dialogue directly from the book and had more voiceovers from Jeremy Irons (who interestingly also voiced the audio book version of the novel).

On the other hand, this was a completely different film that didn’t capture any of the black comedy of the novel.  It’s beautifully shot, with long, sweeping scenes and this tender, moody tone.  As some critics pointed out, Lyne seemed to have missed the point of the novel, creating a pure tragedy that’s all emotional torture and no fun.

I think it’s unfortunate that people will always inevitably compare adaptations and ‘remakes’ with what has come before it.  It’s human nature, I suppose, but is it entirely fair?  Why can’t we judge them as separate and distinct works of art?

I didn’t really enjoy the 1997 version, but I could definitely appreciate the aesthetics of it.  Jeremy Irons is always good to watch on screen, and Dominique Swain showed so much promise in her first role — what ever became of her?

But anyway, I found it interesting that a lot of my classmates found the subject matter difficult to digest.  They weren’t able to read and enjoy the book because mentally they could not separate the fiction from the reality and repulsion of paedophila.  Stylistically, many also thought Nabokov was overrated, too clever for his own good and a bit of a one trick pony (at least in this book).  They thought maybe, and there’s probably sliver of truth in this, that the book has done so well because of the subject matter as opposed to the masterful writing.  I dunno.  I’m still mightily impressed by the man’s wordplay and the confidence with which he can weave sentences in a language that’s not his first.

Will Lolita ever be remade again?  I assume it will be, eventually.  Maybe someone like Roman Polanski or Woody Allen would be a good choice to direct a movie about paedophila?