Passengers

Posted: 05/01/2017 in Films
Tags: , , ,

Passengers is a scifi action film released the tail end of 2016. Starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence, we follow the starship Avalon as it transports 5,000 passengers to a new world called Homestead II, a journey that takes 126 years. All passengers and crew are in hibernation pods, due to be awakened when Homestead II is only 3 months away. A malfunction occurs, causing Jim Preston (Pratt) to awaken early – 90 years too early. Jim spends a year on his own, at first delighting in all the pleasures the ship as to offer and befriending the android bartender Arthur (Michael Sheen), but slowly he descends into madness fuelled by loneliness. He finally decides to awaken fellow passenger Aurora (Lawrence), allowing her to believe that her pod also malfunctioned on its own, and they pass the time as a couple. Aurora discovers that Jim actually woke her up, the two fall out, but are forced to put aside their differences when crew member Gus (Laurence Fishburne) awakens, highlighting the fact that the ship is experiencing massive failures across the board. I won’t give specifics to the ending, but that’s the general plot.

I didn’t have high hopes, some of the reviews that have come out have labelled it dull and lazy – reflected in its pretty dismal 31% Rotten Tomatoes score. However, I really enjoyed it. I think the trailer may have miss-sold it as an action film when it really isn’t – there’s maybe 15 minutes of action blockbuster ending but the rest of the film is two people battling and coming to terms with their loneliness and decisions.

It’s not perfect – I wish Jim’s descent into madness and desperation wasn’t just a montage of him growing a beard. The scene where he hugs the spacesuit is incredibly touching and sad, culminating in him almost going out of the airlock sans suit. But it’s padded out with utter whimsy, Jim drinking and generally just moping about. Maybe they didn’t want to bring the tone down too much, but I think they needed to.

This need to crowbar in comedic moments also completely undermines Jim’s decision to awaken Aurora. It’s a stupid, selfish, incredibly difficult decision made by someone who hasn’t had human interaction in over a year. But because we see jokey moments between Jim and Arthur discussing the impending awakening, the decision comes across as a lot more rational than it actually would be.

Lawrence is absolutely spellbinding as Aurora, particularly when she has just awoken and is trying to reenter hibernation, and once again when she’s beating the crap out of Preston. Pratt just about holds his own, but Lawrence outshines him completely, with Sheen and Fishburne making solid additions to the cast.

Overall, it’s visually stunning (the swimming pool comes to mind), emotional and has enough action to keep the pace moving. I can see why people have an issue with Jim’s action of waking Aurora up, but no one can understand the mental state of a person who has been totally alone for over a year. The film has gained labels of ‘disturbing wish fulfilment fantasy’ and ‘a creepy ode to manipulation’, which seems to be missing the point entirely. It’s just unfortunate that Pratt didn’t quite communicate that desperate loneliness as fully as he could have – we didn’t even really get a backstory for him, he was just an engineer who wanted to build things.

If you have the chance I would see it, but don’t expect an action or even a scifi film.

 

Tomb Raider

Posted: 15/12/2016 in Games

Ever behind the trend, I’ve only just finished the 2013 game Tomb Raider. This is for two reasons, 1) I was never a massive Lara Croft fan, as we didn’t really have a PlayStation and 2) I tried playing it when it originally came out and just didn’t get on with it.

The idea is fantastic: show where Lara Croft came from, how she turned into this gun toting tomb raider, and take us on a familiar yet different journey with a much beloved character. The game is meant to be a mix between a shooter and an open world game, so there’s a pretty linear story to follow but you can explore the island to a certain degree. You have various things like relics, documents and GPS caches to find, animals to kill, people to fight and tombs to raid. All sounds good so far.

Now the reason why I couldn’t get on with it first time is two-fold. Firstly, the forced camera makes me feel a bit sick. I am a jerky game player, meaning I swing my camera round violently while doing pretty much anything. Tomb Raider hates you doing this, so you end up spinning around, fighting against your own camera, and usually dying. I can only manage to play about an hour at a time, because it’s either the sickness or the utter fury at not being able to control my own fucking camera that forces me to throw place my controller down. This is especially true when climbing up walls – no I don’t want to see Lara’s arse as she ascends, I want to see what is over the top of the wall in case it’s a bad guy. Secondly, it’s very hand-holdy. Lara has something called ‘Survival mode’ that you hit and it highlights everything you can interact with nearby, making the puzzle less of a challenge and more just follow-the-logical-steps. At times it can get boring.

