With the new Tomb Raider adaptation in theaters (listen to the MoR Seatmates discuss the film on the podcast here), it’s time to finally bite the bullet and watch some other films based on video games.
The Double Feature: There are definitely memorable games in each of the Assassin’s Creed and Hitman video game series, with Assassin’s Creed 2 making my favorite video games of all time list. Too bad the movies are memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Assassin’s Creed (2016)
Basic Synopsis: Throughout time the Assassins and Templars have been at war over the Apple of Eden, an object the Assassins have hidden because of its capability to purge the free will of mankind. Unfortunately the Templars are zeroing in on its location thanks to a machine that can search the mind of a current day person and somehow relive the memories of their Assassin ancestor. That’s right, the futuristic technology of 2016 is capable of this.
Brief Thoughts: Based on the huge disparity of time dedicated to the current day vs 15th century Spain, the adaptation of the Assassin’s Creed video game series clearly doesn’t understand its source material. What makes these games special is not the convoluted through line about some all powerful relic, it’s how they allow the player to dig into history’s sandbox through interesting characters and explore the cultures, locations, and events of centuries past. Oh, and the actual gameplay is great too.
I will say the scenes in which Michael Fassbender goes into the Animus are great. I was afraid that redesigning the lounge chair into a GLaDOS ripoff that dangles Fassbender in the air would look ridiculous, but once the memory bleeds overlap Fassbender replaying these past events, it actually looks pretty awesome. Especially since they never show him running in place. Let’s leave those kind of activities in the past, where all the awesome action sequences are.
If they cut out all the lackluster scenes with Cotillard (who’s motivation is only outmatched in confusing me by whatever accent she is attempting to speak with) and Fassbender (let’s face it, they forgot to write a character for him. And no amount of clothes he removes will distract me from this fact!) we’d get a pretty awesome short film a la Power/Rangers.
Quick Question: How does he summersault with the Animus arm connected to his back?
The Assassin’s Creed Drinking Game: If you take a shot every time they transition scenes with an eagle in flight, you will be dead by movie’s end.
Another Observation: I was really surprised that they plastered the Abstergo logo all over everything right away, but when the story is as shallow as it is there’s no real reason to hide their cards. Which brings me to…
My Biggest Complaints: If the movie is not going to focus on the best parts of the Assassin’s Creed world, it better bring it in the current timeline. If it wants to give Cotillard’s character layers, then do it. Don’t throw them in at the end of the movie where they’re just going to confuse everyone. If it can’t do that, then mash her and her father’s role into one and leave Abstergo’s representation at that.
And while it’s working on the character development for Cotillard, give Fassbender a reason for his character to be conflicted. Make the memory bleeds and mental degradation more gradual so that we really get the stakes, connect him to the other relatives being held by Abstergo (all these histories at our fingertips and we barely scratched the surface on them)… Do something so that he’s actually an interesting person worthy of being the protagonist of this story.
A More Important Quick Question: Can the apple not be destroyed? Just seems like if you don’t want to be murdered throughout time, maybe get rid of the reason you’re being hunted.
Let’s Talk About That Ending (Spoilers): Someone please explain all the random character shifts Cotillard’s character goes through in the last 10 minutes of the movie. First she questions her father’s motivations as if she’s never heard the Templar’s goals before, and as if they don’t line up with what she said she’s wanted throughout the movie. The only explanation I had for this was that one of the hooded women during that meeting of assassins past looked a lot like her (memory bleeds I get, but what the heck even is this?). Cotillard even reacted to her, furthering the idea that this wasn’t a trick of my garbage eyesight, thus throwing into question everything she knows. Enough to let Fassbender past when he’s clearly there for only one reason. A reason that must not have been apparent to Cotillard cuz now she’s ticked her father is dead and all aboard the kill all assassins train. Pick a lane, Cotillard!
Final Thoughts: This was not a complete movie. It was an outline that they forgot to developed past its barest bones.
Hitman: Agent 47 (2015)
Basic Synopsis: A bunch of people with questionable motives are looking for the head scientist who once ran the program that created the Agents, killers without emotion, fear, or remorse.
Brief Thoughts: My first attempt at watching Hitman: Agent 47 was met with a lot of opposition, causing me to take breaks numerous times throughout the movie. Giving the film the benefit of the doubt, I assumed these interruptions were what caused my inability to fully understand the story. So I watched it a second time. The breaks were not the issue.
