Thursday, December 31, 2015
If you take a look at Sandler's filmography, you'll notice that he's released at least one movie a year ever since 1998, completely uninterrupted. If not for the fact that he didn't release a movie at all in 1997, that streak would reach as far back as 1992! Mel Brooks would have a hard time putting out nothing but good comedies over that length of time! Stanley Kubrick would have a difficult time putting out good movies non-stop if he was working on that kind of schedule! So would Coppola, Jackson, Spielberg, Scorsese, Hitchcock, or Abrams. And Sandler isn't on the level of any of those guys. Even back in his prime, Sandler wouldn't have been able to keep up that kind of momentum. If Bucky Larson and Jack and Jill were the cracks in the facade, Pixels and The Ridiculous 6 are the holes, showing glimpses of the creature that spawned Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg eating whatever's left of Sandler's talent.
At this point, I feel safe in saying that Adam Sandler has become to comedy what Steven Segal became to action movies. They both started out pretty good, then got worse as time went on and they got more successful. After that, their main characters were usually author-insertion Gary-Stus, their movies got predictable, and no matter how much hate they got, they never seemed to go away. Even that's being a little unfair to Steven Segal, since his movies were never quite as disgusting as Sandler's are at their worst.
Sandler's self-inserts are usually the regular schlub with a hot girlfriend and some insane connections. Pixels took that to its extreme, with Sandler's character being best friends with the President, a successful businessman, and a former champion gamer. His character in this movie is different, since he's more of a straight-man to the crazy antics of the other characters, which works slightly better, but as time goes on you can see that he's just written himself another Gary Stu. This all becomes apparent once the character goes from being a guy adopted by Indians with comically good fighting skills, to just being a straight western hero, without any of the funny antics. This happens about twenty minutes into the film, by the way.
The way the movie starts off, it's almost as if it's lambasting ridiculous old westerns, attitudes in the old west, stereotype perpetuated by popular culture, and Sandler's typical bizarre writing style. It's almost as if Sandler was going for a bit of self-parody at first, but then a burro with explosive diarrhea showed up, almost as if to say "Fooled you, this movie's gonna be terrible!"
I almost stopped watching at this point, since I figured there was no way it could get any better. However, Sandler went on to prove me absolutely right by the end of the movie!
Adam Sandler plays Tommy "White Knife" Stockburn, a white guy who was adopted by an Apache tribe after the death of his mother. Right off the bat, you know pretty much everything you need to know about the character. He's white, and he uses knives a lot. In fact, after the opening of the movie, knives are all he uses, despite obviously having tapped into the Speed Force.
Something I noticed about the first ten to twenty minutes of the movie is that everyone seems incredibly wooden. Sandler especially seems like he showed up on set after not sleeping for three days and was then forced to retake the same scene fifty times in a day before being allowed to take a nap. And if that was the case, one has to wonder what the other actors excuses were.
White Knife's dad shows up and tells him that he used to be a bank-robber and that he buried his score around where White Knifes tribe is currently stationed. Then Danny Trejo shows up, kidnaps the dad, and says he's gonna kill him if they don't find the buried treasure. So White Knife goes on a journey to steal fifty grand from "people with no honor."
This is the point where Sandler's character stopped being a wooden caricature and started being an insufferable Clint Eastwood ripoff. He starts talking like Eastwood, he starts acting like Eastwood. Only difference is that Adam Sandler isn't at all convincing as a gritty western hero.
If you looked at the poster, you'd notice Rod Schneider is in this movie, and if you know anything about Rob Schneider, you'd be surprised to know that he's actually not the most annoying person in this movie. That dubious honor goes to Taylor Lautner, mostly due to his characters obnoxious hillbilly accent. Yes, the obviously Native American Taylor Lautner plays a redneck in a world that's comically racist against Indians. A world where the incredibly white Adam Sandler is almost killed because he's mistaken for an Indian, Pete can ride around on his cart with impunity. Did literally nobody involved with this movie think to point out this incredibly obvious flaw in their logic? Or maybe they were setting up an orphaned joke about racial stereotypes. Looking at the poster, you can see that Terry Crews is in this movie as well, and there's a joke at one point about his character revealing to the others that he's black, and them not actually noticing. Do people just not notice your race in this world unless you're dressed as the most obvious of ethnic stereotypes. And even then, you could just say whatever race you want to be and they'll believe you. This could have been a setup for a really funny joke, but considering that this is coming to us by way of Adam Sandler, a three-way studio struggle between Netflix, Paramount, and Warner Bros., and a three year development cycle, it's not at all surprising that there are concepts and plot-threads that come and go without explanation.
White Knife and company keep robbing people and finding more half-brothers until they have six. They get all the money they need, but then it gets stolen by a gang White Knife pissed off in the start of the movie. They then rob a poker-game with only a few days left to save their dad, they then find the gang that robbed them and get all the rest of the money back, White Knife shows off some stupidly good tracking skills, and they manage to track the gang down, but White Knife leaves the Six behind to take on the gang himself, because he figures out that Danny Trejo's character, Cicero killed his mother. Somehow. I don't get it. Apparently that was because of a tattoo Cicero has that Tommy noticed on his mothers killer, but there's really no way he could know any of this.
White Knife shows up at the Singing Windmill, drops off the cash, and for some reason the dad turns out to be evil. No, I don't know why. It's most likely just a really bad attempt at a third act twist, just like the contrived third-act setback from earlier. The brothers set off a bomb in the saddle-bags full of cash, White Knife kills Cicero in the most anti-climactic way possible, and the brothers turn the dad in to the police. Most likely Wyatt Earp, since of course he shows up in this movie.
White Knife's adopted father adopts his five half-brothers, White Knife marries his girlfriend, and everyone lives happily ever after. Until everyone died of dysentery, hepatitis, or the upcoming World War I.
Now that we're done attempting to summarize the incredibly stupid plot, let's go over some of the stupider moments in the movie. The aforementioned diarrhea mule is a good place to start, but the one this that was actually even more distasteful was said mule giving Pete a blowjob. Fortunately it didn't get any worse than that, although it did get less funny. Abner Doubleday shows up, played by John Turturro in an incredibly forced sequence revolving around incredibly stupid baseball jokes. You can't even really call them "Jokes," since they're either stating facts about the game, or saying one thing about the game, and then going on to say the right thing. It's incredibly hard to watch, and it's made even worse by the fact that Abner Doubleday didn't even invent baseball!
Then Lil' Pete irritates the local sheriff into getting him hung to distract the town from the rest of the gang robbing them blind. This pays off something Pete mentioned earlier in the movie, about him having a strong neck. The next few minutes of the movie are based around Pete showing off his incredibly strong neck. It starts out mildly funny, and then they draw the joke out long enough that they kill the humor. They drag it out so long they suck the humor right out of its natural environment and torture it like their name is Jack Bauer.
Later on in the film, while they're staging the robbery of the poker-game, General Armstrong Custer, Mark Twain and Wyatt Earp show up to make a ton of jokes about their future history. I'll admit that some of these jokes are fairly humorous, but for the most part they're just cringeworthy. General Custer is played by David Spade, one of Sandler's former SNL co-stars. Wyatt Earp is played by Country Snoozic star Blake Shelton, and Mark Twain is played by Vanilla Ice. I don't even have to say what he does, you guys already know. Shelton and Spade's characters are played relatively straight, however Mark Twain appears to have been written as a parody of Ice's 90's persona. This whole scenario seems to have been ripped straight from an SNL skit, or possibly an internet web-series, since I wouldn't expect to see anything like this in a film normally. Custer, Earp and a rapping Twain being poker-buddies? That sounds like the right kind of material for a decently funny skit or short series. Unfortunately, this scene has the single most forced attempt at a "joke" by way of reference in the form of Rob Schneider doing the Home Alone face, and Custer mentioning aftershave and being "home alone."
It was at this point in the film that I started drawing more direct comparisons between it and the world of Seltzer and Friedberg. Weird skits that come out of nowhere and then vanish without any explanation, rhyme or reason.
Overall, Terry Crews and Danny Trejo were the best parts of this whole movie, with some mad props to Vanilla Ice for making his stupid character actually kinda funny, but only just. Everything else is either stupid, idiotic, insulting, nonsensical, bizarre, ludicrous, inane, disgusting, or just outright confusing. All in all, this was a terrible western, a terrible comedy, and a terrible film overall. You want to see a funny western? Go watch Blazing Saddles, it's actually good.
While I was writing this review, I realized that an anachronistic western with Danny Trejo and Terry Crews as buddy cops (Or buddy Marshals) would be a great thing to watch. It'd be like A Knight's Tale, but set in the old west. And most importantly, it'd be better than The Ridiculous 6!
With all of the good things coming out of Netflix Studios lately, The Ridiculous 6 is a massive disappointment, although considering Adam Sandler was attached to the project, it's not at all surprising. I can't see how this movie cost sixty million to make, it's not like they had amazing visual effects or anything. Maybe that's what they had to pay to get Nick Nolte, Danny Trejo, Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, and Terry Crews. Or maybe Sandler demanded a huge amount of money for his family to appear in the film for some reason. No matter how you slice it, this movie cost far more than it should have, especially for the level of quality we're dealing with.
In the end, The Ridiculous 6 was a terrible film, and I'm gonna give it a 0.5* rating. I'm wondering how long until Sandler drops all pretense and starts working with The Asylum. Or Seltzerberg. Or both. God, I hope that never happens, that would be the ultimate in terrible films. Hell, let's add Uwe Boll into the mix too.
By the way, since I'm running late on my reviews, I'm going to be delaying the best/worst lists until late January to early February.
Image from Impawards.com
Monday, December 28, 2015
For those of you who don't know, Disney said that they were completely discounting the Expanded Universe when making the Sequel Trilogy. Personally, I've got mixed feels on this. On the one hand, some of my favorite novels come from the Star Wars Expanded Universe, but on the other hand, at least we don't have to deal with The New Jedi Order and Legacy of The Force anymore.
However, there are plenty of things in Episode VII which seem to me, as a fan of the EU, to have been inspired by or copied directly from the EU. It's just that they use different names for the characters, technology and locations. Almost like they realized at the last minute that they'd shot themselves in the foot when they said that they weren't taking anything from the EU and just decided to rename it. Or maybe the crew was working on an EU inspired movie and were then told once the script was finished that they had to remove all references to the Expanded Universe. Even so, there's still plenty of fanservice, for both casual and hardcore fans alike. Personally, there are plenty of things in the movie that I would have called something else, but that's just a petty quibble. On the whole, The Force Awakens is freaking awesome. I'll try to avoid spoilers for the first half of the review. Spoiler territory will be clearly marked.
One of my major gripes with the prequels were the fact that they over-used CGI. Don't get me wrong, it looked really freaking good for the most part, but those weren't animated films, they were live-action. And even if you've got Industrial Light and Magic working on the visual effects, it's hard to make the CGI look like it belongs in the shot with the human actors. Or to make the human actors look like they belong in the shot. But everyone pretty much knows this by now.
