Why So Serious?

Christopher Nolan is one of modern cinema's most visionary and talented filmmakers. This was obvious from the first time audiences saw Memento, and was confirmed when he delivered the equally excellent Insomnia and The Prestige. Batman Begins was a revolution for the comic-book superhero, taking the origin story of one of the most iconic characters and placing it in the context of a serious, masterful, worthy drama that explored the ideas of legacy, duty, redemption, righteousness and honour. So when Nolan's much hyped follow up Batman film, The Dark Knight, hit cinema screens last year, nobody would have been surprised to be watching an excellent film. But what the film did was so much more; it again took a potentially camp concept (a superhero dressed up as a Bat fighting a chaos loving Evil Clown) and turned it into the best crime epic since Michael Mann's Heat in 1995. Seriously, this film had everything: Stunning IMAX camera work, great action scenes and production value, a powerful and exceptionally rousing musical score by two master composers, a visionary director working with an excellent, hard hitting script; and last but certainly not least, an unfaltering ensemble of performances by great actors. Christian Bale brought a sense of honour and pain to Bruce Wayne. Aaron Eckhart capatalised on his promise and all-American everyman charm to bring us Gotham D.A. Harvey Dent as a man torn apart by loss. Maggie Gyllenhall delivered a romantic interest performance of considerable restraint. Gary Oldman's Gordon is the best performance he has given in recent times, an extraodinary portrayal of a man bound by law and an unshakeable need for justice. Veterans Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine are simply brilliant in comic relief roles. And of course, the standout showy role went to the late, great Heath Ledger, who won a thoroughly deserved Academy Award for his spine chilling performance as The Joker.

This was the best film of 2008, and should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, especially as two of the nominees were the highly overrated The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Reader. As it was, it was rejected for a shot at the top prize, a travesty of modern cinema.

Why do I go to such great lengths to stress what most people know, and take for granted? Well, I was talking to a friend recently who bemoaned the lack of a video game license for The Dark Knight. I shared his sentiments at first, but then reconsidered when I thought about it sometime later. Why would you spoil cinematic perfection with a video game that could potentially sour the source material, a la Batman Begins.

And to elaborate further, I looked at the list of all the films that have been honoured with the Best Picture prize at the Academy Awards. Only three of the winners have ever had  videogames based on them, one of them being The Lord of the Rings; Return of the King, which swept the Oscars in February 2004. This was an obvious exception to the unwritten rule, as Return of the King was also a blockbuster film that was heavily marketed and had all sorts of licensing agreements attached. The other two, incedentally, were The Godfather and The Godfather Part Two (even though the connection between Godfather 2 film and game is sketchy at best) I mean, would anybody really buy figurines or a video game based around A Beautiful Mind?

And really, how would a video game of The Dark Knight be any good without any of the elements listed above? It works as cinema, NOT as a video game. EA cancelling it was a good move.

Inspired by this topic, I thought about which Best Picture Films would work the best (and worst) as modern console video games (please note these are more recent winners):

WORST

5. Crash
Drive around as Chris Ludacris Bridges in a stolen car, harass Sandra Bullock's racist digital likeness and beat up goofy Brendan Fraser in dramatic mode a la Gods and Monsters. Oh, and shoot an innocent Mexican girl with blanks whilst playing as an angsty Arabian shopkeep. Fun.

4. Schindler's List
 Steven Spielberg's masterful Holocaust drama as source material for mass entertainment? I don't think so.

3. Shakespeare in Love
Let's prance around in ye Old Shakespearean times with Ben Affleck and Joseph Fiennes and Gwyneth Paltrow, collecting hearts and playing through a stupid and thinly veiled rip-off of Romeo and Juliet posing as a biography of the Bard. Oh, and there will be amusing catchphrases and minigames with Geoffrey Rush. Yippee! Not.

2. A Beautiful Mind
Russell Crowe as your avatar. Need I say more?

1. Driving Miss Daisy
The film charts a life-long friendship between an angsty (becoming a running trend?) white upper class woman and her black limousine driver. They explore racial tensions of the time and get along splendidly. This game would be the equivalent of an abortion.


BEST

5. Million Dollar Baby
Okay, so it's really depressing at the end. But Clint Eastwood's boxing saga has the potential to be such a great sports game due to its story and the multitude of fights and enemies to beat down. And there's the potential for alternate endings! :)

4. Gladiator
The Roman Gladiator Epic has been done a few times now as a game, but why couldn't we get a game based on the film that started it all. Oh, and Russell Crowe as your avatar. Need I say more...?

3. Unforgiven
Another Clint Eastwood film that won Best Picture. This one has the potential to be a GUN or Call of Juarez style Western Revenge Story.

2.  No Country for Old Men
The Coen Brothers thriller has a little action and plenty of suspense, and has potential to work as a solid action title. The assistance of evil villain Anton Chigurh would help, as the game could explore his other exploits as well as tracking down the film's protagonist Llewellyn Moss.