But I tried again this month and it was… okay. I only spent 19 hours total game time and completed all challenges, found everything and upgraded everything, so it’s a very short game (compare this to my 148 hours on Dragon Age. Yes I have a lot of free time). There are some parts that are fantastic, and the cut scenes as you watch Lara trying to come to terms with what is happening, escaping from bad men, and conversing with her incredibly two-dimensional friends, are particularly good. For the most part you feel for Lara, especially when she loses people close to her, though at times you wish she’d just get on it. The range of weapons is fun, as is the variety of ways you can kill someone. Most of the ability and weapon upgrades are however completely superfluous. The game itself is beautiful, the water/mud/blood effects are stunning, as is the island environment.

The cut scenes do cause a slight dischord between the Lara Croft acting, and the Lara Croft you’re controlling. When you’re controlling her, she can manage ridiculous jumps, fight off 10 bad guys at once, ice pick up sheer cliff faces. In some of the cut scenes, she can barely walk without bursting into tears. I can see why they’ve done it like this – no one wants to control a character that can’t manage to do have the tasks, but sometimes you just want the cutscene to end so you can start being competent and cool again.

The bad parts are, for me, what makes the game just okay. The game really doesn’t like you doing things that it doesn’t expect you to do. Examples include:

  • There’s a part where you can either sneak past a lot of guards, or you can charge in with all guns blazing. I went sneaky until I reached a vantage point and decided (as the element of surprise would be on my side) to change my tactic to guns blazing. I dropped down, and broke the game. The camera went crazy, I didn’t have any weapons out, the bad guys didn’t respond right and the game clearly wasn’t designed to let me change tactics at that point. I died.
  • You can use rope ziplines to get from one place to another, usually over a massive drop. If you jump from a very high place, the game calculates how high you are and decides you will die regardless. So even if you catch a zipline, if you are past the point the game deems appropriate, you die when you try to land from the zipline, even if you’re a foot from the ground. I died a lot.
  • Coming out of weapon zoom takes an absolute age, and if you’re melee’d by someone whilst coming out, you will die, because it simply can’t cope.

It’s things like that which make Tomb Raider incredibly frustrating to play. If you then add in the cutscenes where you have to press buttons at exact moments, which I harbour a special hatred for, there are points where it felt unplayable. I’ve hit ‘y’ when you’ve told me to hit it so why am I still dying? Oh you want me to repeatedly hammer ‘y’ and then violently shake the left stick? Ah that was too violent a shake and I’ve dropped my controller, so I’m unable to press ‘y’ and I’ve died. Again.

tomb_raider_2013_art-1920x1200An important part of the story is Lara’s desperateness and partial helplessness when it comes to her shipmates, who are scattered about the island. Unfortunately, while you understand her pain quite well (she’s a very realised character) the rest of the cast are just faceless stereotypes. The sassy black woman. The spiritual Maori. The haggard old Scottish guy. The blonde floppy haired stupid white guy. Lara also goes from being covered in dirt/blood to being pristine, and vice versa. It’s really off-putting.

The ending. The ending was disappointing for me, more of a whimper than a bang. I suspect you could do the ending with no upgrades (weapons or skills), though I’m not playing it again just to prove myself right. It just all got a bit silly really.

It’s short enough that it’s worth playing, if only for the blood splatter effects. I warn you now that it’s not a cheery game, especially at the beginning. Expect lots of running way, being felt up by creepy guys and getting strung up by your feet. There is a follow up that was released late 2015, Rise of the Tomb Raider, that I may play if I can find it cheap somewhere. There is also a multiplayer mode but, from the numerous reviews I’ve read, it’s pretty bad.

 

If you haven’t watched it yet: spoilers ahead.

