Friday, 17 June 2016

Zelda: Breath of the Wild

This year at E3 Nintendo demonstrated their newest Zelda game, Breath of the Wild.
As soon as I saw the trailer I started theorising on when it takes place on the timeline, and it appears many other people have done the same, even making videos about it.

Never one to not leap on a passing bandwagon, I'm tempted to make a video, but doing so takes a lot of time and effort. I'm definitely lacking in the former at the moment, so instead I'm writing this post.

The Zelda timeline as written in the House Historia spurs into three due to Ocarina of Time:

One where Link is defeated by Ganon/Ganondorf.
One where Link defeats Ganon in the future, then disappears when he travels to the past.
One where Link, now a child again, gets Ganondorf arrested and executed before he manages to actually commit a crime.

As a side note, I find this a bit problematic. Twilight Princess takes place in that last timeline, and Ganondorf gets exiled to the Twilight dimension. However, since he was arrested and executed before Link drew the Master Sword from the pedestal in the Temple of Time, unlocking the seal on the Sacred Realm and allowing Ganondorf to touch the Tricorn, the Triforce should be safely locked away. But it isn't. Unfortunately some mental gymnastics are required, like saying that time operates differently in regards to the Sacred Realm.
The truth is, Nintendo don't care about this as much as the fans do.

In Ocarina of Time, when Link first draws the Master Sword from its pedestal, Rauru the Sage of Light tells him that he wasn't old enough, so his body hash been kept safe for 7 years.
Whilst it could simply be interpreted as him being unconscious for that long, the fact you can go backwards and forwards through time says to me that Link's consciousness was transported through time, but his body wasn't.

This is very important.
The trailer for Breath of the Wild features a Korok. These are plant creatures which the humanoid Kokori from Ocarina of Time eventually changed into by the time of Wind Waker.
These characters so far have only appeared in the Wind Waker timeline, which is the "adult" one where Link defeated Ganon as an adult, then disappeared.

The opening of Wind Waker states that Ganon was resurrected, but the Hero of Time (Link from Ocarina of Time) didn't reappear to fight him, so the Goddesses flooded Hyrule.
The reason Link didn't reappear is because though his body existed, his consciousness was missing.

The trailer features a voice telling Link to wake up, and apparently the beginning of the game involves Link waking up in some kind of cryogenic chamber.
I believe this is adult Link's body that has been preserved since Ocarina of Time.
However I have no explanation as to why it can move without his consciousness. Maybe it's been so long thar young Link is dead, but having someone resurrect into their own body but it an alternate timeline is a very odd and barely coherent concept.

I haven't seen the gameplay footage from the demos yet, as I'm oddly reticent to sit through five hours of other people playing a game. However, from screenshots I've seen, there is an old man who looks like the King from Wind Waker who starts you on your quest, and refers to "Calamity Ganon". Does this mean something, or is it just reusing a similar character design?
Since the environment appears to be the flooded Hyrule, but not flooded at the time, but also very devoid of humanoid life, does this mean that this takes place after Hyrule is no longer flooded? Long after the end of Wind Waker? Or is it before?
If the latter, it would imply a doomed quest, so I doubt it.
Maybe this is another split, on the Wind Waker line? Currently we have no reason to believe so, but Skyward Sword featured time travel, and some sci-fi elements that are similar to what we've seen so far.

To quote Bob from Reboot: "No-one knows for sure, but I intend to find out!"

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Warcraft: The Beginning

I have not played any Warcraft game, with the exception of World of Warcraft, which is incredibly boring due to it's nature as an MMO.

So when I went into Warcraft: The Beginning, I knew nothing about it, apart from it being based on the games and directed by David Bowie's son.

The story is that the Orcs are coming to the (world? country? continent? dimension? planet? The film is very unclear) of Azeroth using "fell" magic, which requires living sacrifices to work and corrupts the areas in which it is used.
The Orcs, being war-like, want to ravage and conquer, taking more prisoners so that they can bring yet more Orcs through.
The current denizens of Azeroth, who are primarily human, are not fans of this idea.

That's about as much as I can say without going entirely into spoiler territory. This is in part due to the fact that the film covers so much in it's two hour run-time that it seems incredibly rushed.
It's an odd paradox, where the film feels overly long, but extending the length so that events could be better paced would have made it feel shorter.

The story seems very cliched, but it does make some very courageous moves, which is should be applauded for.

The film features of a lot of CGI, but once again it's so pervasive that it's doesn't detract from the suspension of disbelief.

Apart from the pacing (which was a severe issue), the only major flaw I can think of is in the sound design is at times poor, with the noise of magic spells being cast being far louder than the things characters are saying.

There is a good sense of humour pervading throughout the film, including a joke in regards to a particular WOW spell.

There are also other references but these are a bit more flawed. For example, a particular demon appears who I think I've seen in artwork surrounding the games, and was obviously recognised by the fans of the games, but it was completely lost on me, especially because the film made absolutely no effort in explaining it.