1. The Silence of the Lambs
A wonderful, confronting thriller that has so many scenes that could be translated to gaming levels. The prison scene with Jodie Foster could turn into a breakout, and you have the only gun! Hannibal could finally have his old friend Doctor Chilton for dinner. And there could be great mini games, with some guava beans, and a nice chianti. Fifififififififififififififififfffffffff.

If there's any others you think could work, just let me know and I'll post them in an upcoming blog.

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Contemplating Satan

Or, games based on movie licenses, that is. Fresh from playing the brilliant yet very short Wanted; Weapons of Fate, I decided to look back and explain my history with these games, and why they sell so well.

I begin with a confession: At the work, there was a 360 copy of WALL-E; The Videogame that was badly scratched and needed to be checked out to see if it played alright. On the outside, I accepted the job with reluctance - but really, I was curious to check it out to because I had really liked the movie. What occured after that was me playing WALL-E, and after finishing the game in 3 hours, I stood up and said to myself, 'That was pretty crap.'

I had expected nothing at all. Games such as the terrible Fantastic 4; Rise of the Silver Surfer and the underwhelming Batman Begins (which I believe needs to be re-played and reevaluated by me!) had dented my confidence in all licensed games. The unexpected saviour was Peter Jackson, who commissioned the brilliant Michel Ancel (of Beyond Good and Evil fame) to make a game based on his upcoming film, King Kong. The resulting game was amazing, full of tension, intrigue, terror, suspense and ape carnage. It was also over in a paltry 5 hours. The same goes for the WALL-E and Wanted games; both are great, but over WAY too quickly. WALL-E can be justified because it is for kids, but King Kong is a M-Rated Movie. Wanted is MA15+! Surely more substantial gaming experiences are needed for more adult, older audiences!

Having said that, I've never played Superman 64, which I am truly thankful for. But I have played Superman Returns. And that is why I will never trust a movie-licensed game until I play it for myself.

 

Have a good weekend everyone. 

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Stupid Game Franchises that NEED to be Made #1

GEORGE FORMAN'S PRO GRILLING CIRCUIT 2010

For years now, EA has been dedicated to bringing us sports games with full rosters, great variety and a high attention to detail. Why not then, could George Forman not get in on the action. The ex-professional boxing champ has had his fortunes rise and fall, so what better than to license an entire game about one old Georgey's marketing spin offs? Instead of My Career, there can be 'Mah Dinna!' mode, where you make terrible cheese and chutney sandwiches to the tune of the Rocky theme while Forman screams amusing catchphrases like 'George Forman Grill, George Forman Grill, If you won't cook my dinner, George Forman WILL!' and 'It's a hot sauce knock-out. WITH CHUTNEY and CHEEEEEESE!!'.

Needs financing. Now. I will take all your kind monetary donations and keep them in my bank account until EA emails me, at which point, I will give them half as incentive to make the game. The other half? I could use a pool...

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An Odd Thing Happened on the Way to The Godfather (sequel)

If you've read my review of The Godfather 2, you'll know that I didn't enjoy it. NOT. ONE. BIT. (To quote my esteemed colleague The Joker). It's funny, because first impressions were good and I was wondering why I felt I was enjoying it until I realised I was wasting my time.

Let me punctuate this odd little tale with some context: I work at Blockbuster. Working at Blockbuster allows me to rent the newest games and keep them as long as I want. Its cheaper than buying them, I can finish them and get all 1000G withouyt paying a cent. So, when EA's sequel to the video game The Godfather rolled in, I felt it best to give it a fair go.

In my Games Lair (see bedroom), in which my 42 inch TV, Wii and 360 reside, I sat down and sank a good three meaty hours into The Godfather 2. I was enjoying myself; the gameplay was reasonable, the gunplay quick and violent and the strategy element seemed all well and good, if a little daunting. Taking a break from the game to eat dinner, I decided to research the game on the Internet. Unfortuantely, the first site I checked, which shall remain nameless (Gamespot) gave the game a paltry 4.5/10. My opinion of the game sunk, and I don't think I looked at it the same way again.

So, upon my return to the game, I took this critical eye and discovered that the game world was of a paltry size (nowhere near as big as the first). This really sunk my opinion of the game, and if I had discovered this factor of the game while I was playing it instead of after reading the review, perhaps I could have added a few stars onto the score I gave it.

And the weirdest part was, I started to hate the protagonist of the game as well. Dominic, who you can tailor to look like whatever you want, was a fairly good everyman, except I found myself cringing when I heard the henchmen say his name. 'Yo, Dominic!' 'Wassup Dominic!' And I was thinking, 'Gentlemen, shut your mouths goddamit!'
I hated Dominic even though I had made him look like a porn star (more on that in my review).

So, in closing, don't let the negative press surrounding The Godfather II cloud your interpretation of the game. Go out and play it anyway. Just because I made the fatal mistake of being influenced by reviews it doesn't mean this game shouldn't be played. It has a place in the market. Maybe next time I should finish the game before reading the press. Come up with a totally unbiased point of view. My review for the game still stands, but if you feel I was swayed then add an extra star and a half to the score I gave it. Or even better, review it yourself and stop reading me bitching about nothing!