The good thing about The Force Awakens is that they've kept the usage of CGI actors and environments to a minimum, and what's there blends in with the rest of the shots extremely well. Episode VII is amazing from a purely technical standpoint, just like most of J .J. Abrams work. If you've seen Abrams' Star Trek movies, then the space scenes in this movie will certainly remind you of those films. Not to say that they're totally unlike space-scenes from Star Wars, they're just slightly different. I don't find them quite as engaging as the space-combat scenes in the original trilogy, but they're more coherent than the space-combat scenes in Episode III. for instance.
Then we get to the planet-based combat in the movie, which feels a lot more engaging. For the most part it's reminiscent of the combat in the original trilogy, with the best elements of combat from the Prequels. The Lightsaber fights are more like they were in the original trilogy, IE actual swordfighting and not freaking dance-routines like they were in the prequels.
The Lightsaber fights bring me to a rather major issue I had with the cinematography, namely the fact that there are way too many close-ups of the characters during lightsaber fights and not enough wide views of the fighting. By the way, spoiler warning, a Star Wars movie has lightsaber fighting in it. The original cut of The Force Awakens was apparently around four hours long, and I'd love to see extended/alternate takes of the lightsaber combat where they used much wider shots, where the screen isn't filled with the actors faces. Otherwise, the cinematography is fine. Unless it's the last lightsaber fight, everything pretty much looks clear, and each scene flows into the next very well. The editing is incredibly well-done, and I wasn't left confused by any of the cuts.
Then we get to the story. It might be a little bit simplistic, but it's not predictable, and it's doesn't rely on cliche like some movies do. I'm looking at you, Jupiter Ascending. It's almost an homage to the original Star Wars, but there's enough that's different that I wouldn't call it a direct homage. More like a loving tribute, with its own original spin to put on things.
The characters are good, the acting is good, and I can't really say much else without delving into spoiler territory.
From this point onwards, we'll be discussing potential and outright spoilers, so if you haven't already seen the movie, go out and watch it now. Or wait until April when it comes out on home video to finish reading this review. Whatever you want to do. If you read beyond this and you haven't seen the movie then you've got nobody to blame but yourself. Seriously, you should go watch the movie.
Right off the bat I wished Disney hadn't shown anything from the film in the run-up to the release, because as soon as I saw the Stormtrooper hesitating in the opening, I knew he was Finn. I didn't even watch the trailer before I'd watched the movie, and I already knew who Finn was thanks to all the hoopla around the film. Fortunately, thanks to my incredibly isolationist attitude when it comes to movies I want to watch, I didn't know much else about it.
There are plenty of minor quibbles I can bring up with the locations. For instance, they introduce way too many new locations that are similar to previously established ones. The planet the movie starts on is called Jakku, but it sure looks like Tatooine, and when I originally saw the stills from the trailer, I would have sworn that it was Tatooine. Really, there's no reason for it not to be Tatooine from a narrative perspective. Jakku wasn't even around in the original trilogy, and it's depicted as having crashed wrecks of Imperial Star Destroyers on it. That implies some kind of space-battle occurred between the Empire and the Rebellion, which means Luke Skywalker would have likely been present for it. But for some reason, Luke Skywalker has become a legend despite the fact that he was the most wanted man in the galaxy for years on end. It's essentially the same issue with the Jedi and The Force being mythological in Episode IV when the Jedi were at the forefront of The Clone Wars. You know, the same Clone Wars that a kid from Tatooine, the single most remote planet in the freaking galaxy, would know about. If it was a major battle in the Rebellion against the Empire, Rogue Squadron was probably involved, and who's the person in charge of Rogue Squadron? Luke freaking Skywalker, Rogue Leader himself.
The next planet they introduce is basically Naboo, but it's called Takodana. Takodana has a bar on it managed by Chewbacca's girlfriend. Personally, I think Takodana could have been cut entirely, since there's nothing unique about it. Like I said, it's essentially Naboo.
Then we get to D'Qar, the site of the Resistance base in Episode VII. I'll get to my issue with "The Resistance" later, but my main gripe with D'Qar is that it's basically Yavin 4, but they don't bother calling it Yavin IV. Like all the other planets they introduced, it doesn't really need to be there, since they have previously established planets they could be using instead.
Really, this all comes back to my complaints about Mos Espa in The Phantom Menace, it wasn't different from Mos Eisley in any significant way, so why bother calling it anything else? Do we need another desert planet? Or another jungle planet? Or another forest planet? Not really. There's already an established galaxy,
Now that we're done complaining about the new planets, let's start talking more about the story.
It's been around thirty years since The Battle of Endor, and Luke Skywalker has gone missing. Princess Leia sends out Poe Dameron to track Luke down, but he gets ambushed by a group of Stormtroopers from The First Order, led by Kylo Ren and Captain Phasma. He gets captured, but he sends his droid off into the desert with the map chip locked inside. The droid's name is BB-8, and he is one of the cutest things in Star Wars. I'm serious, BB-8 is great. His comic-timing is perfect, he's cute as a button, and best of all, he's actually a useful character.
During Poe's capture, the Stormtroopers torch the village he had traveled to, and killed the old man who gave Poe the map to Luke. They then slaughter the entire village. Except for one Stormtrooper, who hesitates, and doesn't shoot anyone.
Kylo Ren brings Poe onboard his ship, tortures him, and then uses The Force to extract the rest of the information from him. The Stormtrooper who didn't shoot anyone in the village rescues Poe and they escape in a Tie-Fighter. Poe asks the troopers name, but he only has a serial-number. So Poe calls him Finn, after the first two letters in his number. Poe explains that he needs to go back to Jakku and get BB-8. They then get shot down and crash-land on Jakku. Finn wakes up in an ejector-seat on the surface of the planet, and only finds Poe's jacket on the Tie-Fighter. Then the Tie-Fighter is swallowed by a sinkhole. Finn strips off his Stormtrooper armor, because it's hot, and he's in the freaking desert, and tries to make his way towards town.
We cut to a girl named Rey scavenging parts out of a crashed Imperial Star Destroyer. She loads up her old cruiser with the scrap, and rides into town to trade the parts for food. On her way, she runs into a fellow scrapper who's captured BB-8. She talks the guy out of it, and takes BB-8 with her into town to find Poe.
In town, she runs into Finn. BB-8 points out to her that Finn is wearing Poe's jacket and thinks he must have stolen it. Rey attacks Finn, but he explains what's going on, telling her that he's with the Resistence, and that BB-8 has the map to Luke inside him. Jakku is then attacked by The First Order, and the three of them flee in a stolen spaceship. Did I mention that it's the fastest ship in the galaxy? Yes. They stole The Millennium Falcon. They escape the Imperial blockade and jet off into lightspeed.
Then The Falcon breaks down like it usually does, and after Finn, Rey, and BB-8 fix it, they get hauled into a Corellion Cruiser. Lo and behold, that Cruiser is commanded by everyone's favorite lovable rogue, Han Solo and his first-mate, Chewbacca. Finn convinces BB-8 to show Han and Rey the map to Luke, and Han explains to Rey and Finn about why Luke left, and that all the old legends about The Force and the old Jedi Order was true. Apparently Kylo Ren betrayed Luke and went over to the Dark Side.
Unfortunately, Han's ship gets boarded by gangs he owes money to, and Rey attempts to seal the gangs inside the ships air-locks, but accidentally lets out the monsters Han was smuggling. It turns out for the best though, since the monsters eat the gangs and buy the gang enough time to get to The Falcon and warp off. Han takes them to Takodana to meet with Maz Kanata, who's basically Guinan from Star Trek: The Next Generation, right down to her being really freaking old. She's able to get BB-8 on a clean ship to Coruscant, so he can get the map to Leia. Rey wants to get back to Jakku so she can keep waiting for her missing parents, and Finn just wants to get as far away from The First Order as possible.
Unfortunately for everyone, The First Order and The Resistance alike have been notified about the presence of BB-8 and the rest of the fugitives on Takodana.
Rey's called to the Lightsaber Luke lost on Bespin (The one Anakin lost on Mustafar), and it gives her some disturbing images. And instead of turning to the Dark-Side, she just leaves the Lightsaber where it is and flees into the forest. Seeeeeeee Anakin? This is the logical reaction to having nightmares like that.
The First Order attacks the planet, and Han, Chewie, Rey, and Finn are forced to fight their way off the planet. Unfortunately Rey gets captured by Kylo Ren, and The First Order retreats to their mobile battlestation, Starkiller Base.
The guy in charge of The First Order, Supreme Leader Snoke, orders the Imperial Commander, General Hux to use Starkiller Base (Called such because it uses stars as fuel) to annihilate The New Republic. He also orders Kylo Ren to kill his father, Han Solo. This was the point in the film where I started to suspect that they were adapting the EU despite their claims to not be doing so.
Princess Leia escorts Han, BB-8, and Finn to their base, and there they meet up with Poe Dameron.
Apparently Poe was ejected from the Tie-Fighter as well, and he reunites with BB-8, and they show their portion of the map to the New Republic's armed-forces. I'm glad to see Admiral Ackbar is still around.
Han and Leia discuss their relationship and history. Apparently they drifted apart after Kylo betrayed Luke, Han went back to smuggling, and Leia went back to leading the military.
Apparently R2-D2 has fallen into a deep depression after Luke left, and hasn't powered on since then.
Starkiller Base fires on the New Republic capital, destroying every single planet in the Hosnian system. Which is a little odd, since I thought The New Republic was housed on Coruscant, and I've never heard of the Hosnian system. It seems like they just invented Hosnian just so they wouldn't have to blow up Coruscant.
Anyways, Kylo Ren interrogates Rey with The Force, but she's able to resist it, and then mind-tricks James Bond into freeing her from her and giving her his gun.
Leia and the rest of the Resistance's military leaders work up a plan to take out Starkiller Base, which involves sending Han, Chewie, and Finn onto Starkiller to take down the shields so what's left of the New Republic starfleet can try and blow it up. Before departing, Leia urges Han to bring Kylo back to them alive.
They manage to land The Falcon on Starkiller, find Rey, blackmail Phasma into lowering the shields, and set explosives around the armor-plating on the main reactor.
Han confronts his son, Ben Solo, now known as Kylo Ren. This confrontation was amazing, and incredibly powerful. It ends with Kylo killing Han, which is something I wasn't expecting, but it's handled incredibly well, and it actually seems like something that was done for the sake of the story, as opposed to the way Chewbacca's death in Vector Prime was handled, which was purely there for shock-value.
Chewbacca goes crazy when Ben kills Han, and manages to get in a few good shots at Ben, kills a ton of Stormtroopers, and triggers the explosives. This gives Poe's Black Squadron an opening to destroy the base.
