Reviews, reviews, reviews. I love writing reviews, but there’s just so much I want to slag off or praise that I never seem to have the time to do all of them. So let’s pick up the pace a little. I’ve been on holiday recently and been absorbing more culture and media than YouTube does in a year, so let’s highlight some games, movies and shows that I want to talk about, each in less time than it takes to boil an egg. Go!
BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE
Pardon me for asking, but isn’t the abbreviation of “versus” usually written as VS and not just the singular letter? It wouldn’t surprise me if that were the case, because it feels about as well thought-out as everything else in this movie. I caught it for the first time on the plane over, interested to see if this were the legendary train wreck that everybody had told me, and honestly I’m disappointed even on that level. No point-and-laugh marathon like The Room or Birdemic to be found here, I’m afraid.
That said, there are a few moments of unintentional comedy – such as Bruce Wayne’s employee scratching his chin over whether he should leave the building that’s in the path of the black hole machine – but most of the time BVS is just boring or even frustrating. Boring because most of this is stuff we’ve seen before in a more joyous form, and frustrating because there’s a few parts that do work well, but never get space to develop. Ben Affleck captures both personas of Batman better than any recent incarnation, Gal Gadot gets kinda badass when she suits up as Wonder Woman, but neither of them can reach any sort of potential in this poorly-edited mess, brought down several notches further solely by the power of Jesse Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor. Keep twitching and jabbering, Lexy – it might get intimidating if you do it a few hundred more times.
OVERWATCH: LUCIOBALL MODE
Do you like Overwatch, kids?
Do you like Rocket League?
Then good news! We’ve made a tedious compromise of those two games, done by reducing all the scope and variety of Overwatch to just one character and dropping a fairly dodgy physics object into the mix, to be batted around like a cat with a dented ball of wool! Say thanks, kids! This’ll entertain you for whole minutes at a time!
… Thanks, Blizzard. Can we go back to playing the main game now?
STAR TREK: THE ORIGINAL SERIES
Ah, shit – I’m a Trekkie. I always held it close to my heart that even though I wrote about games online, even though I played Dungeons And Dragons, even though I collected rare comic books and memorabilia, I wasn’t a total geek, because I wasn’t a Trekkie on top of all that. There was still some hope.
It’s all changed now. I went into the original Star Trek series thinking that if I did like it, it would be ironically, sniggering at the campness of at all. “Ha ha, Shatner sweats all the time and all the alien women wear glittery miniskirts,” that sort of thing. I practically had a tally ready for all the red shirt deaths that would occur.
But I realised not halfway through the second episode that I was genuinely hooked. Though some aspects of the Star Trek saga haven’t aged well, the basic concept of an exploration ship charting unknown space worked then and works still, an endearing and exciting idea that promises anything and everything on a weekly basis. Not to mention that Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a utopian human society still holds water as a legitimate and exciting idea, with all these concepts working as the platforms for some rather interesting stories and plotlines.
It’s not perfect, of course. The third season is fairly hit and miss at best, certain episodes have very weird editing and pacing, a few of the actors could’ve been working a lot harder; and though progressive in its ideals of a racially-equal cast, the show occasionally gets a little uncomfortable around the female characters and their role in these stories, though no worse than anything else would’ve probably been at the time. But if you can see past those errors, you realise that there’s something very charming here, a rough stone that shines despite its flaws and blemishes. I have to recommend it – it’s just too fun to miss.
THE TRUMAN SHOW
Bloody hell, that was creepy. For those of you who don’t know, the Truman Show was a 1998 Jim Carrey movie in which he plays Truman Burbank, an average shmuck who has been the unknowing star of a global reality TV show since his birth. Confined to a single town solely constructed to be his personal backdrop, and with the most irritatingly convincing hauteur executive controlling every event that happens to him, Burbank has no idea that his family, friends and everybody he meets are only well-paid actors, provoking him into TV-worthy situations all his life. When things start to go wrong on-set and Truman realises that something is amiss, he slowly starts to lose his mind to paranoia, whilst the world watches him break down with gormless fascination.
I was already thinking of The Twilight Zone even before I found out that there was a direct inspiration, and it works very well, with the whole thing having an intentionally creepy, artificial feel that made my skin crawl.
So this movie occasionally made me wonder if it was made to push my buttons, but not in a bad way. It’s very well made and Carrey is really working hard to convince us that he’s on the edge of a psychological breakdown in the second half, but I suspect I was more unnerved by it than I was meant to be. I hate reality TV, I hate having my privacy invaded, I hate the idea of being lied to, and so Truman’s secret prison of Seahaven feels like some ghastly hell to be trapped inside. I actually found myself loathing Ed Harris as Executive Producer Christof, desperate to see him get some sort of comeuppance as punishment for his revolting treatment of Burbank, whom he goes so far as to traumatise and install a fear of water to prevent him from leaving the town.