Fantastic beasts and where to find them is one of Harry Potter’s textbooks mentioned in the very popular series by JK Rowling. This film concerns the fictional author of that book, Newt Scamander, on an adventure in New York in 1926, and is the first instalment in a proposed series of films.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them

The cast itself is very impressive – Eddie Redmayne as Scamander, Ron Pearlman, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell to name just a few. The story itself is… okay. I found it a bit weak, but I get the impression the film was designed more to show off the fantastic beasts than to actually have a plot.

The basic premise is that Newt comes to New York at a time when something is tearing up the place and killing people. The wizarding community fears that it is an out of control creature that may have escaped from Newt’s suitcase of wonder. Running beside this storyline is another about a family who leaflet and preach about witches and how they live amongst us and how dangerous they are. These two storylines don’t really interlink until the end of the film, and when they do it’s a bit weak. But hey, it’s entertaining enough.

The main issue comes from Colin Farrell, though through no fault of his own. If you’re going to show the bad guy, and then cut to a character with exactly the same slicked back evil hair do, you kinda give away the game immediately. So the plot reveals itself pretty early on.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some things too. Dan Fogler is fantastic as the hapless Jacob, a ‘No-maj’ (non magical being, or ‘muggle’ as we Brits know them), who succeeds in reviving some of that wonder we all experienced when watching the Harry Potter films for the first time. Ron Pearlman is always a welcome addition to a cast, though doesn’t have anywhere near enough screen time. Unfortunately none of the women were memorable, important or particularly cool. Even the President of MACUSA was lame.

fantastic-beasts-and-where-to-find-them-movie-characters

Everything else was just okay for me. Nothing amazed or excited me, and I was ultimately a bit disappointed. Depp’s reveal was interesting, but I couldn’t get over how pudgy he looked – Depp is a slim fellow but for some reason looked very doughy. I think I was meant to find it a lot funnier than I actually did, but again maybe it’s intended for a younger audience.

I have very little else to say about it, and that’s a massive shame. There wasn’t this amazing wizarding world to explore, which is a massively missed opportunity because it’s America in 1926 and we should have got that pushed through at every opportunity. The plot was at best mediocre. The only scene that really sticks out is the mating dance, which was hilarious to watch, and the cockroach in the teapot scene that was again a fantastically put together sequence. Every else fell a little flat.

I’m happy to blame this on loving Harry Potter as a kid and it not translating well to me being an adult. Maybe I’m just bitter that my Hogwarts letter got misplaced, we’ll never know.

 

Organising a wedding is probably one of the worst things that should be one of the most enjoyable. And it pains me to write that, it honestly does. When you’re not engaged you think about how exciting it must be; all that planning, picking out pretty things, food tastings, all the attention from friends and family. And for a moment, it is.

Let’s forget about the actual excitement of getting engaged to the person you (hopefully) love – that is of course amazing and something that will continue to bring on the warm and fuzzies every time you think about it. And the moment you tell your families and see them for the first time after the engagement, the prosecco flows and you excitedly ask your most treasured friends to be a part of your big day.

Most of the above is over and done with within a week, maximum. And then you start the long slog of actually planning a wedding. We’re aiming for around 18 months in the future, which is about the average for most couples. Now imagine trying to stay excited for 18 months about planning this day that is a) going to cost you a butt-tonne of money and b) not actually mean anything all that important. Nowadays the importance and status of being married has kind of diminished, so it ends up just as a big day to celebrate your relationship.

As you grow up you constantly see and hear ‘the bride is the most important thing, you should have everything you want and the groom is just kind of there’, and this is reinforced continuously throughout the process. Most wedding fayres we attended completely ignored my fiancé, others actually commented about him being ‘dragged there’ like he was a mindless drone just trying to keep his nagging, bitchy wife-to-be happy. We watch shows like Don’t Tell the Bride, and Say Yes to the Dress, and then we’re surprised when a Bridezilla suddenly bursts forth like something from Alien.

