Just jumping off rooftops and landing in carts full of hay.
How great is the Assassin’s Creed series of games? They provide a triple threat, combining gameplay that is equal parts exploration, stealth, and combat. This is wrapped up in a fascinating plot that’s part historical thriller and part sci-fi virtual reality craziness. In 2009, to promote the release of Assassin’s Creed 2, the developers created this short film, Assassin’s Creed: Lineage.
The game series has to do with a guy named Desmond living in the present/near future who gets caught up in a secret war between assassins and the Templars. Using a device called the Animus, Desmond relives his assassin ancestors’ memories in the hopes of finding an ancient power source before the Templars do. Among these ancestors is Ezio, an assassin living in Renaissance Italy. Desmond doesn’t appear in this movie, which instead focuses on Ezio’s father Giovanni (Romano Orzari, Punisher: War Zone), also an assassin. After the duke of Milan is murdered, Giovanni begins tracking down those responsible, uncovering a conspiracy. All the while, his young son Ezio (Devon Bostick, Survival of the Dead) suspects Giovanni is more than what he seems.
First things first—the movie, which originally ran online as three episodes, is a slim 36 minutes total. The creators do an admirable job of packing a lot of content into the runtime, but short is still short. This is made worse by an abrupt ending. Rather than have a third act, viewers are just told to go play the game to continue the story. Just the fact that this is a prequel means it doesn’t work as a stand-alone tale. Despite the creators’ best efforts, you’ll really need to play at least the first two games to understand what’s going on in the movie.
Beyond these criticisms, though, there is a lot to enjoy here, if you’re a fan of the games. The movie looks amazing. Actors were filmed in front of a green screen, and then composited into environments from the game itself. Those who’ve played the games can tell you how beautiful the visuals are, and that translates into the movie. Also, the combat scenes are excellent, with amazing fight choreography with a combination of sword work and brutal kills from the assassins’ famous hidden blade. The political wheelings and dealings of the villains are not the most compelling part of either the game or the movie, but the movie’s depiction of Giovanni’s relationships with his wife and with Ezio are nicely done, making our hero’s home life the emotional core of the film.
Picture quality is stellar, which is no surprise given the source. This is a movie with a lot of soft colors, such as browns and golds, without any bleeding or unnecessary softness. The audio is solid, with booming music and clanking swords coming from all the speakers, creating an immersive sound experience.
Knowing that some folks might not like the idea of putting down tons of cash for a 36-minute Blu-ray, the producers have added more than 90 minutes of bonus content. First up is a detailed look at how the movie was made, with help from a small army of computer experts fussing over every digital detail. A second short film, Assassin’s Creed: Ascension, is included. This one is animated, and much shorter, serving as a prequel to the third game in the series. It’s basically a motion comic, and it lacks the cinematic quality of the one of the game’s cut scenes. It too gets its own making-of. From there, we’re able to click on a number of development diaries for first two games of the series, covering how numerous aspects of each game was made. The extras are rounded out with a short trailer for game number four, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations. Finally, even though it doesn’t count as bonus material, I have to say I love the disc’s menu screen, which is in the same style as the Animus pause screens from the game. Nice touch.
For fans of this series, this disc will be a pleasant treat, a bite-size appetizer and/or desert to accompany the main course that is the game. For newcomers, give the games a try first, and then make your way around to this disc.