Assassin’s Creed Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Based on the blockbuster video game series from Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed is a worlds-spanning tale of one man who finds himself at the center of an ancient battle between two powerful sects—only by harnessing the memories of his ancestor, which are contained within his own DNA, can he end the conflict and claim his own redemption.

The Review at a Glance:
(max score: 5 )

Film:

Extras:

Audio/UHD Video total rating:
( Max score: 100 )

83

Details:

Studio and Year: 20th Century Fox – 2016
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Feature running time: 115 minutes
Genre: Action/Fantasy

Disc Format: BD-66
Encoding: HEVC
Video Aspect: 2.39:1
Resolution: 2160p/24

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos/Dolby TrueHD 7.1, English DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio, Spanish/French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Marion Cotillard, Jeremy Irons, Brendan Gleeson, Charlotte Rampling, Michael Kenneth Williams
Directed by: Justin Kurzel
Music by: Jed Kurzel
Written by: Michael Lesslie, Adam Cooper, Bill Collage
Region Code: A

Release Date: March 21, 2017

“Our Survival is Locked in his Past”



My Take:

Marked by tragedy at an early age, Cal Lynch (Michael Fassbender) is a convict facing capital punishment when he gains an unexpected second chance at life thanks to the mysterious workings of Abstergo Industries. Through a revolutionary technology that unlocks the genetic memories contained in his DNA, Cal is sent back across the centuries to 15th Century Spain. There, he lives out the experiences of his distant relative, Aguilar de Nerha, a member of a secret society known as the Assassins who fight to protect free will from the power-hungry the Templar Order. Transformed by the past, Cal begins to gain the knowledge and physical skills necessary to topple the oppressive Templar organization in present day.

I have never played the video game, so I have no frame of reference when it came to this film adaptation. The trailer for Assassin’s Creed didn’t really offer much, and frankly, I’d completely forgotten about it until it arrived for review. The film’s opening attempts to offer an overview of ages old battle between the Assassins and the Templar Order. It does, I suppose, but when the main character, and those attached to the modern-day version of the Templar Order are introduced, there is a sketchiness to the narrative that is cleared up on some levels, but not on others. As the film plays out, there is a frenetic element, that results in incoherence, with respect to the shifting back and forth through time, as well as the intentions of those on both sides of the equation.

I enjoyed the attention to detail that went into the production design, stunts, and attempts to remain faithful to the essence of the video game. The action is fine, although nothing we haven’t seen before. The cast is terrific, and make every effort to bring their respective characters to life. Unfortunately, Assassin’s Creed lacks a definable enough narrative to make for a wholly gratifying film experience.

Released in 2007, Assassin’s Creed dropped players into the heart of the Crusades, imagining a world in which the bloody, centuries-long war between the Assassins and Templars had defined much of human history. The game became an instant blockbuster, spawning no fewer than eight sequels and a slew of popular spin-offs that have sold more than 100 million copies worldwide. The series has transported players to the Italian Renaissance, the foundation of America, the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean and revolutionary France.

Replay Value:

Parental Guide:

The rating is for intense sequences of violence and action, thematic material and brief strong language.

AUDIO/VIDEO – By The Numbers:
REFERENCE = 92-100/EXCELLENT = 83-91/GOOD = 74-82/AVERAGE = 65-73/BELOW AVERAGE = under 65

**My audio/video ratings are based upon a comparative made against other high definition media/blu-ray disc.**

UHD Presentation: 74
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Dolby Atmos Rating: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Ultra HD Blu-ray has finally been released and eager enthusiasts are ready and willing to see what it has to offer. For those not familiar with the details regarding Ultra HD Blu-ray you can refer to my article that includes some pertinent data on the subject. Here is the link:

Ultra HD Blu-ray Has Come to AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Assassin’s Creed comes to Ultra HD Blu-ray from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 2160pHEVC encoded video and lossless Dolby Atmos/TrueHD 7.1 channel sound that has an average bitrate of 5 Mbps.

For its presentation in Ultra HD Assassin’s Creed (derived from a mix of 6.5K and 3.4K sources) was rendered from a 4K DI. With the limited exposure to Ultra HD sourced from a 4K Digital Intermediates we are left to judge based upon what we have seen thus far.

I began with my review of the Blu-ray version of Assassin’s Creed before moving onto the Ultra HD version. First and foremost, this isn’t a bright or colorful film, predominantly adhering to relatively cooler, teal/sepia splashed, chromatic schemes, which doesn’t make for especially eye catching levels of color. This is intentional, in trying to keep with the stylistic aesthetic of the video game. Fleshtones looked about the same, which is to say, a bit pallid, but not overtly unnatural. Shot digitally, resolution is generally strong, although I wouldn’t say there was a noteworthy uptick in sharpness and detail compared to the Blu-ray. Upon closer inspection, I could make out finer details in facial features and clothing, but this predominantly came during close ups. On occasion, discernible improvements in depth could be seen in wide angle shots such as those taking place in the cavernous modern facility or the stone structures in 15th century Spain, but in most respects, I saw only incremental differences in apparent resolution when comparing select scenes from the UHD and Blu-ray.

I also found the presentation to be very tame in terms of its use of dynamic highlights, both bright and dark. I found only a few occasions where the presentation made visually compelling use of interstitial black levels offset by vivid bright elements, such as the chase through the tunnel in chapter 18. Predominantly speaking, it bolstered streaming/natural lighting schemes, that looked fine, but not appreciably vibrant, given the subject matter. Overall there was a murkiness to shadows, and many of the low-level images appeared flat when compared to the better presentations available on the format. I am sure that much of this is owed to the original source and stylistic choice, but truth be told there is little about this Ultra HD presentation that impressed me.