Chewbacca, Rey, and Finn flee to the surface of Starkiller and attempt to escape, but Kylo Ben ambushes them. Finn takes up the Lightsaber given to him by Maz, and duels with Kylo. He puts up a good fight, but Kylo manages to gain the upper-hand long enough to injure Finn and disarm him.
Rey then takes up the Lightsaber and duels Kylo to a standstill before they're separated by a canyon formed by the destruction of Starkiller. Chewbacca and Rey load Finn into The Falcon and fly out with the rest of the remaining New Republic's space-fleet.
Captain Phasma, Kylo Ren, and General Hux flee Starkiller as it explodes under the orders of Snoke. I don't know where they go from here, I suppose we're gonna find out in the next movie.
The New Republic mourns the death of one of their heroes, R2 wakes up finally and shows them the rest of the map to Luke's location. Rey joins Chewbacca and R2 on The Falcon, tracking Luke to a distant planet, finding him on an island.
Yes, this was an awesome film. It's freaking amazing, and it's a damn good film. I'm just gonna bring up a few things I noticed though.
"Starkiller Base" is a reference to the original name of the protagonist of Star Wars, Starkiller. Which was later used as the name of one of Darth Vader's many, many secret apprentices in the EU. And the concept of the base itself, as something which can destroy a star and an entire planetary system at once is straight from one of my favorite EU series, the Jedi Academy Trilogy. The Sun Crusher was a secret Imperial project which would destroy a sun to destroy an entire planetary system. There are differences in execution, certainly. Starkiller Base is essentially a glorified Death Star, since it still uses a laser-canon to target and blow up planets directly, while The Sun Crusher dropped torpedoes into stars, turning the star into a literal bomb, which then goes on to annihilate the planets orbiting it. As you can see, the end result is the same, a dead sun and a bunch of vaporized planets.
Then we get to the fact that Ben in essentially Jacen Solo from the EU with a different name. His origin, his personality to a certain extent, it all seems so much like Jacen that I wonder why he's not just called Jacen. Probably to make good on what they said about not adapting the Expanded Universe.
Then there's Luke's quest to find the first Jedi temple, which he actually did in the EU. Except that. You know. That temple was the Rebel base on Yavin 4. This is one of those situations where I hesitate to take the word of the author on what they're contradicting from the EU, since if you look at the Jedi Temple on Coruscant in the Prequels and the Rebel base in Episode IV, they look pretty damn similar. So since there's evidence in canonical material to support what was stated in Lost City of the Jedi, that leaves me to wonder where they're taking this. But this is just my brain on the Expanded Universe, I still haven't completely accepted that it's not canon, due to the fact that they haven't really contradicted much, they've just changed some names around and added some planets.
There's a hypothesis running around that Rey is Luke's daughter, and I'd say there's plenty of evidence to back that up. There's the fact that she's good with machines, like Anakin and Luke. She's an awesome pilot, just like Anakin and Luke. She's drawn to the Lightsaber used by Anakin and Luke. Then there's the fact that her theme-song is essentially identical to Anakin's and Luke's. Plus she's drawn to Han Solo through some pretty weird circumstances, just like Luke was. I'm almost certain at this point that Rey's last name is Skywalker.
So, let's talk about the actors. Harrison Ford is good as Han Solo as he always is, Carrie Fisher is good as Leia, and Mark Hamilll is Mark Hamill, he's always good, even though he's barely in the movie. We can skip over all of the returning actors, since everyone already knows who they are, and they're still great.
Let's get to the new actors, starting with John Boyega, who's great as Finn. He portrays a conflicted soldier who winds up turning against his own to do what's right. Finn's character arc is great, and it's nice to see a character who was conditioned from birth to obey orders and kill mindlessly rebel against that conditioning to do the right thing. However, this backs up what I say about the Clone Troopers in the prequels, there's no reason they shouldn't be able to rebel against their orders like Finn did.
Enough tangents, Boyega's performance is great, and his accent is perfect. I couldn't even tell he's British from his voice. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was American.
Then we move on to Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren. Back in The Original Trilogy, we never saw Darth Vader's face until the very end of Episode VI, which was partially to maintain his intimidating nature. I bring this up because Kylo Ren's mask comes off at multiple points in the film, but that doesn't serve to make him less intimidating at all, and this is down to Driver's performance. His expressionism makes Kylo Ren as intimidated without the mask as he is with it, and sometimes more so.
Then we get to Oscar Isaac, who plays Poe Dameron, who feels like a mostly useless character. Not the same kind of useless as Qui-Gon Jinn, just useless in the fact that he's left out of most of the important events in the film, and the character seems to know that he's being left out of most of the important goings-on.
There's a difference between knowing very little about a character, and them not being interesting. Poe Dameron is a character we don't know much about, and he's not particularly interesting, while characters like Rey, Captain Phasma, or that Stormtrooper Finn was dueling with on Takodana are characters we don't know much about, but are interesting. Phasma due to her voice and armor, the Assault Trooper because he popped out of nowhere and was awesome, and Rey because we've traveled with her from planet to planet, through good circumstances and bad. Rey is played by Daisy Ridley, and while there's not much to go on for the character at the moment, I think that Daisey Ridley did a good job. She's suited to the role, for one thing, and for another, I think she captures the same sort of innocence that Luke Skywalker embodied in Episode IV. This is how Anakin Skywalker should have been written back in the day.
Now we move onto some random thoughts I had while writing this review and watching the movie.
It's funny how Rey's staff is quite obviously a double-bladed Lightsaber, but we never actually see it in action. Maybe the power-source is dead or something. I didn't know you had to recharge Lightsabers, but who knows?
Personally, I thought the movie started out strong, stayed strong in the middle, and then the climax seemed pretty empty. Destroying Starkiller Base in the first film seems like they were just trying to parrot the way A New Hope ended, but forgot that they needed a little more build-up, and a lot more tension to pay it off the way Luke making his shot in the Death Star trench paid off. Part of that might be the fact that we don't know jack about Poe Dameron or any of his team, and therefore have no reason to care about them. I think a much better ending would have been for Starkiller Base to be severely crippled, with it being destroyed in Episode VIII or IX.
I think that Luke needs to spend almost all of Episode VIII training Rey in the ways of the Jedi, but be reluctant to come back to the fight. Over the course of him training Rey, he comes around to the idea of returning to battle. As the tide turns against the New Republic, Rey has to return to the battlefield to confront her cousin Ben, and uses every single technique she learned from Luke in the battle. She almost succeeds, but Ben manages to get in enough good hits to cripple her. Possibly with her losing her right hand in the process. Duel of the Fates should definitely be playing during this fight as well.
As the outlooks seems bleak, and Captain Phasma's army closes in on the Rebel base, in the most dire of circumstances, when all hope seems lost, BAM! Right out of hyperspace comes Luke Skywalker, in his X-Wing, with R2-D2 in the navigation pit. He takes command of Rogue Squadron and they turn the tide of the battle. As the Star Wars theme-song swells to a crescendo, Luke flies down to the surface of the planet where Rey and Ben are having their duel, leaps out of the cockpit of his X-Wing, lands between Ben and Rey, igniting his Lightsaber. With the green glow illuminating his face, he out-duels Ben, forcing him to retreat. The battle over, the Rebel Alliance re-forms. The war may not have been won, but the New Republic's greatest hero has returned, and they've dealt The First Order a crippling blow.
After all that wild mass guessing, I figure I should probably wrap this review up, and give you a score.
All in all, I really liked this movie, and I'm oh so happy that Star Wars is back to being the greatest thing on the planet. The cinematography is great, the acting is great, the effects are great, the action is great, the story is good, the comedy is actually funny (Take note, Nickelodeon) and it's just freaking good.
In the end, I give Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens a 9.7* rating. I think this is probably my second favorite Star Wars movie at this point. Possibly third, but it's definitely at the top of the list.
Sunday, December 20, 2015
So, what is Death Note about? Well, I'm glad I asked that question! Death Note is a story that asks a question. How would good people handle being given the power to kill bad people, and how far would they go when faced with the possibility of being caught?
Death Note is quite possibly one of the greatest drama stories of all time, which is backed up by some amazing artwork. Since I've already covered everything that makes Death Note good in my review of the comics, but I'll try and give a quick rundown.
The characters are incredibly well-written, interesting, and well-developed. The story is paced perfectly, and all of the plots come together perfectly in the end. The art was great, the writing was utterly superb, and Death Note is still one of my favorite series of comics to this very day.
Fortunately all of that carries over into the animated series and more. Among many positives, there's the obvious addition of color, motion and music. The use of color in this show is just astounding, and the general quality of the artwork is leaps and bounds above that of most animated products, either from Japan itself or other places in the world. It's a quality of animation I've rarely seen, and it looks amazing. I'm always irritated by the tendency in certain pieces of animation to make hair almost transparent, leaving eyes, eyeglasses and eyebrows visible beneath what would in real life be totally obscured by locks of hair. Fortunately, Death Note doesn't have that issue. Nor does it have many of the typical issues that tend to affect a lot of animated series. You're not likely to see any re-used animation, miscolored characters or clothing, or sloppy artwork in this show. This is pretty much the series that the term "precision animation" was coined to describe. And as I said before, the use of color is absolutely astounding. The way they shift colors occasionally in some scenes to display contrast is just masterful, and it gets even better towards the end of the series, when the contrast of colors becomes even more vibrant, and somewhat demented to match the tone of the show.
Speaking of tone, the sound design is amazing. The sound-effects, the voice-acting, and the music especially sets the scene to make some of the most awesome moments in the series even better. I cannot give enough praise to the music team, and the music supervisor Fumiko Harada. The other composers listed on IMDd are the bands Nightmare and Maximum The Hormone, who wrote the opening and ending songs for the first and second seasons respectively. Personally, I prefer Nightmare's music as opposed to Maximum The Hormone's. If we can get over Maximum The Hormone's incredibly stupid name for a second, I'll break down the difference. The two opening songs are called "The World" and "What's Up, People?!" composed by Nightmare and Maximum The Hormone respectively. "The World" is made up of intricate metaphors, some awesome guitar riffs, and accompanies some awesome visuals in the opening, which act as visual metaphor for the entire series. It's a really good song accompanying an amazing opening sequence, and it only gets better when you listen to the full-length version, which I still have. Then we come to "What's Up, People?!", which is loud, obnoxious, and seems to be comprised entirely of nonsense lyrics intended to confuse and assault the senses. Then there's the accompanying animation, which doesn't really make any sense. Gone are the subtle depictions of things that are actually from the show with the intricate color direction from the show itself, the second intro just assaults you with splashes of color which don't seem to have much logic to their placement. Sure, the color shifting in the show itself got crazier as time went on, but they were still extremely careful with how they used it. Personally, I just skipped the intros after watching them all the way through once anyways.
