POPCORN CINEMA 36: ASSASSIN’S CREED… John E. Meredith January 7, 2017 Popcorn Cinema or Is It Called Cinema Because They Have Jeremy Irons In It? When I watch a movie, it’s like there are two of me in the same seat. There’s that regular movie-going guy who likes blood and boobs and things that explode, the kind of movies we call POPCORN MOVIES. But there’s another fellow who accompanies him. This guy likes some of the same things as his friend, but he is a seeker and connoisseur of SERIOUS CINEMA. This guy doesn’t just want to see a movie, he wants it to change his life. POPCORN: So I just saw – CINEMA: ASSASSIN’S CREED? POPCORN: Yeah, dude – CINEMA: Me too, and – POPCORN: – and – CINEMA: – it was – POPCORN: – it was totally – CINEMA: – utterly – POPCORN: – awesome, dude. CINEMA: – ridiculous. POPCORN: What? CINEMA: Oh, come on. POPCORN: Naw, man. Even you gotta admit that was one bad-ass movie. CINEMA: No, I don’t. POPCORN: Seriously, dude, how was that not a good movie? It had all that drama going on with the Templar dudes and the Assassins – and it had, like, actors and stuff – but then there were things that cool people like too, like dudes fightin’ and jumpin’ off-a buildings and chasin’ each other on horses and shit. CINEMA: Well, somehow it managed to attract a measure of decent talent, among both performers and technical personnel. It obviously wanted to be a good movie – POPCORN: Yeah, well, your mom wanted to have a son, but she got you instead. For real, dude, how did you not see that was a sweet flick? They went all Masterpiece Theater with the cast. They had, like, Magneto Shakespeare as the main guy, and Jeremy Irons was up in there – that dude’s always in those arty-farty kinda flicks – and that one chick you get all excited about – CINEMA: Charlotte Rampling? I don’t get all excited about her, but I was surprised to see her in a movie like this, considering her tendency toward international art-house fare. POPCORN: <in Thurston Howell III voice> Oh yes, dahling, how gauche. CINEMA: I’m impressed that you used that word properly. POPCORN: Yeah, well, I got a theo-sore-ass, too, dude. I usually roll my joints on it, but sometimes, if I’m really high, I crack that bitch open and read a couple words. That one’s right between gator and gaucho, so I noticed it. Besides, I meant the other chick anyway. CINEMA: Marion Cotillard. POPCORN: The one with the eyes, man, yeah. She was in that one movie, and then she was in the Batman that had Catwoman and the dude with the mask. Then, well, she was singin’ opera or something in some other flick. And she was in . . . well, that Batman movie, and – I dunno, dude, I’m not stalkin’ her – I just know she was in a bunch-a foreign flicks, and that shit usually gives you more wood than the Ozarks. CINEMA: She was in the TAXI series (and no, not the one with Danny Devito). She was excellent in the French film, LOVE ME IF YOU DARE, and then she won numerous awards (including the Oscar) as Edith Piaf in LA VIE EN ROSE. That’s when she started her American cycle of films, with INCEPTION, THE DARK KNIGHT RISES, and RUST AND BONE. It was just over a year ago that she was in that muddy, visceral take on MACBETH, reuniting with both her director and co-star for this exercise in pointlessness. POPCORN: Pointless? Man, pointless is you ever buying condoms again, or my ex asking if that dress makes her ass look fat. You’re just a big, snooty Rex Reed-lookin’ dude who can’t have no damn fun without subtitles. Just cuz something’s got some action in it don’t mean it’s no good. Tellin’ you, this movie even made me think – CINEMA: THE DUKES OF HAZARD made you think. POPCORN: Your mama made me think we can mate with other species and still make a baby. Man, I knew you were gonna give me some kinda crap about – CINEMA: The Curse of the Video Game Adaption. POPCORN: – which I think would make one bad-ass video game! – but yeah, that, and then you’re gonna give me more crap about how bad CGI is – CINEMA: See, here’s the problem I have with CGI – POPCORN: Here’s the problem I have with your face – CINEMA: It always feels like I’m watching a video game, no matter how many improvements they make – POPCORN: – they never make any improvements on your face. CINEMA: – on the technology. There will be some kind of incredible vista that doesn’t exist on earth, or the camera flying birds-eye-view over some ancient civilization with these huge battles taking place (like there were in this film), and I just know that it’s all fake. POPCORN: So you know it’s fake cuz it looks