I thought that this was a prime candidate to write a full article about, because I thought, looking at it, it would be bad.
I was right, and I was wrong.
See I’m on record as someone who likes Assassins Creed as a franchise while also thinking that Assassins Creed is a dreadfully stupid franchise with really bad writing that squanders all its potential and follows a lot of leaders it shouldn’t. When videogamers mocked fine art purchases a few years ago, my counterpoint was that gamers paid a billion dollars for the plot of Assassins Creeds 1 to 3.
When the news of this movie dropped, I started making fun of it immediately, not because I thought the idea of a movie about historical assassins knifing templars (and templars are dicks) was a bad place to tell a story, but because I could see with 100% prescience, that as this was being made by the people who had made other Assassins Creeds, that they were going to do a terrible job of it. Like, Assassins Creed is a franchise where I feel actually guilty just fairly explaining the plot of these games because it’s hard to do without sounding like I’m ridiculing them.
This movie is bad, it’s dreadfully bad, but what surprises me about it is that it’s bad not because it slavishly represents the games, but rather because what good ideas the game has it throws out the window. I considered at one point making an itemised list of just bad stuff in this movie, like bullet points, and having a bit of a chortle about how many of them were terrible ideas or executions, but then I had to explain the damn thing, and that’s a waste of everyone’s time.
Assassins Creed is only remarkable in that it took the bad foundation of the actual execution of Assassins Creed and then pumped out what I can only describe as the biggest budget Uwe Bolle movie I’ve ever seen. And crucially, the Assassins Creed of the title is mentioned in this movie, once.
And they get it wrong.
Pokemon The Movie: I Choose You
Now, did you know that a Pokemon movie has controversial reception in the Pokemon fandom? I know, I was shocked, then I remembered that this is a piece of Gamer Culture, and Gamers are, in many ways, the worst.
For anyone not particularly familiar, the way that Pokemon, as a series, works, is that basically every three years, they kind of shift to a new location, give Ash some new companions and a shakeup of his lineup (but always including Pikachu), and this is part of a deliberate cycling to ensure that the target audience for this show (who are four) are going to always feel like the show they’re watching isn’t some long-reaching sprawling thing, and if they see old episodes, they can tell they don’t ‘fit’ with what they got. It also gives new viewers (ie, people who were previously three) a solid place to ‘start’ their memory of the storyline.
These are the kinds of things you do in a game franchise that’s been pretty much going gangbusters for twenty years.
The controversy here is that this one doesn’t just reset by sending Ash to a new place to deal with new Pokemon, but instead resets the clock, with this movie serving as a total continuity revamp, where Ash’s latest companions are the first companions he ever got. No Misty, no Brock. Some of the greatest hits from the first season of the anime are woven back into the story, some from the earlier games, but what you get in this movie is apparently a giant middle finger to the people who were deeply invested in the idea that a show they watched twenty years ago show proper reverence to the plot hole about Ash never returning to his Pidgeot or something.
The thing with this movie is it’s not really a movie, not structured like a movie, by your standard model. This is say, five episodes of the anime, without the opening or closing segments, all jammed together, and it’s kind of a good model for making a movie when, again, your target audience is four. Just give kids a short binge-watch of a Pokemon season’s episodes-that-actually-relate-to-one-another.
I mean, it’s bad and it’s boring and I don’t like it, but I think at the point where I’m having complaints about the pacing of Ash’s pokemon Journey in a movie that is explicitly a victory lap for its own prolonged existence, I don’t think my critique is going to illuminate any discourse.
That said, though, there’s one huge but in the conversation about this movie, which is this movie just randomly throws in a tremendously sad backstory about a dead Luxray freezing to death to save a child, and that’s, it’s – it’s just a lot to throw in to again, a movie made for four year olds.
Ahahahaha oh my god.
Okay, so it’s conventional wisdom that videogame movies are bad. This isn’t true, it’s just that there are a lot of very visible videogame movies that have been bad, which is for some reason considered proof they’re all bad, like every single Western Hollywood shat out is some variant of ‘good,’ and the presence of Citizen Kane doesn’t mean the genre of Extremely Rich Asshole Hates Himself To Death movies is all good. Point is, it’s not like videogame franchise tie-ins is a media form that’s waiting for Proof They Don’t Suck to come along in the form of one truly great movie that stands apart and legitimises the entire artistic space.
Anyway, if it was, Rampage would do the trick.
I like this movie a lot. It takes the ten seconds of plot that feeds the narrative in the videogame Rampage and then uses that as a basic framing to tell another story while still recognising the game knew where it was going and wasn’t looking to turn into a different kinda story half way through. You got yourself a movie about chemically altered monsters that look like giant wolves, crocodiles and monkeys making a chunk of a city into a wasteland for no really necessary reason, and then you make the solution to that movie some way in which the best monster wins. It’s big and it’s self indulgent and it’s kinda vicious and gory but it’s the kind of movie I imagined an ordinary kid would point to in their early teens to say ‘oh, I can totally handle M-rated movies.’
The thing that I love the most about this movie is that rather than try and make us empathise directly with George the ape, or shapeshift an actor into a monster and then CG the living hell out of that actor’s face to give them a chance to be seen as, like, doing their job, they instead opt to make a big CG gorilla that is a gorilla. He’s also kinda a dick, too. How do we follow the emotional state of this monkey friend? Well, we do it through the audience surrogate of his best friend, the Best Human In The World, played by Rock The Rock Rockson.
I mean it, the Rock’s character… Mr… Rock… is one of the most painfully tremendous people in any movie I’ve seen and I kind of love how he has the over-the-top purity to him because it really just works as an extension of the genre of character from the past. As someone who has looked at older movie and videogame protagonists it’s always funny how over-the-top great they are, how they all are decorated soldiers and super-qualified badasses who are stuck in their bad spot to solve problems because they did something too cool (hi there, Doomguy).
This guy, Zookeeper Rockston, is what happens if you make that now but your central conceits about what makes a character awesome isn’t ‘killed a dude but it was okay and he was allowed’ but is ‘is nice to animals and knows stuff.’
Oh and also, ‘killed a dude but it was okay and he was allowed.’
Actually killed a bunch of dudes. Spoilers I guess.
Anyway, Rampage is great! Check it out!