Making Sweden 5% nerdier than it has to be.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Harry Potter Retrospective Part 2

When I used to be a member of a swedish Harry Potter fan community, before the website got shut down due to illegal use of the hogwarts name, I was often confounded that pretty much everybody would put Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets at the bottom of their list when asked how they'd rank the various books. The other books had different ranks depending on the person but CoS almost always got ranked last.

As I always thought that it was at least superior to Philosopher's Stone I never quite understood why people ranked CoS as the least great one. It wasn't until my recent read through of it, now that I can see it with more experienced eyes, that I can understand why this is/was the case.

I still don't agree with the assessment that it should ranked last though.

Monday, November 29, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1

As one might guess from the previous post I am a fan of the Harry Potter book series. So one might think that I'm an equally big fan of the movie series based on said book series. Long answer is that I think that the first two movies were good but not great. The third and fourth movies sucked. They sucked hard. At that point I had all but given up on the movies pleasing my, probably too high, expectations. Then along came David Yates to direct the last four installments in the franchise.

The way I saw the fifth and sixth movies were much less of a spectacle compared to the previous four that I had seen with large groups of friends. I saw them alone some time after they had opened up at the cinema and found that, to my surprise, not only were they really good movies they were good adaptations of the novels as well.

Which, after a long story, brings us to the subject of this review. Yates' third movie in the franchise, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Harry Potter Retrospective Part 1

He rached out and pulled the book out from the back of the shelf. It hadn't been used in quite some time but the marks it wore showed that this had not been the case in the past. The cover had scratches and the corner edges had become dull. Inside the book a number of pages had spots of unknown origin on them and an entire chapter consisted of loose pages. Otherwise the book was in readable condition.

As cynism had marked his once naive soul it was with caution that he opened the book.

And then he smiled.

The magic was still there.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The gaming experience (Naruto): The finale and Killer Bee

One last update in this little gaming experience. It was pretty epic.

While I think that the way the game sets-up Pain's invasion of Konoha was a little lack-luster it did provide with some fun match-ups before the last big boss battle.

And that's where the epicness comes in. I only screwed up a single quick-time event so the whole thing flowed nigh-perfectly smoothly. And kicking Pain's ass in normal battle mode felt as satisfying as it looked in the manga. The only part that annoyed me was that Hinata was allowed to completely get her crowning moment of awesome, it was replaced with a heroic sacrifice that looked sort of lame. So that was bad.

The pay-off however was cool. Taking on a shinra tensei spamming Pain as the uber-powerful six-tailed Naruto was explosive and the battle looked truly awesome.

The end part to the fight was great as well. With both Naruto and Pain being limited to only basic combos and their standard ninjutsu move. No throws, no items, no ultimate jutsu and no support. But Pain was constantly awakened so he dealt out much more damage than the player did as Naruto. It's a simple idea but worked out well. It was a challenge and very satisfying to beat.

I'm also impressed by how the story parts and themes where all fitted into the epic finale. It was rather gripping and felt a bit more enjoyable than in the original series. Maybe because I've realised how it all works out a little better by now. Either way it was fun to see.

So now the game's main story is done for my part and all that's left is to be a completist. But I just want to get all the playable characters for free battle mode. So my friends and I can kick each others' asses. I also want to beat the shit out of the evil puppet guy. He annoyed me. So I get to have fun in travelling the game world with a the four-man team of Naruto, Hinata, Gaara and Rock Lee!

Today I got to a fragment where you got to fight the ever awesome Killer Bee as Sasuke, now in his Akatsuki uniform and with new abilities. The guy was suprisingly, yet saddly, easy to beat up. At least in his first form. Then he got to be permanently awakened and kicked my ass at first. But that was a fun challenge as well. Beating his superior power with tactics and skill was rewarding as all hell.

And... that's about that. A fun game overall with lots of fun things to accomplish and good retelling of the Naruto Shippuden storyline. Though, I wonder what a sequel would be like since Naruto doesn't get to be in all that much action after the Pain fight. He'll get his share eventually but right now he's taking a training back-seat. Oh well, if there is a sequel I'll probably get it just for all the new characters that are certain to be added to the roster.

Until next time, when I'll start something I've been looking forward to.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The gaming experience (Naruto): The awesomeness of Jiraiya the toad sage

Been playing quite a lot since the last post. So here's a quick summary of the things I went through in the game up until the really awesome part.

Fought and defeated Hidan and Kakuzu. The Kakuzu boss battle was the most difficult one yet and pretty freaking epic.

Played through the Sasuke storyline of the game. Got some good laughs from the game implying that team Taka are actually good at what they do. Was disappointed that the Sasuke/Deidara battle didn't get boss battle treatment. But that was fixed with the Sasuke/Itachi battle which was just great fun.

And now I've played through one of my favourite parts of the Naruto series. Jiraiya's infiltration of the Hidden Rain village.

The atmosphere in the village was great. With dark and gloomy colours that contrasted Jiraiya's own bright outfit, making everything feel foreign. This feeling was further enforced when talking to the NPCs in the village. All of them seemed perfectly fine and sort of happy despite the gloomy appearance of the village and the constant rain falling down on them. A somber musical tone kept me on edge, though the fact that I knew what was going to happen helped as well. I was seriously itching for the battles to come.

First of was lovely Konan and her paper style jutsus. I won but she surprised me with her speed and range. Then came the battle I've been itching for almost the entire game. The war between Jiraiya and Pain. It was always one of my top two favourite fights in the series. Not only would we finally get to see Jiraiya going all out while at the peak of his healt but he would fight alone against the leader of the Akatsuki. It was a battle destined for great things.

As a boss battle it shared the same quality as the Gaara/Deidara boss battle in that you never really did the same thing twice. The straight up fight sequences never had you fighting against a normal playable character, instead giving you some unique enemies to battle against. The quick time events were used to showcase the abilities Pain had that couldn't really be fitted into a normal fight sequence and the final moment were just a hopeless struggle for survival before it all ended with one crowning moment of awesome. There was so much creativity put into this battle and I applaud the game designers for making the whole thing so very awesome.

Then came the story elements with Jiraiya's death and Naruto dealing with it. All of it was handled beautifully and I actually shed a few tears. Excellent stuff really.

Now then, it's the final chapter and all that remains is Naruto's training, the Taka/Killer Bee boss battle (at least I hope that it's in there) and Pain's assault on the Hidden Leaf village. I'm very interested in seeing how they'll do that one.

Until next time.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The gaming experience (Naruto): Simple as it is I AM having fun

It's been a few days and in my spare time I've really been enjoying Ultimate Storm 2. A big part of that is probably that I've gotten good at the fighting mechanic now. It's wonders how a little training can work wonders for you, poor Sakura though, she had dubious pleasure of acting punching bag for me.
But yeah, I'm really having fun with this game. So much so that I don't really care that's it's a glorified fighting game with a pretty weak free-roaming section. It's fun and it's a good retelling of one of my favourite manga series.

Now, I was a bit disappointed in the 4-tailed Naruto/Orochimaru boss battle. There's was no standard battle with Naruto in this form and the shooting gallery style battle which was just not really working for me. Also the quick-time event part took me an embarrassing number of tries to get through.

However, the Naruto/Sasuke boss battle totally made up for it. Finally a battle that match the epicness of the Gaara/deidara battle. It wasn't the same scale but in made up for it in inventiveness. The small flashes of Naruto and Sasuke's previous battle interspersed in during the fight was a neat touch and the quick-time event sequence was fittingly awesome.