And that’s where the film flops slightly – the ending. Spoilers for this paragraph, but it HAS almost been out for two decades, so here we go: Basically, what you think would happen, happens. Truman finds the edge of the enormous set and escapes as the world watches, even going so far as to give his signature goodbye to an audience of billions. He leaves, they cheer at his success, change channel to see what else is on… And that’s it. No subversion, no surprise, nothing. I get what Paul Weir was trying to say, that the important thing is that Truman has found his freedom and life just goes on as usual for everybody else, but it still feels like a slightly weak cop-out, especially when there’s been a sense of pressure building for ages before it. I was really hoping he would start screaming a profanity-filled rant at the camera and all of the people who supported his isolation, before storming upstairs and punching Harris in the face. But no, guess we just have to do with the safer version. It really is like the end of most TV shows – an anticlimax.
That’s not a truly damning criticism though, not by a long way. The Truman Show is rather compelling and very intelligent, managing to be one of the best horror films I’ve seen in a while. What’s that? You DON’T think it’s a horror film? In that case, I’d be really happy if a) nobody gives you a camera phone, and b) you stop reviving the show Big Brother for additional seasons, please.
POKéMON MYSTERY DUNGEON: GATES TO INFINITY
Goddamnit. How can something that started off so strong at the beginning of its life end up as this tepid mush on the 3DS? Then again, I suppose it happened to the main Pokémon series too, so you can’t say it’s not fitting for Mystery Dungeon to go the same way.
I played Gates To Infinity when it first came out, and found myself really rather disliking it, yet unable to put my finger on why. Fortunately, I now have a lot of practice at dissecting games to see where the infection lies, and this one has a disease I like to call “Nintendoitis.” Obvious symptoms include the loss of any meaty challenge, the alarming spread of pointless, unwarranted mini-games or secondary mechanics, and the regurgitation of anything popular from previous games in order to try and elicit the same response from players. Oh, and you may notice that your eyes have turned inside out as the result of playing with the 3D function on. Take two cartridges of Super Mario World before and after going to bed, and you should’ve forgotten about this tedious entry in no time.
Yep. Still awesome, still the best game of last year, still one of the best written games in this decade so far. Just thought I’d remind everybody. Carry on.
Sigh… Another film I watched on the plane ride over, nestled between Hail Caesar! and the new Peanuts flick with the embarrassing pop songs thrown in. And on paper, I should’ve been invested in this. I love old-school science-fiction, and Midnight Special looked to be the perfect reimagining of – again – those old Twilight Zone episodes, with a hefty scoop of E.T. and Close Encounters mixed in for good measure. Except that this episode of the Twilight Zone lasts for two hours, and that’s a serious problem.
Christ, I was bored, to the point where my eyes kept flicking to the screen in front where my sister was watching Deadpool quite happily, the lucky bugger. The basic idea of three weirdos hiding from the police and trying to escape across the country with Michael Shannon’s magical child should’ve been interesting, but this film seems to view “interesting” in the same way that a vegetarian views a steak sandwich. At one point Baby Blue Eyes telepathically destroys a surveillance satellite in orbit, the wreckage of which proceeds to obliterate the area around them, and that was exciting, jolting me out of my disinterested half-snooze and making me sit up. But then it’s just accepted that lil’ Jimmy can blow up spacecraft with his brain and everybody moves on, leaving us to witness the continuation of the most awkward car trip that ever was, perhaps excluding The Road by Cormac McCarthy.
The cast are not to blame for this, I should emphasise. General Zod, Mary Jane Watson, Kylo Renn, Rameses II, and the kid who’s been in nothing I recognise are all straining against this stilted, uncomfortable script, trying to validate the weirdly unnatural dialogue. There’s something very Shyamalan-esque about the whole thing, with everybody talking in hushed whispers to try and sell the underwhelming concepts that are being pedaled to us. But it ends up feeling forced and very dehumanising, to the point where these don’t feel like real people any more. Thus identifying with them is impossible, and rooting for them feels like a chore.
It’s not irredeemable by any means, it’s just a decent idea being poorly executed. It’s a little too pretentious and a little too boring, and any child presented as a condescending messiah figure will always go down like a ton of bricks, no matter how many LEDs you put in his eye sockets. I know I’m the minority on this one, but I just wasn’t hooked, even though I really, really wanted to be.
Ah, my permanent on-again/off-again relationship with Frontier’s revived spaceship saga. Why does everybody seem to treat this game with such disdain? I really like E:D, I’ve been playing it since it was released and I still find myself coming back to it. Yes, it’s imperfect. Yes, it’s not very good at telling you what to do or how certain mechanics work. Yes, the matchmaking is woefully poor at hooking you up with other Han Solo wannabes in the Arena mode. But I still love looping through the void and blasting pirates with my phaser guns, and anybody who considers that tedious may just be insane. Treat it with that same “what do I feel like doing today” attitude that takes you through Minecraft, and you should be just fine. It’s exactly the same, except that you blow things up instead of building them, and the creepers have been replaced with supernovas. These things are nearly always improvements.