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Podcast: What Did You Expect?

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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).


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Friday at the Movies: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (Arcade)

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T2TheArcadeGamepromoConsole: Arcade
Released: 1991
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.

Hosted at Universal Videogame List www.uvlist.netIt’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.

T2_arcade_2

There are plenty of people out there that adore Terminator 2: Judgment Day but as for me the impossible nature of the third level remove all desire to tackle this game.  At the same time, all you need is a pencil and paper to record where each ship spawns from and the level should be a breeze (they never change, always the same patterns).  Still, even with only three levels played, this is a great shooter in the Terminator universe, but  I still can’t let the frustrating third level go.

Home Ports

t2_snesThis title was ported to most home and portable consoles as the retitled T2: The Arcade Game due to the Terminator 2 game that had nothing to do with the arcade.  While I don’t see much of a point to the gameplay on the Gameboy or Game Gear, the Master System, Genesis, and SNES ports are faithful recreations.  You are forced to use the gamepad on the Master System, but I think that is a better option than trying to rapid fire the Light Phaser at the speed T2 requires.  On the Genesis you could use the Menacer, which I didn’t care for, and on the SNES you can use the Super Scope and even the mouse that came with Mario Paint (a great way to play, might I add).  Graphically they all look close to the same but the different graphics modes on the SNES (especially Mode 7) allows that port to look and act quite close to the arcade game.  Basically if you have a choice, go with the SNES version.

Written by spydersvenom

April 26, 2013 at 11:00 am

Friday at the Movies: The Hobbit (Xbox)

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hobbit_boxConsole: Xbox
Released: October 24, 2003
Developer: Inevitable Entertainment
Publisher: Vivendi Universal
Instruction Manual: Not Necessary
Difficulty: Easy
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.

hobbit_bilboshire

The Hobbit was touted by Sierra as one of its newest “entertainment experiences” but it was really media company Vivendi publishing it for a developer Inevitable Entertainment (which would the following year be purchased by Midway and become Midway Austin for the Area 51 re-hashes).  As a newer developer – Inevitable’s only other title was Tribes: Aerial Assault, which garnered quite positive reviews – and one that had only done a first-person shooter, The Hobbit was an odd choice as a 3D platforming adventure game.  As a result the strengths and weaknesses learned from developing a title like Aerial Assault come through, like the platforming (a large part of the mobility focus of Aerial Assault), but hand-to-hand combat was weak to say the least.  You can also tell this was a game that was planned first by the license and then adapted into gameplay form based on the developer’s ability to craft levels out of the story.  In this regard, and I stress this as one who has read the book countless times, the decisions were quite odd.  There are several levels where you’re jumping around caves and forests fending off creatures and insects while major plot points like an attack on the dwarven camp or a harrowing escape from Gollum get bypassed in cutscene.  There is also an annoying save system that requires you to check into certain spots within a level and every death results in going back to your last save.  Finally the overall campaign is stripped down in most levels to nothing more than a fetch quest or a killbox for a brunt of the adventure.  Couple that with the fact that it’s clearly a licensed product cashing in on the success of another, there’s no reason this game is supposed to be good but to my surprise I like it.

hobbit_smaugMany of the areas in The Hobbit are set pieces we don’t see in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and the overall adventure spans fewer years and area, so it was a first glimpse at many of them.  The focus on areas like the watertown or dwarven caves that are thriving (as opposed to the abandoned ones in Lord of the Rings) was also a welcome addition.  I also like that the game is catered to a completely general audience, so there’s absolutely no fear of letting a child play or watching you play resulting in a devastating conversation or learning something inappropriate (unless you count the swearing that would undoubtably come out of my mouth when I die).  It just has a bright atmosphere and charm that allows me to forget the game design is weak, which is a pass few other games (American McGee’s Alice also comes to mind) can get out of me.  It’s a bit nipicky, but I also like that Gollum is the dark, drab cave-dweller that I always remembered him as in the books and cartoons as opposed to the pathetic faux-hobbit he was transformed to in the movies.  I have ready the books many times and I don’t remember Gollum, even when he converted to Smegal, having such a drastic appearance change between the stories.  My favorite level, the cinematic sneak to and battle with Smaug, is one of the best looking set pieces I’ve seen in a game to date (not necessarily from a tech perspective, but from an art design one).

