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10:45 AM on 02.03.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Gamer (2007/2010)



I figure it's time for me to move on to a general film regarding our favourite pastime. Gamer was a big budget movie with seemingly indie promotion, stirring up buzz on a few websites and failing to see widespread for years. Its Tomatometer is very low, in the single digits, I believe. Does it deserve it?

It is the near-ish future, and a man named Ben Castle has brought interactive entertainment to the next level. His two hit games, Slayers, a multiplayer shooter, and Society, a simulation akin to Second Life, have taken the world by storm. Both games rely on a special and unique tecnology, in which players control the bodies of other humans.

But it's okay, because the ones being controlled in Society are "actors", paid volunteers, and the ones being controlled in Slayers are death row inmates who have a chance to get out. If a contestant wins 30 consecutive rounds, the inmate is released. Obviously, this hasn't happened by the start of the movie, but one close to winning is Kable (Gerard Butler).

From then on, it's a conspiracy thriller much in the vein of Equilibrium, where Kable teams up with the Humanz, a group led by Ludacris fighting against the mind control technology Castle may be planning to implement, in order to get his wife and child back from Castle.



Most of the "game" stuff is well implemented. The idea of VR control in massively multiplayer games and a new breed of FPS is an exciting prospect indeed, and they make it seem likely in some manner. They also kind of "get" it, but at the same time, they don't.

For example, they acknowledge what ping is, and it's a sticking point for one of the fights, but the creators don't seem to understand that if ping that cause several seconds of delay in a match exist, it's not professional. Pro gamers work in lagless environments; to have lag in such an event is dumb.

One of the side Slayers also teabags another...or at least that's what the other characters tell us. They got the fact that it's merely crouching repeatedly down, but it looks off, too forced, especially the way his arms are also up in the air and how everyone says, "that guy got teabagged".



While the games front is solid but flawed, there are a lot more problems with the rest of the movie, but chief among them is a lot of the acting. Castle, played by Phillip Michael Hall, or whoever he is (Dexter) acts in a very intrigiung way, miming a blues classic while Kable fights a bunch a goons in his house, but he's not very authentic, which makes it a bit awkward.

The most annoying character is easily John Leguizamo as another con in a similar situation as Kable. He simply does not shut up, constantly muttering to Kable and just being an annoying wad. He doesn't take up a huge part of the film but he certainly leaves a bad taste. There's also a Terminator-alike who's as dull the wit of Brink's AI.

The biggest problem, however, is the pacing. The first half is fairly balanced, having exposition and mystery in between each round of Slayers. However, after that chapter ends, the film moves far too quickply, wrapping up pivotal plot events far too quickly. The mind control mechanic that took Castle years to implement is literally dismantled with one touch screen click. The last 10 minutes finish the movie so fast it's embarassing.



Gamer is fairly ambitious, however. The aesthetic and mood liken to a more gratuitous Blade Runner, although when I say gratuitous I really mean it. The technology is sort of interesting and the overall vibe is quite original.

The pacing is kind of crap, but it's a nice short curio. Certainly not worth all the hate. Mileage will certainly vary, but overall, I enjoyed it and I recommend a rental when you're bored.

2.75/5   read


11:16 AM on 01.25.2012  

Ode to a fallen icon: The times of Micah C.

Earlier, this happened. For the uninitiated, Micah C(armichael?) was an editor at Blistered Thumbs, a videogame website most notable for housing Angry Joe. Take that as you will.

But Micah's is an interesting one, a certainly very wayward individual in the crazy world of videogame journalism, and I'm bored, so let's take a break from my movie reviewing habits and take a small look at what should have been one of the field's most controversial contributors.

First off, how does he tie in to Destructoid at all. Let me start you off with this link. And this one. And this one also.



He does not like Jim Sterling very much. Sift through his blog and his Twitter feed and according to him, Jim could do nothing write. He did not know how to play games, how to look at them properly, how to analyse them, how to review games, how to report news (to be fair, I think this is true). Jim's immoral, rude, disgusting. In his final days, he even went for the weight remark. And yet, he contested that he did not hate Jim and may have grown to like him if they had ever met in person.

