Archive for the ‘Friday at the Movies’ Category
Authors Note: The circumstances surrounding my having seen this movie early and my review having been written months ago are explained at the end of this review.
Here we go again, another video game movie. That’s all I seem to think about whenever I see anything like Pixels advertised, so needless to say I went into my initial screening with very low hopes. Couple that with the fact that the starring roles belong to Adam Sandler and Kevin James, two actors of which I despise most of their work, and you basically have a formula for what I assumed would be a disaster. Thanks to some lighthearted implementation of some of gaming’s first arcade titles (Pac-Man, Centepede, Donkey Kong, etc.) and the assistance of great supporting cast members Josh Gad and Peter Dinklage, this 80s nostalgia flick just became yet another in a sea of big dumb fun summer blockbusters. If you over think it, this movie falls apart, but if you just go in with zero expectations and want to enjoy two hours, you might be pleasantly surprised.
This week Fred and Jam are joined by guest Fortengard to talk about the world of video game movies. Now, if we just sat around and ragged on them all day we would be just like every other gaming podcast. Instead, we delve into concepts of production, adaptation, and what makes these movies good or what makes them completely worthless.
Note: I promised to post the chat for this show as well, you can find it here (.doc version).
Developer: Midway / Probe Software (console)
Publisher: Midway / Acclaim (console)
Ports: Gameboy, Game Gear, Master System, Genesis, SNES, PC/DOS (all as T2: The Arcade Game)
Digital Release? No (probably due to license issues)
In 1991, the sequel to Jim Cameron’s film Terminator hit theaters and literally launched the careers of Edward Furlong and Robert Patrick as well as ushering in a new generation of computer generated image (CGI) effects. With a monster budget the film was accompanied by a marketing blitz like no other. At that time making an arcade game for the movie was a great and potentially cost-free endeavor (it would make as much in revenue that it cost to produce), which resulted in one of the heaviest cult following of a licensed game I’ve ever experienced. Not only was it a licensed arcade game, but it was also a bolt-on light gun game (which I describe in my Operation Wolf article) that made it significantly more approachable than any other format. For me, it was the “why can’t I beat the damn third level!” game.
It’s quite an expansive experience that takes you through most of the pivotal moments of the movie, including several levels that take place in the post-apocalyptic future and subsequent present day challenges. Like other shooters of its type, you have a primary machine gun weapon and bombs that can be fired off for some of the stronger enemies or to take out clusters. I must admit that at the time it was awesome taking out the original T-800 cyborgs we first saw in the original Terminator and the neo-future setting. Then you hit level three. Most people don’t remember and even fewer talk about the fact that unlike arcade quarter-swallowing titles like Revolution X, level three requires skill to complete and no amount of money in the world will get you past it. This is why most people who have played this game get hung up on or never see beyond the third level. It’s a protection mission where you literally have to memorize the spawn points of the oncoming enemies that seek to destroy the truck John Connor is fighting in. This vehicle is very susceptible to damage and if you can’t intercept the airborne enemies right as they appear you have no chance of completing the level. If John dies, you have to restart with no true penalty. This resulted in long, repetitive, and frustrating replays of an escort mission you never wanted to play. It’s really disappointing too, because the remaining seven levels are both fun and provide much more fan service for those that have seen the movie. These levels are also brutally difficult to the point that I don’t think it’s possible to pass on consoles and requires more than 50 credits on arcades/MAME.
Released: October 24, 2003
Developer: Inevitable Entertainment
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $4-$10 (used), $10.49 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Other Releases: Yes – PS2, Gamecube, and PC and a modified version for the Gameboy Advance
Digital Release? No
No, sorry, this is not the ZX Spectrum game from 1983, but rather the more widespread console release from twenty years later, although I’ve never played the original so perhaps it’s garbage and this is the better choice. Back when the Lord of the Rings film trilogy was nearing its end, a slew of video games hoping to cash in on the wild success of Peter Jackson’s movies released. After sapping all of the film properties, the books themselves became source material for spin-offs and one of the first was based on Tolkien’s prequel book The Hobbit. As a mild fan of the series I always felt that The Hobbit was the better book and overall story, which explains the tale of how Bilbo Baggins became the first hobbit to embark on an adventure with 12 dwarves and wizard Gandolf the Grey. Not only that, but it introduces the ring, odd creature Gollum, and probably one of the only dragons in that universe, the unrivaled greedy dragon Smaug. Despite the semi-decent cartoon version of the book that I had seen in my youth, I was immediately drawn to the playful cartoon re-imagining of Tolkien’s book and despite some major snags in the gameplay department, I was pleasantly surprised.
Developer: Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Played it as a child? Yes
Value: $1.02 (used), $10.39 (new) (pricecharting.com)
Other Releases: No
Digital Release? No
When the movie Jurassic Park came out in 1993, it was an absolute phenomenon. People who had never read the book were picking it up in droves, and from what I could tell through conversation at that time almost no one actually read it. Dinosaur craze returned in full force as Michael Crichton’s novel about a genetic research company cloning dinosaurs on a Costa Rican island brought out the kid in everyone. Not only that, Spielberg’s film adaptation utilized cutting edge computer generated image technology along with stop motion and creature expert Stan Winston to create lifelike dinosaurs onscreen that amazed everyone. Jurassic Park was not only ideal for the medium it was on, the premise was tailor-made for marketing companies to merchandise the hell out of it. Back then development cycles were short and coordinating a solid game release along with a movie wasn’t so far-fetched, and honestly most home ports of the game were as diverse as it came across platforms and all pretty decent. My personal favorite has to be the Sega CD port, which merged details from both the movie and the book to create, of all things, a point-and-click adventure set on the island. The opportunity of exploring the vacant island and interacting with the dinosaurs was a great opportunity, but I didn’t come to appreciate it until I was much older due to the lack of action in the game.