And I thought that it was a nice touch to let you play as Asuma for a while. It made his inevitable doom a bit more heart breaking, it also helped that he's now one of my favourite playable characters. Oh well, I got to beat the shit out of Hidan with him. That was fun.

Speaking of Hidan, his english voice actor is freaking rocking the role. It is one of the funniest voices I've heard in quite some time and he can still be creepy when the story needs that.

As the story has reached Naruto's wind training I've now experienced a funny trait from a game with... shall we say limited gameplay option. With only a fighting game mechanic and a free roaming mechanic there's not really a lot of ways to show that Naruto has actually learned anything new. So it's been resorted to just having him getting his ass kicked by his teachers or kicking their asses.

Great way to learn there. By beating people up. It sort of reminds me of the Harry Potter games where the teachers send Harry on freakishly perilous quests to learn new spells. I just find stuff like that really funny. At least in Ultimate Storm 2 Naruto gets some off-screen training, which is really doing its jobb in building up to the grand reveal of the results.

So yeah. I'm having fun.

Until next time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The gaming experience (Naruto): Were's the freaking training area!

So far the game is still fun and good. But I am beginning to question a few things. Like the lack of a training mode. I'm sort of sorely in the need for it. Though I guess that I can't simulate one in a fashion. Just so I don't look too embarrassing if I ever show this game to people.

Back to the fun stuff now. The story is so far a really well-abridged, not the parody thing, version of Kishimoto's original story as it keep all the elements and important scenes without slowing down the pace of the game.

The boss battle against Sasori was not as epic as the one against Deidara, nor as difficult, but still plenty fun and awesome with some great quick-time events thrown into it, I just need to get better at them. It does get me thinking about which other boss fights I'm looking forward to the most right now. For once I might actually get to enjoy the Sasuke/Itachi battle entirely instead of just parts of it. And man o man am I looking forward to the Jiraiya/Pain battle.

Right now I'm meandering around the various world maps to see if I can't get some other fun hidden items and stuff. Also looking for these evil little dolls that appear around the world. Will get back to the main story tomorrow.

Short notes.

Gai and Rock Lee are freaking beasts in this game. Possibly the best characters as far as I can see.

Tenten on the other hand kind of sucks. As always.

I cannot express how great this game truly looks.

Maybe I should get a second controller.

Oh well, time to get right into the least fun story arc in the series.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

A nerd at ninja night

Whelp... if it wasn't official before it sure as heck is now.

I. Am. A. Nerd.

Here's the thing. Me and my friend Anton usually visit a place in Stockholm that sort of acts as a library for comics books of all sorts. On occasions this place will show a movie for anybody that wants come in and just watch a cool and/or nerdy movie.

This evening they showcased the movie Ninja Assassain starring South Korean entertainer Rain. It was a pretty fun, over the top, just a tad bit too gorey action movie about ninjas. Good action scenes and plenty of neat little details. Overall enjoyable, if you're into that sort of thing.

But before the movie there was a 'ninja quiz' where all the questions were about ninja related stuff from comics, manga & anime and crappy 80s action movies with ninjas in them. 30 questions in total with one elimination question (a picture of the ninja turtles with the question "Which doesn't fit in with the rest?").

As far as my cynical self is concerned I never win anything like this. It's just fun to play along when the arrangers have gone through the effort. So I answered all the questions that I could answer and wrote down that Donatello doesn't fit in since he relies too much on modern science over his actual ninja skills (it was the best thing I could come up with so I won't disagree if anybody says that I'm wrong, besides it's better than the one that answered "Leo because he's lame and boring", but I digress).

After the movie the answers were read up to the audience, around 8 guys, and I just nodded as I noticed how many wrong answers I'd gotten. The questions about the 80s movies sort of set me back. Luckily I could copy a few answers from Anton who did the same with me, he copied a lot more from me than I did from him. And when all was said and done it became apparent that I'd actually won the whole thing with 16 correct answers.

I realised that before it was properly announced and my first thought was "Oh dear, I AM a nerd."

...and I was ok with that. It didn't bother me or anything like that. It just struck me as funny.

Then I got my grand prize. A 7 disc box set of the original Teenage Mutant Ninja (Hero) Turtles. One of the most nostalgic shows from my childhood. Fucking awesome!

All in all. A fun night that I just wanted to share.

The gaming experience (Naruto): Button mashing and epic battles

From what I've gathered the opinion regarding anime games seems to be that their quality ranges from mediocre to crappy, so I haven't really bothered trying to find one to play. But recently I've seen lots of impressive looking in-game videos, positive reviews and good forum buzz regarding an anime game so I decided to try it out with my casual gamer skills. Luckily it also happens to be one of my favourite animes series that's represented in the game. And so far I'm having fun with Naruto Shippuden: Ultimate Ninja Storm 2, henceforth just refered to as Naruto.

The game follows the second part of the manga/anime series starting after a two-three year time-skip where the titular character has undergone some training. Training which most fans seem to agree yeilded some fairly unspectacular results. But that isn't a problem here. In fact it seems to be the opposite.

As with the other titles this game franchise, which previously consisted of only fighting games, every character seems to have had their abilities and special moves amped up by a degree of 5-10, resulting in some almost hilariously over the top moments of awesomeness. But hey it's a good way to give the player some epic boss battles so I'm not complaining.

So far I've played two of these boss battles that seriously rival the God of War franchise in terms of cinematic scale. The first one was against Naruto's instructor Kakashi, who claims that he was just testing the kid while throwing fire balls, water dragons and assassination moves at him. It was a fun fight and I didn't really have any problems with it.

Then came one of my favourite battles from the original series. The air duel between the sand village leader Gaara, my favourite character in the series, and the artistic and explosive terrorist Deidara. This fight was quite a bit more difficult as I got my ass kicked a few times and a groan-inducig number of misstakes during the quick-time events. It certainly showed that I'm still a beginner at this game and would've revealed my button mashing tendencies to anybody watching. Nevertheless I had loads of fun playing this boss fight as well. The developers managed to make an already epic battle even more epic while still keeping the events in order.

So the boss battles are great fun but I'm wondering about the other gameplay elements. So far it just seems to be running around a lot and buying stuff and talking to people on the streets. Less exciting but that's ok. I'm here for the story anyway and so far the game is doing a good job of faithfully retelling it. I've decided to stick with the english voice cast just out of interest and they're pretty damn good. And the graphics are breath-takingly beautiful.

I think that I'll have much fun with this game and once I'm done with the story mode I can hopefully try out the Vs. mode with some of my friends.

Until next time.

Friday, October 29, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Just got home from seeing it. The, for me personally, most anticipated movie of the entire year, partly because it took so freaking long for the thing to get to Sweden. But man o man was it worth the wait.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is AWESOME for so many reasons. But let's sum up the story first.

Scott Pilgrim is a twenty something slacker with a slight case of douchebag in him. He's in a crappy band called Sex Bomb-Omb (if you get that reference the chance of you liking the movie increases quite a bit), lives with his gay friend Wallace and he's dating a 17 year old catholic school-girl. Then he meets Ramona Flowers. A stoic, tough as nails gal who can see through what Scott is about with ease and doesn't like to talk about her past. The two begin dating and then Scott has to fight her seven evil exes.

You think that last sentence is weird? Then try this on for size. The movie's world runs on video game physics, meaning that whatever looks awesome will most likely work.

The action scenes in this movie are among the best I've seen. Ever. Either they were really inventive or extremely well-coreographed and all of them were epic fun. At the same time they all meant something. You see, the fights scenes are basically a visual representation of how people like Scott Pilgrim wish that they could deal with the emotional problems that they go through and serve as metaphors for Scott's issues and stress at the time.