Micah was a proud man; very proud; and as you can see, excessively so. He claimed to not hold a grudge against anyone, and yet ceaselessly reported on Jim; I asked what he thought of the Mario Kart 7 review and he, like the rest of the idiots, thought there was a problem. He claimed that facets of a game were objective and inarguable, yet called Deadly Premonition a game with a bad story, which makes it clear he didn't play through the whole thing before judging it, something he hates. This indie reporter asked us not to be surprised when he "called us out" for certain things he deemed wrong.

There was something about his passion that became alluring to me over time, as well as his pure difference to everyone else out there, which makes him similar to Jim. He certainly held himself on a pedestal, and I get the feeling he had some contempt for a few of his fellow writers. One of the names is absent in the final farewell, though this may just be due to forgetfulness, which sadly isn't unwarranted; Shaun Kromwell is not very prolific as a writer, and he's a brony.



As for Micah's writings and opinions himself...

He professes that he tries to write completely objective reviews, and puts out indisputable scores, yet he awarded Dragon Age 2 his number 3 spot on his GOTY list and wrote what I consider to be a very skewed review on MW3. Whether or not his logic has basis in reality, I think we all agree that Dragon Age 2 was not wholly received very well. Critics and regular gamers alike gave it mixed reviews. It doesn't matter who was right. The point is that with something this inunanimous (is this a real word?), claiming to have the final word is downright insulting. People scorned his review for obvious reasons, and he didn't take all of it lying down.

As for Modern Warfare 3, I think if you read the review, you might have the same thoughts I did, that this seems like more of a way to stir up attention. He stated later that if he was being completely personal, the game would have received a 2. If we're playing by his "objective guidelines" book, a 2 would implying completely broken mechanics and no fun at all. And I realise he didn't actually give it a 2, and had no intention, but it still seems a bit sensationalist if you ask me. I almost felt like he was judging the community and wanted to get back at them.



Ah, yes. His major design philosophy to his work. I made a short remark about this in one of my comments on another community blog about objectivity, but I basically said there that player experiences and expectations are too different for anyone to claim to have all the answers. Trying to write for an audience wider than yourself is a noble goal, but you cannot possibly reach everyone. It's a fool's errand.

So why did he walk away from the game entirely? Did he grow disillusioned with all that was wrong with this field, much like Ben Paddon moving on about a week ago? His final tumblr post hints that there was pressure from his friend, who may indeed be Paddon asking Micah to follow in his footsteps. It also potentially hints that it was less than amicable, that talking about it would lead to some "big internet drama". But I can't really imagine this going on with anyone at Blistered Thumbs, unless Shaun did something bad enough to be left off the farewell list. But I highly doubt this. Shaun is a docile and inoffensive person.



Did he simply get pissed off enough at Sterling's antics to think that the whole field could never come back from his corruption (my hyperbolic interpretation of his thoughts, not mine)? Only two men know the answer, I think, and that's Micah and God.

Well, he's religious. I don't have much of a stance.

To wherever Micah may go, I don't think I will hear from him formally again, unless I become really invested in MMA. There was a lot of questionability regarding Micah, and yet...my heart aches for his passing. He was passionate, interesting, different, a cut above the rest. If this blog seems excessively negative towards him, know that I do like him all things considered. He tried, dammit. He cared and he tried.

How about a musical tribute to to end it?



Oh yeah, that's another thing. He claims that the Jimquisition theme song is annoying, and then puts All That Remains, Slipknot and Chimaira on his playlist. WWWWWWHHA   read


10:12 AM on 01.23.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)



Straight-to-DVD tie-ins to coincide with upcoming hyped material are nothing new. Degeneration was released some time before Resi 5 to get people excited for it, and if it turned out to actually be good, all the better, eh? So how did it fare?

Set between Resi 4 and 5, the movie's first half deals with Claire Redfield and a bunch of other survivors, including refugees from biological warfare, being besieged in an airport after a T-Virus loaded aircraft plunges into the building. Trapped, she then calls upon help, which comes in the form of, alongside some militia types, Leon Kennedy.

