Last weekend was pretty technologically rough for me, and being without the Internet I did what anyone in my position would do, I went down to my local video game store and bought a copy of the 2015 horror video game Until Dawn. Then played it until I was done, which worked out to be dawn the following morning.
Until Dawn is brought to us by Supermassive Games. Creators of such memorable content as Doctor Who: The Eternity Clock, Killzone (The HD remaster), and Little Big Planet 2 (the PS Vita port only). So… you know, it’s those guys. If you haven’t heard of any of those games, don’t feel bad no one else has either. And they don’t matter, because we’re here to talk about Until Dawn!
The premise of the game is simple, a group of teens go into a cabin in the woods, and things go wrong. They return a year later on the anniversary for the last year’s horrific events, and more horror ensues. This may seem like a story you’ve heard before, even the characters themselves may seem familiar. The jock, the bitch, the geek, the innocent girl and so on. But let me assure you that there is little about them you have seen before. The game uses all of the classic horror tropes to lull you into thinking one thing, and then violently shifts you into another direction. And it does a wonderful job of it.
The game is based around a choice system, meaning what you do at certain points will directly effect the game later on. Though the story is linear, it could pan out in any number of ways as it has dozens of branching paths. The game equates this to the butterfly effect; a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world, and a hurricane hits somewhere else instead of sun shine. At it’s simplest definition that is how the game works. However I get the strong impression that the developers watched a scene from Jurassic Park to get their full definition of how the Butter fly Effect actually works. Wherever the source, the game engine works pretty well. Most game changing events are obvious as they are about to happen, but the trick is you don’t know what they will effect nor do you know when that effect will happen.
This game mechanic is very similar to the 2010 Quantic Dream game Heavy Rain. In fact some gamers think that the same team made Until Dawn because elements of the games seems pretty close to one another. It’s the execution and pacing of Until Dawn that sets it far apart from its predecessor.
It’s a very cool game, and very well designed. The cast of real actors like Hayden Panettiere and Peter Stormare make the game feel all the more like you’re watching an actual high-end horror movie, and not just playing a linear video game. For a console the graphic rendering is also far above what I would have expected, and the sets, atmosphere and sound really make this someone that should be experienced in a home theatre setting or with a nice pair of headphones.
I had a great time playing through the game, and would recommend it to anyone who would like a solid 10 hours of being entertained, and maybe a little spooked along the way.
Last weekend I went to see Batman V Superman. This was a week after it was released and I had heard, read, and watched countless negative reviews of the film at the time. In spite of all of that I figured being the huge comic book nerd that I am I would give it a watch and judge for myself. I went in expecting the worst, and when it was all said and done, I thought it was a pretty good. I certainly wouldn’t call it bad, and let me explain why. This article is going to have spoilers, so be forewarned before you read on.
Now before I get into all the good things, it does have its flaws. Choosing to treat the audience as equals, and setting that bar low in the form of a viewer who needs to be retold the origin of Batman again for the 10th time I would say is pointless. We all know Bruce Wayne’s parents get shot during a robbery when he is a child. He has some trauma involving bats (though these days it has drifted far from it’s origins), and takes up the persona of Batman to fight the forces of evil in Gotham city. So it’s a little patronizing to have that visually explained to us, in slow motion, several times in the film. Here’s the thing about that though; it fits with the story. If it seems out of place in the whole of the narrative it should have been cut, but thematically it fits in there. They maybe don’t need to drill it as much as they did, but that’s not the same as saying it should have been cut all together.
One of the biggest complaints I have heard about the film is how dark it is. How the characters brood for the entire film, and it doesn’t ever have uplifting moments, or comedic banter between the characters. It’s just a dark movie in tone from start to finish. So many fans have criticized this that DC and Warner are now doing $10 million dollars worth of reshoots to the upcoming Suicide Squad movie to make it less dark and add in some comedy. Thing is, there’s nothing wrong with Batman v Superman being a dark movie, at all. Look at the source material it’s pulling from like Frank Miller’s The Dark Night Returns. You don’t hear anyone complaining about how somber a tale that is. In fact that story is what got Batman back to his roots as an ass kicking violent crime fighter.
And yes, this movie Batman is much darker a character than you’ve seen before, and yes he fatally injures criminals and kills a few. For those of you saying “that’s wrong, it goes against his whole code”, you’re right. The film even acknowledges this a few times. One of which is the speech Alfred gives at the beginning of the film “That’s how it starts. The fever, the rage, the feeling of powerlessness that turns good men… cruel”. He’s talking about Bruce, and Bruce knows it. What you have to remember is this isn’t Batman in his early days, he’s been fighting crime for 20-30 years by the time we see him in this film. The events of Man of Steel have changed him for sure, but we also see the broken costume of Jason Todd. Something has clearly happened to this Batman to bring him to this point, and his character has to deal with the realization of who he has become and what he can do to right his wrongs at the end of the film.
The film is dark, and the characters are brooding, as they should be. This is not a light-hearted Marvel movie, and I think that’s the main problem right there. Marvel Studios has established a clear set of rules for how to make a Marvel movie, and DC isn’t following them here, and they are right not to. If you walk into the theatre expecting to see that same formula you’ve seen in Avengers, Iron Man, and Captain America then you’re setting yourself up for disappointment. Not all comic characters are created equal.