Which brings us to the romance. From the above descriptions it might be believed that Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is nothing more than a geek-out extravaganza. It's actually more than that as it tells a mature and deliciously human love story between two young adults that grow as persons and as a couple inbetween all the awesome stuff of epicness. It's a good love story and I do so love a good love story.

Then there's the humor. I, along with pretty much the rest of the theatre, laughed my ass off at several points. It's a funny movie.

So it's a movie that has awesome and epic action scenes, a well-written and mature love story and hilarious humor. In short, basically everything that I love form a story. And it's supported by a great cast. Michael Cera makes Scott believeable and enjoyable without necessarily making him entirely sympathetic from the get go. The seven evil exes easily steal the scenes that they're in. Just about everybody absolutely nails their part and I wish I could've seen more of them all.

According to other reviews I've read, the graphic novels on which the movie is based on expand upon several of the supporting characters greatly. Saddly most of this is cut in order to get through all the fights agaisnt the evil exes but it's not a deal-breaker or anything. It just makes me want to buy the novels more.

Despite being almost two hours long the time just flew by for me. Sure the movie does tend to speed through things at certain parts and while the action is awesome it is totally understandable that some would find there to be too much of it. But none of that stopped this from being one of the most enjoyable and entertaining movies I've ever seen. It just kicked ass.

If you like awesome geek-out stuff then you should totally go see it. And if you can appreciate a good movie then you can see it and enjoy it, though you may want a friendly geek with you to explain a lot of the stuff that the movie throws at you.


Monday, October 18, 2010

So many ways to assemble

It's hard to deny that in recent years The Avengers franchise has more or less surpassed Spider-man and the X-men as the main seller of Marvel comics. In one way it's understandable. The team has always been a gathering of some of the company's greatest heroes, and quiet a few off-beat figures as well, and writers generally pit them up against foes that no single superhero could withstand in confrontations that have had comic book readers on the edge of their seats for over 40 years. Readers still speak fondly of such classic storylines as the Kree-Skrull War, Under Siege, Korvac Saga and Ultron Unlimited. With such a strong legacy and premise it was only a matter of time before the franchise ended up on top of the sales charts.

Unfortunately it happened when the title relaunched in a new direction with writer Brian Michaels Bendis at the helm. Personally I'm not a fan of Bendis' writing style but obviously lots of other people enjoy it so I'll save my Bendis rant for some other day. Anyway, with the Avengers selling so good and a new comic book movie poping up seemingly every year nowadays it's logical that people would speculate about an Avengers movie. The main question for such a movie would be this.

How the hell would that work?

Unlike the members of the X-men and the Fantastic Four, the Avengers don't have have a shared or similar origin. They're heroes from all over the Marvel universe that gather together to kick ass and be awesome. So to make an Avengers movie you'd either have to just ignore telling anything else but the team's origin story and leave the non-comic book audience wonder where the hell all these characters come from. Or you tell short versions of each character's origin and that would just be a big mess. So what's the solution?

The most awesome in geek-cinema history yet!

We've already had two Iron man movies, that were both awesome, one new Hulk movie and in 2011 we're going to get a Thor movie and a Captain America movie. There've been hints in the Iron man and Hulk movies for a larger universe and characters have appeared in both movies. All of this is to show that they're in the same universe. Besides being stories in their own rights these movies will lead in to the big event in 2012 when they all join together for the Avengers movie!

In short, the origin of the most important characters, who tend to have the most complex origin stories, will have been told to the non-comic book reading movie goers so that the movies can focus on the gathering and first adventure of the team. Not only is that sort of brilliant from a marketing stand point, I can't think of any other instance in cinema history where a project like this has been attempted.

And it's real. There's a schedule for when each movie is going to be released. The entire main cast has selected and revealed, a few of which we've already seen in the Iron man movies. They all even appeared together for a panel at the San Diego Comic Con International along with the director and one of Marvel Studios film producers.

Who's the director you ask? None other than Joss Freaking Whedon, creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer! ...I should be more excited about that than I actually am. The thing is that at the height of my BtVS fan-frenzy the announcement of Whedon directing The Avengers movie would've been like a god-send for me. But in later years I'm more capable of seeing the flaws in his story-telling skills. That's not to say that I dislike his work. I still admire the guy immensely. I'm just a bit vary about what he might do with the movie.

Then again, with a project like this I have no idea at all who would be able to direct it in a way that would be satisfying to both common movie goers and fans of the comics. At least Whedon has shown great enthusiasm for these characters and he's a fully capable director and a gigantic geek with the full force of Marvel Studios at his disposal. There's a good chance that it'll all end up being awesome as all hell.

But first things first. For now we wait for the Captain America and Thor movies. Those will be very interesting to see next year.

So, am I done with this for now? Hell no! With The Avengers movie coming and Disney having bought Marvel comics you can bet your beepy, whatever the hell that is, that there's a cartoon based around the team coming. In fact, it's going to premiere on October 20 this year. But they've already aired a number of mini-episodes on youtube. I've watched them all and they are awesome.

The quality of both the writing as well as the animation is top-notch and the voice-work is excellent with each actor catching the characters' essence really well. These mini-episodes have served as sort of an introduction to the characters while at the same time introducing several plots that I'm certain will be touched upon during the cartoon's planned 52 episode run.

What amazes me the most is the number of stories that the creative team have planned here. In these mini-episodes I've seen seeds for storylines involving Asgard, time-travel, super-villain prison jailbreaks and much much more being planted. Overall, it just looks great and I can't help but compare the possibilities of the cartoon and the movie.

The target audience for the cartoon will most likely be able to accept the incredibly different places that all the characters on an Avengers comes from than movie audiences. So having the team gather together will probably be easier in the cartoon. And since a movie has to tell one story rather than one it is limited to only one, possibly two, major Avengers villains. The people behind the cartoon on the other hand can just pick any bad guy that they want to build an episode around. And with 52 episode that'll be a lot of villains.

But still, the movie is a much bigger project and I will admit a geeky glee at trying to figure out which villain could possibly be worthy enough for the honor of the Avengers first silver screen adventure.

All in all, I'm excited about both the movie and the cartoon. They carry a long and mostly awesome legacy on their shoulders so they're being handled with care and consideration. Whatever the medium it's a good time to be an Avengers fan... despite Brian Michael Bendis...

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Samus' portrayal in Other M: Appropriate or diminishing?

When it comes to female video game characters there are few, if any, that are as successful, iconic and beloved by fans as the lead for Nintendo's Metroid franchise, Samus Aran.

Appearing first in the action-adventure game Metroid on the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1986 Samus is a bounty hunter that used be a marine of the Galactic Federation, who still stand for most of her employment. At the age of three she was orphaned and subsequently brought up by the bird-like alien race known as the chozo. They trained her to be a warrior and gave her the armor she's usually depicted in, it's known as the Power Suit. The Metroid series spans ten games over several Nintendo consoles, most of which have been praised for their high standard of quality, and she frequently appears at the top of several list of the best heroines in gaming. She's helped blaze open a path for other strong female video game characters like Lara Croft (Tomb Raider) and Yuna (Final Fantasy X). And the funny thing is that in the first Metroid game players didn't know that Samus was a woman until the very end of the game.