The Hobbit was not well received back when it released.  Although some would argue that a 5-6/10 is an “average” score, most venues of the time considered a 7 or higher to be as such, and from a critical level on simply the elements of the game and not the combination of all these parts I can see where they were coming from.  It was a dark time for the 3D platformer – all games that weren’t Mario were getting sneered before the package was even opened and even Mario Sunshine couldn’t get through unscathed – so it doesn’t shock me that this licensed knock-off so-so platformer was bashed by review staff.  I’m not suggesting that reviewers had pre-conceived notions and I understand how easy it is to look back and attack words from the past, but I remember even back then thinking that reviews and previews were a bit harsh on the title (there was plenty of Internet video game coverage by this time).  Still, I think it holds up as a lighthearted collect-a-thon from the days of modern 3D platforming and I argue that the graphics competed with most games of the era.  Just to make sure I haven’t been too blinded by memory, I replayed the game in its entirety (as I do with all the games covered here) and even captured it with commentary.  I have included those videos below just in case you’re interested and I do warn that since they are “in the moment” gameplay commentary there’s a bit of swearing, but I keep the bad language somewhat to a minimum.  It may not have been what most gamers wanted, but I feel The Hobbit was a great preparation for this week’s release of the film in theaters.

Friday at the Movies: Jurassic Park (Sega CD)

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Console: Sega-CD/Mega-CD
Released: 1993
Developer: Universal Pictures/Amblin Entertainment
Publisher: Sega
Instruction Manual: Helpful – Link
Difficulty: Easy
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. 

Graphically the game is a bit poor, forced into graphics that are predominantly accomplished through the Genesis and benefits very little except for a few moments of 3D rendered cutscenes and actual MPEG video.  I didn’t have any large issue with the cartoon style graphics and it felt no less menacing when confronted with a charging triceratops, fending off an aggravated T-Rex, or having a pack of velociraptors surround you.  The game gives you a real-time twelve-hour game clock, which is more than enough time to complete the game – once I knew what to do I could tackle this title in about 4-5 hours – but for first time adventurers I can see this as a daunting task, especially because puzzle solutions aren’t always logical.  Parts of this game also feel pieced together, like the random side views on the river and highly rendered locations in the lab, which are best explained in this article I found from one of the devs.  It tells the tale of a wide spectrum idea that includes 3D rendered models, various camera viewing angles, and lots of content that about 3/4 of the design doc were stripped for this more streamlined process.  Probably a good idea considering this title would be lost in the world of half-completed for certain had the concept not been wrangled back in to something that’s a bit more established.  Each dinosaur has habits and behaviors that I can confirm (see above referenced article) were programmed into the game and rely on certain knowledge to overcome the “puzzle” of getting an egg.  While there isn’t much video, the one place you’ll see it is pretty cool in my eyes: they hired well-known paleontologist Dr. Robert Bakker to speak in a museum-like short educational video for each species.  These short vids revealed information on the dinosaurs’ behavior and helped you figure them out, although I must admit I still had to look up how to overcome these guys.  I forget which magazine it was, but I’m pretty sure it was Player’s Guide, had a complete 3-page walkthrough that was essential in my eventual completion of the game.  I suggest everyone play this game with a guide handy.

In a genre, time, and film that screams action, Sega decided to utilize CD technology and create a mildly educational adventure game about a lone scientist on an abandoned island of dinosaurs.  It’s a Sega CD game based on a movie in a niche genre and yet I’m sure there were executives who wondered why it didn’t sell.  As for me, it stands as one of the top titles you must pick up if starting a Sega CD collection and thanks to a low price tag, it won’t break your bank as well.

Written by spydersvenom

November 16, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Friday at the Movies: Street Fighter

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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 HawkStreet 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.

My biggest gripe is thatStreet Fighterbreaks a cardinal rule in storytelling: the script writes its own conflicts into the plot.  To be more specific, Guile is the catalyst for every bad thing that happens in the film and I often refer to this movie as, “Guile screws over everyone”.  Here are some examples (spoiler alert):

  • In the very beginning of the film, Bison has hostages he’s holding ransom for $20 billion, but doesn’t make any threats towards any of the hostages until Guile jumps in to mock and threaten him.  In addition, Guile decides to also call out to his buddy Charlie (Carlos Blanka) and tell him they’re coming.  This in turn is responsible for Bison choosing Charlie to turn into the beast as a message to Guile.
  • Guile gives away Cammy’s identity and eventually leads to her capture with Bison and subsequent lack of personal revenge, only to claim that revenge for himself.
  • The ransom is about to be paid and every hostage will be safe until Guile, now dishonorably discharged, decides to storm Bison’s compound instead.  While this may have potentially stopped Bison’s funding, he puts the hostages in a position to either be immediately executed (which probably would have happened in a real crisis) and definitely endangers their lives when he destroys the compound and has little to no regard for the location or safe extraction of these hostages.
  • When he sees Blanka has become a monster, he decides to shoot his best friend in the head rather than let him live on.  Dhalsim offers to stay with him and allow them both to die in the exploding compound.  So basically he causes Blanka to become a monster and then sentences him to death because of it, some friend.