So first things first, where to start? A basic guest list is a good idea, just so you know whether you’ll need space for 20 or 200 guests. Then you want to get an idea of budget, a ballpark figure of ‘can we only afford a few grand or is this an all-out 20 grand affair?’ This bit is important – STICK TO YOUR BUDGET. Because once you start looking at all those wedding venues, you realise real quick that your budget is laughably small for everything you imagined you wanted. You look at the venue you can afford and think well it’s okay, but it’s not as nice as that castle over there and it’s only 2 grand more to hire. So you decide to go with the castle because it’s what you want and it is your wedding after all.

And then you realise that the venue doesn’t actually cost just 2 grand more. You’ve got to add on food for everyone, and a drinks reception, and if you have a ceremony at 1 then you’ll need canapes with the reception, and what about just evening guests do they need food, and how much drink are we providing at the breakfast – I mean one glass of wine seems a bit stingy but then half a bottle each seems a lot when certain people won’t want to drink all that much and should we have an alternative to wine because great aunt Mildred only drinks gin. This is what organising a wedding is. Sitting, going in circles with these kinds of decisions that ultimately don’t matter because you can never make every single person happy. If they don’t want wine, they’ll buy an alternative. But it ends up stressing you out and I can honestly see why people end up eloping. Thankfully, we don’t have any shitty family to deal with – they all get along well enough.

Budgeting is pretty awful – you budget something small for invitations, because they’re pieces of paper that most people will throw away,  and when you actually look into buying some you’re looking at spending hundreds of pounds for bog standard invites, nevermind fancy schmancy ones.

Back to the concept of a Bridezilla. These are creatures who are just below the surface of every bride, waiting for something to go wrong. You’re on hooks from the moment you book your venue, and those hooks have very specific names for each bride. Money. Family. Food. Expectations. You get the idea. And those things that really mean nothing end up being the things that make you snap.

Take chair sashes. Fucking chair sashes. I didn’t even know that we needed to choose them, but apparently we do. So you go, fine, let’s have purple as that’s our colour scheme. And then you have to choose a pattern, so you just choose whichever. And then you’re told that you can’t have that colour with that pattern. So you just chose another pattern. But that pattern with that colour costs £3 more each than the other sashes do. And the purple isn’t quite the same shade as your bridesmaid’s dresses and that’s a big issue to the person selling you the sashes, so it becomes a big deal for you too. And that’s what makes you snap – something you didn’t even care about in the first place. And then you realise that they’re bloody chair sashes and who cares? No one has ever come away from a wedding and said ‘yeh the wedding was okay, but the chair sashes didn’t match the bridesmaid’s dresses’. But the people around you plant the seeds of ‘you need this for your wedding to be a success, and you want people to enjoy themselves don’t you?’ And this is why Brides get stressed on the day, because the chair sashes that have been delivered are plum instead of Cadbury purple and I ended up giving a lot of my limited fucks into caring about those damn chair sashes so they need to be right.

Of course it’s not all that bad, I am somewhat prone to exaggeration for comedic effect, but it’s nowhere near as fun as I thought it would be. I love organising things, I’ve got spreadsheets and highlighters and ruled paper galore just so that I can organise this big day. But most of the stuff you end up discussing and choosing is just fluff, it doesn’t matter, no one will remember it and you’re only buying it because people think they should have it at their wedding. So you just end up with 18 months of spending loads of money on other people. And for the first 12 months out of 18 you don’t really do anything, once you have a venue, photographer and registrar booked. There’s no point getting a dress that early, you don’t do food tastings, etc. until about 6 months before the date, your tastes might change so decorations and so on should wait as well. You actually do nothing apart from feeling like you should be excited and planning things, but actually not.

Rant over.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Posted: 13/11/2016 in Games
Tags: , , ,

I really struggled to get into DA:I when I first started playing it. It feels clunky, the plot is a bit thin and confusing, and you just kind of wander around doing silly little side quests for villagers that don’t actually mean anything. But, once you work out what you’re meant to be doing and get to Haven, things become clearer and a lot more enjoyable.