Up until that ending players only saw an 8-bit version of the armor above. This meant that they most likely believed Samus to be a man or manish robot and they had no idea that it was a woman that they'd been blasting the crap out of aliens with. Ever since that revelation the premise of the games haven't changed much. Samus still goes around on her own and blasts the crap out of the aliens that can be as tiny as pigeons or as big as houses. She's equal to the men and is treated as such. In short, she's a badass game heroine and people love her for it.

Other traits that Samus has is that for the majority of the games she's a silent and mysterious protagonist, though she has communicated through text and soliloquising (none of it was audio). Besides her unconventional childhood not much has been revealed about Samus' past except that at some point during her time with the marines she respected a commander named Adam Malkovich and that he sacrificed himself to save her. So we don't know much about her.

The latest game in the series, Metroid: Other M, however puts much more focus on story-telling. Which meant that not only would players finally hear Samus speak but that they would also get an extended glimpse into her backstory. Naturally fans were excited as all hell. Then the game came out and the end results have been controversial to say the least. Be warned for there be spoilers here.

The main complaint has been that the way Samus is portrayed makes her appear to be not only less interesting that many believe her to be but also less competent. However, this isn't an all-pervasive opinion as the other side has praised the focus on the story as well as the insight into Samus' past and mind. After looking into the matter from several angles I've decided to write this article to analyse the matter simply because I think that it's interesting. But before I get into the matter of disecting Other M's story I think that a deeper look into the tragic life of Samus Aran as well as what we can discern about her character from it. This way we can better analyse her behaviour in Other M more appropriately.

Like I said, Samus was orphaned. What I didn't mention was that this happened when she was three years old and that the cause was an attack from the evil organisation known as the space pirates along with their leader, the saddistic and destructive dragon monster known as Ridley who would've killed Samus as well if her mother hadn't saved her. Ridley and the space pirates would become Samus' most persistent enemies in her adult life.

All alone Samus was picked up by the chozo she would come to know as Old Bird and she became intergrated into the chozo society. Chozo-blood was even infused into her being so that she'd have a better chance of surviving. For eleven years Samus was trained by the chozo and even got her signature power suit as a gift. When she was 14 Samus left to join the Galactic Federation. She would later return to the chozo home planet and find that assaults from the space pirates have forced the chozo to abandon the planet and left the main temple in ruins.

Other tragedies include being unable to do anything but watch when Adam is forced to sacrifice his little brother, and her friend, in order to save countless other people. Then there's the time she's forced to fight and defeat three other bounty hunters, one of which saved her life while another was a really kind individual and the third a young woman that considered Samus her main rival, all of which had been corrupted by the radioactive substance phazon. After defeating each of them Samus could only helplessly watch as a dark version of herself put in the killing blow and absorb them. Then there's of course the death of Adam Malkovich, again she's forced to watch as he willingly sacrifices his life.

Lastly there's the loss that's probably had the most impact on the series as a whole. A baby metroid, a specimen of a parasite species (of which the baby is the last one) that serve as the primary threat throughout most of the franchise, hatches close to Samus and believes her to be its mother. This baby later on grows into a giant metroid and saves Samus from certain doom at the hands of a monstrous adversary. But as with seemingly everything else the metroid is killed and all Samus can do is to lash out at the monster with renewed strength and rage.
See a pattern here yet? Everything Samus loves basically ends up dying. At least that seems to be the case. There's only one person that truly remains constant in Samus' life. That person is Ridley aka the monster that killed her parents. She frequently battles Ridley and frequently kick his ass no matter what new ability he's given himself. She's even killed him a few times. And yet he ALWAYS comes back. In short, the one person in her life that won't die is the monster that ruined her life to begin with.
Despite so many horrible tragedies Samus doesn't seem to be all that miserable. Sure she's probably somewhat vary of getting close to other people and is largely an introverted person. But that's really understandable considering the circumstances. But she's also a lonely person who travels around space on her own and does good, heroic things by saving and helping those in need, even if that wasn't on any mission statement. None of it will bring back what she's lost though so she's left with trying to avenge the deaths of those that she's lost. Most sources will also point out that Samus seeks revenge against the space pirates and Ridley for what they've done to her.

Despite her tragic life, loneliness and feelings of revenge Samus lives on. She's able to feel, emote and sympathise perfectly fine, though a bit stiffly from everything I've seen and read, an she doesn't engage in destructive behaviour. Her mind most likely isn't a happy place but she isn't crippled for life or anything like that. She just pushes all these problems back, looks ahead of herself and walks on. That dear readers is an interesting and strong female character that is still full of delicious human weaknesses.

Of course, this is just my interpertation of Samus. Others might disagree on some points but overall I think that it fits what we know rather well.

So what in Metroid: Other M and its characterisation of Samus is it that has upset a large amount of the metroid-fans so greatly? First, let's go through the story. Now, I haven't actually played this game but thanks to the wonder that is youtube I've been able to see all the cutscenes in the form of a movie like experience with some of the more epic gameplay moments added in to great effect. So in regards to the story I do know what I'm talking about. To sum up the game's story; it takes place after the death of the metroid baby, Samus has answered a distress call from a derilict space station and once there she finds out that she isn't the only one to do so. Her former commander Adam Malkovich has brought a team to the station and they decide to team up in order to fix the situation. Everybody got that? Good.

I'll start out by looking at the game's two most infamous examples of what fans feel makes Samus appear weak and incompotent.

The first is that at the beginning of the game Adam gives Samus the order to deactivate most of her armor's weapons to make sure that they don't accidentally damage the station further. Adam will communicate with Samus from a com-central and authorise use of her equipment when needed. Gameplay wise it's a way to make sure that Samus isn't over-powered at the beginning of the game so that the players can power-up as they progress, most of the games have their own excuse for doing this. It's also fairly logical. Samus has a lot of fire-power in that suit of hers and her stronger weapons might very well punch a hole in the station. She also has the equipment to survive such an incident but the much less well-equiped federation marines wouldn't be so lucky.
The problem comes from a situation where Samus is running around in a lava filled area where the air is so hot that it's actually hurting her. She makes it through and reaches a large boss monster that she has to defeat. In the middle of this fight Adam calls in and tells her to activate the function of her suit that will protect her from the heat. Let's go through the problems with this.
First of all, why was Samus supposed to turn off her defensive systems along with the weapons? They weren't exactly gonna blow a hole in anything.

Secondly, why the hell did Adam wait until the boss fight before authorising Samus to turn the damn thing on? Did he go to the bathroom or something?

Thirdly, why didn't Samus call Adam when she was about to enter the hazardous area and ask if she could turn on her harmless defensive function?

And that's not the only situation where the descision to deactivate seemed none-sensical. Samus was also made to turn off her grapple beam, a thether-like beam weapon that she normally uses to swing across large gaps and to pull shields away from enemies and similar things. In short, it's not a particularly destructive weapon but it's still turned off. In Other M there's a situation where Samus needs to save a friendly marine but he's on a place that she can only reach with the grapple beam. It's immediately activated at that point in the game but there was still a risk that she wouldn't have been able to do that in time.

Again, the deactivation of certain items makes some sense and from a gameplay perspective it's just a standard staple of the series to not start out with all of Samus' equipment. But from a story perspective the reason for deactivating the equipment just doesn't make much sense. A lot of the upgrades Samus deactivated weren't all that destructive at all or even weapons at all. That Samus is willing to deactivate them so easily without protest simply because Adam ordered it left a bitter taste in a lot of peoples' mouths. I'll get into that relationship later.

So overall, the reason for denying Samus her upgrades, while clever, doesn't hold up all that well and doesn't reflect well on Samus. Someone with her experience should know better than to downgrade her abilities like that. And Adam himself should realise that she'd be an even greater asset with her full capabilities. Overall, it just didn't work out and that Samus roled over and allow it without a single protest made her look bad.