This first half, although timid in nature, is not bad. It's zombie horror-ish enough, and no worse than some of the other zombies coming out at that time (Diary Of The Dead? What?). It gets by on fan service rather than actually being a good movie, as it's way too tame to have any tension, and the writing's as blunt as anything Anderson's movies ever put out, but at least it's inoffensive.



It's also worth mentioning the 3D animation that is the entirety of the film. It's not bad, but you can see the numbers running the machines sometimes. The lip-synching is pretty terrible, though this may be due to the English dubbing coming off an engine designed for Japanese voices. The faces emote fairly well, and it supports the action scenes well.

The second half? Distinctly different in form. The rest of it is essentially Leon, Claire and one of the militia members, Angela Miller, going around trying to find out why this and why pharmaceutical company WilPharma failed to step in and help those infected with the T-Virus. The movie at this point is very slow-paced.



I personally think it feeds enough interesting narrative points on a regular basis to not get boring, and the Resident Evil canon is interesting enough, especially considering as it has a pretty good link to Resident Evil 5, which was a big deal at the time. I presume this movie's sequel, Damnation, will have something similar when it arrives sometime this year.

I also like some of the plot points in particular. The villain is a tragic one, similar to that of William Birkin, and with characters holding similar sympathies towards him.

However, far from the first half, there's no action until the last 20 or so minutes, in which there's some light zombie-ing as well as a fight between a tyrant and Leon, which looks like something that could have been in Resident Evil 4. Maybe in the upcoming game.



The action is pulled off pretty well, although it clearly signifies that the old, plodding ways of the older games were way gone in favour of the overblown antics of 4 and 5, which is a lot of why 5 didn't do so well over the years, critically speaking.

So yeah, fair to say that if you take this film too seriously, you might not enjoy it. And yet, if you don't, the deliberate storytelling might have you feeling bored long before the end of the film. I don't know. I like it, but I understand the hate all too well, and I have a feeling that this film will not hold up well at all come Resi's sooner-than-you-think 20th anniversary.

Still, credit where it's due; they got the voice actor of Leon from Resident Evil 4 back, despite the fact he was absolutely terrible and everyone knew it.

3/5

And with that, we are done with Resident Evil, until the next few films are released of course. Thank God!   read


12:03 PM on 01.21.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

Look at this thing: fucking Matrix!



So after two movies away from the director's chair, Paul hopped back in for Afterlife. Maybe he was tired of the movies he was writing getting critically panned and figured maybe he could recapture his glory days of at least making watchable films.

SPOILERS: He doesn't.

Afterlife kind of kicks off where Extinction left off, with Alice's clone army raiding an Umbrella facility and kicking all kinds of ass, before Wesker strips the original of her superpowers in one feel swoop (way to play it up then take it all away with little payoff, by the way) and Alice, along with an amnesiac Claire Redfield, meets up with a bunch of nobodies, as well as Chris Redfield (don't worry, it doesn't go much places) in a police station in a non-arid city overrun by the walking dead. The rest of the film is an effort to escape as well as to ultimately find Wesker and the rest of those captured by Umbrella.



Hang on, there are a lot of zombies, but what happened to the T-Virus drying up all the water? Did the writers realise how stupid that was and rewrite that? No, that would be giving them too much credit. For you see, Afterlife comes complete with the dull dialogue and narrative you've come to expect since the beginning of the franchise.

Again, why should you care about these people who are barely in it long enough to be rote roles? Some of the ways these people die quickly are stunning, like the movie wanted to hand the actors their paychecks and shove them out the door. The worst one is one Asian bloke getting smashed by the executioner Majini as made famous by Resident Evil 5's first level. Of course they would highlight that, because at this point, the Resi movies are only for plebs. God, I feel dirty saying that.



The action? There hasn't been this much gratuitous slow-motion since the Matrix trilogy, with the fight with the executioner in the shower room being embarassing indeed. Everywhere else, some fake special effects are used in place of practical ones to really hammer home the feeling that there was no craft to this movie, just a lust for money.

