Tag Archives: video game

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.

Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)

hitman-sequel-agent-47-poster

Ain’t gonna lie: I had heard some abominable things about Hitman: Agent 47, the latest attempt to adapt the popular video game Hitman. So why did I watch it? Well, as the immortal George Costanza once said, “Because it’s there!”

I have a vague recollection of the 2007 adaptation, Hitman, starring Timothy Oliphant in the title role, and it wasn’t a positive one. Not necessarily horrible, but just forgettable.

This time, the budget is slightly bigger (US$35 million, up from US$24 million) and they have Homeland‘s Rupert Friend as the mysterious government experiment designed to be the perfect assassin. Anyone who has seen the last couple of seasons of Homeland will love this guy, and I’m glad he got an opportunity to cash in.

That said, it doesn’t change the fact that Agent 47 is bad. Really bad. So bad, in fact, that it borders “so bad it’s good” territory. If anything, it will be at least more memorable than the 2007 version.

So Friend plays Agent 47, who starts off trying to track down a woman played by Hannah Ware, who in turn is looking for her scientist father. It’s not clear if he’s trying to kill her or help her, but whatever it is, Sylar/Spock (Zachary Quinto) is trying to stop him.

The plot is basically just an excuse for a lot of crazy, stylistic, Matrix-like action sequences involving a lot of guns and violence. It’s outrageous and ludicrous, but that’s what you’d expect from a video game adaptation, no?

Bizarrely, Agent 47 is written by Skip Woods, the same guy who wrote the 2007 film. Seriously, if it didn’t work the first time, give the guy another chance! Woods, his co-writer Michael Finch and Polish music video director Aleksander Bach appear to have done everything in their power to make Agent 47 as moronic and campy as they possibly could have.

The film never takes itself seriously, but was it really necessary to make the dialogue so laughably horrendous? I’m not even exaggerating when I say it is laugh-out-loud funny. Was it really necessary to make the plot and character motivations and reactions retarded? The fundamentals are just so poorly done that it makes you wonder whether it’s intentional.

Friend, Ware and Quinto are all quality actors, but even they can’t help but look amateurish spewing out the lines they’ve been given. Quinto, in particular, has some real howlers that made me laugh as hard as I have in any comedy I’ve seen recently.

All can be forgiven if the action is otherworldly. Unfortunately, despite some attempts at creativity and originality, the vast majority of Agent 47‘s action sequences are underwhelming and familiar. There’s really nothing that will make you go “wow”.

The result is a film that’s every bit as bad as advertised, except worse. In fact, it’s so bad that it starts becoming kind of good. Well, not good, but enjoyable in a guilty pleasure sort of way. At some point, probably quite early on, I stopped hoping that Agent 47 would be better than I thought it would be, and started cheering for it to be as bad as it possibly could be. That changed the entire viewing experience and I ended up not hating it. Doesn’t change the fact that it is a terrible movie, though at least it’s at least not a loathsome one.

2 stars out of 5

DVD Review: Scott Pilgrim vs the World (2010)

Man, then end of the year is almost upon us and I still haven’t had time to review all the movies I’ve watched over the last couple of months.

Scott Pilgrim vs the World is another one of those movies that I’ve heard great things about, though the reactions have been somewhat mixed.  After all, it is based on a ‘graphic novel’ and it runs more like a video game than a conventional movie.

Being a fan of graphic novels and video games, I thought I would no doubt fall in the category of people that thought Scott Pilgrim was one of the best movies of the year.  But as it turned out…well…it is funny, fun, original and unlike anything you’ve ever seen before (and I really mean that), but as a piece of entertainment it doesn’t quite get there for me.

The premise is simple.  Scott Pilgrim (Michael Cera) is a young unemployed dude in a band, dating a high school girl and living with his gay best friend.  He meets the girl of his dreams (literally), Ramonda Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), and seeks to win her heart — but to do so, he must defeat her seven evil exes.

