Assassin's Creed Movie - FIRST IMPRESSIONS
Markuz, December 26th, 2016
Translated by: Stefania

December 21st has finally come and, of course, the Assassin’s Creed Movie has finally started to appear in cinemas all over the world!

As many of you may know, many critics harshly criticized the movie, with statements that ranged from “It's less fun than watching someone play a bad video game” to “‘Assassin’s Creed’ somehow manages to even make Michael Fassbender boring”.

On the other hand, many of the fans who participated in various premieres of the movie have shared some very positive comments about what they saw, saying that the movie was great, and that it got “so many things right”, as our friend Lorena at TasukigirlCosplay mentioned or even that it “was almost perfect” as our fan Jengoboy Juan said.

Among these many reviews, opinions and impressions, I wanted to try and write down my own set of opinions and share it with the community too, and so let’s dive into our new article!

Some clarifications
I will start with this: the Assassin’s Creed movie needs to be watched twice. Or more. In fact, at least based on my experience, the first “run” will probably be instinctively dedicated to broadly follow the plot and the characters while some of the details and sometimes plot points may be easily missed. That’s where the second run of the movie should come into place, clearing some of the doubts that may have come up after seeing the movie for the first time.

That’s at least what happened to me and our webmaster Sary, as we had the luck and the chance to participate in an “avant-premiere” in Paris and in a press screening in Milan. After these two events I can clearly say that it’s a good movie that pays homage to the Assassin’s Creed franchise and fits well into its established canonical elements…. That being said, it’s surely not perfect and it has some visibleflaws and some minor (and possibly justifiable) plot inconsistencies, which we’ll not go through right now as this is a non-spoiler article. With that said, though, let’s get through the main elements of the movie and see how it measured up to the expectations.

Main Characters
As for the acting, I was expecting a lot from Michael Fassbender and Jeremy Irons and I must said they both delivered, especially in the present day part of the movie.

Callum’s bloodline
Fassbender did a good job with his interpretation of Callum and his path that he very quickly follows throughout the movie until its very end. Callum, similarly to Desmond in the first Assassin’s Creed game, is a vessel for the viewers (especially if it’s the first time they get in the franchise), through which they get to know all the typical elements of the franchise. Fassbender does his best to represent it, although the pace of the movie makes it a hard task. Even if it has much less time for character development compared to the games, the Assassin’s Creed movie manages to create a protagonist in the present day with a background, a legacy that he can decide to follow or not, and a set of motivations that changes throughout the story. I have to say I really appreciated that (save for when he sings in the Animus, you’ll know what I’m talking about when you see it)... as much as I didn’t like the almost complete lack of background and motivations for Aguilar that, in my opinion, make it so that the viewers are not that interested in what he does or in the outcome of his fights, were it not for the Macguffin of the movie, the Apple of Eden.

The same can be said, in general, for Maria / ArianeLabed. While she is a fan favourite, and I can understand why (both in terms of action and in terms actual female presence in the historical part of the movie), she herself doesn’t have a background or proper introduction and it’s not even very clear which relationship she has with Aguilar (especially after seeing the second regression).

Conversely,I have to say I really liked Irons’ depiction of Rikkin(or should I say Ryke-in?) in the movie: he is a very “result-oriented” kind of character and, in that regard, it mirrors the character that we have seen since AC1 in 2007. The addition of his daughter Sophia to the story also gave the chance to explore a sort of twisted “father – daughter” relationship for Rikkin, something that was entirely new for him in the franchise, and that both Irons and Cotillard were able to portrait, even if it was shown only in a few scenes.

Speaking of Marion Cotillard, her performance was good but it didn’t strike me as Irons’ one. Sophia Rikkin is a character that I still haven’t fully understood to this day, especially considering what happens and what she says at the end of the movie. As a character, Sophia does have a bit of a background, even if it’s only shown for a few seconds, but what involves her the most is the already mentioned relationship with her father and the relationship with Callum. The latter, especially, has its ups and downs throughout the movie and, as I said, leads to the ending of a movie in a way that left me a bit confused.

Side characters

While I was averagely impressed by the main characters in the present day and not so much by the ones in the Spanish Inquisition simulation, the opposite happened for what concerns the side characters.
Tomás de Torquemada

For example, I liked Tomás de Torquemada, played by Javier Gutierrez, and especially his speech during the second regression and his (brief) explanation about the Apple of Eden, which felt more in line with the established lore than what is said and shown in the present day. I also liked Ojeda (played by HovikKeuchkerian), “Aguilar’s nemesis” as it was described in some of the interviews, for his relentlessness in chasing Aguilar and Maria, even though he speaks so rarely that it’s really difficult to have an idea of what kind of character he really is.