The second instance in Other M that fans really seem to have a problem with is the encounter with Samus' arch-nemesis, Ridley.

Chronologically Other M takes place after the SNES game Super Metroid where Samus has not only defeated Ridley rather thoroughly, he falls to pieces after the fight, but she's also left his remains on an exploding planet. So understandably Samus is relieved that the monster is FINALLY dead. In Other M Samus discovers a tiny creature whose scream pushes other creatures to more aggresive behaviour. This little fellow is later on revealed to be the first evolutionary form of Ridley. When the bastard, or rather his clone actually, appears again in all his purple dragon glory Samus reacts rather strongly.

Really strongly.

The guy in clip with Samus is an old friend from her time with the federation, just so you know.

The main reason this scene angers a lot of people is because that generally isn't how Samus behaves around Ridley. Normally she'll just blast the crap out of him, a feat that she's pulled off almost ten times by this point in the series. They were even in a free-fall once and she kicked his ass in an awesomely epic boss battle. So if she's defeated this hated enemy then why does she go into a despairing fit when she sees him this time?

It is heavily implied that she's reliving the nightmarish day of when her parents were killed and the shock of that is causing her to lose  focus so badly that she can't even keep her armor on. Added to that is probably the shock of seeing Ridley alive again after his previous death, though it isn't really hinted at in the game but it makes sense. So seeing him again, even if it's a clone but that's probably an unimportant detail, was bound to incite a strong reaction from Samus. She is still human after all, as I described in detail above, and in the end she does get it together and kicks his once again.

However, despair might not have been the reaction I would've chosen personally. I agree with the game that the situation would get a strong reaction from the armored heroine but instead of despair I think that she'd get angry. Really angry. So furious that she becomes reckless and gets smashed down by Ridley when she tries to take him on without thinking ahead.

So while I don't entirely agree with how it played out the scene in question doesn't bother me as much as it does others. It can't be denied that it's a weak moment for Samus but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a bad moment. Though I do understand how it can be seen as such. But even badasses like Samus are allowed to spaz out now and again. It shows that they're human underneath all of their ass-kicking glory.

Now those were only the two most controversial individual moments that made Samus look weak, incompotent and/or less interesting than first percieved in the eyes of a lot of gamers. There's still lots of other reasons why they frown on this story. But they can all be sort of be summarized by one individual aspect of the game. The writing just isn't all that good.

After years of being a silent protagonist you'd think that they would treat Samus fist fully voiced game with meticulous care. In some aspect that was the case. In a lot of other cases that it wasn't. For example, the writing is about as subtle as a boulder launched from a catapult. By the end of the game the theme of motherhood will have been hammered into your head so intensely that you'll never want to read The Joy Luck Club ever again. Then there's a rather hilarious cut-scene towards the end where we get to see a corrupt officer from the federation. I don't know about other people but the way this character looked, moved and grunted brought on the following thought from yours truly.

"Ten bucks says that your name is Puppy-kicker McBadguysson."

The story's un-subtle nature is further displayed by Samus narration. She will describe the things that are happening on screen in teeth-grindingly annoying detail. Even freaking really obvious things will be described in this manner. It's made even worse by the fact that Samus won't ever shut up.

It's honestly like she's trying to make up for the being silent in the nine previous games by filling each second of each cut-scene with her narration. It grows tiresome rather quickly. Most of it is her own inner monologuing and the introverted character I describe above is very likely to have a lot of thoughts running in her head. So it is reasonable that she has a lot to say in her narration. But there are ways having a character narrate excessively without making it annoying, one of them would've been to get a better voice-actress. Which leads into the next great problem that comes from bad writing. Crappy dialogue.

I don't know if something got lost in the translation from japanese to english but the dialogue just does not work. It's stilted, sort of clich├ęd and it just doesn't draw me in. All the big moments and surprises in the movie-esque youtube clips I saw were sort of ruined because the dialogue, probably aided by bad and tedious voice acting, just made me role my eyes and wish for the parts where I was watching somebody else play the game. There were some bright moments here and there but Samus was only part of one of them, and that was a four word sentence at the beginning of the game.

But there's one example that just really shows how poor the writing of this game. Some time into the story it's revealed that there's a traitor in Adam's team. A person sent in to kill all the other members for some evil conspiracy bruhahaha. He even attacks Samus while riding around in large robot-tractor thing with hi face hidden from the audience. This sub-plot is never resolved and the entire team dies, though all aren't killed by the traitor. How's that for lazy writing.

Well, I've danced around it lon enough now so let's get into the part that really is a hot-button topic among Metroid fans. The relationship between Samus and Adam. Like everything else in the story it is without subtlety to the point where Samus flat out narrates how she sees Adam as a father figure and the only person that understands her. She also tells us that they had falling out after Samus left the federation. And from a previous game we know that Samus always respected Adam and that he saved her life.

Throughout most of Other M Adam mainly communicates with Samus via radio-contact and tells her when and what weapon/equipment to use. That alone might irk some gamers. You see, in most Metroid games Samus usually gets told where to go and what the problem is but at the end of the day she's the one that actually has to come up with how to fix the problem. In this game Adam often ends up telling Samus which weapon to use, not all the time but enough that I can imagine some fans getting annoyed by it. Samus has been doing this for long enough to not need some man telling her how to do her work, at least that's how I think some might see it.

Other than providing unnecessary advice people think that Samus is too submisive to Adam, exemplified by the whole deactivating weapons dealy. Now while I do agree with that assesment it is sort of understandable that she would let Adam act as commander for her. He was after all her boss earlier and is still a father figure. For a lonely person like Samus I can imagine that falling into routine isn't unlikely at all. Besides, it's not like Samus ever actually asks for advice on how to do her job or begs him to allow her to use any equipment, even in situation where she should do that. Adam just provides it whether Samus, and the players, needs or wants it.

There is a scene however that not only demonstrates the submisive way the game has Samus act in but also the bad writing. It's a rather important scene at that, namely when Adam sacrifices himself to save Samus. The problem is that he doesn't actually save her as much as he puts her in harms way, for illogical reasons, and she doesn't even get a bit miffed about it. Hell, he actually shoots her in the back, completely disabling her armor (which is weird since Samus has taken way stronger hits without losing it), to save her from a threat that it turns out she could've destroyed easily on her own. Then his great sacrifice comes and it just seems like it could've been averted by Samus just going into the same place doing her job and then going down to the final boss a bit later than planned. In short, bad writing strikes again.

I'm being deliberately vague here because the scene is so stupid that if I went into more detail I'd make his a lot longer than it already is, which is alreadly a lot. So let's conclude.

Samus taking orders from Adam, freaking out at the sight of Ridley and generally not thinking in fluent badassese is all rather understandable and in and of themself none of it make Samus weak or incompotent. It makes her look human. What does make her look weak though is the way the that the game presents all these aspects. The execution, at least on the writing department, is horrible. All the ingredients and intentions for a good story about Samus' past and a look into her psyche are here. But none of it is handled with the finesse that it deserves.

And for all those that think that Samus isn't badass in this game think about this. She's still able to kick the crap out of all the big bad bosses and monsters that show up in the game all on her own, even the building sized ones, some times with limited weaponry. Also, this is just one game with bad writing. Samus still has nine games of ass-kicking awesomeness, and better written stories, to fall back on. So at the end of the day she's still a badass and interesting character. Don't let one poorly written story tell you otherwise.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The wait is... annoying me

So I've almost seen all the movies I intended to see this summer and they were mostly good.

