Tuesday, 27 December 2016

What I Like/Dislike about Assassin's Creed

Assassin's Creed is the best video game film adaptation ever made, which isn't saying anything. Video game adaptations has been going through a very bad streak of mediocre productions throughout the years. (No, Resident Evil is absolute shit! It has nothing to do with the games except the names.) With Assassin's Creed, everyone was riding on hope that it would break the curse of bad film adaptations down the years, the casting was some of the best of the year (Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons lead the star-studded film), but despite the actors' best efforts, the movie still suffered.

However, even the worst of the worst films have its moments. There are always some positives here and there in Assassin's Creed, but it never came into full package. As a big fan of the video games, I would like to offer what went wrong with the film, and what went right.

What I Like

Assassin's Creed Lore
With the movie came from inputs of the developers themselves, the thing that got it right is the universe itself. The feel of the secret war of the Templars and Assassins, the leap of faith, hidden blade, Abstergo, costumes and many more are on point in this film. The period of 1400s during the Spanish Inquisition was probably the best part of the film, the colour palette was right, the setting was immersive. It makes me want to experience the Spanish Inquisition.

Stunt Works
The stunt works in the film is great, you can see obviously the choreographers put up great effort to make sure the parkour, leap of faith and the fight scenes are very well planned. It feels like the video games where the player is doing all the actions of the main character, but at a much frantic pace than the game, which is a good thing.

What I Didn't Like

Too Much Modern Day Jargon
Ask any Assassin's Creed fan on what's their favourite aspects of the game series, 90% of them would say visiting the history with unique characters interacting with key historical figures. Producers of this film must be thinking, let's go learn about the present day story more. That's the part of the game where players are itching to go back to the past! Yes, the modern day sci-fi setting is worth exploring, but not 70% of the whole damn movie! The audiences don't need to be constantly reminded by Dr. Sofia Rikkin about finding the Apple of Eden and Modern Templar Order wanting to find it.

Underdeveloped, or Never-Developed Characters
The game universe has featured some great characters, Ezio Auditore, Desmond Miles, Lucy Stillman, Altair, Edward Kenway, Leonardo Da Vinci. However, the film has no good characters, almost all of the characters are basically single-layered, which is kinda sad really when you have talents of Michael Fassbender, Marion Cottilard, Jeremy Irons leading the faces of the movie. They are some of the great actors of modern cinema, but somehow their talents are underused in this movie. Not to mention the ancient Assassin Maria, barely spoke and the audience hardly knew her, kinda amazed that Ubisoft actually bothers to give her a name even though she hardly featured.

Supplement to the Games Formula
As this movie is set in the Assassin's Creed games universe, so this obviously meant that the audiences need to understand the whole Assassins vs Templars war. However, it is poorly executed, some of the details left some audiences in my theatre gasping "Why the hell did they do this or that?!" the whole freaking time, even though me and my friends, who played the games, have no problems with the understanding of the movie. Then, there are moments where some of the characters giving pointless full exposition of their motivations and characters regarding some of the film plot. This makes the movie unsurprising and lack of any good mysteries to explore.

I am a huge fan of Assassin's Creed, I have played almost every single Assassin's Creed games released on consoles thus far. I enjoyed moments from the movie, but as the whole package it falls apart. I was hoping Assassin's Creed would give video game franchises a proper respect. I mean, Assassin's Creed has such a big potential for film adaptation, good premise, interesting characters and good twist to human history for the audience, yet it still doesn't hold up. The film itself certainly has the recipe right, but it did not mix them well. I'm pretty sure there are some ways video game adaptation could work. I guess The Last of Us and Uncharted are the next beacon of hope.

Thursday, 15 December 2016

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (Review)

"A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away..."

Then, the sudden appearance of a random planet without a traditional opening crawl signalled a different Star Wars from the traditional Skywalker saga. For the traditional Star Wars film, they are about heroes' journey, Anakin's fall to the dark side, Luke's path to a Jedi Knight and Rey looking for her own identity. In Rogue One, it's a war film where a criminal is entangled in a war between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire, marking the Galactic Civil War.

For the premise, this movie is based of the original opening crawl, where Rebel spies going to a mission to steal the Death Star. Criminal Jyn Erso (played by Felicity Jones) is tasked to work with Captain Cassian Andor to retrieve the Death Star plans from Saw Gerrera (Forrest Whitaker) and her father, Galen Erso (Mads Mikkelsen). Joining along the ragtag team of Rebels are reprogrammed droid K-2SO (Alan Tudyk), defecting Imperial pilot (Bodhi Rook), blind warrior monk Chirrut Imwe (Donnie Yen) and assassin Baze Malbus (Jiang Wen).

Rogue One is a war film, but it is still Star Wars in its core. Director Gareth Edwards has injected a different feel to it. It's bleaker, dirtier and grittier than other Star Wars before it. In terms of execution, Rogue One is great. The film is able to explain its existence by showing the beginning of A New Hope is because of a big war that occurred before the film started. Before that, we only understand from the opening crawl, now we've seen how the Rebellion goes to war. It is also able to address some of the plot holes from the original trilogy, such as the exhaust port, the lack of Rebel Alliances, and etc. What is so well done about the movie is that, it is able to tell its story so well without breaking any continuity, some things the prequel not managed to do so.

Like Godzilla, Gareth Edwards excels at bringing in scale into his movies. Looking at AT-ACT from Chirrut Imwe and Baze Malbus ground perspectives felt huge and the odds are against them at every turn. And Death Star looming over Jedha before the weapon test is a beautiful sequence to show the menace of the Imperials. In terms of effects, the film will bring out the 70s sci-fi look of A New Hope, matching the aesthetics in the timeline. Rogue One is also able to inject the 'war' into Star Wars, with a killer final act showing the Rebels going toe to toe with the Empire in an big scale skirmish.

Rogue One, like The Force Awakens, is a nostalgia piece to Star Wars fans, but in a different way. There are so many fan service and easter eggs throughout the film, fans will be pleased to see the references towards the other characters and films. Darth Vader is the most prominent fan service in this film. His time in this film is incredibly short, but when he appears, his presence was an effective reminder of why he is one of the greatest villain in film industry.

However, Godzilla's weaknesses is also Rogue One's weaknesses. The film felt sluggish in the second act where at certain times it felt like a drag. The film also suffers from the usual movie tropes whereby the first act felt rush to introduce multiple characters at once to a point you can't relate to them. While all the characters is great, especially K-2SO, Chirrut Imwe, Cassian and Jyn are great new characters, but they are not really good while they're in a team. They don't feel like a team in this, but individually they are great.

Soundtrack is another weakness of Rogue One. Michael Giacchino's music is a test whether we can live without John Williams in Star Wars. Despite Michael Giacchino's efforts, the soundtrack of Rogue One felt underwhelming. There are still piece that reminds us that Rogue One is a Star Wars film, but the others are forgettable. The Force Awakens, was John Williams' weakest Star Wars soundtrack, but it is still better than Rogue One.

Rogue One is a solid entry of the Star Wars saga, it proves that there are good stories outside the Skywalker family and it can be interpreted into different genres. A prequel is effective when it is able to explain the original story with care and be able to cover up the original's flaws, Rogue One did just that.  For fans, it's a great way to re-explore the old stories. For non-fans, it can be treated as a standalone just fine. And as for newcomers, you can watch Rogue One as the first film, then treat A New Hope as the sequel. The Force Awakens reawakened my love for Star Wars, Rogue One made me trust the future of Star Wars.

Score: 4.25/5