That brings us to the ending songs, "Alumina" and "Desperate Billy", by the same bands as before respectively. While "The World" sounds like the song that plays in Light Yagami's head while writing down names, "Alumina" sounds like the kind of song that you expect to play during the decay of a persons soul. It's sad, it's great to listen to, and I freaking loved it.
"Desperate Billy" seems to be yet another nonsense song, but fortunately it's tolerable and coherent, as opposed to "What's Up People?!" which was just a big ball of noise. It's got some good guitar pieces, and when the clean vocals are playing, but the speed-vocals are playing I can't pick out a single word, and they just seem out of place. As I've said before, I don't know a whole lot of Japanese, but it doesn't matter what language the vocalist is speaking in when they're talking that fast, and when they're growling like that. This song is pretty good, but it's brought down by the growling vocals. It's pretty good, but it could be better.
As for the rest of the soundtrack, it's great. It enhances the atmosphere of the show, and it's possibly one of the most memorable soundtracks of all time.
Then we come to the voice-acting, and I'd like to get this out of the way right off the bat. The Japanese voice-acting sucks. I tried watching a few key episodes in Japanese and I couldn't get into it. Mamoru Miyano, the Japanese voice-actor for Light Yagami sounds like he's bored out of his mind throughout his entire performance, even when he's supposed to be sounding demented and crazy, whereas Brad Swaile, the English voice-actor manages to rock the role for all it's worth. He brings across all of Light's demented passion, his wide-eyed innocent persona, and all of the vibrant, disturbing aspects of Light's personality.
Then we get to the voices of Ryuk. Shidô Nakamura is the Japanese voice of Ryuk, and he's got essentially the same problem as Miyano does, he just doesn't seem at all interested in his performance. I get that both of the characters were bored, but neither of them seem to be able to come up with anything else. Nakamura's performance in this show is mostly defined by him sounding slightly confused and attempting to be intimidating. I don't know much about his career outside of Death Note, but I hope this just comes down to an issue of direction, because he sounds like he'd be right for the role otherwise. Fortunately, Brian Drummond nails the role. There's not mush about the English acting which doesn't trump the Japanese acting. If it's not boring, bored, or outright bad, it's usually just bland, and that's when the actors aren't completely mis-cast. That brings us to Noriko Hidaka's performance as Near. Noriko played Akane in Ranma 1/2, which I haven't seen. Kikyo in InuYasha, a franchise that I really like, but have never watched. Reiko Hinamoto in Metal Gear Solid 3, which I've never played in Japanese. Masumi Sera in Case Closed, which I've never seen in Japanese. She also apparently had a recurring role in Ressha Sentai ToQger, a series I've been meaning to watch, but haven't gotten around to yet due to my insane work schedule and the fact that I haven't been able to get into Super Sentai as much as I have Kamen Rider.
It tends to be common practice to cast women in the roles of young boys so that their voices don't change over the course of filming. Under most circumstances, this works perfectly fine, but under some circumstances they either wind up sounding too feminine, too much like little girls, or too much like grown women. An obvious example of the last one would be Masako Nozawa, the Japanese voice of Goku. Noriko seems to fall into fall into the first category, bleeding over into the third a bit. I don't know if she's just not cut out for the role, or if this is yet again another failing of the Japanese voice direction.
Then we get to the Cathy Weseluck, the English voice of Near. She starts out a little shaky, and her voice for Near wasn't one I would have expected, but she just nails it. At first I thought they could have done slightly better, but at the end of the series I wouldn't have replaced her with anyone else. Cathy's other voice credits include Mirai Yashima from Mobile Suit Gundam, Shampoo in Ranma, Chiaotzu, Piiza and Puar in the Ocean and Canadian versions of Dragon Ball Z (Which are really the same version since Ocean never stopped producing the series in Canada, just in America when Funimation wrangled the American rights away) Ayumi and Kagome's mother in InuYasha, and a crapload of voices in My Little Pony over the years.
Wait, Brian Drummond? Cathy Weseluck? Both of them were involved with the Ocean/Canadian dub of Dragon Ball Z. And guess what company produced the English version of Death Note? That's right, Ocean Studios! It's funny how Ocean is mostly known for producing underacted shows these days. I think their current biggest show is probably Cardfight!! Vanguard, a sub-par Yu-Gi-Oh! ripoff with some of the blandest character design I've ever seen. It could just be the material they were working with, since it is admittedly a pretty weak show, but everyone sounds uninvested in their actions. Every. Single. One.
I bring this up because I was genuinely surprised when I saw Ocean Studios listed in the credits, since this show has legitimately some of the best voice-acting I've ever heard.
Unfortunately this brings us to a fairly major issue with the show. It might just be that I was watching this on my massive computer monitor, or the amount of Dragon Ball Z Abridged I watch, but the characters lips almost never match up with their voices. I know what you're thinking, and it doesn't matter which audio track you're listening to, the lip-movements only match up part of the time, if at all. It definitely could have done with someone cueing up the lips to the actual voices in post-production. This seems to be an issue all around in animation, no matter where it comes from, and one that Death Note unfortunately doesn't subvert, which is a shame, since it subverts so many other animation issues. But that doesn't really take away from the experience, since it's usually something only visual-effects and animation nerds like myself would notice.
There's literally only one scene in the show that was actually lesser than its counterpart in the comics, mostly due to the fact that they cut down one of the pivotal scenes of the show. Fans of Death Note (And people who have read the comics) will know what scene I'm talking about. Otherwise, I don't really have any complaints, except for the fact that the last episode ends too quickly, rather than showing the fallout of what happened at the end like the comics did. I liked how the comics showed what effect the actions of the characters had on the world itself. However! I can see why they ended the show where they did, because it's very emotional, and quite possibly one of the greatest moments in any television series. Ever. No, I'm not kidding. Death Note is to animated television what The Godfather is to cinema, and it deserves a 10.1*. I'm hoping to see you next week with a review of The Consuming Shadow, and maybe a midweek review or two of the two Death Note animated films. I'm also tempted to drop a midweek, midseason review of Supergirl at some point, but I'm not sure I want to relive the last eight, miserable Mondays.
Sunday, December 13, 2015
I tracked the video down on YouTube, saw that it was only thirty minutes long, and decided I'd watch it on the weekend, since Power Rangers: Dino Charge was taking a break that week.
What was my reaction? Weeeeelll.... It's not bad. Not totally great, but I'd rather spend thirty minutes watching this than most of what's on TV these days.
Not to say that it didn't deliver on what it promised, it's a welcome homage to the '80s. It's a good comedy movie that has some damn fine jokes in it. It's not as earnest as I'd like, but that's not really what we're here for, we're here for the comedy.
Before we get into the rest of the review, you should click here and watch the movie. It's only a half-hour long, and it's free to watch. Go ahead, I'll wait. No, I'm not being paid by Laser Unicorns, they're far more popular than I am, and they don't need my help to get traffic.
You done? Good. Let's get to that summary shall we?
Kung Fury is about a cop named.... Kung Fury. Kung Fury (No, we're never told if he's got a regular name) is a detective with the Miami-Dade Police Department. He's a lone-wolf because his partner was killed by a ninja back in the day. Before the ninja could kill Kung Fury, he got struck by lightening and bitten by a cobra, fulfilling the ancient Kung-Fury prophecy.
After beating-up an arcade-machine that came to life, Kung Fury is assigned a new partner, Triceracop. Since he doesn't want to lose another partner, he turns in his badge. But then Adolf Hitler starts shooting up the police-station through the phone, and Kung Fury is back on the job, getting sent back in time by his buddy, Hackerman. Hackerman is a computer-hacker who uses an NES Power Glove and some classic computer-hardware to hack Kung Fury back in time to kill Hitler, known as The Kung Fuherer in this film. The Kung Fuherer is here to kill Kung Fury and take command of the Kung Fury powers.
Unfortunately, Kung Fury overshoots the 1940s by a few thousand years, and he winds up in the Viking-age, where he runs into laser-dinosaurs and machine-gun wielding viking women, who take Kung Fury on a giant wolf to go meet Thor, who sends Kung Fury to where he needs to be by quoting MC Hammer at him, and sends him to the right time-period.
We then cut to Nazi Germany, where the Nazi's are having a Hitler lookalike contest. Kung Fury beats them up, busts into the Nazi base, and starts going all Mortal Kombat on the Nazi's. It's all a very wholesome experience.
Unfortunately, Kung Fury gets shot by Hitler, and dies.
Fortunately, Hackerman hacks himself, Thor, the viking women, some laser-dinosaurs, and Triceracop back into the 1940s, and they kill all the Nazi's, and defeat The Kung Fuherer. Then, after Kung Fury almost arrests the angel of death for obstruction of justice, Hackerman hacks away Kung Fury's wounds, and brings him back to life. They then travel back to the 80's, and live happily ever after.
Except that The Kung Fuherer used his time-travelling golden bird robot to transport himself into the 80s in a fork of the Kung Fury timeline to corrupt the criminals of 1980s Miami into being Nazi's, ending on a cliffhanger.
Now that we've gone over the plot, it's time to start on some analysis.
Personally, I thought that the whole Viking section of the movie was completely unnecessary. Aside from making a couple of decent jokes, it doesn't serve any real purpose. Maybe if the movie was longer, I could possibly excuse its presene. Even then, it's still detrimental to the overall pacing. Maybe if they cut out the vikings, the movie could have had a proper climax, rather than sputtering out and leaving us on a cliffhanger until the theatrical Kung Fury movie comes out.
All of the scenes that take place in Miami are all fine, if I'd been making the movie, I would have left all of those in. For the most part, I also like the Nazi-Germany section of the movie, right up until the anticlimax.
See, I'm the kind of guy who likes to see an awesome action-scene accompanied by a piece of kickass rock and roll. Optimus Prime breaking the Decepticon line accompanied by The Touch, Rocky pulling off an awesome victory while Eye of the Tiger plays, Kurt Sloane knocking out Tong-Po as Never Surrender starts up, Goku going Super Saiyan while Bruce Faulconer's awesome score plays in the background, Sonic standing up to fight after being beaten-down while It Doesn't Matter starts up... You know the drill.
So, if you know anything about any of the stuff I just mentioned, you'll notice most of those examples came from the 1980s. Considering that Kung Fury is inspired by the '80s, and has an '80s star performing the theme-song, you'd think that Kung Fury would embrace the rock-anthem action-scene that you tend to think of when you think of really good '80s movies. Which begs the question, why didn't it do that? It had the awesome music, it had the potential for an amazing climax to accompany that music, but it didn't put those two things together.
If I had been making this movie I would have cut out the stuff about the vikings and put all of the effort that went into that sequence into the climax of the film. Have True Survivor kick in as Kung Fury makes a mad dash towards Hitler's podium. Have Kung Fury and Hitler have a massive climactic showdown with giant robots, some awesome hand-to-hand combat, and the best final showdown that the budget could possibly allow.