There isn't a lot to say about this movie, because there's almost nothing to it. The first half hour is so slow compared to the rest of the film, but that just makes it boring. The film does not improve by that point, however. It merely changes the way in which it sucks.

Really, the only noteworthy things to mention are the incredibly deliberate cliffhanger and a "homage" to the stupid bit of the first film, in which Alice kicks a giant shard of glass (which does not shatter when hit) into a dog's gaping jaw. I wasn't really mad at that point, just tired of the bullshit.



That sums up this movie well; I've expended all my energy hating this franchise in its earlier entries that I have few feelings regarding this one beside a desire to simply see it disappear forever.

And stop using A Perfect Circle so much: Keenan doesn't even want that much attention, let alone deserve it.

1/5   read


11:41 AM on 01.19.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Extinction (2007)



"You bitch. You dropped my baby", said the bum-like woman as she held a shotgun to another woman completely devoid of emotion.

Must I go on?

Some time after the events of Apocalypse, the T-Virus has spread across the globe, turning much of the US (or the world...I forgot) into an arid wasteland where everyone dresses in rags and scavenges in order to survive. And there's a woman who uses shotguns on a motorbike again. And she has a dog by the name of K-Mart following her around. And now whoever directed Mad Max has a viable ligitation case.

Much of the movie is Alice, Carlos from the last movie, someone named after Claire Redfield but actually has none of her character traits, the aforementioned K-Mart who isn't actually a dog in the physical sense and some other no-names wandering around a movie set in Nevada, presumably, first merely trying to survive and then trying to escape from Umbrella who is tracking Alice.



I gotta admit, a lot of the actual sequence of events in this movie has since slipped from my mind, but let's just say that the utter retardation factor of the last movie has been ramped up yet again. Alice's superpowers, more than just enhanced speed and strength, turn out to be psychic powers allowing her to bend fire or something. Really, what were the writers thinking when they put that in there?

Y'know, forget about the links to the game, tenous and near non-existent as they are at this point, this is just a bad movie. The story starts ripping off Mad Max and then rehashes the first movie all over again, but even worse than that was pulled off.

The characters are completely forgettable, the action scenes are too fake and drag on for too long, the set design is ugly and repetitive...I don't see how people can really like this movie on any level, even on a slocky tongue-in-cheek one. This just stinks of shoddy workmanship across the board.



One of the last few scenes of the movie is Carlos sacrificing himself, blowing up a truck to decimate a large number of zombies so the rest can escape. His final action is lighting a cigarette as zombies crawl into the truck. It's not that cool, it's just corny and lame and stupid and gay (the derogatory one, not the sexual tendencies one, and I only say that because this is a hot topic at the moment kind of).

The climax of the film involves a clone of Alice killing a poorly designed tyrant with lasers, exactly like one of the deaths in the first film, before Alice calls up Wesker and the rest of Umbrella's directors telling them that she's coming with an army of clones to kill them.



I mean, this plot is full of holes and just general silliness that I can scarcely believe this really exists. Again, I think even Uwe Boll would be embarrased. At least he tries to shoehorn direct references to the games in. It never works, and you can tell he's a poser because of it, but Goddamn, he tries! This is almost as bad as Transformers 2.

I do not say that lightly.

I realise this was a poor review, but this movie frustrates me whenever I think about it. Crappy concept, crappy execution...

And we've still got one more sequel to go, and eventually one after that!

0.5/5   read


9:21 AM on 01.18.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil: Apocalypse (2004)



The first film had a very mixed reception, but seemed to draw enough action, horror and game fans to being in enough money and demand to start work on the sequel straight away. Paul Anderson, however, retired to the writer's chair and left direction to Alexander Witt, a prominent director of photography in the film industry. That should already give you an idea on what this film is going to focus on.

Starting right from where the last film left off, Alice (Milla Jovovich) wakes up within an Umbrella lab, discovers that the T-Virus had bonded with her and given her special powers, and stumbles outside into a ruined Raccoon City. She then takes a shotgun and cop car and moseys forth to kick some ass.