From what I’ve gathered, a lot of Hitman fans had problems with this version of Agent 47 being an action star. I see their point because I always played the games as stealthily as possible, getting in and out of levels with no one being the wiser, and though I don’t mind Hitman looking to John Wick for inspiration, I have to agree with that approach not really working here. For Wick, his rampage was all about palpable emotion (you better believe I wanted vengeance for Daisy too), and Agent 47 doesn’t have this element to connect to. So as cool as the action scenes are, they’re shallow.
Shallow because I don’t know what his motives are, and shallow because he doesn’t care about what he’s doing. Unless he does? Another character is thrown in to make us ask questions about Agent 47’s humanity and the concept in general, but the fact that I have no idea what the movie is trying to tell me about the title character is a big problem.
Someone Give Me Answers: It’s not uncommon for me to have questions after watching movies. Usually there are a few sarcastic questions asked to poke fun at a certain detail in a film, and occasionally I miss something and need clarification. Then there are movies like Hitman: Agent 47 that produce such a cacophony of confusion, exasperation and frustration by their lack of an ability to provide satisfying, or even sensical, answers.
Here’s a list of all the things that confused and exasperated me about Hitman: Agent 47 (there are going to be spoilers littered throughout, so those who have watched the film feel free to make sense of my confusion, and those who haven’t just look at all this confusion and necessary nitpicking as a bad sign):
- Agent 47 just so happens to be at the right place at the right time the moment this Syndicate sleuth finds a lead on the missing scientist. Or has he seriously been camped out there for the 6 years following the photo being found? Follow up, did he rig up this obstacle course each and every night of those 6 years on the off chance something was found?
- How does everyone know exactly where someone is going with one glimpse at a giant map?
- Why is Katia looking for the scientist? Other than a blink and you miss it flash of images, we don’t have much to go on in concern to what drives Katia in finding a man she says is no one to her until she teams up with Agent 47. Follow up: What all information does she have on that map/web of mystery? Because there is a ton written there for someone who knows absolutely nothing. Someone who only needs a few random facts given to her by John Smith to solve the mystery…
- Do the filmmakers not understand that there’s a big difference between heightened senses and omnipotence?
- Speaking of big differences, do the filmmakers not understand that there’s a big difference between knowing how to do something and having the physical ability to do something? Maybe it’s just me, but pushing yourself from a seated position into a handstand on a chair seems like something that should be much more challenging. And that’s not even considering the plane engine trying to suck her up.
- What the heck does “I didn’t shoot you, I marked you,” mean?
- Where did Katia get a swimsuit from?
- Why include the exposition that the Agent program was shut down and the Agents drifted into the shadows? Because clearly not. So who is Agent 47’s handler and what do they want? Follow up question: if their goal all along was to kill the head of the Syndicate, why is he also tasked with killing Katia? Assuming she even was the second target. Who is the second target!?
- Why do they even need the scientist anyway? The Syndicate seems to be doing just fine without him. They’ve made an unstoppable killing machine with John Smith so there really is no need for them to engineer Agents if what they want is an army.
- What would happen if John Smith got cancer and needed surgery? Bet you wouldn’t want that body armor then…
- Who put the price on their heads? Was it the Syndicate or Agent 47’s handler? And why does she call in Agent 48? As far as I’m concerned, Agent 47 has given her no reason to doubt him.
- “I wanted you to have no part of what I was.” She was your science experiment. You “made her.” That is the definition of a part of it, you worst father ever. Follow up: how did no one notice the scientist engineering himself a daughter? An Agent 90 that is somehow better than the rest. Yet no one knows she exists.
- Explain the meaning of engineering humans. Are all the Agents test tube babies and not orphans or something? Follow up: Are all the Agents clones? Are there just 89 agents running around with the same face out there, and then Katia? I assume no because Agent 47 looked shocked to see Agent 48, but maybe he was just shocked another Agent was called in to take him out… Seriously, where are all the other agents (other than the dead ones, obviously)?
- Wait a minute… Wasn’t Katia looking for a blonde man?
- “Why would anyone want more of you?” Stop being so stupid, Katia. And mean. He was programmed to be this way BY YOUR FATHER.
- The chairman of the Syndicate never leaves his room. Except apparently at the exact moment he shouldn’t. Seriously, Agent 47 has the best timing.
- “Your mother would be proud.” Proud of Katia killing a ton of people? Was her mother a serial killer?
- How did the scientist know the inhaler was a bomb? When did Agent 47 turn it into a bomb anyway?
Final Thoughts: NOPE.
The Double Feature Verdict: If I had a gun to my head and had to choose one of these movies to recommend, I’d go with Assassin’s Creed. But as far as video game films are concerned, go see Tomb Raider in theaters. Or try Prince of Persia or Resident Evil. They may not be perfect, but they’re at the top of my video game movies list.