The initial battle with Corypheus at Haven is where this game really takes off. You have to save people and there are choices to make and a dragon appears, etc. etc. And then you get to Skyhold, and it gets really exciting. There’s a stronghold to rebuild and people to talk to, agents to acquire and a war table. It turns into this immense open world game that is both amazing and overwhelming at the same time.

And that is its issue. They appear to have put so much thought and effort into the open world aspect, with collecting loot and other pointless shit, they’ve completely forgotten to put any effort into your companions or even the storyline itself!

There are also some issues with controls and abilities. You have two ‘quick fire’ menus that you can map abilities onto so when you’re in a fight you just hit ‘x’ and it does whatever action is associated with that button. In Inquisition they’ve decided that you can only have those mapped abilities during a fight, and over the course of a playthrough you unlock far more than you can map to those few buttons. So there are abilities you have that you will just never use, or abilities you only use in specific situations (such as Dispel) taking up valuable space on the bar.  It’s a really silly way of limiting what abilities you can and can’t use. And any game that hides specialisation options from me will incur my wrath immediately. If Blackwall has a tanking specialisation, tell me that before I put all his points into a completely incompatible tree.

Here’s a list, probably incomplete, of everything you can collect/find/acquire in Inquisition:

  • The usual herbs and ingredients for potions
  • Ores and other materials for crafting
  • ‘Power’ – acquired through completing certain tasks
  • ‘Influence’ – again acquired through completing certain tasks
  • Mosaic pieces
  • Landmarks
  • Mounts
  • Closing rifts
  • Bottles of alcohol
  • Astrariums
  • Shards
  • Regions
  • Weapons/armour/jewellery (the usual loot)
  • High Dragons
  • Quarries/logging stands
  • Inquisition perks
  • Plant seeds
  • Elven runes
  • Monster research items
  • Songs
  • Skyhold upgrades
  • Banners
  • Thrones
  • Bed
  • Drapery
  • Banners
  • Decor
  • Windows

You have 15 different types of bloody drapery to collect and choose from, but heaven forbid that I want actual character and relationship progression within my RPGs. The creators seemed to have taken all the feedback about DA:2 (tiny tiny world) on board, and made a MASSIVE world with lots to do, but then removed the very elements that make Dragon Age a fantastic game to play – the interaction with your party and how your choices can sometimes lead to horrific consequences for them.

In DA:2 there was the very real possibility of a party member either leaving if you pissed them off too much or dying because you make a particular decision. In Inquisition, you have 9 potential companions, as well as 3 ‘advisers’. The companions are the people you take with you to fights and so on, and the advisers work around your war table and do the more far-reaching quests for influence and so on. One of the most important elements for me when I play an RPG is the other characters I interact with, how my dialogue options affect them, how my bigger storyline choices affect them, my romance options, and so on. In DA:I none of it matters, at all. Oh so-and-so mildly disapproves. It doesn’t matter. Behead everyone; it doesn’t matter. Don’t pretend to give me a choice, when that choice actually doesn’t affect anything. You can make the worst choices and just pick mean dialogue options all the time, it really doesn’t matter.

The same is true for the war table. The idea is that you can use your three advisers (Josephine – ambassador, Leliana – spy, Cullen – forces) to complete tasks across the entire world without actually having to go and do them. They have different ways of completing tasks and take different amount of time. However, none of it actually affects what you’re doing. You could do nothing on the war table aside from the main story and it wouldn’t make a difference.

Going back to the actual companions for a second. What made the first two DA games enjoyable were the breadth of characters, their interactions with each other, and at points very sad or complicated back stories. With Inquisition they seem to have gone, once again, for quantity over substance.

Blackwall – one of the more interesting. A Grey Warden you find wandering around the Hinterlands. Good backstory, but none of it really comes to light until you’re almost at the end. Incredibly easy to romance if you’re female.

Cassandra – kinda boring. Again has an interesting moment or two with the Seekers, but ultimately it doesn’t change anything. Difficult ish to romance, have to be male.

Varric – our favourite dwarf from DA:2 is back, but unfortunately he has no backstory because we explored all of that in DA:2. Still good for a laugh. No romance.

Cole – one of the most interesting for back story, but no romance option.