Meanwhile, elsewhere, the city has been cordoned off by Umbrella and soon outright decides to seal its inhabitants inside and the hordes of zombies with them. However, soon enough, one of the executives cuts a deal with Alice, Jill Valentine (Sienna Guillory), some STARS members and external mercenaries in which he promises them safe passage out of the city in exchange for finding his daughter.

In essence, Apocalypse is a weird retcon of Resi 3, for the first half of the film anyway. It involves pretty much all of the characters within that game, including the mercenaries and even Nemesis. Yes, one of the plot points at the end of the last film was that one of Alice's friends was turned into what we know as Nemesis. At this point, most of us were thinking, "could've been cool. Nice way to introduce dubious moral choices, "do I want to kill what was once my friend" and all that". Yeah...more on that soon.



Most of the actual design is faithful and fine, with about as much gore as was in the last film. The zombies still look good, as do the lickers, and despite taking away his eyes, Nemesis is even pulled off pretty well.

There's little actually spectacular about the film, including the acting, which is as dull as ever, and the pacing's a bit wonky, but it's not terrible or WTF-y much. That is, except for one point in the first half and the entirety of the second.

You could pinpoint the precise moment at which you lose all hope in this series, and that's when Alice burst through a church window with dual shotguns on a motorbike. It's not even that cool in a stupidly hilarious kind of way. It's just insulting. But it gets worse.

I personally threw up my hands in disgust when Alice and Nemesis are challenged to a one-on-one fistfight. Why? This is completely antithetical to the standards of the game or the standards of...well, fucking anything. Nemesis only ever had orders to eliminate all members of STARS; he wouldn't up and do an organised karate match with anyone.



And then, he "remembers" which side he works for and start blowing up the bad guys before getting killed himself, which is meant to be emotional, but the taste of bullshit still in my mouth just eliminated any chance of that.

So our band of heroes, plus the daughter, get away in a helicopter which unfortunately inspires a scene from Modern Warfare 1, and Alice is subsequently captured from the wreckage, waking up weeks later on the set of Alien: Resurrection. It's clear that she's been experimented on once more, as she's lost her memory.

But haha, that was a ruse and she fights her way out of the building to be picked up by the remaining sidekicks. It's then implied that Alice is either a robot or under some form of technological mind control and the film ends on a cliffhanger that will awkwardly transition into nothing in the next film.



Got all that? I don't think my jaw could have been open any wider than in that sequence of events. No tie-in has been this disgraceful. I think even Uwe Boll would have been appaled at the amount of shoehorned mystique in the latter half of the film. It's tolerable up to that point, but utterly garbage past that?

None of those are even the true low points of this franchise. Buckle up, kids. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

1.5/5   read


9:22 AM on 01.16.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Resident Evil (2002)



After taking a break from directing videogame tie-ins, Paul Anderson decided to hop back in the chair to adapt one of Capcom's great modern franchises (well, great in terms of popularity, anyway). Reception at the time was mixed-ish, even between critics and fans alike, but overall it's a decent enough throwback.

The movie is, for all intents and purposes, set just before the events of both 2 and 3, but concerns the same general situation: zombies are loose and wreaking havoc upon the Midwestern burg of Raccoon City, and a small pocket of survivors is trying to get out. This was a concept that Capcom itself ran with quite a few times (Outbreak, several of their novels).

Mind you, most of this film takes place inside one of Umbrella's labs underneath the city, with a ragtag bunch of amnesiacs trying to escape before the computer system, the Red Queen, quarantines and kills them. Chief among them is Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, who starts off with humble beginnings and stays that way throughout the confines of this film. Why is this important? You'll find out in later days.



Most of the film is kind of like a sci-fi horror, similar to Event Horizon or Aliens in structure, with the heroes moseying to their ultimate location, with "freak of the week" threats blocking their way every so often with a death rate of one hero per scene. As far as films go, Resident Evil has been pulled off before and better. Thankfully, the game-ness raises its quality by a large degree.

The zombies are here and in full force, acting as well as you'd want them to, with various other creatures, such as the licker and Cerberus complimenting them. There's enough gore here to keep most ardent fans happy with the visual display, and the characters, while shallow and paper-thin, are mostly believable. Mostly...?

