Tag Archives: Film

Assassin’s Creed film review

The adaptation of videogames to film hasn’t gone well. For years the film adaption of a game has suffered from poor storytelling, poor pacing, poor writing and poor direction, leading to poor fans not receiving the high-quality film version they’ve hungered of their favourite gaming franchise. And there are myriad reasons for this; from writers not understanding the source material, to compression of an eight hour story to two hours simply not working. Assassin’s Creed makes less mistakes than many of its ilk, but despite this, it still doesn’t make the transition clean enough to qualify as a success.

Assassin’s Creed follows the story of Callum Lynch during the present day, and Aguilar de Nerha during the past. In the present, Callum finds himself in a facility run by Abstergo, where his lineage can be tapped into through a machine called the Animus, allowing him to relive memories of his ancestors, of which Aguilar de Nerha is one of them. Abstergo are using the Animus to find an ancient artefact called the Apple, and Aguilar de Nerha is the last person to have seen it. Aguilar de Nerha is part of the Brotherhood of Assassin’s and is assigned to protect Prince Ahmed de Granada from the Templars during the Granada war in 1492. The Templars seek the Apple and threaten to kill the young prince in order to get it from his father, Sultan Muhammad XII. Back in the present, Abstergo is the modern face of the Templars, meanwhile, The Brotherhood of Assassin’s continue to try and protect the Apple from the shadows. Abstergo probe Callum’s mind for clues, whilst Callum learns more about his ancestry and the Brotherhood of Assassin’s his family are bound to.

It’s all very familiar for anyone who’s played the games, and that’s certainly to the film’s credit; it does a great job of staying true to the established world the games have constructed. Abstergo are very much the same shady, power hungry organisation they are in the games, and the Brotherhood of Assassin’s are still very much the struggling to survive, morally numb murderers they are in the games. It’s very true to its source material.

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Where it takes liberties is with the Animus. Here it’s not just a simple interface for accessing genetic memories, it’s a harness that allows the user to re-enact memories rather than simply experience them in their minds. It’s a smart choice that fits the ‘show don’t tell’ philosophy of film making.

However, whilst sticking to the source material helps connect the film with the already established audience of the games, an over use of nods and references to the games comes off as patronising and irritating. This is at its worst when concerning the eagle. In the games, the screech of an eagle accompanies daring leaps and the unlocking of an area’s map by climbing high on a landmark, but in the film there are literal shots of an eagle flying around, and not just short flybys to give a bird’s eye perspective on a location, but long following shots that scream ‘game reference’. Further references are more subtle, but entirely unnecessary and equally irritating, the ‘leap of faith’ section in particular.

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Fortunately, a spectacular cast does a great job selling their characters. Michael Fassbender delivers the complexity of Callum Lynch and the devotion of Aguilar de Nerha splendidly, meanwhile, Marion Cotillard delivers the conflicted Dr. Sophia Rikkin in precisely the right manner to play off Callum’s aforementioned complexity. The rest of the cast are equally brilliant and do justice to their characters. However, it’s a shame we couldn’t see more from other Animus subjects in the Abstergo facility, in particular Michael K. Williams’ character of Moussa, in modern times, and the Haitian assassin Baptiste in the past, a character who appeared in Assassin’s Creed: Liberation.

And indeed, that’s one of the main concerns for the film: a lot of the games lore and its storytelling charm is compressed into a mere couple of hours. Here the film fails to find the right balance in telling Callum’s story, Aguilar de Nerha’s story, and that of the Templars/Abstergo verse the Brotherhood of Assassins. It doesn’t quite fit together, meaning the struggle between the Templars and Assassins is rushed, and Aguilar de Nerha is too focused on the Apple. Callum gets the majority of the character growth, and whilst it’s an interesting story, without the other aspects fleshed out enough, it still feels incomplete.

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However, certainly the biggest problem with the film is in its visual direction. The screen is almost always lousy with smoke and dust effects. It’s one of the ugliest, dreariest and drabbest looking films out there. It could have been explained away if it was only during the past sequence, but it’s not, worst still, it looks as if a lot of it was digitally added in post. It’s a baffling visual choice that hides so much of the detail, and once you notice it you can’t un-see it.