Conclusion

Overall, I found that I didn't care for this film. It did too much in too short a time, and would have greatly benefited from further development in almost every area of the story. The film does deserve some praise for being willing to buck the trend and not be formulaic, but in the end was not much more than average.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows

Imagine me in 1991, 5 years old, watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze. Shredder has managed to get the same ooze that created the titular turtles, and is about to use it to create two mutant underlings.
"I'm going to see Rocksteady and Bebop in a film!" I probably thought, excitedly.
He uses the ooze, and everyone in the cinema is greeted by Count Duckula, and Man-bear-pig.



Fast forward just under 25 years. I'm going to turn 30 very shortly, and I am sitting in the cinema again, seeing Bebop and Rocksteady on the big screen, and having my seat intermittently kicked by some little shit young child who evidently has no manners.

Dreams do come true, but they're never perfect, and often quite late. Much like getting Lego Sonic the Hedgehog.

I think I should specify some important context:
I do not care for Michael Bay. At all.
I remember enjoying The Rock, but I wouldn't say it's memorable.
I think I've seen Bad Boys 1 & 2, but I don't remember them.
I have seen all of the Transformers film, and despised all of them. In fact, when I saw the fourth (which was the second one I saw) I sincerely spent the last hour of the film praying for the sweet release of death.

However, I have greatly enjoyed both of the recent Turtles films. This is probably due to Bay only being a producer, and not actually being in a particularly influential role.

Special Effects

Once again, this is an effects heavy film. For the most part it is passable - not great, but because it's constantly there it's not jarring and doesn't take you out of the film. However, there is one particular section in a river, and I swear, the effects were unbelievably good!
It's odd, most of the time wet textures are what ruins good effects or graphics, where everything, no matter what the texture is meant to be physically like, looks like it's covered in slime.
Not so, here. Honestly, it almost looked as if the Turtles were animatronic puppets like in the originals.

Megan Fox

Megan Fox reprises her role as April O'Neil, once again looking and acting far more human than in the Transformers films. She isn't just a damsel in distress, but takes an active role in events (but sometimes it doesn't work out so well).
There is a short (and early) section shown in the trailers where she dresses in a schoolgirl outfit, and the camera lingers. However, contextually, though obviously still for the male gaze, it doesn't seem anywhere as exploitative as you'd expect from a Bay film (it's in fact a distraction for the purposes of espionage).
For the rest of the film no such thing happens, so it at least gets it out of the way early.

Camera Work

The camera work in the film is actually really good - the action scenes don't shake the camera too much, so the action is easy to follow.
At the end, when the film is reaching the climax, the dutch angles come out. Dutch angles are when you tilt the camera to indicate that something is horribly wrong, but they only work when contrasted with normal shots (hence why Battlefield Earth is both terrible and amateurish).
I noticed it, and felt impressed. The director uses his tool-set correctly.

Casey Jones

Casey Jones is played by the guy from Arrow, as the audience was loudly reminded by the shitling young person sitting behind me. I honestly can't remember how Jones was in the cartoon, but I do remember him in the first film. There is a definite contrast here, as the character is less of a charming badass.
Shortly after he is introduced, he points out a plot-hole with the events that are happening, which is somewhat appreciated - if the film didn't point out "this is stupid, but necessary for this scene to work" it could be used as a criticism against it.

Will Arnett

Will Arnett proves once again to be really good comic foil. He might be type-cast, but he's brilliant at it.

Bebop and Rocksteady

Yes, Bebop and Rocksteady are here! Yes, they are annoying, but being incompetent comic sidekicks that's kind of the point. Bebop is played by Gary Anthony Williams (who I recognise but I'm not sure what from) and Rocksteady is played by Seamus "The Great White Shark" from WWE.
Though Rocksteady having a strong Irish accent is different from the cartoon, it doesn't feel out of place (except for one scene where he says "Whoops, my bad" - I'm not sure why. Maybe the lips didn't quite match)
Overall I think they were done well.

Throught the film, the liquid that can transform things (like the Turtles into humans or Bebopy and Rocksteady into a warthog and rinocerous) is referred to as "Ooze" - from this it seems fairly evident that the film makers were very aware of the second original film (and the disappointment that arose from it) and so were trying to, not make up for it, but make sure that they didn't repeat the same mistakes.

Tyler Perry

Tyler Perry plays Baxter Stockman, who is probably going to get mutated into a fly in the next film. The only reason I bring this up at all is that I watched someone's review where they mentioned him as a negative.
I hate him donning a fat-suit and being an unfunny racist stereotype as much as the next man, but let's be fair - Gone Girl proved that he is in fact a really good actor.
Here he does a perfectly fine job.

Conclusion

All in all, though this wasn't a particularly good cinema going experience for me, it was a genuinely entertaining film that basically felt like the cartoon had come to life.