And man, there are some good ones, from former Superman Brandon Routh to Chris Evans to Jason Schwartzman to my personal favourite, Mae Whitman (who coincidentally played Cera’s girlfriend/ex-girlfriend on Arrested Development as Anne/Egg/Her?).  Each opponent is set up like a round from a beat ’em up like a Dragon Ball video game or something, with points scored for blows, etc etc.

If that’s turning you off already, then Scott Pilgrim is probably not the movie for you.  But if you have an appreciation of video game culture, then Scott Pilgrim could potentially blow your mind.

For me, the action and fight scenes were clever and fun, entirely and outrageously over the top, as they are intended to be — but it’s the pop culture references and the witty jokes and one-liners that kept me interested.  Even if you peel back all the crazy stuff, Scott Pilgrim is still a very good comedy.

Michael Cera is essentially the same in every movie, but he’s actually pretty suited to the role.  Everyone else is fairly decent too, and I know Chris Evans is constantly ridiculed for his acting, but the truth is, he’s not that bad.  I found him adequately funny in this one.

My problem with Scott Pilgrim is that there’s not enough real substance for a 108 minute film.  You know he has to battle through the exes — he just has to — and even though they attempt to mix things up a little (instead of having the same fight every time), it does get a little tedious after a while.  Maybe I’m just getting too old.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed Scott Pilgrim for what it is — a quirky, action-packed romantic video game movie based on a comic.

3.5 stars out of 5

Movie Review: Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)

I’ve been a fan of Prince of Persia as a video game since the 2003 version on the PS2, The Sands of Time.  However, given the track record of game-to-movie adaptations, I wasn’t expecting a whole lot from the Disney spin-off film, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Gemma Arterton and Ben Kingsley, and directed by Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire).

Well, I didn’t hate it, but it didn’t do a whole lot for me in the end either.

Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (let’s just call it PoP from now on) is first and foremost of popcorn movie, and as such, it isn’t too bad.  The action and the feel of the film, for the most part, is exciting.  As there is a lot of running around, being chased and fending off enemies, the film has this kind of Arabian Nights/Aladdin feel to it, which I thought was pretty cool.  You know, lots of sand, people dressed in cloaks, a tightly built city, arrows and daggers, that sort of thing.  I can honestly say that the film captured, to the extent it could have, the essence of the original video game on which it was based.

Before I forget, yes, PoP does have a plot.  The plot revolves around a King, a few Princes, a Princess, a poorly concealed villain, and a magical weapon that can turn back time.  It’s an adventure film that takes the central characters on a journey, and on their way to solving a mystery they find out a few things about the world and about each other.  Not exactly groundbreaking stuff but it could have been a lot worse.

Jake Gyllenhaal, looking all buffed and tanned, makes a fine Prince Dastan, capturing the spirit of the video game character by climbing off walls, jumping from building to building, swinging off beams, poles and so forth.  It was probably all stunt doubles, but nevertheless…whoever it was, it looked like fun.  He’s a good, but not very memorable character because he lacks the charm of, say, a Captain Jack Sparrow.

Gemma Arterton has been in a lot of big movies lately (I last saw her in Clash of the Titans), but I don’t quite understand why she is so popular yet.  She’s not a bad actress and she’s certainly not unattractive, but there’s something about her character, Princess Tamina, that got me irritated whenever she was on screen.  Perhaps it was because she tried too hard to be a “feisty” heroine.  Or maybe it was just the whiny voice.

Ben Kingsley doesn’t get to do a whole lot here, so it was up to Alfred Molina to save the minor characters with his Sheik Amar, who provided most of the comic relief.  Steve Toussaint, who plays his knife-throwing sidekick, was probably the coolest character of the entire film, and he has a climatic battle that tops the action sequences.

My problem with PoP was that the pieces didn’t all fit together.  Most aspects of the film were adequate, but nothing was particularly outstanding.  In terms of excitement, action, comedy, drama and special effects, the film was above average in all departments, but the sum of the parts didn’t elevate it to another level.  I want my big budget blockbusters to be great, not just good.  And if there is one major gripe, it’s the ending.  I absolutely hated it.

3.25 stars out of 5