Clash of the Titans was a neat treat but a little weak at the end.

Kick-Ass was a delight.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time was a fun adventure movie with one of the best action scenes I've seen in a long time.

Iron man 2 was pretty much everything that a sequel should be with a many a geek-out moments, especially after the credits.

Inception was a clever mind-bender that tried a lot of things and pulled them all off really well.

Robin Hood was good, not great but good. I wish they would've gone with the original idea of having Robin as the villain but what are you gonna do?

The A-Team was a great mindless action spectacular.

The Karate Kid was great. Both as a remake and as its own movie. It gave me a newfound respect for Jackie Chan as an actor.

Left on my list are The Expendables and Toy Story 3. But I'm gonna do something about them soon enough. There's however one movie that I really want to see that has caused me some grief. You see, here in Sweden movies rarely ever air on the same date as in their original countries, though that's probably the all over the world. In some cases it's a matter of waiting a few days, maybe a week. In lucky instances we actually get to see the movie before even the americans, that was the case with Iron man 2. And then there are the times when we have to wait several months for a movie to show up after its premiere.

That is the case with... Actually no... it's more than just waiting for a few months.

First time I saw a trailer for Scott Pilgrim vs. The World I was stumped. It just looked bizzare, insane and I needed to see it. The anticipation rose with each new trailer and I looked up more about the comic book series it was based on. Without spoiling anything for myself I only got more intrigued. I even bought the first book to get a bit acquainted with the series, but I've been told to see the movie first then buy the rest of the books.

I looked up when the movie was going to air in sweden, because in my mind there was no way that such a fantastic looking movie wouldn't air here. My search yielded no results. There wasn't a single mention of the movie being shown at any cinema in my dear little home country.

The F-word I uttered at that time was probably the loudest I've roared yet.

A little while later dates for the movie's sweden premiere began poping up a little here and there. In forums, magazines and IMDB. They were all different and the cinema site still didn't mention anything about the movie.

So I decided to just get in contact with the cinema company to get some straight answer. The reply was that it wasn't certain that they would show Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, but the chance still existed.

Being a natural pesimist I despaired that I would have to wait for the movie to come out on DVD or that I'd have to download it, I don't stuff like that. What really annoyed me is that the list of cming movies being shown in Sweden included the live-action version of the comic strip Marmaduke was clearly posted.

Nobody in Sweden gives a shit about Marmaduke and that has a better chance of being aired than Scott Pilgrim? I really wanted to punch somebody that day.

Luckily it has recently been revealed that the movie will be shown in Sweden... starting October 29. That's six weeks and six days from today. Stupid cinema company not understanding how awesome Scott Pilgrim vs. The World probably will be. Now I don't feel at all guilty about using a voucher to see the movie for free.

Oh well, until then there other fun nerdy stuff to look forward to in Sweden. The closest would be the marathon of The Phantom shorts being aired at the local cultural centre. It's going to be dorky as all hell. But that's the kind of stuff I live for. Which is pretty much why I look forward to Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and why I hate waiting for it. It's a bit like waiting for me to actually write something on this blog.

Peace out.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

MOVIE REVIEW: The Karate Kid

Oh, my poor little neglected blog. How unused you are. Oh well, summer's been too fun. I'm here now to give y'all a review of the movie I just saw, The Karate Kid.

As a person who enjoyed the original movie very much I was a bit worried that I'd be comparing this remake to the older one too much to fully enjoy it. That was not the case luckily enough. The 2010 movie is strong enough to stand on its own two legs and successfull in being an homage to the original while at the same time adding new elements to the story.

Of these new elements the one that stands out the most is the setting. The movie is filmed on location in Beijing, China, which naturally gives the audience some beautiful scenes. It also adds to the story by more or less isolating the main lead Dre (Jaden Smith) in a culture he knows nothing about and he can't even communicate with the majority of the population. Dre is so very American in his attitude, pop culture references and unfamiliarity with his new home. The contrast between cultures is immediate and very believeable. Jaden Smith works well in this role as showcases a large variety of emotions and he does them all very well. I especially appreciated that in this movie it's the american that has to adapt himself to his new home's culture rather than him showing how his American style is the superior one. Believe me, it's a refreshing novelty in movies like this.

Now while Jaden Smith is good in his role the movie's shining star is without a doubt Jackie Chan as Mr. Han. I now see this veteran action star in a whole new light. He pulls of the old, withered and eccentric master role brilliantly and makes it his own. There's a sense of sadness and mystery to Mr. Han. He has a personal secret that is subtley hinted at up until it's revealed. At that point the catharsis scene is one of the most poignant things I've seen on the big screen all summer.

The teacher-student friendship between Dre and Mr. Han is of course the very cornerstone of the movie's story and it is a pleasure to see how it goes Mr. Han barely responding to Dre trying to get his attention to the two of them learning life lessons from one another. It's all pulled off very well and with a sense of sincerity that I personally loved to see.

Unfortunately the romantic sub-plot doesn't hold up as well as the main plot. It's a contrieved and forced and the actress that plays Dre's love interest has basically two expressions. Sad face and big smile. However, it does what it's supposed to do and the conclusion of it was one of my favourite scenes.

Now for a quick list of other notable things in the movie. Taraji P. Henson as Dre's mother is very good. I'm rather impressed that there wasn't any real rousing speech throughout the entire movie. The fighting scenes where well-coreographed and only really implausible towards the end of the last one. I also enjoyed how there was several training montages instead of one which made Dre's eventual improvement feel more natural.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie. It was one of the most touching films I've seen this summer and I recommend it to everybody that's seen the original.

Monday, July 5, 2010

The point of pointless deaths in superhero comics

Death in comics is a fickle and complicated thing. For the readers few things can stir up as much emotion, for better or worse, as the death of a character. One of those few things is when a character is revived. You see, for comic book fans it is a well-known fact that comic book characters, especially in superhero comics, rarely stay dead. That's what happens when there are multiple writers, all of which have different opinions and ideas in regards to character deaths and revivals.

These constant revivings of characters that have had poignant or heroic death scenes can make said death scenes seem, to be brutally honest, pointless a lot of the time. However, it doesn't have to be that way. Both deaths and revivals can indeed evoke positive feelings in the reader. It all really depends, as basically everything in the industry, on the quality of the overall story. A poorly written death scene can agaitate the reader because a character that they liked just died and they didn't get the respect that they deserve. In these cases a return to life for the character is often desired. Reversely, a great death scene that honours the character and shows them at their best will often leave the readers with a bitter-sweet satisfaction that the character gave it their all and looked awesome while doing it. Those are generally the cases when a revival will feel like it cheapens the death scene in question.

There are any number of different examples in regards to this subject and as a particular death in comics have made me consider these issues a bit more than usual. So I decided to post some of my thoughts and findings here to see if I could discern whether there is a point to killing off characters anymore or if it's just a tedious excercise of writers trying to go for cheap drama.

But first I'd like to point out that there are characters in comics that actually do stay dead once they've left this state of life. For example, if somebody dies as a part of the hero's origin story they will usually be immune to getting revived, traditional examples include Spider-man's uncle Ben and Batman's parents. Then there are the rare characters that died way after the origin story and actually stayed dead. Before going to those that went to death's realm and back allow me to talk about those that that remain dead after their death scenes, whether they were good or bad. First up is quite the possibly the most awesome death scene I've ever read.