I'm not saying cut out the jokes, I'm just saying to relocate the effort that was put into the Viking sequence (And yes, I thought their version of Thor was freaking awesome.) into the climax of the film.
But that's just as a short-film. If you added another thirty minutes to the movie, tighten up the comedy and direction in the viking sequence, and then it'd be fine. But you'd still need to fix the ending. You could even leave the cliffhanger in if you wanted, but I'd still personally prefer a stronger ending.
Now, let's talk visuals. Kung Fury is presented as if it's being played on an old VHS tape, and they manage to make it look pretty convincing. The effects are gloriously archaic, while also looking really good as well. I love the use of the dog as a giant wolf, and I generally love the look and feel of the movie. However, at some points in the movie I wonder if the effects were intended to look as they do. For instance, in Germany, Kung Fury picks up a tank to smash Nazi's with, and the effects of him lifting the tank look slightly janky, and not in an '80s way, in more of a Sci-Fi original movie way. Although that doesn't take away from the humor of that scene in my opinion.
All in all, Kung Fury is a good movie, and I look forward to the upcoming full-length movie that they're working on. Unfortunately, I've got a bad feeling about the theatrical movie, since Kung Fury seems like a concept that should stick to shorts on the internet as opposed to a feature-length film. It's an idea that seems fairly easy to corrupt, and the final product could wind up being about as funny as a Seltzerberg movie.
In the end though, Kung Fury was an awesome little short, and it's definitely worth watching if you've got a half an hour of free-time. It's definitely a step in the right direction if they keep up the momentum they've gained. I give it an 8.7* rating. I'll see you next week with The Consuming Shadow, hopefully!
Image from Kungfury.com
Monday, December 7, 2015
This year I've been covering a lot of games that have taken a long time to be released outside of Japan, and I don't intend to stop doing that just yet. I've still got the first two Trails In The Sky games on my schedule if you remember. The difference with this game is that it's taken forever to come out everywhere, not just outside of its home country. Rodea The Sky Soldier started development for the Wii back in 2010, and completed development in 2011, languishing for two years until Prope's publisher, Kadokawa Games officially announced the 3DS version back in 2013 as being nearly completed. During this time-period, our old friends at XSeed were jockying to publish the game in North America, but as you can tell by the box-art above, that didn't happen.
In 2014, they announced that they would be porting the game to Wii U, and packaging the Wii release with the Wii U version. And then finally, back in April of this year, the game saw a release in Japan, with the rest of the world getting a November release, published by Nippon Ichi Systems America.
I don't think I've ever seen a game that has just sat as long as this one did. I've certainly seen games that took a long time to develop, or ones that took a long time to localize, but I've never reviewed a game that was four years old by the time it saw release.
The basics of the gameplay function perfectly fine. You jump into the air by pressing A, point your targeting reticle where you want to go, and press A again to go where you want to. You can press B to get there faster, or to attack a target. Whether or not you can stay in the air is determined by the fuel-gauge surrounding the crosshairs. If that runs out, you can burn collected yellow-things (Called Gravitons) to move a little further.You can also collect a hundred of them to get extra lives, which is practically essential in the later levels of the game. You can also rise vertically by pressing Y and descend quickly by pressing Y again. X is the button you use to activate the function of your equipped gear.
Something that irritates me about the equippable gear is that you can't have more than one of them equipped at once. This would be fine, except for the fact that the gear goes onto different parts of Rodea's body. The gear consists of a pair of boots, a DBZ-style targeting scouter, and a rifle that shoots homing-bullets. All of this gear could be worn at the same time without needing to unequip any of it. But that's what happens, the game removes them from Rodea's model. But that's just an issue of aesthetics, and not an actual issue. So, let's talk about the gear itself.
A more useful accessory is the boots, which allow you to use boost-pads on the ground, as well as allowing you to pull off some cool attacks, all of which are hard to accomplish, and tend to get in the way of actual gameplay by burning through your fuel when you're trying to stomp on the ground. This is because of an upgrade I applied which allows you to spindash across the ground like you're a goron from Majora's Mask. That works when you absolutely need to use it, but otherwise it's completely useless, and actually winds up being detrimental to the game as a whole, so I left the boots unequipped most of the time.
Thing is, if the boost-pads worked without the boots, then you wouldn't need them at all. Not like you do anyways, because you can literally walk, fly, or jump towards your destination without using the freaking boost-pads.
We now come the the targeting-system, which allows you to set up a chain of attacks in advance, and sometimes attack the same enemy more than once. The huge problem with the targeting-system is that it doesn't always work properly. Hell, this goes for the default targeting-system as well. Sometimes, when you target more than one enemy at a time (Or the same enemy twice) it just cuts out right after the first hit for some reason. Not always, just on some targets, and only when it's the most inconvenient. And even then, the scouter is practically redundant, since you can chain attacks just by hovering and targeting using the regular reticle. And you can chain attacks on a single enemy just by holding down B and tapping A. So not only is the scouter redundant, it doesn't always work.
And that leads me into an issue with the default targeting system. Sometimes, from any range, if you're boosting towards a moving enemy, Rodea will swerve around them and burn through his fuel, leaving him to fall, flailing to the ground, which is a fairly big problem if the ground happens to be electrified, or covered in acid, or a million miles below you.
Generally speaking, the smaller the boss is in this game, the less interesting they are, except for the bosses in Level 24, which are actually pretty cool to fight, if a bit easy once you figure them out.
This brings us to the story, which seems to be pretty lacking compared to the Sonic games. It essentially amounts to Sonic The Hedgehog meets Mega Man, with a bit of Terminator 2, Highlander, and Back To The Future thrown in towards the end for good measure. That description makes it sound a lot more interesting than it is, since I was never entirely sure what was going on, or why we were doing what we were doing. The general gist of the story is as follows: You are Rodea, a robot who works for Princess Cecilia. You're trying to help her escape from Emperor Geardo of Naga and keep the Key of Time out of his hands when she gives you half of the key (Instead of just destroying it for some reason) and transports you to a desert, where Rodea punches the ground, his arm falls off, and he goes into a coma for a thousand years for absolutely no reason. That's all in the prologue to the freaking game. There'are also little tutorial in the beginning, which seems pretty redundant, since there's another tutorial almost immediately after it that tells you almost exactly the same thing. It's almost like the prologue was tacked-on as an afterthought. There are other ways it seems pretty unnecessary which I'll get into later.
A thousand years later, Rodea wakes up, having been repaired by a girl named Ion, who also stuck a gear on his shoulder for some reason. All of his memories are gone, all of his friends and most of his enemies are dead, and nobody remembers the war anymore. That's an incredibly anticlimactic start to the game as far as I'm concerned, since it means that you're fighting an incredibly weakened enemy as opposed to being an insignificant little speck going up against an empire.
God only knows how a robot that was sitting out in the desert for a thousand years is still functioning, you'd think that he'd have eroded away eventually.
Recently, the remnants of the machine army have come back and started attacking citizens of Garuda, the country that Naga was trying to invade a thousand years ago. For some reason, the machine soldiers are still working too, as well as all of Rodea's robot siblings, who are in charge of the new invasion. One of those siblings is the first boss in the game. After you beat him, he answers his phone and flies off. And instead of going after him, Ion forces you to stick around and look for a crying child, named Tonio. And after you find him, you're forced to stick around and harvest herbs that can cure his sick sister! Excuse me Ion, I'm trying to save the world here, maybe you should handle harvesting those herbs while I go after that freaking robot!
Over time, Rodea manages to perform a data recovery on himself to get all his memories back. It's also implied that Ion might have had something to do with his memory being erased, but that little plot-thread is never really resolved.
Rodea and Ion travel around Geruda destroying the Chronos Towers that link Geruda to Naga. Seems a bit late to be doing that, since the machine-soldiers have already invaded. God only knows what they hope to accomplish by killing all the ancient machines and destroying the towers. Maybe there are more soldiers in Naga that haven't arrived yet, or maybe Rodea is just making up for lost time and doing what he should have done a thousand years ago.
Anyways, they wind up teaming-up to go find Ion, and it's at this point that we find out that Tonio's sister just won't shut up. It's nice to know that the characters in the game are just as annoyed with her as the player is, because at one point in the game, Rodea tells her (And by extension the rest of the freaking townsfolk who've tagged along with him) to be quiet.
Take a look at the screenshot to the left. This isn't something made by a little kid in MS Paint, that's an actual screenshot I took from the game. This was the art-style they decided to use for the flashback sequence to explain that whole little abduction section of the game. This little FMV is supposed to explain how the machine-soldiers found the village, but it doesn't really do that.
Okay, let's explain what happens in that FMV. Tonio's sister sits down on a stump, sees this bird, and tells it about her village. One of the robots throws its voice into the bird and he zooms off to find more robots to invade with. But instead of just taking over the village, they just kidnap Ion. And guess what? Rodea comes after them and beats them up. This actually happened, and it's never brought up again.
After Rodea destroys all the Chronos Towers, he gets ambushed by another robot who's extremely powerful and somehow happens to have the other half of the Key of Time. He beats up Rodea, takes the other half of the key, sticks it into Rodea's chest and turns it for some reason. Then he opens up a portal to a thousand years in the past, tells Rodea that this is his chance to save Cecilia, and goes off to tell Geardo what he needs to know to win the war. This is the point where it turns into Terminator, since we have robots trying to take over the world by going back in time to prevent the resistance from arising.
Anyways, Rodea storms through the Naga fortress. And no, this isn't straightforward in the slightest. The last several levels of the game are complicated, well-designed, and fun to play. The problem is that the lives-system gets in the way. Due to the levels being extremely long, the checkpoints are a little too far apart. This is only a minor issue, especially compared to how the lives system affects these final levels. Due to the fact that the game has a lives system, once you lose all of them, you're forced to go back to the beginning of the level. This is the same issue that I mentioned above with the last three bosses in the game. The reason I bring this up again is because it irritated the hell out of me, and I needed to bring across exactly how much it irritated me.
Now we come to the actual technical issues with the game as opposed to just game-design issues. For one thing, there's plenty of slowdown during the fight against the final boss. I target the feelers, boost towards it, and the game slows to a freaking crawl. This isn't the kinda slowdown that you could maybe appreciate giving you some extra time to react, this is the kinda slowdown that's outright freaking annoying. There are other issues with slowdown throughout some of the more complex levels, but for the most part it's not that big an issue throughout the rest of the game. I only played it on 3DS, so I don't know if any of the performance issues are solved on New3DS or not. I've heard they were, but I haven't seen it in action myself.
Then there's the fact that the characters jaws flap up and down during portrait cutscenes, but they don't match the voices in the slightest, which goes for the Japanese voice-track as well as the English voice-track. It looks like they just looped the lip-flaps infinitely until the actors were done speaking.