One terrapin out of a mongoose.

Saturday, 4 June 2016

X-men: Apocalypse

X-men: Apocalypse is an interesting film, partially in how it can be compared to Captain America 3, which was released at roughly the same time.
Whereas Captain America was, as described by some outlets, a political thriller disguised as an action film, X-men is undoubtedly and unashamedly a popcorn action film.
This is not to say it isn't a good film, though. It knows what it wants to do, and does it well. Mostly.

The film sees the latest iteration of the X-men cast (Fassbender et al) facing off against the semi-titular villain. Semi-titular because, though he is known as Apocalypse in the comics, cartoon, and games, in this film he is known exclusively as En Sabah Nur.
He is a mutant, possibly the first one, who transfers himself between bodies, absorbing the abilities of the mutant he transfers into in the process.
This is done using some kind of gigantic machine, which seems to be less of him using a mutant ability to transfer (which one would presume would not require advanced technology to utilise) and more using some kind of alien technology - the idea is not developed at all, but could hint at things to come in future sequels (as aliens are involved with the X-men, sometimes)

At the start of the film, his performs this process transferring himself into an immortal mutant, but is buried until modern day (1983) by some Game of Thrones cameos.

I have seen some people criticising Apocalypse's design, which features some nice Egyptian inspired-features, mixed with alien-looking technology. Imagine Stargate, but with a blue tint. Yes, it looks a bit silly, but a lot less silly than this:

I don't want to get into describing what happens in the film blow-by-blow in detail, but there are a few points I want to make.

Religion

Apocalypse is buried in ancient Egypt to cries of "Death to the false god!" indicating that he has convinced his followers that he is a deity, which is pretty much par for the course for ancient Egypt.

In the teaser trailer (above) Apocalypse has a speech about the names he has been known by, which includes "Yahweh". In case you are unaware, "Yahweh" translates to "I am" and is the "name" of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. The implication clearly being that the fictional Marvel universe (which includes a multitude of other Gods) is not according to the mythology of western religions, or perhaps leaning towards Gnosticism (the concept that a God did create the Universe, but then left, and the interactions humanity has had with "God" afterwards was actually a malevolent imposter)
However, in the finished film that name (and "Ra" if memory serves) is removed. Apparently the studio misplaced it's testicles between producing the trailer and releasing the film, which is a huge shame to me. Come on, guys - push the envelope a little.

Jubilee

Like many people, my first exposure to the X-men was through the saturday morning cartoon, and which used Jubilee as the audience proxy for the first few episodes.
Interestingly she does appear in this film, quite a lot. I think that the writer must have known that quite a lot of fans would be curious to how she is portrayed, and to that end turned her into Maggie Simpson in all of the "future" episodes of the Simpsons. By that I mean that literally every time she was about to talk, she would be prevented from doing so. I'm not sure how I feel about that, as it was somewhat funny, but it felt a bit like I was meant to be the butt of the joke.

Quicksilver

He's back, and he is utterly hilarious! If it weren't for his dour representation in Avengers: Age of Ultron, I would be wondering why good-guy speedsters seem to be universally light hearted comic relief.

Jean Grey

In another example of the influence on Game of Thrones, Jean Grey is played by Sansa Stark. She is a perfectly competent actress, but evidently has a little bit of trouble with the particular American accent she was attempting. This is obvious, and a little bit distracting, because in some scenes her dialogue was ADRd and it doesn't quite match up.

Wolverine

Not a spoiler as it's in the (final) trailer, but the eternal Mary-Sue that is Wolverine is in this film. He is done very well, though, particularly because it's an extremely minimal part with barely a line of dialogue.

Special Effects

As mentioned before, this is a less cerebral film than Captain America, and much more spectacle. As such, the film makes liberal use of CGI, which is expensive. The vast majority of it looks really good, or at least convincing enough.
However there are a couple of scenes of a shipping yard which, to be frank, would look more convincing is scribbled on a napkin in crayon. They are unbelievably bad.
The thing is, since it's only a couple of scenes - literally no more than a minute of footage - I am left wondering why it wasn't edited out of the final cut?

The Horsemen

Apocalypse has four mutant henchmen, like the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. One of whom is Archangel, who has a transformation sequence featuring a heavy metal song, as if to say "Hey, look at this guy with his METAL wings. Isn't this so freaking METAL?"
Since the guy looks like a literal child, not really. In fact, it just seems off.

Conclusion

I honestly really enjoyed this film, despite a few mis-steps. It's not the most intelligent, but it is a really solid action film, with Fassbender continuing to be a fantastic Magneto.
As the film itself says, the third one is always the worst. This is perhaps not as good as First Class and Days of Future Past, but is far better than The Last Stand.
Since the next one planned is a third Wolverine specific film (the two so far being at most so bad they're good) I'm not too hopeful about Wolverine 3.