The whole series is known for majorly jumping the shark at every oppurtunity, and it's the fact that Resident Evil 1 doesn't do it much that makes it the best in the series by far, but it still has this one awkward moment where Alice does this flying Bruce Lee dragon kick into a zombie dog, which looks nothing short of utterly flipping ridiculous.



Most of the rest of the film is relatively po-faced, with the exception of Michelle Rodriguez who simply cannot stop her tough girl schtick, and the ending. Lord, the ending. Apart from being obvious sequel bait, it also introduces one plot aspect which comes close to betraying some of the games' actual plot. I shan't spoil it until my review of Apocalypse, and some may welcome it better than I did, but it might also blow your mind, especially within Apocalypse itself.

The film, while not terrible by any means, seems a bit too regular and sparse in magic to be anywhere near as memorable as Mortal Kombat was. Resident Evil isn't a bad timewaster, and again, it's easily the pinnacle of the live-action films, but it's by no means essential. Had it a bit more energy and focus, it could have avoided its mixed reception at launch easily. As it stands, it sits in my mind at a rating of...

3/5   read


10:04 AM on 01.12.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)



Oh boy, here we go.

Hot off the heels of the success of the first movie, Annihilation was released to cinemas two years later, directorial duties passing from previous director Paul W.S. Anderson and onto the choreographer of the first film, John Leonetti. Looking through the guy's work, he's been doing movies for years, and will seemingly coninue to do so, but Annihilation is his only directorial work. With a well-deserved 6% Tomatometer ranking, I can imagine why.

The story isn't directly based off any game, but is most in line with Mortal Kombat 3. Emperor Shao Kahn, unhappy with Outworld's loss of the tournament, just says "Fuck it" and storms the realm of Earth anyway in a bid to take it over. Can our intrepid heroes stop him in time?

You might notice from watching the intro that all of the actors in this film, save for Robin Shou (Liu Kang) and Kitana (Talisa Soto), are different from the first movie. Why? A lack of budget, perhaps? The ones that have been replaced were A-list-ish at some point, whereas you'll be starved to recognise anyone here save for James "Ajax" Remar as Raiden. Can these new actors act? Not really.

Shao Kahn loses any sliver of menace he had in the last snippet of the first film, choosing to act like a retard in front of everyone, hamming it up as much as he possibly can. It's even hard tp find it fun or funny; I just had my head in my hands the whole time he was on screen. Most of the others follow similar patterns or are paper thin. Mind you, the actual script that gives the characters their lines isn't much better.

Much of the film is very slow, but still randomly interpersed with fight scenes with random characters from the series. At least the first film often attempted to make their characters more than stopgaps in between our heroes and the climax. But not Annihilation. Apparently, merely splashing a yellow robot that shoots missles from its chest on screen for a short, uninteresting fight is enough to satitiate the fans. Tell that to the aggregate critic score guys.



It's not possible to connect with any character in any way because there are simply too many for there to be any focus. So many scenes are of sole characters doing their thing with other side characters. Each of these is too short, and yet there are so many the movie outstays its welcome very quickly.

But wait! Some of the fight scenes have CGI in them. Sonya and Jax will fight some weird Mileena transformation that never happened in the games because, in a world where fighters get turned into babies, even a skinned duck/reptile/dinosaur thing was too silly. The fight at the end between Liu as a dragon and Khan as...something is incredibly laughable. For fuck's sake, this had money put in to this. Why was the CGI this shoddy and yet so overused? I know this is an old movie, but Jurassic Park and Toy Story were out by this point. There's no excuse.



Sounds terrible so far? Well, it gets worse. The fights are pretty bland and boring, once again failing to use any gore, but at least Mortal Kombat had other elements to compensate. Annihilation is boring as hell and can barely be enjoyed on any level. If it's not even obvious that a film had a $30 million budget within the film itself due to shoddy workmanship all round, you've got a problem.

And as I said, not even ardent fans will be able to dig the references, because they can barely even be called that with how short and shallow they are. Maybe if the film wasn't so straight and threw in a "Toasty!" or two, it could have been saved, but I have to say that this is easily one of the worst films I've ever seen.