Putting all those little plot holes and various other horrid decisions aside, it’s an entertaining movie.  My advice is to go into it with no expectations and just pretend it isn’t a video game movie.  No super moves were used, there’s almost no fighting (every time an opportunity comes up someone else interferes), and it takes over an hour for anyone to wear outfits from the game.  At the same time, Raul Julia has an absolute blast with the role – impressive considering he was in excruciating pain from stomach cancer at the time and would pass away before the film’s release – and many have said it was a fitting end to his life and career.  To be clear, not because he was in a cheesy video game movie, but rather because he had fun in his final days acting in a role he took solely because his kids begged him to.  I also find it interesting that Cammy is played by Kylie Minogue and that de Souza claimed her character was the hardest to cast because she has nearly no lines and can be written out of the entire movie with ease. 

My regret is that there are almost no references to the video game at all, including the dodging of fight sequences, which is exactly why I watch these movies.  Fortunately the one nod in the film is so blatant and impactful that it almost completely excuses this: for the final shot all of the live actors stand in the winning pose of their character from the game.  Apparently a sequel was in the works and in the home video and DVD release of the movie there is a scene after the credits of Bison coming back to life, but I highly doubt given the events since 1994 that this will ever happen.  Still, it was an easy film to attack that in hindsight is far from the atrocious film adaptations of other games we’ve seen since then.

Written by spydersvenom

June 29, 2012 at 11:55 am

Friday at the Movies: The Wizard

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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.

This movie poster is exactly like the gaming magazines fo the time, busy as hell.

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?

That’s not to say that the end is the only reason to watch The Wizard nowadays, heck no.  The reason to watch now is because it’s like a time capsule of the late 80s gaming world, where you get to see things you can’t possibly imagine in today’s gaming space.  Lets start with the movie’s lead, Fred Savage, whom few would recognize today but back in 1989 was a huge child star with the success of The Wonder Years.  I’m sure Christian Slater and Beau Bridges wish this film weren’t on their resumes and fellow child actress Jenny Lewis is even relevant today as the lead singer of the band Rilo Kiley, but in those days they were just people playing roles that no one cared about.  Also featured in the movie is a killer soundtrack that includes songs like Hangin’ Tough by the New Kids on the Block and a personal 80s favorite of mine, Send me an Angel by Real Life (which is featured heavily in the movie’s road trip montage sequence).  Now that I think of it, that scene is probably the only reason I like the song at all.  Kidding aside the biggest draw for me these days is seeing all the classic games and gaming conventions we had to deal with back then.

We meet Lucas Barton early into the film, sporting a lavish logo t-shirt with a splash of pink neon and some killer shades, who owns “all 97″ Nintendo games (yes, back then that was the North American library) as well as the “so bad” (“bad” meant “good” in the late 80s) power glove.  To be clear, the power glove doesn’t work at all like it’s described in the film (and we covered it and all the NES accessories here), but I forgive Universal for lying to me in a movie, it’s what film studios do.  You also notice that the only way the kids find out about tips, tricks, or even a Nintendo World Championship (which didn’t exist at the time and would later be implemented) is through gaming magazines in truck stops and restaurants.  Yep, that’s how it worked in those days and just like few revealed in the movie imply, it was such a busy cover you just skimmed the pages until you saw something you liked.  Later in the film they actually call the Nintendo help hotline, which actually existed, although I don’t think they were paying the $2.99/minute that we did at home.  There’s also a ton of games in the film including: Double Dragon, Ninja Gaiden, Rad Racer, OutRun (arcade ver), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (the brutal original NES one), Zelda II: Adventure of Link, and of course, Super Mario Bros. 3.  Not only that, this is probably the only movie to keep everything authentic in terms of gaming – all smoke and mirrors regarding the power glove aside.  Normally in movies when you see someone playing a video game the game, sounds of the game, and even console and controller of a game are incorrect.  Re-watch Fear sometime and notice that in one scene the kids are playing Super Street Fighter II on SNES with the sounds of some early arcade game coming out and holding Playstation controllers, it’s hilarious.  In The Wizard, you actually see them play the true NES version of Double Dragon, complete with a section that had us all frustrated and the sounds from that moment in the game intact.  Shocker, they actually simply captured the game and used it.  Granted, it is a video game movie, so you have to wonder how hands on Nintendo was and also why they weren’t quite as hands on with the Super Mario Bros. movie.