Set shortly after the abandonment of the island in the movie, you’re tasked with returning to Jurassic Park after the tragedy that befell its visitors and recover dinosaur eggs for rebuilding. Since the eggs are lost and you are unaware of Dennis Nedry’s specimen can, your only option is to sneak into the nest of the 12 given dinosaur species, recover an egg, and return it to the incubator at the visitor’s center. While locations remain in a controlled environment (you’re forced into fast travel movies that drop you into the screens you explore), there is an awful lot of freedom to roam about. What I found most iconic is the ability to explore areas like visitor center laboratory and even special access to Dr. Wu’s office, the tyrannosaur paddock and seeing the after effects of the attack on the SUVs that Tim, Lex, and Grant were in, and even a tense trip down the island river (which is never featured in the movie but a crucial part of the book’s plot) as dilophosaurs spit venom at you. While this sounds gripping and almost too high brow for 1993, you must remember that this game is a true adventure game not unlike the LucasArts and Sierra titles, which means action is few and far between. Even in the sequences where you do engage dinosaurs, the answer is always some sort of puzzle that usually has you dying quite a few times before figuring out the secret. I think most people who go into this game are imagining something that is a bit more interactive than it is, but if you approach it with an adventure game mindset it weaves an intriguing story.
Video games and movies, you would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but unfortunately given that the film medium is a passive experience and the gaming medium is an active experience, the hybrid of the two usually goes horribly (and laughably) wrong. This segment will be our weekly realm to appreciate the more “classic” medium of film. Of course, whenever possible I will review a “video game” movie.
It’s almost ironic to me that Jean-Claude Van Damme plays lead character Guile in this film because Mortal Kombat, direct competitor for the Street Fighter franchise, was originally supposed to be a Bloodsport video game. Despite that, and the fact that Mortal Kombat was also made into a film, Street Fighter released to American theaters on Christmas Eve in 1994 up against Dumb & Dumber and The Santa Clause. Director Steven E. de Souza was best known for penning action blockbusters like Die Hard and The Running Man as well as horribly written flops like Hudson Hawk. Street Fighter marked his most known directorial title (he also wrote the screenplay), which probably explains why he isn’t known as a director. In interviews de Souza explains that he did not want this movie to be a simple tournament full of fight scenes – side note: he stated that decision was due to the flop of Super Mario Bros. a year before and its apparent faithfulness to the game, which proves that Hollywood did not pay attention to video game details – and instead created an interesting international terrorist film. To its credit, the overarching plot isn’t bad, albeit quite overcomplicated and tries way too hard to integrate as many people fromSuper Street Fighter II as it can, not to mention Guile’s horrible lines. Despite being a worldwide commercial success (it made just under $100 million in combined worldwide theatrical release against its $35 million budget), the film was destroyed by critics and gamers alike for having slight nuances in both worlds but failing to implement either in a decent way. In fact, if it weren’t for all the praise to Raul Julia’s performance as M. Bison the film would have nothing positive for critics at the time to talk about.
Video games and movies, you would think the two would go hand-in-hand, but unfortunately given that the film medium is a passive experience and the gaming medium is an active experience, the hybrid of the two usually goes horribly (and laughably) wrong. This segment will be our weekly realm to appreciate the more “classic” medium of film (thanks to the large number of hits my Prometheus review received). Of course, whenever possible I will review a “video game” movie.
Oh, The Wizard, how I love you so despite what anyone tells me. Sure, it’s nothing more than a big commercial for Super Mario Bros. 3 and a blatant ripoff of Rain Man, but that doesn’t change the fact that I love this movie to death. Before the Internet, we gamers would soak up any and all forms of information on video games and due to the lack of content available to us (magazines cost money, you had to be registered for newsletters, and we couldn’t linger in the gaming area of Sears forever). I had a subscription to Nintendo Power and I knew that SMB3 would eventually grace our shores, but Japan got the game a whopping year and a half before us! As soon as they revealed that the game was going to be featured in the movie, it was an instant must see for my friends and I. It’s pretty hilarious too, because in the movie the big reveal is that the finals for the Nintendo World Championship would feature this game and everyone goes crazy given that it’s a never before played game. As an audience, we all knew the game would be in there and shredded through the first 90 minutes of exposition to get to that point. When Jimmy played those legendary first few levels of SMB3, though, the entire pathetic journey was well worth it. For fans of the film, how the hell does Haley know everything about this “unseen” game as Jimmy plays along, including what the flute does?
So technically this has nothing to do with video games, and in the past I tried to avoid off topic articles, but then I realized I own and maintain this site and can therefore do whatever I want. As a result, here’s a movie review!
Not another prequel. That’s all I could think when I first heard of Prometheus, which started life as a prequel to the movie/series Alien. Don’t get me wrong, I love Alien and the series that followed, but prequels always exploit countless plot holes, look so much better than the originals that supposedly happened after said prequel, and origin stories such as this are doomed to disappoint. Fortunately, this isn’t as much a prequel as it is a separate story that crosses paths with the Alien series and holds its own when considered a standalone film. I need to be very clear when I say this because it seems few who went to the movie this weekend seem to understand it: this is not intended to be a prequel to Alien nor is it part of the Alien series despite having many obvious connections. In fact, this was a great sci-fi romp that is recommended for most film fans other than those seeking an Alien film.