Which brings us to the voice-acting. The English cast all sound like they're putting on really bad impressions of the cast of Sonic X, which I can't say doesn't make some kind of sense. The odd thing is that I can't even find out who the English cast was. They're not named in the credits, Wikipedia doesn't have a cast entry for them, and imdb doesn't even have a page for the game. It's almost like they didn't want anyone to know who they were. The English voice-acting is pretty bad, but the Japanese voice-acting is better. The problem is that during gameplay, the captions are shown on the bottom screen of the 3DS, which is a bit of a pain to try and watch during high-action parts of the game. That's a pretty bad thing when characters are feeding you important bits of information during combat, and you only know a few words of Japanese. I certainly know enough to be able to tell when the captions are wrong, but not enough to know what they're saying. So I stuck to the English voiceover so I could tell what was going on.
Moving onto the music, it's fine. Okay. Just sorta there. Nothing really jumped out at me in the default soundtrack like music from a Sonic game. There was one song that I listened to that was an optional track that I really liked, but because it's never actually used in the game itself, I don't really count that. There's no epic rock tune playing during the final boss-fight, Rodea doesn't have an awesome theme-song that plays whenever he's doing something cool, the lead bad-guy doesn't have a cool theme-song, and while the music that plays during the individual levels is fine, it might as well have been stock music for all the memorability it has. Think back to Sonic The Hedgehog on the Genesis. You probably remember the title-screen song, Eggman's theme, Green Hill Zone, quite a few tracks from other levels in the game... Now think about Rodea The Sky Soldier, and try to remember any of the music in the game. I'm willing to bet that you can't.
Let's talk camera-controls now. You can rotate the camera while on the ground with the L and R buttons, and that's it. You can't tilt the camera up and down at all while on foot. You can center the camera by holding L or R, but it rotates the camera ninety-degrees before centering, which is a massive pain when you're trying to center the camera by a couple of degrees. There's an option to control the camera with the 3DS's gyroscope, but that only works in the air, and makes targeting a lot harder, so it really doesn't serve any purpose other than making it a lot harder to aim. There's an unlockable first-person mode you can access if you pay fifteen silver coins, but that's just the regular controls from a first-person perspective, and it's incredibly difficult to navigate when your camera is full of wall. I looked it up, and I couldn't find any evidence suggesting that this game has any option to be played with a Circle-Pad Pro, either online, or in the game itself. Most of the 3DS games I've played that let you use the Circle-Pad Pro have some option in the menu that lets you use it, but this game doesn't have that. Then there's the fact that there are two options screens in the game, neither of which are accessible during gameplay. Technically there are three options screens, since the option for the first-person mode is inside the unlock menu, which also has options for controlling the music, and what character you're playing as. The first options menu is solely dedicated to languages (Voiceover and captions), and is only accessible from the title-screen. The second options menu is only accessible by pressing Y on the world-map, and controls the audio-levels, how often your support characters yammer at you, and whether or not you're using gyro-control. That's something I never understood in a lot of games, since if you'd turned on an irritating feature to see what it did, surely you'd want to be able to turn it off as well! Even then, why would you have three options screens in a game? Even with one as an unlockables screen, you could just do what Fire Emblem Awakening did and stick the unlockable music tracks into the regular menu.
Going back to camera-controls, they feel a bit like the ones from Sonic Adventure, but without the same kind of analog precision that game had to its camera. It's strange, especially since Ocarina of Time had much better camera controls back on the N64, and it had even less control over the camera! I'd hope that the Wii and Wii U versions of the game had better camera controls, since both of those have more options.
Finally, we get to the art-style and general design of the game. Personally speaking, aside from Rodea and Geardo's final form, I didn't particularly care for the character-design in this game. The colors are all muted pastels, without the same level of vibrancy that Sonic The Hedgehog games have. The characters don't have the same level of elegant design the cast of Sonic has. Everything has this overcomplicated, angular quality to it, without the same smooth detailing I liked about the Sonic characters. The levels pretty much look fine, but they don't have the same sort of colorful flair to them as ones from say, Sonic Adventure, or Super Mario Galaxy.
All in all, Rodea The Sky Soldier isn't a bad game by any means, but it doesn't grab me the same way my favorite Sonic games do. At its best, Rodea The Sky Soldier is pretty freaking good. At its worst, it's a bit of a glitchy mess, at least on 3DS. On average, it's a decent game with some cool ideas, but it's not as interesting as, say, the other Sonic-inspired game that came out this year. Look forward to my review and Let's Play of that sometime soon.
In the end, I give Rodea The Sky Soldier a 6.7* rating. I'll see you next week, hopefully. I'll be at Geek-O-Nomicon that weekend, so the review might wind up being a bit late.
Game provided for review by Nippon Ichi Systems America. Cover image provided by NIS America. Screenshots taken by me.
Monday, November 30, 2015
As you can probably tell from the poster, this film comes to us courtesy of the Wachowski siblings, creators of The Matrix franchise, and contributors to such movies as Assassins, Bound, V For Vendetta, The Invasion, Speed Racer, Ninja Assassin, and Cloud Atlas. The only film they've made that I know for certain people like is The Matrix, the rest seems to be a mixed bag of good to bad reactions. I personally thought The Matrix Reloaded was a pretty good film, but Revolutions seemed like a good idea gone bad. Aside from this film and The Matrix Trilogy I've never seen any other Wachowski movies, so I'm not really able to judge this film in relation to the bulk of their body of work. Fortunately, I can still judge it as a film, and as a film, it's a bit confused to say the very least.
I remember hearing years and years ago that the Wachowski's were working on a new science-fiction franchise, thinking that it might be interesting, and then forgetting about it after not hearing anything about it for years on end. I didn't even connect this movie and that rumor from a few years ago as being the same thing until I looked this up on Wikipedia to do a little research yesterday. I also found out that this movie is a reunion for a bunch of previous Wachowski collaborators, with them bringing over crew from almost all of their previous movies, barring their first two.
Now, judging just from the poster and the cast, what kind of movie do you think this is? Because I can tell you what I thought it was when I first heard about it. Another adaptation of a young-adult novel in the vein of Divergent, The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and other movies that have come out in recent years. I was surprised to find out that it wasn't, because it certainly feels like a cut-down adaptation, considering how fast it seems to jump from one scene to the next with very little pause for breath or explanation.
So, let's go ahead and talk about the plot. The main character is named Jupiter Jones, and she's played by Mila Kunis. If the characters name sounds familiar, then you've probably read The Three Investigators books as a kid. (As explanation, one of the titular trio in that series was named Jupiter Jones) As soon as I remembered that, I couldn't get it out of my head. I just kept picturing a Three Investigators movie that takes place in space.
The fact that the main characters name is Jupiter implies that the title actually means something, and it almost does, but once the movie ends, you're left wondering what the hell the point was.
Anyways, Jupiter was born of the union between the son of a British diplomat to Russia, named Maximilian Jones, and some Russian woman who we don't know a whole lot about, named Aleksa. They met when Max was stargazing in the Russian winter, and apparently Aleksa kept him from freezing to death. The problem with that assertion is that, while Max is certainly under-dressed for the kind of Winter that brings in copious amounts of snow, he doesn't appear to be in much danger at all. And considering that his father is a British diplomat, there's no real reason for him to be out stargazing without enough clothes on during the Russian winter If Max had fallen into the water and Aleksa got him out, then I'd say this makes sense, but as it is, the narration doesn't match the events of the film.
Max likes the planet Jupiter, and wants to name his daughter after it. Aleksa doesn't want to name her Jupiter, but a what appears to be a SWAT team bursts into their home, steals a bunch of stuff and kills Max when he tries to fight them off. No, we're never given an explanation as to who this gang of renegade special-forces operatives are, or what they're doing running around killing people. But that's not even the half of it. After Max dies, his wife immigrates illegally to the United States before her daughter is born. This just baffles me, since if the son of a British diplomat was killed by a Russian gang, that'd be an international incident! MI6 would start investigating, the CIA would probably be involved, they'd be working with the Russian police, Russian Federal Security Service, all of these agencies would probably become involved.
And do you know what the worst part is? They don't even mention anything about where the murder took place, so for all we know, he could have been killed inside the embassy itself. Which would qualify as an act of terrorism!
And if he's not living at the embassy, why not? Why would he need to live anywhere else? They don't tell us anything about him having a falling out with his parents over his wife, or any other explanation, so we're left without any clue as to what the actual situation is.
And then we get to the fact that Aleksa traveled to the USA instead of, say, the UK, where she'd probably be able to get in without having to resort to illegal means. Or hell, legal immigration to the US probably would have been an option, since she's the wife of the son of the British ambassador to Russia. What I'm saying is that this movie seems to have been married to the idea of making Jupiter an "Illegal alien" as the opening narration states without actually explaining why. Also, Jupiter is born in international waters, having been the daughter of a British citizen and a Russian citizen, so I'm not entirely sure how the law treats that kinda thing.
Props to the casting team for actually getting an actress from the general area of Russia to play Jupiter. I don't particularly mind Mila Kunis as an actress, so I can't really complain about the casting. If nothing else, this movie has a damn fine cast. But then again, so did Batman Forever and Batman and Robin, and look how both of those turned out. Goes to show that a good cast doesn't make for a good movie.
Jupiter goes on to become a housekeeper with her mother. She gets up at five in the morning, scrubs toilets and tiles, dusts, all kinds of typical housekeeping things. This pretty much serves to establish her as a modern-day Cinderella-type, rather ham-handedly I say. She also looks at herself in the mirror while holding up jewelry and clothing that belongs to the rich people she works for, which serves as her "longing for more" sequence, replacing the standard Disney song and dance that princess movies usually have.
The movie then takes a massive shift in location, as we transition to a different planet with futuristic technology. Not that that's immediately apparent, since it's only when they mention Earth as a planet belonging to one of the snooty alien humans that we realize this isn't earth. I like to call these three "The Genocide Triplets". They're the heirs to some massive space empire, and their names are Balem, Titus, and Kalique Abrasax. The three of them brag about the harvest for a bit before getting into a verbal sparring match, which results in Titus attempting to scam Balem out of the rights to the Earth. Balem isn't having any of it, nor is Kalique.