Solas – an elven mage who is notoriously difficult to get on with. No backstory. No romance.

Dorian – a tevinter mage. Interesting enough, a bit of backstory but all felt a bit weak. Easy to romance if you’re male.

Vivienne – another mage. Not really a backstory. No romance.

Sera – the most annoying character in the whole game. My god she’s awful. No backstory. Can romance if female.

Iron Bull – a Qunari, again one of the more interesting characters. Good backstory, fair few cut scenes. Can romance if male or female.

You could easily cut Sera, Solas and Vivienne out of the ‘potential companion’ circle and not lose anything whatsoever from the game. And why do you need 3 potential mages to chose from, especially if you’re a mage yourself? Any character that doesn’t have a backstory that continues to develop as my game develops is ultimately a waste. Here’s an idea: don’t give me drapery, give me backstories!

But here comes the other issue – yes there are a fair few characters you can romance, some are easier than others, but the romances don’t particularly progress as you play. You flirt, you kiss, you have sex and actually start a romance, and then it just flatlines. You’re in a relationship but there are no relationshippy cut scenes like there were in the previous two games. Even Zevran gave me his earring and shit. In my second playthrough I got with Iron Bull and, because he’s incredibly easy, I progressed our relationship very quickly and so had nothing else to do with him for the last 80% of my game. The ending really solidified my thoughts on this. We’re about to have the final battle, most of my companions have a cut scene to say good bye, so surely the person I’ve been banging for the past however long will have something heartfelt and tearful to say? Nope. I got nothing from Bull, at all. Maybe a sentence of dialogue. If I’m going to live vicariously through RPGs I need something more out of my relationships! And they took out the presents, which is a real shame as they added a whole other element to your companions, and affected the like/dislike meter somewhat.

This brings me neatly onto the ending itself. To say I am disappointed is an understatement. This is a game I’ve put a good 80 hours into. I’ve crafted myself (and my companions) the best weapons and armour I could. I’ve upgraded my keep, I’ve changed my drapery. I’ve played Bioware game finales before, so I know I need to prepare. I have a pint of water, a can of coke and some honey roasted peanuts on standby. I check all my companions meticulously (first time I played DA:O I sent Sten into the finale battle with no weapons and still wearing his prisoners rags…). I’m ready.

And within about five minutes it’s over. There’s no strategy that I need to think about. No life-altering choices I have
to make. The party I’ve chosen could have actually been anyone, even faceless Inquisition guards. The fight isn’t difficult, challenging or interesting; the dragons in the various areas pose a far bigger threat. It’s the biggest anticlimax ever, especially considering how well thought-out some of the other major plot points are (I’m thinking of the ball at the Palace, or the attack on Haven). It doesn’t matter that I have the Chargers or the Qunari or the Grey Wardens on my side because none of them are involved.

The ‘wrapping up’ was equally as bad, I made no impressive speeches, no exhausted embraces with companions, nothing. It didn’t feel like I had finally come to the end of a long, exhausting, bloody road, it felt like I’d just completed another battle with a random enemy. The feast at the end was surprisingly small and timid considering what we’re meant to be celebrating, and most of your companions just say a throwaway line to you about sticking around. You do get a final scene with your romance option, and maybe it’s just Iron Bull’s that is pretty weak, but there was no emotion there. You’re meant to be free of this horrid creature that wants to see the world burn, free to rebuild and live your life with your love, but it feels like just another day in the office.

Take the open world elements of this game, put it with the storyline and companion options of the second game and you would have a most excellent, replayable game. As for Inquisition, I don’t think you’d get more than 2 playthroughs out of it, because you realise very quickly that your choices mean nothing at all. Apart from which drapery you have up in your keep, obviously that’s very important.

Suicide Squad

Posted: 16/08/2016 in Films, Reviews
Tags: , , , ,

Now I went into the cinema with relatively high hopes – I assumed the critics were doing their usual whinging about ‘those pesky superhero films’ and while Suicide Squad might not be a cinematic masterpiece, it would at least be amusing, enjoyable and whacky.

Oh how wrong I was.