Skurge the Executioner was, despite the incredibly badass name, a B or C-list Thor villain. The kind of guy that was usually the dumb muscle more than anything. At a point when he feels unusally down he joins Thor for a rescue mission into Niffelheim. Skurge gets tricked and used and shamed in front of hundreds of his fellow warriors. To make up for it Skurge stands in front of a bridge that the heroes have to cross while pledging that he will protect them from the undead army hunting the heroes. We get the following scene.

The narration reads as follows: They sing no songs in Hel, nor do they celebrate heroes. For silent is that dismal realm and cheerless. But the story of the Gjallerbru and the god that defended it is whispered across the nine worlds and when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head the answer is always the same. He stood alone at Gjallerbru. And that answer is enough.

After that scene Skurge actually stays dead and it's understandable why that is. He was a fairly unspectacular character so there's probably little appeal in bringing him back when it would be fairly easy to create a similar new character. Not just that, but Skurge's death scene was quite possibly the coolest thing that ever happened to the character. But it wasn't just an awesome death scene that is remembered to this day, It served as a trigger for character evolution in the godess the Skurge loved but was spurned by and in death Skurge acted as a heroic example that Thor could see as an example when he almost lost his way. In short, an awesome death scene that actually meant something in the longer run.

Another heroic death scene that seems to have stuck can be viewed in the case of Rex-splode from the Image comic Invincible written by Rober Kirkman, who more or less writes EVERYTHING that happens in the Invincible universe, meaning that it's unlikely that some other writer will have a chance to much his work up. In the series' 60th issue Rex sacrificed himself to save his injured teammates from an over-powering opponent. Prior to this Rex had been something of an annoying jerk, cheated on his girlfriend among other things. But after some character development he'd begun to be less of douchebag. Then he died. Unlike Skurge who evolved more as a character in death more than he'd probably ever do in life there were still more stories to tell with Rex. This is an example of that bitter-sweet feeling I mentioned before. The fans of the character want to see more of him but at least he went out like a hero. But because Rex died like that it become more poignant. The readers will not only miss the character but the stories with him that won't be told because he's no longer there, making the scene and aftermatch all the more powerful. A revival would take away a lot, if not all of that power.

A more famous example of a character that's still dead would be when Spider-man's girlfriend Gwen Stacy was killed by Green Goblin. Gwen has remained dead for quite a few number of reasons. The impact of her death rocked not only Spider-man's personal universe but actually ended the Silver Age of Comic Books. Before this event it was completely unthinkable that a hero's girlfriend could actually be killed by a villain. But when Gwen died a lot of doors opened up for grimer and grittier stories. In short, she became a symbol for a step forward in the entire industry, whether that was good or bad is up to each individual.

However, the reasons for killing Gwen weren't exactly that noble. The creators just didn't know what to with her and thought that her relationship with Peter Parker was leading down an unfitting route for the character, namely happiness. There was also the idea that by killing Gwen they would more reafirm the root of tragedy that they considered vital to Spider-man's character. In short, Gwen Stacy was killed mainly to evoke an emotional reaction from Spider-man making her an early Woman in a refriegerator. It's pretty certain that Gwen will never come back due to the importance her death had and it is certainly a well-written tragic story. But I can't help but think that the character deserved more than to be tossed aside like that.

So that's one heroic death and one tragic death. Next up is the very satisfying death of one Alexander Luthor, at least it's satisfying to me. Alex is a Luthor from another dimension and acted as one of the main villains in a large DC comics crossover event. During this event Alex became repsonsible for the deaths of entire worlds and generally being an arrogant prick. During the epic final battle Alex manages to sneak away from the heroes and begins planning his next move. In an alleyway he is intercepted by the only two villains he didn't allow to work with him. Lex Luthor and the Joker. The Joker disfigures and brutally kills Alex, though the killing happens off-screen it was later confirmed that Alex was killed.

Like I said, for me it was a satisfying death scene. Not only was it well-executed, pun not intended, and completely in-character for basically all villains involved. It was nice to see a horrible villain like Alexander get what's coming to him. It also made sense storywise. Alexander was extremely dangerous, even by comic book villain standards, and if he wasn't dealt with it wouldn't have been believable. But here's the thing, while some people may have appreciated that Alex was dealt with in this way others probably didn't see it that way. It's risk that writers run whenever they kill a character. Not everybody is going to appreciate that a character is killed, even if the scene is well-written (though that is of course relative). So this is a case where a revival could be appreciated by at least part of the audience. Luckily Alex is the kind of character that could plausibly be revived.

Now while, revival would work for Alexander it isn't entirely necessary since the scene worked (again, it's relative). There are other cases where revival is desired because the death scene was poorly written. This is the case with Ares, whom died in the recent Marvel comics event Siege.

Ares is a character that had seen an increase in popularity in recent years after having been reimagined in a mini-series written by Michael Oeming that turned the character into an anti-hero instead of the run of the mill villain he used to be. During Siege one thing leads to another and Ares ends up in a confrontation with the insanely powerful and insanely insane hero the Sentry. They duke it out or a bit before Sentry rips Ares apart in a two-page spread, and it is one very bloody display.

There are so many things that I dislike about this death scene. Chief among them are the intentions behind the scene. It's clearly intended to shock the readers and to be honest that is never a good excuse to kill a character. Another reason for Ares death was, and this mentioned by the author himself, was to make Sentry seem like a bigger threat when his inevitable confrontation with Thor would occur. Considering that Marvel have spent the ten years since Sentry was introduced to shove it down the readers throat how powerful Sentry is, hinting to links with the Judeo-Christian God and having him overpower the nigh-omnipotent Molecule Man, there really wasn't any need to reinforce Sentry's strength like that. And even if the fight between the two was really necessary then why not just have Sentry give Ares a bloody non-leathal beating. It would achieve basically the same thing without the drawback of needlessly killing a popular character in eye-rolling fashion. There hasn't even been any real follow-up to the event and the events of the story weren't actually affected by Ares dying. It's poorly concieved and pointless death scenes like this one that makes revivals seem necessary.

Revivals themselves can also vary greatly between instances. Saddly enough the differences nowadays often seem to be limited in how predictable the revival will be written. When a character dies readers automatically begin counting down until that character is revived. In some cases it's justified since it's part of a grander story. This was the case when Superman and Captain America died.

Big name characters never truly stay dead and considering that both Superman and Captain America were big enough for their deaths to be feature in various mainstream media outlets one can tell how big both of these guys were. So naturally their return was inevitable. The question wasn't whether or not they would return to life. It was how and when they would return, and whether the stories would be any good. Now, I haven't actually read the stories where either of the returns so I can't really comment on whether they're good or not. I have read that Captain America's story involves space-time travelling and Superman's has something to do with a "regeneration matrix". Standard superhero comic stuff. But the important thing in both these cases is that there were stories planned behind both deaths and new things came out of them.

In Superman's case four new characters were created and at least three of them are still relevant to this day. Besides that there quite a bit of story threads that came out of Superman's return to life, like how it affected Superman's relationship with Lois Lane and the fall of the superhero Green Lantern (Hal Jordan). When Captain America died there was a long storyline concerning who would take his place and how it affected those close to him. Now that he's come back Steve Rogers no longer bears the title but is in a new position of power to aid the superhero community. In short, both these stories had plans behind them instead of just big shocker events. It's interesting to note that Superman's death was the ending to the storyline that built up to the death scene with the following stories dealing with the aftermatch. Captain America's death on the other hand was just the beginning of the storyline that dealt with his death.