On the contrary, as I said, I really disliked the side characters in the present day, especially the Abstergo subjects / “Assassins”. While Moussa has at least a bit of screen time that helps the viewer understand his half serious and half witty personality, the others (Nathan, Emir, Lin) have little to no dedicated screen time and all of them have no background whatsoever. Nathan and Lin aren’t even named in the movie and we’re supposed to know their names from the news about them that were presented during the marketing campaign for the movie. Even their supposed “legacy ties” with other Assassins from past games are not referenced, let alone mentioned, in the movie (apart from Moussa’s one).

Even the so-called “Chairwoman”, the Templar lady with a higher ranking than Alan Rikkin, is never named (although some of the recent news appear to mention she’s called Ellen Kaye) nor introduced in the movie, if not because she’s a relevant member of the “Elders”, a never before mentioned big group of high ranking Templars.

This is one of the best elements of the movie as it always was for the games. The movie recreates perfectly both the historical environments and the rooms in the Abstergo facility in Madrid and this allows for another strong element of the movie, the action scenes.

The historical simulation perfectly conveys Spain during the Spanish Inquisition period and the war between the Christians and the Moors. Both the exteriors (such as the village from the first regression and the environment for the death sentence by burning at the stake from the second regression) and the interiors (such as the Sultan’s palace) are well built and functional towards what takes place in them.

Moreover, the Abstergo interiors are full of details (the fans will love going frame by frame looking for Easter Eggs, I know I will :P) and once again are very “involving” as they really convey the feeling of the ominous Abstergo buildings from the first games. While discussing the Abstergo environments, I can’t avoid mentioning the Animus (which is made by the mechanical arm, the “thing” that plugs in Callum’s back of the head, and the memory scanner – the pool of blue liquid and the pointy cone-like technology element that hangs from the roof) and I have to say that I was very pleased to see it fits in with the lore while it adjusts to the dynamism required by the movie. Save for the final scene in which it is used, I’m still a bit confused by that too…

The fans will love going frame by frame looking for Easter Eggs…

Ahem… It’s not like I didn’t like it, but it’s not particularly memorable either. It’s not particularly involving and it doesn’t particularly convey feelings and emotions. I might be wrong, and maybe I should listen to it separately from the movie before listening to it inside the movie again, but this is my opinion as of now.

Story and consistency with the established lore
It’s difficult to have a story paragraph in a non-spoiler article, but I’ll try my best. Basically… the story in itself broadly fits in with the established canon, and so it will probably add a piece to the big puzzle that is the Assassin’s Creed universe. This will also mean that I expect the fans will generally like it… but at the same time this doesn’t mean that all the movie goers that are not fans of the franchise will appreciate it. On the contrary, the movie has been torn apart by the critics and in a way I can understand why. The movie had to introduce all the basic visual and story elements that every Assassin’s Creed chapter has, and had to do it in two hours against the usual 15-25 of the games.
The Animus mechanical arm
This, at least in my opinion, may have created a huge challenge for the director, the writers and possibly the actors, and it is really perceivable by looking at the movie and its pace. In fact, even if the movie lasts almost two hours, its pace feels slow at first and very fast after the first 20-30 minutes, as every classic AC element (the Animus, the concept of genetic memory, the war between Assassins and Templars, the Leap of Faith, the Hidden Blades, the Bleeding Effect, the Apple of Eden etc. etc.)had to be squeezed in and was not necessarily well introduced for the lack of screen time. Add Callum’s backstory and the ending and that possibly explains why non-fan viewers (who haven’t been prepared to such concepts in the past) might have not liked the movie.

Adding insult to injury, as some of the fans noted, there are some discrepancies with the established canon, ranging from very “nitpicky” things like the pronunciation of “Rikkin” and the fact that Abstergo is not a corporation but a foundation, to potentially bigger inconsistencies that, however, most of the times can be at least partially explained.

It’s not like the entire story and feeling of the movie is as bad as it seems though, as the “Assassin’s Creed Factor” still permeates every moment of the movie.

The Assassin’s Creed factor
By Assassin’s Creed Factor I mean the feeling of what Assassin’s Creed is, its major elements that make it recognizable, and the little details and connections to past chapters of the franchise that every release has. This is an element that only the fans can see and I have to say that the movie exceeded my expectations in this regard. To use our friend Lorena’s words once again, “this movie gets so many things right”.

From the costumes in the Spanish Inquisition simulation to the perfect reciting of the Initiation into the Assassin Order, from the dark, angled and cold outlines of the Templar characters to the minimalistic design of the Abstergo interiors, the movie does its best in representing the feeling of an Assassin’s Creed chapter. I was even surprised to hear more than once in the movie the original Arabic version of the Creed itself (Laashay'awaqi'unmoutlaq bale koulounmoumkine).
And that’s even without mentioning all the Easter Eggs that I’ve seen and that I probably missed plus… an unexpected cameo of a known character at the end (if you haven’t seen the movie, I advise you to keep your eyes peeled after the third regression…)

Yeah, keep an eye out around this scene...

And that’s it for our first impressions! Let us know (without spoilers!!) in the comments what you think of the movie, what you liked and what you disliked and if you agree with this article!

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