Director David Ayer seems to have pumped all of his energy into two things – the star (Will Smith) and the hot one (Margot Robbie). Everything else is just in the background, including other characters, setting, plot, dialogue, music, the list goes on.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. What was good?

Will Smith as Deadshot was, as usual, a delight to watch. He can be serious, cheeky, hurt and heartfelt and he brought it all. This could quite easily have been Deadshot the movie, he got a backstory, he wrapped up the film with a touching scene with his daughter and he led the entire gang.

Margot Robbie pulled off a fantastic performance as Harley Quinn. She perfectly embodied my impression of Harley Quinn – every mannerism, her dialogue and especially her interactions with Joker were perfect. Some people have an issue with her being used as simply eye-candy – I think you’re missing the point of her character if you believe that.

Everything else, everyone else, is merely background. That unfortunately includes the Joker. Suicide Squad might be suffering from the same thing the second Avengers film did – just too many characters. Even though these aren’t all fighting for screen time and your attention, the result is still the same – an overstuffed film.

Here are people in the film with some sort of ‘power/crazy’:

 

  • Deadshot
  • Harley Quinn
  • Killer Croc
  • Diablo
  • Boomerang
  • Katana
  • Enchantress
  • Slipknot
  • Joker

All of these are new characters who potentially need a) introducing, b) a backstory and c) enough screen time. A few in the list above do not have any of these, or just get a quick 2 lines of ‘they’re here because of X’. The easiest way to go through is another list.

Killer Croc only gets about 3 lines, and I could understand very little of what he said. The way they made his crocodile-esque torso was weird too, it made him look oodly squashed. I was expecting some hulking 7 foot monstrosity, but no. He gets pretty much nothing from the film.

Diablo does nothing for a while, and then lets rip, which is quite fun. However, his transformation into an actual fiery demon is just bizarre.

Boomerang has a thick Aussie accent that I again found very difficult to understand. He’s meant to be the bad boy scamp, but he comes across more as an alcoholic bum.

Katana is just there really. She is given the standard 2 lines of backstory, but doesn’t really do much in the film.

Enchantress is the baddie, played by Cara Delevinge, and gets the most basic backstory you can imagine. It’s all just a bit weak.

Slipknot. Who’s he again? Oh, the guy who died pretty much immediately. Tells you how much we learnt about him.

Joker. Now I quite liked Leto’s Joker, it almost reminded me of Guy Richtie’s quick talking gangsters from Snatch or Lock Stock. The interactions between him and Harley were fascinating to watch, and I would happily pay to see a film following just them. It’s a new kind of joker, one that isn’t particularly funny or whacky, but instead one that might actually be scary. Unfortunately he only gets about 90 seconds of actual screen time, with some of his scenes from the trailer being cut.

So you get all these guys out of prison and tell them they have to work together to bring down Enchantress. They’re fitted with a pellet in their heads that will explode if they disobey. So for the next 2 hours we essentially get 5 guys just… doing what they’re told. Sure, there’s one or two moments where they do something a little bad guy-ish (like Harley breaking a store window to grab a purse) but that is it. They also seem to like each other far more than I would expect them to – there’s not even a hint of animosity in the entire film.

And that might be my issue with the film. The only bits of crazy, funny bad guy-ness were from the Joker/Harley interactions. Killing for money aside, Deadshot could easily have been Captain America. There was no cleverness, no particular bloodshed, nothing that showed why these guys were in prison in the first place. Viola Davies as Amanda Waller is actually the worst baddie in the whole film, and she’s meant to be a good guy (sort of). She gives a fantastic performance and was the only thing aside from Harley that made it worth watching.

Other aspects of the film were similarly weak. The soundtrack should have been good, but we never got enough of one song to actually enjoy it. It was an overly dark film (though this may have been the cinema’s fault), meaning that on occasion we couldn’t work out who was fighting who. The ending was meh – a big ball of ‘who really cares’.

I was very disappointed, especially considering how much I enjoy the comic book series.

Jessica Jones

Posted: 21/04/2016 in TV
Tags: , , ,

Yes, I have finally managed to finish Jessica Jones. Considering it’s on Netflix, and I could binge it all in one sitting if I so desired, it still took us surprisingly long to actually watch all 13 episodes.