so real? What about all those fake-ass Sci-Fi flicks you liked back in the day? You didn’t have any problem believing those. I mean, just cuz a stripper’s got some silicone in her double-D’s don’t mean you don’t want her rubbin’ them on your face. Besides, this is a movie from a video game. CINEMA: ASSASSIN’S CREED is an industry giant, with nine games and seventeen spin-off series. It’s given us a few short films, a couple surprisingly good books, and the concepts of the game are ripe for cinematic exploration. It was Ubisoft, the manufacturers of the game, who initially approached Michael Fassbender about starring in a film version of their storyline. POPCORN: Wavin’ that big-ass paycheck in front-a him. CINEMA: I can see the lure of doing this for someone like him, who has managed to balance his career between the weightier fare of indie drama like FISH TANK and 12 YEARS A SLAVE, and his more populist work in something like PROMETHEUS and the X-Men movies. POPCORN: The dude was ripped in this flick. CINEMA: Yeah, he’d definitely spent some time at the gym. He’s got the kind of acting skills where he could easily be doing Shakespeare on a regular basis, but he was blessed (or possibly cursed) by being thusly ripped. So, when he became lead actor and co-producer of this film, he approached Aussie director Justin Kurzel – POPCORN: The Macbeth dude. CINEMA: Yeah, that and his debut were both highly acclaimed. SNOWTOWN was kind of an Australian silencing of the lambs, with the main psychopath as a father figure to his younger accomplice. Lots of subtextural nature versus nurture arguments, that kind of thing. POPCORN: Oh yeah, that shit. CINEMA: Kurzel didn’t want to ruin the trajectory his career was taking. But he and Fassbender had become friends as well as co-workers, spending hours talking about their views on acting and cinema. Fassbender promised the film would be less like DOUBLE DRAGON and more like THE MATRIX. POPCORN: Promise kept. CINEMA: Promise broken. POPCORN: Dude, they went all old-school with this shit. Filmed in, like, real locations, got some real martial arts guys. And there was this stunt-dude, Damien Walters, man, he did a for-real 125-foot freefall. It was for the big Leap of Faith. They’re sayin’ it’s, like, one-a the highest freefalls done by a stuntman in almost forty years. CINEMA: So that makes it CITIZEN KANE? POPCORN: That makes it suck-on-my-junk, dude. It’s got fistfights, swashbuckling, car chases on horseback, and lots of rooftop action. They just throw in some plot for tea-drinkin’ bastards like you. I mean, what more do you need? CINEMA: It’s action-packed, amidst all of that faux-seriousness, I’ll give it that. It starts in 1492 in Andalucía, Spain. The subtitles tell us about the Apple of Eden, said to contain the genetic code to man’s free will, or some such nonsense. POPCORN: Nonsense? Dude, those who control the apple can control freedom of thought. Those Knights Templar dudes – CINEMA: The go-to guys for medieval evil. POPCORN: Yeah, well, they’re bad news, man. That’s why the Assassins are all, like, we work in dark to secure the light. Because it’s better to have a little violence and still be free than to give everything up just to be safe. CINEMA: I’m not going to argue with you about that. I would have liked to know what kind of violence Fassbender’s character, Callum Lynch, doled out before he was sent to Death Row. We get a quick scene of him in Mexico, circa 1986, doing bike stunts up on the roof. He goes home to find that his mother’s been sliced up by his father, who is standing in the corner with a hood over his head. POPCORN: He was a member of the ancient order of Assassins. CINEMA: Well, no shit, Captain Plot-hole. But then we cut to Callum in a Texas prison, decades later, on the day of his execution. His last words, possibly his first, as far as the film goes, are, “Tell my father I’ll see him in hell.” But instead he wakes up in some kind of facility in Madrid. POPCORN: – and Doctor Hottie – CINEMA: Cotillard. POPCORN: – is like, you no longer exist, and since you’re related to this ancient assassin dude, you might as well hook up to our groovy machine. CINEMA: The Animus, yeah. Which is all well and good, but they don’t take enough time building up any of these things. This part is an actual fact: scientists claim to have identified “warrior” genes, which are linked to the uncooperative nature of some of society. They are theorized to be the source of human hostility. POPCORN: Some of us are just animals, dude. CINEMA: Most of us are