This scene particularly bugged me. It's just that the thought of people "owning" the Earth while it's inhabited by people who don't know that they're part of some kind of empire is something which I don't like. It just feels like an incredibly dumb excuse, which allows a piece of fiction to have all the nice sci-fi technology while also having the fish out of water normal person along for the ride. Not to mention that it doesn't make sense from a logistical standpoint unless you happen to know for a fact, beyond the shadow of a doubt that you and your occupying forces can take the inhabitants of the planet in a fight. These people have their own laws, their own sense of morals, their own technological developments. If they somehow manage to figure out that they're being occupied, at the very best you're going to have an armed rebellion. At the very worst, they're going to win. Even if the occupying forces have superior technology, there's no way to control everything. It's possible that their tech would fall into the hands of someone who would then go on to develop weapons based on it. Weapons that would be better, and manage to get through occupying defenses. But they're not even occupying the planet, they just own it. They're not even really monitoring it, so for all they know, Earth could have developed FTL travel and a Starship named Enterprise and they wouldn't be much the wiser. Although that's more the fault of the film-makers than the characters, since they don't establish anything about the level of occupation that the human aliens have on Earth. This is turning into a running theme, isn't it? Them failing to establish in any way the fine details which would make the world more coherent.
We then cut to a group of mercenaries who all appear to have borrowed their costume-design from other, better movies. We have a woman who's dressed-up to look like Blink from Days of Future Past, some guy who looks like Deadshot from Arrow if he found Alastor Moody's Mad-Eye, and an incredibly skinny version of B.A. from The A-Team. Not-Blink rides around on a hoverbike that looks like a gun. This bike can apparently turn invisible, which is handy for covering up all the glowing lights it's plastered in.
They're here to do... Something. We don't really know what, except that they're hunting some bounty, and they determine that Channing Tatum's character, Caine Wise, is after the same bounty they're looking for. Really, all this sequence serves to do is establish Caine as a badass, since nothing in this scene appears to affect the later plot. When I first watched the movie I wasn't really sure how the file Caine looks for has any kind of connection to the rest of the film, but after looking through that scene again, I can tell what its purpose was.
See, later on in the movie, Jupiter Jones agrees to let some of her eggs be harvested in exchange for five-thousand dollars, and she uses the name Katherine Dunlevy at the same clinic that Caine breaks into, but we're never told how he knew how to get there, or why the mercenaries are staking out the clinic. Caine has heightened tracking senses, and the mercenaries talk him up something big, but this feels like a massive cop-out, especially considering the overall quality of the rest of the plot. And here's the thing, even though I now know what the direct connection was between the obstetrics clinic, Jupiter, and Katherine Dunlevy, it's still fairly badly executed.
I have this idea where if something doesn't make sense at first glance, you should probably go back and rewrite it. Sometimes that's not the best approach to storytelling, but it's a good guideline to follow unless you're purposefully trying to confuse the audience. The fact that I didn't pick up on that little connection is due in part to the fact that they don't really focus on the sheets of paper in the file. Given the fact that the mercenaries were talking about Caine's ability to track someone down from a single cell or some nonsense like that, I thought he was looking for birth records, so I didn't connect the file at the clinic as being related to Jupiter. But even then, she doesn't want to have her eggs harvested, so why does she have a file at the clinic, even if it's under an alias?
The fight-scene between Caine and the unnamed mercenaries is hard to watch. Hundreds of shots are fired, and nobody hits anyone, which wouldn't be too big a deal if they'd directed the action-scene better. With the amount of shots taken at the range they're at, you'd think that Caine would have hit someone, or someone would have hit him.
We're then introduced to Katherine Dunlevy, Jupiter's rich friend who she sometimes impersonates. The exchange they have is utterly pointless, since Katherine never actually shows up at any other point in the movie. Jupiter and Katherine discuss a guy Kat thinks is going to propose to her, and she asks Jupiter what she should wear. Spoiler warning, the guy never shows up on screen, so this is pointless as well.
Jupiter goes into Kat's massive freaking closet to get an outfit for her, and Kat gets knocked out by your typical bug-eyed grey aliens (Incredibly lazy design if you ask me) called "Keeprs" and they test her blood. Jupiter takes a picture of the aliens, and they find her, wiping her memory. Stupidly though, they don't think to check her phone for pictures. Although this raises another question; how did a girl as poor as her afford a freaking iPhone? They sort of mention her overspending later on, but I feel like this was just product placement from Apple. Also, as we later find out, Jupiter is the one they were looking for, and that raises the following question; why didn't the Keepers just test her DNA while they were there? It's obviously not hard for them, so why didn't they do it? They might have had the wrong girl, there's no way for them to know that, since the file in the clinic didn't have a picture in it.
After Jupiter's denied a loan to buy a telescope that was like her fathers (God only knows how she'd know what kind of telescope her father had, since it was stolen before she was born) she agrees to sell some of her eggs. She goes to that clinic Caine broke into earlier in the movie and is almost killed by a bunch of disguised Keepers before Caine jumps in and kills all of them. This action-scene is also pretty badly choreographed, but that's all down to the special-effects people, since the Keeper's are completely CGI as far as I can tell. Caine at one point kicks one of the Keepers, but Channing Tatum's kick obviously doesn't connect with the CGI model, despite the Keeper reacting as if it did. And the rest of the fight-scene just seems way too loosely choreographed. Star Wars this is not.
Caine takes Jupiter to some building in Chicago where he gives us the mind-boggling realization that humanity is not alone in the universe!
I'm sorry, what? How? Why? This is just downright stupid, since we've been fantasizing about there being other species from other planets, friendly and hostile alike, for well over a hundred freaking years! Did the Wachowski's miss all of that? Did nobody at Warner Brothers, or any member of the cast or crew think to put their hand up and say "Hey, this doesn't make any sense from a pop-culture perspective!"
What is one of the most popular entertainment franchises? Star Trek! What's it based around? Travelling through space, meeting aliens, doing battle with aliens, making friends with aliens, having aliens as part of the crew... At this point, it'd be a bigger shock if we were alone in the universe. And I don't buy for a second that someone who has an iPhone and internet access in the 21st century wouldn't know what Star Trek is! Or, for that matter, any of the other pieces of media based around aliens. What's worse is that they treat this like some massive revelation, so I blame this little plot-hole entirely on the the Wachowskis, whoever was editing their script, and also the actors for not bringing it up when they read it. This means you have to accept that Caine has no idea about Earth's popular culture, and that Jupiter doesn't know enough about it to point out the massive flaw in his reasoning for thinking humans wouldn't accept that there are aliens.
Another major flaw I noticed was that Caine gives his gun to Jupiter and tells her how to use it, which I find odd. He says it was to make her feel better, but she could have easily killed or severely wounded him, either on purpose or by accident. It doesn't matter if Caine has heightened reflexes and senses, a good shot to the head would still probably kill him. Or hell, she could have hurt herself. He'd be better off keeping all possible weapons away from Jupiter. Jupiter has also been given a new set of clothes, since she was only in a hospital gown when Caine rescued her.
After he finishes explaining that, he tells Jupiter that he's part wolf, and shows her his gravity-skates, giving some complicated technobabble answer as to how they let him fly around. These are essentially identical to Shadow The Hedgehog's rocket-skates from Sonic Adventure 2, the difference being that that game just said "Hey, we shoved a bunch of rockets into a pair of inline-skates! Is that cool, or what?"
Sure, it might be a massive feat of engineering to cram rockets into a form that would serve as a pair of skates, but I can believe that more than I can believe the technobabble provided in this movie. And at one point, Caine uses them to melt chains without any explanation as to why these gravity-skates serve to conduct any kind of heat. That's the absolute least of the problems in that scene, so I'll wait for that scene to come up before I talk about it anymore.
Caine calls a ship to come and get them, but instead of just hovering by the window, or landing on the little ledge next to the room in the building Caine is in. This, combined with the freaking slow tractor-beam they use instead of a transporter (Which coincidentally looks exactly like the tractor-beams used in Star Trek and Doctor Who.) allows Balem's assault team to blow up Caine's ship and causes a massive chase through Chicago, ending with a lot of buildings damaged and probably a lot of people dead.
Here's where we come to another major failing of the movie, the fact that The Wachowski's seem to think that, in this day and age, an uncloaked dogfight in the skies of Chicago would go unnoticed, even at night. Everyone's got a phone, everyone's got internet access, there would be a hundred videos up on YouTube before those Keepers could wipe any memories. People would be texting their friends and family, posting about it on Twitter and Facebook. Vines would be going up almost instantly.
See, this is the problem Transformers 2 and 3 had, it assumes that they could cover up something like this. Even with their ability to erase memories and repair damaged buildings at a rapid pace, the internet doesn't forget. Ever. You try and delete something? It's already been downloaded and reuploaded to somewhere else fifty times, and from there it's been backed up as well. An alien dogfight over Chicago would be international news before it was over. There's no way they could cover this up.
After that's over, there's a whole scene dedicated to Balem rewatching Caine's fight against the Keepers in the obstetrics clinic, then we meet up with Caine's old friend, Stinger Apini, played by Sean Bean.
This is where we get to what I think is one of the stupidest things in the movie. Stinger raises bees, and his bees form wings around Jupiter, which flap when she moves her arms. The explanation that they give is that "bees recognize royalty", but I know that's bollocks, since bees don't do that in real life. They don't explain why that's the case in this universe, so I would reckon that they were trying to work off bees actual recognition of queen bees. It's not like the recognize human royalty in the real world. And that's the thing, when a piece of fiction doesn't establish the rules of its fictional universe, we're forced to fall back on real-world science, and when that science says that things shouldn't happen the way they do in the movie, you wind up being forced to say that it doesn't make sense.
Sting and Caine are both what they call "Splices," specialized humans with animal DNA spliced into them. We're never actually told what kind of Splice Sting is, although Wikipedia says that he's part honeybee. We also never see Sting's wife, even though he has a daughter, who's apparently got some kind of terminal illness, despite appearing to be in perfect health.
Sting explains to Jupiter how humans aren't from earth, and how other humans killed all the dinosaurs and seeded the planet with human-beings. That's just idiotic, and I'm going to explain why. Later on in this movie, the other humans are revealed to be extremely long-lived, but that doesn't matter, since they pretty much used the least efficient method of colonization and breeding for their purposes. I don't care how long you live, if you want to breed as many humans as possible in the shortest period of time, especially for their purposes, why would you just let humans evolve over the course of a hundred-thousand years when you could just let them breed as is until they're ready to harvest?
Jupiter calls her home to try and tell her family that she's alright, but her cousin who convinced her to sell her eggs is the only one who's home. For some reason, he's playing what appears to be Dark Souls II. The problem is that he keeps taking his hand off the controller, which isn't something you do in Dark Souls. I haven't even played Dark Souls and I know that much about it. I also know that Dark Souls isn't a two-player game, but that didn't stop them from giving the little kid in the scene a controller as well.
The mercenaries and Keepers show up to kill Jupiter, but Caine and Stinger kill all the Keepers, and (for no explicable reason) the mercenaries kill one of their own people and abduct Jupiter. Caine sees this, and stows away on their ship. (Which looks like Slave I crossed with something from Star Fox.)