Peace.

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Our Overkill is Under Attack (by Conservative Families!)

Here is an article I just read from an Australian Newspaper called The Age.

House of the Dead: Overkill, released by Sega for use with the family-friendly Wii console, is full of gory scenes.

Players mow down waves of mutants, leaving a trail of lost limbs, gutted bowels and heads with shattered brains.

The MA15+ rated game is also peppered with vulgar language, including the f-word 189 times, a record that has made it into Guinness World Records - Gamer's Edition.

"The gaming industry has been mischievously misrepresenting the classification system on this issue," said Angela Conway, director of the Pro Family Perspective.

"I feel very distressed that a large number of teenagers and adults would play this game and soak up this amount of sexually aggressive violence and aggressively violent language."

Ms Conway is calling for a study of the type of impact games such as House of the Dead: Overkill have on youngsters -- and adults.

"We need to draw a deep breath and look at the research, which will show a need to scale back this level of violence," she said.

A spokesman for Sega, Vispi Bhopti, defended the game.

"House of the Dead: Overkill has been rated as suitable for people over 15. It is not an R-rated game,"he said.

"The swearing in it is very much stylised so it matches the Grindhouse cinema style made famous by director Quentin Tarantino.

"In playing the game, players attack zombies or humanoid characters but never humans. This is an important distinction that the classification board makes when it gives a rating."

But Ms Conway believes the current MA15+ classification isn't appropriate for games such as House of the Dead: Overkill.

"Given the increasing amount of knowledge now available of the effects of exposure to intense levels of violence on the adolescent brain, we should be reviewing the level of violence the MA15+ classification now allows," she said.

***


If you've read my review online, you'll know I love this game. I love it a lot. I'm not sure what you all think, but I reckon people need to get a life. The Wii is for everybody, not just for small children. I own one, I'm not a small child!!! There have been many violent games over the years, and I don't believe that House of the Dead; OverKill is the worst of them. MadWorld was released, and in my opinion is a lesser but far more violent production. Why aren't they targeting that?

I laughed when I saw that House of the Dead; Overkill had got that Guiness World Record though. But no, then they hyad to go ahead and badmouth a wonderfully inventive filmmaker like Quentin Tarantino in with these games as well. These uber conservative family-obsessed weirdos have placed all their vitriolic hatred in the one cauldron and are trying to boil Overkill, Tarantino and Media Violence all together in the pot. Please, people! This isn't communist Russia, we're allowed to view this content!

I believe that the Australian Ratings Board is critical enough already. Leisure Suit Larry; Magna Cum Laude was banned in Australia. So was Narc. Postal. Manhunt. A list of censored games includes Fallout, GTA, Silent Hill and many others. Please just let us have our games and you can keep your outrage and angst. We know how much you love those things.

Finally, I would just like to say that I myself used to be fairly conservative in what I viewed, what I played, and how I ran my life. But you know what? This content is not for small children. But it is appropriate for those over 15 (in Australia at least). I love Australia, its a great country to live in and be a blood citizen of. Just please leave our violent games alone.

Rant Over.

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Finally Finished Fable **CONTAINS SPOILERS**

I have being playing a lot of Fable 2 lately, and finished it last night. It's a great game, full of action, adventure, tension and emotion. It is, without a doubt, the most poignant game I have played on my 360, and it came as somewhat of a surprise. When I first popped the new disc into my machine, I was thinking I would be the ULTIMATE BAD-ASS, slaying monsters and innocents alike. I played the entire game through in that fashion. The guide, Theresa, was always there as the influence of good to the evil I was committing. Which leads to me to my first observation.

I was surprised when my dog, who I named Murphy and was fond of, sacrificed himself for me at the hands of Lord Lucien. It hurt a little bit. Each time I dig up treasure or open a chest now, I always miss having the dog beside me. After killing Lucien, I chose the option of wealth (being an achievement junkie, I cheated and got all three ending achievements by quitting out and redoing the short passage of gameplay). This meant I would not have my dog, but would have ONE MILLION gold to spend on whatever I wanted. This was all well and good until I realised that there was a money cheat and I could have saved my dog AND been rich. Too bad I guess. I'll have to play again and choose a different path, so I can see the dog again.

What really freaked me out though was the fate of Theresa. When Lucien was defeated, Theresa said I could rule all of Albion; BUT THE DARK SPIRE WAS HERS. She had previously shed light on the catastrophic damage that the Spire could cause, the evil it contained. What a sinister end for the "good" character in the game to disappear into her own sinister motives. I also realised later on that she may be up to something in the franchise's next installment, as I could NOT swim out to the Spire at all. THE GAME WOULD NOT LET ME.

All in all, I really enjoyed Fable 2. Having not played the last installment I didn't really know what to expect, but now I'm hooked completely. I have over 700G on it and I hope to get as close to 1000G (cant get the "Completionist" achievement due to lack of dog *sniff*) as I can.

Highly recommended, my full review coming soon.

Catch.
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