primitive in ways that we can’t even admit, whether it’s through an attraction to violence or just common self-centeredness. These ideas are quite fascinating, and numerous films have thoughtfully explored the concept of violence. But it remains so vague in ASSASSIN’S CREED. They drag Jeremy Irons and Marion Cotillard out in lab coats and make them use phrases like genetic memory – POPCORN: I think about killin’ cuz my great-great-great-grandpa used to do it for a living. CINEMA: Yeah, we’re informed by the experiences of our ancestors. Violence, they say, is as much innate as learned from the world around us. POPCORN: Like, bitin’ into that apple, dude. You know, like the apple they’re fightin’ over in the movie. CINEMA: Yeah, yeah. But this idea of free will, the concept of predestination – knowing who’s going to commit a crime before they do it – was done much better in MINORITY REPORT, and when they hook Callum up to this machine – POPCORN: The Animus, dude. CINEMA: Something about the way it functioned in the film just bothered me. There was beautiful cinematography by Adam Arkapaw, and great visual effects by Ash Thorpe’s team . . . allowing the subject’s genetic memories to be projected on an external screen, that was intriguing. But the fact that Callum was maneuvered around the lab by a giant pincher arm . . . I don’t know. It was rather aesthetically clumsy for me, I guess. POPCORN: Maybe, dude, but Omar was in this movie. CINEMA: Michael K. Williams. Yeah, and he was wasted, as were all of those other inmates at the facility in Madrid. I mean, if you’re going to film something in Spain, why not take advantage of the countryside, rather than sticking your characters in an ugly concrete building? All those messages were piped in, 1984-style – POPCORN: Progress is sacrifice. CINEMA: Yeah, what does that even mean? If you’re going to subject someone to brainwashing, make sure that your message is clear. Switching back and forth between timelines didn’t allow for much rhythm to be established either. It was hard for me to feel any real connection to Callum, despite all of Fassbender’s emoting, and Doctor Hottie’s motivations were nearly non-existent. POPCORN: She’s one-a them mysterious chicks, dude. That’s all you need to know. CINEMA: Until the sequel. POPCORN: They got one in the works. CINEMA: Yeah, I don’t doubt it. The bulk of American society is being taken for fools, from the biggest studios in Hollywood to the richest politicians in Washington. POPCORN: Yeah, here you go with some of your liberal junk again. CINEMA: Well, it’s even in the movie. Addressing what looks like the United Nations, Jeremy Irons’ character claims that the economic impact of the previous year’s so-called antisocial behavior was nine trillion dollars. Just as in reality, I’m not sure, without a few more details, where the hell they came up with that figure. POPCORN: Yeah, dude, my antisocial behavior cost me about $750 and a little community service. CINEMA: So they’re really planning a sequel? POPCORN: Yup, set in the Cold War. That’s what they say. CINEMA: So what’s your problem anyway? POPCORN: You really pissed me off tonight. CINEMA: Really? POPCORN: What am I, a chimp? ‘With you, as always, is Popcorn.’ Jim to your Marlon Perkins. CINEMA: More like Beavis to my Butt-head. POPCORN: Know what you can do with your show? You can take a flying – <obscured by the deafening sound of an airplane> POPCORN: – until the handle breaks off and you have to find a doctor to pull it out again. CINEMA: Kiss your mother with that mouth? POPCORN: No, but I kiss yours with it. CINEMA: Really?? POPCORN: No, dude. It just so happens that I liked DOUBLE DRAGON, and a bunch-a other shitty movies you don’t approve of. Did it win any Oscars? Probably not, but it killed ninety minutes on a Saturday night when I could-a been getting’ in way worse trouble somewhere else. CINEMA: Really??? POPCORN: Naw, man. CINEMA: Then what the hell got you so pissed off? POPCORN: Stupid game, dude. This movie really made me wanna start playing it. CINEMA: And? POPCORN: And it was too damn complicated, man. Like, ridiculous complicated. CINEMA: You wanna try it together? POPCORN: Alright. But I’m warnin’ you. CINEMA: About what? POPCORN: I’m gonna kick your ass. – j meredith POPCORN CINEMA will return with a special trip back to the future. Meanwhile, feel free to drop a comment or click a ‘Like’ . . . it makes the guys feel good. Check out all our previous editions on PSYCHO DRIVE-IN. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.