They fly all the way to another planet, where the mercenaries take Jupiter to see Kalique, who tells Jupiter about her peoples fixation on genetics, gives her a fancy dress, shows them the baths that let them go back to their peak of perfection and live for millennia (Giving us a nice view of Tuppence Middleton's butt), and shows Jupiter that she's a "Recurrance" of the Genocide Triplet's mother. Apparently they have laws regarding what happens when someone who is genetically identical to a previous person shows up. That begs the question, how do they deal with that when genetically identical people show up while the other person is still alive?
This thing about a pit of liquid bringing you back to your youth is rather obviously copied from the pit used by Ra's Al Ghul uses in the Batman comics to heal deadly wounds and bring him back to life. There are probably other things that did similar things as well.
Before any questions about the "genetic recurrence" thing can be asked or answered, Caine and the space-police show up to take Jupiter to The Entitled Hall to go through the legal process of claiming her title, giving Jupiter yet another change of outfit.
On the way to the , we get some innuendo between Caine and Jupiter, with Jupiter asking him if he wants to bite her (He lost his job with the space police because he bit an Entitled's throat out) and mentioning that she likes dogs, both of which could be turned sexual fairly easily, the latter of which could take a turn for the creepy if you think about it too much.
It's at this point where we shift from exposition to a montage of bureaucracy. Five solid minutes in the middle of the movie are dedicated to the main characters running around, doing paperwork, being given the runaround, and generally wasting the audience's time. They also introduce a robot character named Bob who never shows up again. He's a robot lawyer, and (like all of the male robots in this little department) looks incredibly effete. This little montage ends with an extremely slow scene, before we get the inevitable Sean Bean betrayal. Because if Sean Bean is in something, he's either gotta die, betray someone, or both.
Stinger turns Jupiter over to Titus Abrasax, the Genocide Triplet who hired Caine to track down Jupiter.
See, he doesn't need to do that. All he'd have to do is phone up Caine and ask him to bring Jupiter to him and boom, problem solved. It's only because of this Caine figures out that Titus is evil.
Titus appears to have a bit of an unhealthy obsession with his mother, bordering on an Oedipus complex. Yes, he's trying to manipulate her, but he still seems a little too into his goals, which is to marry Jupiter.
Titus goes on to give Jupiter yet another new outfit, he treats her to dinner, and then goes on to explain what the liquid is that they use to restore their youth. Spoiler warning, it's people. Yes, they literally copied that little twist from Soylent Green, and it's just as anticlimactic as you'd think it would be.
When that's revealed, Jupiter is holding a tube of the stuff, and I figured she'd drop it, and it would shatter. To absolutely nobodies surprise, she did.
So, as I said before, Titus wants to marry Jupiter, which gets creepier the longer you think about it. For one thing, she looks just like his mother. Second, she's genetically identical to his mother. Third, she's in her twenties, and he's thousands of years old. And Jupiter doesn't seem to have any kind of negative reaction to this beyond simple bafflement. This is the point in the movie that I declared that it was Twilight In Space. There's an immortal vampiric character competing with a dog-man for the affections of a bland woman who's important because...
Anyways, the explanation he gives is that towards the end of her life, his mother was attempting to preserve the lives of humans, and he was converted to the same cause. He says he wishes for her to inherit his planets to keep his brother and sister from harvesting them, but due to a poorly-explained legal system, we're never given an explanation as to whether he could have just put her in his will or if he needed to marry her. Apparently Jupiter studied up on the Galactic Legal System during the montage earlier, so I would presume that planets can only be inherited by spouses or children in their legal system. I'd also presume prenup agreements don't exist, since Jupiter never asks for one. Then again, she seems incredibly thick during this whole bit, not questioning Titus's motives in the slightest, or asking to see Caine before Titus has had enough time to kill him, or doing anything that would be considered smart in this situation.
Titus does the inept villain thing where he tries to kill Caine without actually killing him. He tosses Caine out the airlock (An airlock filled with emergency air-pods that are easy to activate) without taking off any of his gear. This allows him to use his grav-boots to blast off his shackles and grab an emergency-pod, which forms into a space-suit around him.
The Aegis shows up right at the end of his air-supply (Completely ignoring that he could have just grabbed another of the ten or twenty emergency-suits he knocked out of the airlock.) and they bring him back to full-health.
Caine confronts Sting, who tells him that he needed the Soylent Green to heal his daughter, and Titus gave it to him in exchange for turning over Jupiter. There are some comments about Caine's past with Sting (Mentioning something about breaking through a field of Warhammers, with no explanation given as to what those are) and after Caine asks Sting if he's got anything else that could be used against him, they go ahead and suit up in giant robots.
While they're doing that, Jupiter is getting ready for her wedding to Titus. This section of the movie has a fairly heavy saturation of stuff it's ripped-off. The clothing and general design of the wedding-chapel seems fairly heavily influenced by The Hunger Games, the robots clearly take a lot of influence from Mobile Suit Gundam, Power Rangers, Pacific Rim, Neon Genesis Evangellion, and let's just throw Voltron and Metal Gear in for good measure, shall we?
The drop-pods are copies from Pacific Rim, which copied that from Evangellion, the combining nature of the robots is from Voltron and Power Rangers, and the escape-pod stuck in the chest, plus the robots massive freaking wings is obviously taken from Gundam. The ships look like they're pulled straight out of Firefly, The Matrix and/or Alien as well.
Then we get to the rest of the scene, which rips off the ending of Guardians of the Galaxy, with a touch of Enders Game and The Matrix and Matrix Revolutions tossed in for good measure.
Caine and Sting bust through the barricade, bust into the ship, and stop the wedding. The give Jupiter another change of clothes, and head back to Earth. We're just going to ignore the fact that busting through the hull of a ship should start to evacuate the atmosphere for a second and focus on the fact that Jupiter immediately deduces that Titus was lying without much evidence for that idea. Yeah, he was holding her hand onto the thing etching the ring on her finger, but as far as she knows, he could believe that he's about to die, so he could be trying to give her the rights to his planets before he's killed.
Even though Titus was going to kill Jupiter, she doesn't want him to die for this reason, and just tells Caine to get her out of there.
Spoiler warning, neither of the first two Genocide Triplets show up after they're encountered by Jupiter, and we don't even know that Kalique had any malevolent intentions, since the only character who says the she does is Titus, and he's got plenty of reason to make Jupiter distrust Kalique.
Our characters go back to Earth to find Jupiter's family has been abducted by the last of the Genocide Triplets, Balem. They're told this by one of Balem's people that she needs to come with him and he won't kill her family. Thing is, they don't have any reason to trust him. And the condition for freeing her family is turning over all of her Entitled possessions to Balem. And the worst part is that she agrees to this! So she goes to his base on (Surprise) Jupiter!
Fortunately, she brings along an Aegis escort. Stupidly enough, she doesn't bring one onto Balem's ship with her, so the Aegis escort, along with Caine and Stinger, is left behind outside of Jupiter.
Caine takes one of the robots down into Jupiter, and barely survives the descent.
Meanwhile, Jupiter keeps delaying signing her planets over to Balem. Mind you, there's no indication that she's doing this on purpose, especially since she doesn't know she's got any backup coming.
Caine shows up, kicks ass, saves Jupiter from being killed, and for some reason, gives her his gun, despite him being the one in a position to cover her getting her family to safety. They also share a kiss in this scene, which isn't a smart thing to do in combat, and isn't something I would have included if I was making the film. Then again, there are a lot of things in this movie that I'd either shorten, change, or cut entirely.
After saving her family, Jupiter displays some hitherto unknown fighting skills as she beats up Balemm. They then get pulled into a hole, and into a tractor-beam. They fight some more, and Balem confesses that he killed his mother. Balem gets the upper-hand, then Jupiter gets the upper-hand. Rather stupidly, neither of them take the opportunity to kill the other when they gain the upper-hand.
Caine defeats the dragonborn he was fighting and comes to rescue Jupiter after Balem dies, and they reenact the ending of Big Hero 6 almost to a T, after wasting about thirty seconds cooing at each other while the portal that allows them to exit Jupiter's atmosphere is collapsing. If they'd have hopped to it, they could have gotten onto the Aegis ship with about ten seconds to spare, rather than having to ride outside the ship.
After that, Jupiter goes back to her boring existence of cleaning toilets and houses. I don't know about you, but if I owned the Earth, and I came from practically poverty, I wouldn't clean another house in my life. I wouldn't even clean my OWN house, I'd buy a freaking space-ship (If I hadn't inherited one) and take all my family and friends with me to that. Then I'd reveal all this to the world and show them all the cool technology we've got. I wouldn't go back to menial labor and an earthbound existence after experiencing FTL travel like that.
Caine and Stinger get their wings back (Their wings were taken after their courtmartial) and Caine and Jupiter spend their free time flying around Chicago. Then the movie ends.
All in all, this movie sucked, and not just because it was unoriginal. You could rip off everything, and as long as you just made a decent movie, you'd be fine. Originality isn't an issue as far as I'm concerned, if it does something well, I'm fine with it. Unfortunately, this movie is both unoriginal, poorly written, and poorly paced.
A complete summary of everything this movie has copied from would be pretty freaking long, so I'm just going to list off a few that I didn't mention already in the review. There are shots copied from Star Wars, the entire end seems to have been copied in equal parts from Tomb Raider, Assassin's Creed, and Uncharted, plenty of designs appear to be copied from Doctor Who, and the general concept of the movie just comes down to "Science-Fiction Cinderella Story"
That's literally all this movie is, Cinderella with a science-fiction aesthetic. Then we get to the characters, and hoo boy, are most of the characters unlikable. Jupiter Jones herself doesn't even really have any claim to main-character status, because she's equal parts stupid, and honestly, has no real purpose. Literally any other character could have served exactly the same purpose with zero change to the plot, and that's where you're faced with the dilemma of either cutting her out entirely, or giving her some kind of use. All she does is show the audience some cool stuff, and get rescued by Caine whenever she's in danger. And the one time she saves herself, it comes straight the hell out of nowhere, since she's never displayed any self-defense skills at any other point in the film.
I'll say this for it though, the effects were really good (When they weren't misaligning CGI enemies to Channing Tatum's kicks) and the music was freaking awesome. But that's a pair of small positive points compared to all the negative ones.
The inherent problem with the film is the same problem that Lord of Magna had, the back-story was way more interesting than the actual plot. The whole coincidental genetic replication bollocks just wasn't interesting to me. The society surrounding the industrialized genocide was a much more interesting idea, and they barely touched on that! Hell, the story of how Caine and Stinger got kicked out of the military would have made for a better movie. I'd have loved to see a movie about Sean Bean and Channing Tatum as space-cops! Maybe you want to make a movie about that instead?
In the end, I give this movie a 0.6*. I can't really tell what this movie was trying to do, or what kind of message it was trying to send, but whatever it was, they failed. The fact that the Wachowski's resorted to ripping off their own material at a few points in the film is testament enough to that.
Hopefully I'll be seeing you guys next week with Rodea: The Sky Soldier!
Image from impawards.com