Not only is the retro gaming a draw, but this film is loaded up with all the politically incorrect content of the 1980s.  Throughout this romp you will see scenes involving the benefits of running away, death of a parent, social insensitivity towards autism, benefits of hitchhiking, teenage drinking, kidnapping, teenage gambling, and for good measure they throw in a little child molestation humor.  I mean c’mon, who doesn’t love a good old-fashioned “he touched my breast!” joke in their video game movie for kids?  I guess in closing what I can say is that you absolutely have to see this movie once, if only for the time capsule nature of it. Unless you’ve never been on theKing Kongride at Universal, then you have to get your hands on this right away.

Written by spydersvenom

June 22, 2012 at 3:23 pm

Friday at the Movies: Prometheus Review

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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.

On the surface the plot entails a pair of scientists who think they have discovered the organic creators of human life, including what planet they can be found.  With the help of a rich company’s sponsorship, then embark on a mission to discover these beings.  What they discover is far more than they bargained for and for some reason no one imagined the dangers that obviously await our travelers. I can appreciate the simple but far from unique setup for a movie of this type, but it’s not really a thriller as much as it is a social commentary on the responsibility of creation.  In short, it’s more Blade Runner than Alien.

As the plot progresses we are faced with a slew of questions and unexplained events that – sorry to say – don’t necessarily get answered.  Those that prefer complete thoughts will undoubtedly be frustrated with this type of storytelling and I can personally say its somewhat irresponsible of the writers to present information that is either hidden for a potential sequel or merely arbitrary.  On the other hand this is nothing new for Ridley Scott or the films he creates, so in a way we should have seen it coming.  Unlike Scott’s other films, however, the movie suffers little pacing issues and maintains progressive actions during its surprising more than two hour length – normally Scott fills us with suspense or exposition for more than an hour only to give us an intense close.  Also the film ends with what almost appears to be an incomplete thought, like someone beginning a sentence only to get side tracked and complete a different story.  This accounts for the obvious Alien connection that held responsibility for the genesis of this project and further proves that the lines between the concepts were not clearly drawn.  I felt the connections to that series were unnecessary and held Prometheus back from realizing its true theme – although I must admit that if everyone from critics to crew had been mums on the Alien connection it would have been an interesting discovery when first watching the film.

Don’t let these hang-ups hold you back too much, though, because Prometheus is solid sci-fi storytelling at its roots and the plot holds deeper concepts and meanings.  A fine example deals with the juxtaposition of an android David (Michael Fasbender) getting treated horribly by its creators who are seeking their own creators in search of some sort of validation.  No such treatment should be expected based on the example we see, but humans nonetheless feel that they matter because of some odd sense of self worth.  Concepts such as these are why I love seeing films by Ridley Scott – and yes, I’m aware he doesn’t write many of his films, but the projects are still hand selected, I assure you.  Additionally the art direction holds surprising variety for a planet that is basically a shell of a world and the cinematography is perfect for capturing exactly what we need with the action sequences.  Fassbender and Theron tend to steal the show from the other players as leads, which I assumed would be scientists Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green).  It’s too bad because I loved Marshall-Green inThe O.C. and was really hoping his performance here would net him future projects, but I didn’t see anything dynamic.  Rapace on the other hand delivered a solid performance, but the script never really gave her a chance to demonstrate true reliance – there is one scene of strong independence, but it is immediately replaced by her being yet again the weakest link.

I hate to sound like the filmmakers when I say this, but curb your expectations and go into Prometheus with an open mind and a desire for science fiction – if you do this the film should not disappoint.  If you are looking for some epic beginning or closure to the overall arc of the Alien series you are doomed to hate the resolution, mostly because the focus of the film shifted to no longer telling that story.  Still, the movie is set up to tell at least a few additional tales so who knows, this may be the start of another successful franchise.  As for the Alien series, isn’t it best we let that sleeping dog lie?

Written by spydersvenom

June 11, 2012 at 12:00 pm

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