The only part I truly liked is when Scorpion's dragging Kitana through a portal, and then he yells to Liu Kang, "Suckkkkeeeeeeerrrrrrr!!" like some dudebro. I should have been offended by the fact that this hardcore, bloodthirsty fighter was doing something so incredibly juvenile and ridiculous, but I was laughing for quite a while and I watched the rest of the film in the hope in that he reappeared and did something like that again. But he never did.



I went into the first movie determined to hate it, but I watch it every year or so now. I hope to never even take a glimpse of this movie again.

0.5/5   read


11:10 AM on 01.11.2012  

Videogame movie reviews: Mortal Kombat (1995)



Mortal Kombat was one of the first movies based on a videogame license to hit the cinemas, and was somewhat widely anticipated as a blend between two (at the time) opposing mediums. Commercially, the film was a success, spawning a sequel (which I will get to). But critics had a lukewarm response to the film, citing the lack of gore as a gaping hole in the adaptation. Were they right?

The plot is basically a retelling of the first game, as well as something akin to the Bruce Lee classic Enter The Dragon. Several of Earth's finest martial artists are invited to a tournament hosted by otherworldly sorcerer Shang Tsung, Mortal Kombat. The tournament will determine whether or not Shang Tsung will usurp Earth's rule for his own.

As a love letter to the games, Mortal Kombat more than succeeds in terms of plot, characters and design. Most of the best characters from the early series, or at least the first game, are here in fine form, their wafer-thin backstories realised from the largely plotless games. Characters act and look like their game counterparts, and the mystical world is fully realised. They even manage to get a pretty good looking (although stiffy moving) Goro. Strangely, this fan service also manages to fit in quite well into a 90 minute movie, containing enough homages but not drowning the movie in them.

As for how these assets translate into a movie...some of it is silly, some of it's generic, but you couldn't call it the worst design you've seen. The two main ninjas, plus Reptile, end up feeling really out of place, seemingly in the movie just to have more fight scenes, particularly Reptile who has a really contrived introduction. The same can be said for all of the no-names, but then they were all background scenery in the games anyway.



The acting ranges from decent to dire. The best roles are the sage and villain, or Christopher Lambert as Raiden and Cary Hiroiyuki-Tagawa (sp?) as Shang Tsung, one pulling off enough snarky comedy within his role of being a serious teacher to be memorable and the other just having this malice to him. The worst actor is easily Miss Veronica Vaughan as Sonya Blade, who simply has no acting range, followed by Kano, who has an Australian accent to rival those from Dead Island.

Ultimately, a lot of what happens in the film is stilted, there are pacing issues with regards to how there are so many fights, but it all comes together well enough that you can't felt but enjoy the movie's elements, even if it's nowhere near perfect.

But of course, you rarely watch a martial arts film for the story and characters, so how does the fighting fare? There are certainly a lot of scenes throughout the movie; slow fights, fast fights, ones in flashbacks, quick ones, duels, group fights and so on. You won't be starved for variety, whatever that may be worth for something like this. The fighting itself?

The film might pay homage to the games in all of the parts of it that never mattered, but its one drawcard--mountains of gore--is completely lacking in this film. It'c completely bloodless, which makes some scenes feel incredibly weak and empty. It also makes some of the references to "Fataility!" really out of place and uncomfortable. That's a fatality, Shang Tsung? Well, sure. I guess if Liu Kang's cartwheel kick which didn't actually dimember anything counts, simply sucking one's soul out does too.



So on one hand, the film is an excellent tie-in, and on the other it fails miserably. I think people wouldn't be disappointed with the film if they were to watch it now, though I can understand why it got a bad rap back then. Probaby one of the better adaptations regardless, and worth a look.

Oh, and a final word about the music; it's excellent. Aside from that unforgettable theme song, you also have several remixes of songs from bands like Fear Factory and KMFDM, which create a neato modern techno feel that still slides in quite well with the whole oriental thing.