The Assassin’s Creed games concentrate on the ancestor’s story more so than that of the modern subject, here the opposite is true, and whilst Callum is a good character, Aguilar de Nerha has the better story, and it feels like a missed opportunity not to have focused more on his life as an Assassin. Meanwhile, some the references to the game are a bit on the nose and hard to stomach, and the visuals are plain ugly. However, the film succeeds in setting up the modern story of the Brotherhood of Assassins verses Abstergo, and the change to the Animus is excellent, making it all the more disappointing that the whole experience didn’t quite come together in the end.

Ubisoft confirm The Division movie

Ubisoft Motion Pictures, the film and television studio of Ubisoft have announced that The Division will be getting a film release. Academy Award nominees Jessica Chastain (The Martian, Interstellar, The Help, Zero Dark Thirty) and Jake Gyllenhaal (End of Watch, Nightcrawler, Southpaw) will be starring in the movie.

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02:  Jessica Chastain attends the "Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology" Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY – MAY 02: Jessica Chastain attends the “Manus x Machina: Fashion In An Age Of Technology” Costume Institute Gala at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 2, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Larry Busacca/Getty Images)

Continue reading Ubisoft confirm The Division movie

The Call Up film review

I got the pleasure of Heading along to a pre-screening of The Call Up a new film out on the 20th of May that blends cinema and games together. Now wait, I know what you’re all thinking

“ah, jeez. Gamer films are normally rubbish, so few hit the mark”

and I am inclined to agree. Coming from a gamer’s perspective on the film, I went in with very low expectations. Films and games have a turbulent past: remember Gamer with Gerard butler or Doom with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson *shudder* these are two examples of films that could have been great, but once again proved that sticking a star on the screen and telling people it’s about games, well, that ain’t enough, sir. However, with The Call Up I was pleasantly surprised. It was good. Now it has some faces you may recognise but no super stars, and the director, Charles Barker – who also wrote the screenplay – you may not know, nevertheless, this was an enjoyable film that blends cinema and games well.

The film is about a group of gamers who win the ultimate gamer experience, to go into a fully immersive virtual reality environment and compete. They are all strangers and top level, hard-core gamers, who meet for the first time at the location of the experience. And then off they go. I’m not going to go in to too many details, so not to reveal spoilers, but I’ll give you a rough idea of why I liked it and why I think you should go see it.

As a gamer, there are subtle nuances that I appreciated that may have been missed by non-gamers. Throughout the film there were certain lines and visual references that rung very true for anyone who has played games, especially first-person shooters. The intro was an especially good homage to the start of modern first-person shooters, I thought. It sounds silly to say, but I noticed and appreciated these little references, it’s nothing inherent to the script or story but they highlighted to me that the people behind the film really do know games. Things like the slightly off NPC movement that can happen, and the cheesy one-liners and speeches often made in games, all provided a terrific nod to the medium. Whilst many of these references focused on the lighter side of the medium, and included one or two that made me laugh out loud, the film was very brutal in places and didn’t shy away from violence. Which is great, because who doesn’t like a nice graphic electrocution or bloody gun battles, Right? Right. No worries here.


On top of clearly knowing the medium of games, The Call Up’s filmmaking was also very strong. The shots used, the framing and a plethora of other cinematic techniques where used to great effect and added to why the film was so enjoyable and immersive. One of the things I think matters a lot in film is the music. It can shape your emotions perfectly to amplify the feeling of a scene, but in the same way it can destroy it if done badly. I’m happy to report the music worked very well. It was very ‘Tron’, that deep synth, almost 80s style that I found very theme appropriate.

The characters had all the bases covered for your different gamer archetypes, your jock, loner, etc. all with suitable Gamertags that matched their personalities. The archetypes where a little predictable but it was saved (for me anyway) by the realisation that I had at least one gamer friend to fit most of them. I thought the cast where all quite good, with a couple of standout performances from individuals who could go on to have strong acting careers, and they helped add to the gravitas of the film. As skilled as an actor might be, however, it very much relies on the strength of the script, which I found pretty engaging. It did have some lines that I couldn’t place as being either a hint towards the somewhat clichéd writing in games, or meant as serious, but they were few and far between, maybe two or three in the film, the rest of it was enjoyable. Put it this way: it didn’t have me rolling my eyes in the way a lot of other videogame themed films do.