Assassin’s Creed has a very solid 7.1 channel surround mix on Blu-ray, so I wondered if the immersive experience would truly improve upon it. In listening to the Dolby Atmos surround mix I found it to be of the moderately active variety that made steady use of the platform. Its use of audio objects placed above is a mix atmospherics and discrete effects. This is done to very good effect and creates a tangible level of immersion that coincides with the onscreen events. During the extended chase sequence in chapter 12, the mix generates a noticeable improvement in dimension and depth of field. Audio object placement, from both above, and in the ear level listening plane are put to effective use. The various sounds and atmospherics in Abstergo’s facility feel more realistic in terms of their acoustics and size.

The music score is mixed throughout the soundfield adding a notable boost in presence. In comparison, the 7.1 channel mix in noticeably enveloping, but the Atmos mix raises it to the next level. I also noticed that the Atmos presentation added a bit more low frequency punch. This was the case across the board, with even subtle sound effects having more tangibility.

Blu-ray Video:

Video: 86
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

 

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Audio: 92
(Each rating is worth 4 points with a max of 5 per category)

  • Dynamics:
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  • Surround Sound presentation:
  • Clarity/Detail:
  • Dialog Reproduction:

 

Assassin’s Creed comes to Blu-ray Disc from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring 1080p AVC encoded video that has an average bitrate of 24 Mbps.

This film has a distinctive visual aesthetic that utilizes sepia, de-saturated colors and high contrast. There are lots of darkened interior sequences/lighting geared toward setting the mood and tone of the subject material. Flesh tones are slightly impacted appearing pallid and lacking tonal divergence. Blacks are deep but occasionally on the muddy side which can leave them appearing flat. Detail in dark backgrounds and shadow filled areas is appreciable which give many of the dingy interior shots better depth. Images are cleanly rendered, allowing for revealing subtle detail during close up camera shots. The wide-angle shots of the Abstergo facility, and exterior locations have good dimensional quality and definition that leaves backgrounds appearing resolute. Overall this presentation appears to faithfully represent the original source, which in and of itself, doesn’t make for the most visually compelling viewing experience.

The lossless DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack has solid dynamic range, detail rich clarity, and makes ample use of the entire surround platform to drive the film’s elements. The detection of subtle background sounds, off camera cues and spatial dimension within the room’s acoustic environment is notable. The low frequency effects channel is active as the subwoofer works in tandem with the rest of the system to convey the palpably rich bass and dynamic impact associated with the action based sequences. Dialog is firmly planted in the center channel and renders voices and effects with appropriate distinction. I enjoyed this audio presentation and thought that it complimented the source material.

Bonus Features:

  • Disc 1: Assassin’s Creed Ultra HD Blu-ray
    Disc 2: Assassin’s Creed Blu-ray (Plus Bonus Features in High Definition)• Legacy of Assassin’s Creed – Justin Kurzel, Michael Fassbender and Marion Cotillard discuss the legacy of the iconic video game franchise and the original story created for the film – 8 minutes• Becoming an Assassin – Michael Fassbender and the rest of the cast explore the training required to become master assassins – 6 minutes• Tools of the Trade – The filmmakers discuss the inspiration behind the design of the costumes, hoods and weapons, as well as the signature hidden blades – 9 minutes

    • In the Realm of Realism – The Assassin’s Creed cast and crew discuss the recreation of 15th century Spain, as well as modern-day Abstergo – 9 minutes

    • Swift Moves and Stealth Maneuvers – An inside look at the incredible team behind the film’s action sequences, defying gravity with parkour and “leap of faith” stunts – 8 minutes

    • Deleted Scenes Conversation with Justin Kurzel & Christopher Tellefsen – Director Justin Kurzel and Editor Christopher Tellefsen look back on the scenes that didn’t quite make the cut

  • Conversation with Justin Kurzel (4 segments):
    1. The Score
    2. The Cut
    3. The Effects
    4. The Story
  • 10 Deleted Scenes including an alternate ending
  • Gallery
  • Theatrical Trailers
  • Digital HD Copy

Final Thoughts:

Based on the popular video game of the same name from Ubisoft, Assassin’s Creed is a middling big screen adaptation that suffers from a disjointed narrative that fails to thoroughly develop its plot. It comes to Blu-ray in the Ultra HD Combo Pack from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment featuring unremarkable video quality, excellent lossless sound, including a complimentary Dolby Atmos immersive mix, and a fan friendly supplemental package. I hoped for more, but ultimately found Assassin’s Creed, to be a letdown.

 

 

Ralph Potts
AVS Forum Blu-ray Reviews

Reference Review System:

JVC DLA-RS500 3D/4K Ready High Definition Front Projector
(Calibrated with Calman 5 & C6-HDR Meter from Spectracal)
Stewart Filmscreen – Studiotek 130 G3 100” 16×9 Screen
Carada Masquerade Electronic Horizontal Masking System
Marantz AV8802A 13.2 Channel Audio/Video Processor
Sherbourn Technologies – 7/200 Seven Channel Amplifier
B&K Reference 200.7 Series 2 Seven Channel Amplifier
Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray Player
Sony Playstation 3 Blu-ray disc Player
System Controller: Apple iPad/iRule Pro HD Universal Remote Control
Canton “Ergo” and Canton In-Ceiling Series Speakers
SVS Ultra Surrounds (Gloss Finish in Bipolar Configuration)
SVS PB-13 Ultra (Rosenut finish)
SVS SB-13 Ultra (Piano Gloss finish)
Panamax M5400-PM Power Conditioner/Surge Protector
Wireworld, Better Cables (Silver Serpent) – Audio/Video/Speaker Cabling
Cool Components – CP-CP102 cooling package

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