Jessica Jones is another troubled, not-quite-superhero superhero, but there’s a twist – she’s a woman! Considering how unsure everyone else seems to be about making a woman-centered superhero film/tv series, Netflix have just steamed on ahead and made one. Thankfully they’ve focused on a very interesting character with a bit more background and ‘adult’ storylines than others they could have chosen.

Set in Hell’s Kitchen, Jessica Jones runs her own private eye company while attempting to keep the fact she has super strength under wraps. Incidentally, while Daredevil is mentioned in passing, the two do not (yet) influence each other’s series. Jessica seems to rarely get much sleep, drinks way more than any functioning human should be able to, and has a few anger issues. We learn through the first few episodes that a few years ago Jessica was under the influence of a man called Kilgrave, who has mind controlling powers that he can’t seem to control – if he gives a direct order (even without meaning to) the person will follow it to the letter. Kilgrave gives the example of ‘I once told a man to go screw himself’, you can imagine the consequences. Jessica believes Kilgrave to be dead, but he reappears and begins reeking havoc on her life and hurting those around her.

Starring Krysten Ritter as the PI,  Jessica Jones is a completely different approach to the superhero genre – even in comparison to Daredevil, also done by Netflix and set in the same environment. Netflix have tried to present it almost as a film noir, with lots of slow jazz and dark alleyways, to tie in with the private investigator angle, and I must say it works very well. I’m not a fan of the opening credits though, they just don’t interest me. There are points where Jones gives up entirely, drowns herself in a bottle of Jack Daniels, or simply tells people to fuck off. It’s refreshing to see after the 20th smooth talking, smarmy Iron Man film.

Ritter does a decent job as Jones, though it took me an episode or so to really begin to see her as the character. The thing that sticks out most is that she always looked like she had a cold – a slightly red nose/lips, like they were chapped from the wind. Whether this is intentional or that’s just how Ritten looks I have no idea, but it was offputtting.

David Tennant stars as Kilgrave, and he is absolutely fantastic. It’s not often that we get to see Tenant as an evil character (Harry Potter springs to mind) but he is damn good at it. He has an ability to draw you in with suaveness and do horrific things without ever seeming crazed or even ruffled – he is calm throughout – and that is what makes Jessica Jones fascinating to watch. The more you learn about Kilgrave, and the more he unravels through the series, the more interesting he becomes. And that might actually be my main issue – for me, Jones herself became a secondary character to Kilgrave. Jones’ character progression was very subtle and cleverly conveyed, whereas Kilgrave’s desperation gets more obvious with each episode.

The other characters, unfortunately, all blur together. They function more as plot points for Jones rather than standalone characters. Her adopted sister Trish Walker stands out in a few episodes, as does Malcolm Ducasse, but they generally fade into the background when Tennant and Ritter are on screen. I was hoping for more from Luke Cage, but he seemed to be a vehicle for sex scenes rather than an actual character.

The reason it took us a while to finish was because around episode 10, the series seemed to grind to a halt. I understand they were setting everything up for the big finale, and getting us to really dislike Kilgrave on the way, but there seemed to be full episodes where very little happened.

The ending was, for me, incredibly anti-climatic. It was clever, with the ‘I love you’ line, but I can never believe that Kilgrave would only rely on taking Trish in order to proof that Jessica was once again under his control. Surely he would make her kill someone (even Trish) before he went anywhere near her. The entire series built up the idea that Kilgrave took a million precautions whenever interacting with Jones, yet at this crucial point he forgot all of it. There was an overwhelming Oh, is that it? when the blow landed.

I’m not sure if this would have been so successful if not for Tennant as Kilgrave, he does at points carry the entire show, and if they had had a less seasoned actor in that role, I fear it would fall very flat. Ritter is currently reprising her role for The Defenders, and it’ll be interesting to see if Jones can hold her own in a cast of superheroes.

In conclusion, I would definitely catch it if possible, and I look forward to the next series, but I worry what it will be like without Kilgrave to entertain us.