All in all, I liked it. I Think the director shows real promise for the future as do a few of the cast members. This certainly won’t win any Oscars and it probably won’t get the recognition it deserves, but it was enjoyable cinema. The concept for the film is brilliant and executed very well. If you play games then go see this film. If you don’t, then go see it anyway, you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy this film, but it definitely adds to it.

Dead Rising: Watchtower review

Film adaptations of videogames seldom work. Whilst the film industry has finally cracked the comic book superhero genre, videogames still elude them. What doesn’t help is the fundamental differences each medium has with storytelling. Film is typically succinct with a philosophy of show don’t tell, meanwhile, videogames are longer paced affairs with a play don’t show philosophy. Therefore, Re-telling a game’s story within a film is very difficult to translate.

This is one aspect of Dead Rising: Watchtower that works particularly well: taking the setting from the games but weaving its own tale within it. In fact Watchtower achieves several noteworthy feats when it comes to creating a film based on a videogame, and although it doesn’t quite come together in the end, it’s a strong attempt that’s well worth watching.

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Dead Rising: Watchtower is set between the second and third Dead Rising games, following the traditional Dead Rising storyline of a location suddenly overrun with zombies while a group of survivors fight to escape. Additionally, concerns over infected humans that need frequent shots of the zombie virus suppressing Zombrex drug plague the cast, along with a military presence that might have their own agenda, and a biker gang enjoying the chaos. All the ingredients are present for precisely the kind of Dead Rising tale you’d expect.

And indeed, Watchtower combines these story threads together impressively to successfully capture the tone and narrative flow of the games. The Zombies are bloodthirsty and look terrific, the survivors are intractable and mysterious, the humour is excellent and silly, cobbled together devices and weapons as well as the desperate usage of everyday items make up the arsenal, and the gore is over-the-top and grotesque. There are even multiple, well placed references to the games, such as weapon combinations, a zombie variant, and even Frank West punctuating the tale through a TV interview. It’s a great homage to the games that stays true to their formulas.

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Moreover, the cast is excellent. The leads, Chase (Jesse Metcalfe) and Crystal (Meghan Ory) are absolutely spot on in comparison to what the games have delivered so far with their lead characters, and their supporting cast is superb with a standout performance from Rob Riggle as Frank West. Watchtower also goes so far as to cast a couple of internet personalities in the form of Epic Meal Time’s Harley Morenstein as a crazed pyro bikers, and Film Riot’s Ryan Connolly as a zombie, which is a terrific way to connect with the target audience on a slightly deeper level. However, despite how well it captures the game, it doesn’t do enough.

The aforementioned problem of long form storytelling condensed to short form creates another victim here, with Watchtower failing to capture enough of what makes the Dead Rising games so popular. Zombie variants and desperate survival against overwhelming numbers is barely present, with only the odd zombie variant beyond your standard, shambling undead and seldom few zombie filled scenes. There is an excellent, one continuous shot, moment that successfully captures the spirit of the games, but once again we needed to see more. Additionally, the game’s main attraction – beyond a screen full of zombies to hack through – is the numerous, crazed pyschos, and whilst the biker gang are good human adversaries they just aren’t crazy enough for Dead Rising.

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The fight choreography also doesn’t quite have the impact or impressiveness as productions such as Arrow or Daredevil, and the occasional switch to shots that look as if they were captured with a GoPro, look completely out-of-place and pull you out of the experience. However, one of the biggest let down is the ending, which, whilst avoiding spoilers, simply doesn’t tie up all loose ends, setting up, it seems, for a sequel that we might not ever see.

Dead Rising: Watchtower has a great set of characters, played by an exceptional cast, has a terrific setting, great use of gore and superb zombie special effects, as well as the right tone and attention to detail to capture the game’s personality. But it needed to go further, with more zombies, more pyschos, more peril, and a more complete story. It’s certainly worth watching if you’re a Dead Rising fan, and you’ll get a kick out of the references and how it stick to cannon so smoothly. Let’s hope there’s a sequel to finish the story and deliver more of what makes the games so great, and one that avoids the GoPro shots.

TiX purchased their own copy of the film for review

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