3.5/5   read


9:08 AM on 01.10.2012  

Videogame movies reviews: Videogame Warriors (or The Controller) (2008?)



Yeah, my DVD says Videogame Warriors, so that's what I'm calling it, okay?

Let's just jump into this one: Videogame Warriors is a straight-to-DVD, $1.99 budget movie about a hip new videogame sweeping the globe and becoming the new sensation. The owner of the company responsible, William Fence, has his wife kidnapped from his home and is forced by her kidnappers to play the game, Liberation Force Earth, in order to save her. The only problem? He hasn't played a game in his life. Hilarity is meant to ensue. It kind of does, but not in the way the directors were expecting.

Videogame Warriors is pretty clearly a low-budget movie with no imagination and no motive for making besides as a foothold onto bigger and better projects, the kind that floods my local video library all too often. You can see one of these a mile away: dopey looking characters, lower quality cinematography and shot clarity, among other things.



This film is no different from that breed. In his mission to free his wife, Bill has to enlist the help of six pro gamers across the country: Fragmaster, a generic black guy who brofists Bill through his online avatar as seen in one of these posters, PappaPooh, a father whose gags situate him getting annoyed at his kids intterupting his playtime (such a socially progressive character, mirite?), Athena, some dumb chick seemingly put in the movie to remind us that girls exist, Master Chief, that hunk of flesh you see in the picture above you, Knarf37, one of those slacker/stoner types who lives at home in a lavish basement, and Mr. Lee, who you never see, but is presumed to be a disabled person playing LFE in order to be equal.

Director Frank Michels obviously wants the humour to deride from how all these personalities play off each other, but you've seen this done before and better. Again, this movie stinks of the cheap budget it's running on, which means that the writers figured little money meant little effort to be put in as trade.

No, the real humour comes from Bob Rue, who plays William. I wish I could show you all some footage of him in this movie. His acting sits right up there with Tommy Wiseau's, his emotionless shell leading to any line coming out of his mouth to die as soon as he speaks. He just maintains this one stagnant emotion throughout the script which leads to some lines completely conflicting with the mood that's meant to be presented. This man needs a Razzie.



Half of the film is set in the game, played on an Xbox (more on this later) and presented through 3D animation. I won't rag on it too much, as there's not much anyone can do with it without any sort of major financial backing (have you seen most of the XBL Indie games? Eugh.) but grenades will always get thrown with pins still in them, the aliens look incredibly stupid and the whole thing just looks embarassing. The original Xbox could easily do better.

Speaking of which...

Yeah, this is a poser movie. No one "gets" the gamer culture at all. As said before, each character has some one-note stereotype attached to them, with a dudebro gamer and slacker fulfilling mainstream society's perception of gamers, and much like all those 90s flicks with games shoehorned into them, all of the characters just mash as buttons as they can when they are playing. It's a bit insulting, to be frank.



The inadequacies don't stop there. One of the biggest flaws is that the film seemingly started filming in 2007...and yet the only console being played is the Xbox. The original one. And it's not like the 360 doesn't exist yet; you can see it on a website ad in the film, and apparently the boot-up sounds for the two consoles were the same. Could they not afford at least one 360 to be shared as the one prop? I know it was more expensive then than it is now, but common peple.

Liberation Force Earth itself is too mainstream a game to be taken seriously. Whilst the rules are gamey enough, simulating the first Halo to a T, the actual flow doesn't make a lot of sense. It's implied that the experience is entirely cooperative, and yet there are ranks. You might think it's in terms of total kills or total campaigns won, but there are also tournaments. Versus tourneys, presumably. It doesn't work.

There are more mistakes besides, but it's kind of the usual stuff: the avatars are completely lipsynched and do actions you couldn't do if you played it, apparently it was the Xbox and not the PS2 that had pressure sensitive buttons on its controllers, stuff like that. All in all, a waste of time except for the main character's acting.

1.5/5

Was this review too long winded for something so trivial? Maybe. I plan on reviewing more videogame-based movies, both direct adaptations and "homages", but I feel this formula needs to be worked on a bit. I would appreciate some feedback on this review in preperation for the next one.   read







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