The acting isn’t bad either. I mean, no one is going to win an Oscar for his or her performance in this film, but you don’t go into a comic book movie expecting to see award winning acting in the first place. Ben Affleck does a good job of playing Bruce Wayne, especially this older more worn down version of him. He even does a great job as the chin of Batman. Yes you don’t see him as batman for a lot of the film, but you don’t need to. Batman is there when he needs to be, and Bruce Wayne is there to move the plot forward to its not just Batman smashing things. I think we’re all glad that Batman isn’t doing the grumbly voice thing anymore, lets just be thankful for that.
In same vein, Henry Cavill is still doing a very good Superman and a reasonable Clarke Kent. I do like that at the end of the movie it’s revealed that he is Superman however, because both of Cavill’s characters looked pretty much identical. Also since in this Universe Kent is dating Lois Lane, it would start to be very fishy that Superman was always there to save Kent’s girlfriend. Both Cavill and Affleck have a good chemistry on screen as well, it’s quirky when then meet at Luthor’s party, it’s tense when they meet as heroes, I really don’t see what all the fuss is about.
Speaking of fuss, Jesse Eisenberg. MANY people hate his performance as Lex Luthor. When I say many, I mean most of the reviews I have read slam him for his performance. Comparing it to his over the top character acting in The Social Network. I realize this is an unpopular opinion, but I think he was fantastic. I like how his character of the evil genius is played out and written. He has the darkness inside of the Kevin Spacey Luthor from Superman Returns, the eccentricity of Gene Hackman from the original 1978 film, and something unique on top of it all. I really think Eisenberg owned his character in this movie. To the eccentric and over the top way he plays the character, I think that’s totally valid for depicting the character from the comics. What you have to remember is Lex doesn’t just hate Superman, he hates the power and respect he has, and in the end wants all of that for himself. Luthor is an evil genius with emphasis on both words, and Eisenberg plays him beautifully showing us that his Luthor is so brilliant, and has such a lust for power and to be right, that it drives him near mad.
Gal Gadot on the other hand I take slight issue with. I think the character she played is great and the direction she was given was correct. Wonder Woman, or Diana Prince (her alias) is supposed to have been someone who left her people to explore the world of man. For the little we see her in this film she ticks off all the character boxes. She is called Diana Prince, has her stolen gauntlets, and lasso (and in keeping with the comics she has a sword) and for whatever reason she has a shield. In true fashion of her people, the Amazons, she has a lust for conflict which is seen in the fight with Doomsday. There really isn’t too much more to say about her and that’s my issue with Gadot’s portrayal of her. Wonder Woman in this film seems very one dimensional, as if Gadot were simply taking stage direction and has no idea what this character is about.
Ray Fisher and Jason Momoa I have literally nothing to say about as both Cyborg and Aqua Man respectively. They were in the movie for all of 2 minutes. Which, to be critical of one thing, maybe we could have seen 20 seconds less of Aqua Man just floating around doing nothing at all staring at the camera.
Ezra Miller as The Flash on the other hand… What the fuck was that?! Alright Brian Singer, I understand you want to cast someone new as the flash and not use the actor from the TV series. Fine. And alright, you for some reason want him to be non-canon and not have blond hair, sure. But the guy you cast looks like he woke up late the morning of the shoot, and he was out the night before at the hippy commune you found him at. Would it have killed you to give him a haircut and a shave before he played the iconic character in two different scenes? Maybe at least given him a hat or hide his curly man bun? I don’t know who this Flash is, but he’s not Jay Garrick, Barry Allen or Wally West. Ezra Miller is such a poor choice for this role it honesty looks like he showed up for the wrong audition, no one was paying attention that day, and Singer gave him the part by accident and for whatever reason refuses to admit it was a mistake. Maybe Miller has a “no take-backsies” clause in his contract? I don’t have any issue with the two scenes he’s in; I even think the look into the possible future akin to Flashpoint from the comics was well done. Just… why does he have long hair and a goatee?! Fuck.
Let me finish with Doomsday and final thoughts. A lot of views think this movie is too long, and the Doomsday storyline could have happened in another film making this movie just about Batman and Superman. It could have happened that way, but what you have to keep in mind is the lost time DC and Warner are trying to make up for in this film. In the 2.5 hours that the movie takes to watch, they successfully get you ready for the next few DC movies to come. Adding Doomsday at the end sets us up for the next Superman film. And they did a pretty good job of incorporating Doomsday into the movie. Have the people who complained about him being at the end read the comic in which he was introduced? Issue after issue where they don’t tell you who he is and he makes his way to meet Superman and the long drawn out fight to the death they have? I like how condensed they made it, and I thought it brought a very solid conclusion to the film. Yes, it’s weird that the fight starts with that moment when Sups and Batman realize their mother had the same name. That whoever wrote that dialog should be fired. Yes, it’s weird Batman drew Doomsday all the way back to Gotham just to get the kryptonite spear instead of just going and getting it himself. But the fight itself was cool, and that’s the point. It hit all the key parts of the story and looked awesome. And for all you haters that said, “it looked just like they were fighting The Hulk”, yes, yes it did. That’s because Doomsday is pretty much the same character in terms of design and smashing things.
This was a good film, and it ticked all the boxes. It was true to the comics as best it can be. It set us up for a decent looking DC long running cinematic universe. It has some great special effects and fight scenes, and it had a story which sets us up for the next few films. In the same vein that Marvel has been building up to Thanos and the Infinity Gauntlet, all in one film this movie set up DC for what will be a pretty awesome battle with Darkseid and this War World. Which is kind of funny to me because I always kind of thought Darkseid and Thanos looked really similar and kind of act like the same character in the comics. This movie was good. What it was was not a Marvel movie, it’s a new departure into a serious cinematic universe. If you really hated the film, maybe it’s because you went into it with all the wrong expectations.