In any case, there were plans with the events that would take place after these two deaths and how they would be revived and there was aftermatch material in both instances. So while the revivals may have been predictable to various degrees at the very least the writers realised that and planned ahead. I appreciate that.

Another death that would predictably be undone is the case with Thanos the mad titan. It happened during the excellent Annihilation storyline and the death scene in question is an interesting one. For those who don't know, Thanos is cosmic tyrant turned anti-villain who has romantic feelings for Death herself. Right before his demise Thanos tries to destroy a weapon that could threaten the universe. Unfortunately things happen, trying to avoid spoiling things too much, and Thanos is killed before he has a chance to do so. The interesting part here is that Thanos doesn't have a chance to make any real resistance and goes down without too much of a fight. But the scene is still so well written with Thanos seeing his beloved smiling at him as he is killed. There's a sense of dignity to it and even though it wasn't a display of ultimate badassitude it felt satisfying. This was also sort of an fitting end for Thanos as he happily embraced his fate and was joined with his beloved abstract concept. It was rather clear that the writer, Keith Giffin, intended this to be a sort of send off for Thanos. And if Thanos never returned to life that would be ok.

However, Thanos is a cosmic character and they are rarely bound to the same universal laws as earthbound characters so it would make a bit more sense if he were to return to life. There's also the fact that Thanos is really popular among fans so it was only inevitable that he would return to the living. In short, the fans expect Thanos to come back to life but since he's not as popular as Cap or Supes there's just a little more surprising when it happens. Also, because of who he is fans where pretty much expecting that any reason for Thanos to be seperated from his love would be a pretty big event kind of deal. Lo and behold, Thanos has recently returned and the cricumstances surrounding it are so big that they're an integral part of an event that bears Thanos' name in its title. The writers wanted to use Thanos earlier but they knew that the death scene was so good that whatever the storyline that brought him back was it needed to be organic and big. In short, while it wasn't planned from the beginning Thanos' death scene became an important ingredient in another story arc down the line and proper respect was shown to both the character and the death scene in question. A lot of work was put into the death scene and the revival and that is basically all we can ask for.

Not all revivals will get the same amount of work put into them. An example comes from Annihilation, and remains one of the few big blemishes to the series, and one of the mini-series that lead up to the event. In the mini's last issue the alien villain Kl'rt the Super-skrull gets a heroic death on par with Skurge's as he learns what it means to be a hero. It was one of the highlight moments of the entire Annihilation saga. Then, a few months later in real life, he is revived by accident as two cosmic powered entities slam into each other nearby his corpse. Even Kl'rt and the narrator are baffled by this turn of events. Then it's just accepted and never spoken of again. This is the kind of annoying resurrection that makes one wonder why anybody actually bothers to write a dramatic death scene if just going to be undone like that, especially so soon. What really bugs me is that after the death scene there was a touching tribute to Kl'rt as his people celebrated him as a hero 20 years later with his lover telling the story of his death. Not only Kl'rt alive again but his lover has since been killed and there're no signs of her being reconstructed, she was a cybernetic creature.

I should point out that Kl'rt getting revived wasn't entirely unwanted. He's an interesting character with cool powers and the mini-series had given him some well-deserved character development. But if he was going to return I would've have liked there to be more effort put behind it.

There are several more resurrections that could I could bring up, like the laughably amount of times Jean Grey dies and comes back or the recent DC event that deals with this very subject and ends with loads of formerly dead characters coming back to life. Hell, here's a list of characters that have cheated death just of the top of my head. Baron Helmut Zemo, Magneto, Barry Allen, May Parker, Superboy, Doomsday, Quasar, Atom-Eve, Dupli-Kate, Norman Osborn, Harry Osborn, Lex Luthor, Mysterio and many more.

But this post has gotten a little long so I'll end with the story that got me thinking about all of this. The death of Lian Harper.

Lian was the daughter of the DC characters superhero Roy Harper, also known as Speedy/Arsenal/Red Arrow, and the mercenary Chesire, lots of family tension there. Because Chesire opted for being a mercenary she left Lian with Roy making him one of the few single parents in the superhero buisness, both in Marvel and DC. Now, I won't beat around the bush here. I freaking love this character. Not only is she a rarity among superhero children in that she didn't have any powers and she was never manipulated into growing up at an accelrated rate or anything like that. But she was also freaking awesome and always stole any scene she was in.

For a little kid she was smart, funny, capable (this is a kid that got out of a villain's hold by snapping one of his fingers) and incredibly insightful. She could see when her father was hurting and help him. Before she was able to pronounce the letter R she could make neat little observations regarding the leadership of the Justice League. She knew all about her father's occupation and never blamed him for sometimes putting it before, for example, playtime with her. She got close to several of Roy's colleagues had some great interaction with them all. Lastly, she had this wonderful innocence that made everything about adorable and a joy to read. She also had an artistic streak that was brought in several instances.

For Roy she became a reason to fight, to survive and to never kill. He evolved as a character because of her and as I said, got a unique position among superheroes that affected him no matter what situation he ended up. No matter what he did Lian would be there. But not as a burden. Roy's always had several baby-sitters ready to take care of Lian whenever duty called. The interaction between Roy and Lian was always poignant, amusing or just cute. Roy Harper became a better hero and a more diverse character because of his daughter. And then I haven't even touched upon the complex relationship between Lian, Roy and Chesire, who once committed genocide.

Then DC decided that she would be killed in the mini-series Justice League: Cry for Justice. Lian Harper died at the ripe age of ten when an entire city collapsed around her and she was caught in the rubble all alone. One can't help but feel that the whole thing happened to get a shock reaction out of the readers who didn't expect that they would kill someone as innocent as Lian. Again, shock value is the shittiest reason ever to kill a character. Not only that but the fact that they killed a character that is so important to one of their heroes says how much thought went into this. As a further demonstration of the piss-poor follow-up to Lian's death we have Roy's reaction. The trauma of Lian's death has led Roy into becoming a Punisher style anti-hero out looking for revenge against crime in general, and the hallucination of a partly decayed Lian is urging him on in his violence.

Now, I can understand that losing Lian has sort of shattered Roy mind. But it could really be handled better than this. This is just a desecration against everything good that Lian represented. And the worst part is that I don't think that Lian will ever come back. Because as awesome as she was Lian was only a supporting character. Those don't come back as often as regular heroes. Especially not from a death as simple as having a building fall down on them. Not only that, but DC has apparently made up the rule that all deaths must not stick as a part of the ending for the Blackest Night event. So a great character lost for the shitty reason of shock valune, the follow up has been downright disgusting and there's little chance for her to be returned. Things like this make me happy that I'm mainly a Marvel fan, not that they're much better though.

So what can one say about death in comics? Is it really pointless because of resurrections? It would probably seem that way to most people. But really, since a long time ago resurrection has become a part of superhero comics, whether we like it or not. They can be the cause of great joy and great frustration among the readers by bringing back beloved characters and/or nullifying significant death scenes.

It doesn't have to make the death scenes, the good death scenes, pointless. Those scenes can still have the same power as before and still be significant to the character. We as readers just have to hope that the resurrection will be written with respect for the death scene and match it in quality, if it was good, or completely make us forget the death scene, if it was shit. It's all up to the writers and the quality of their work.

Personally I'd take an annoying resurrection over a pointless death motivated by shock value any day.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Swedish Nerd and A Staple of his Childhood

Two days ago the first official trailer for the final installments of the Harry Potter film franchise. It's a good trailer. Plenty of big bombastic scenes with the heroes looking desperate, large amounts of fire, a dragon, armies of wizards and witches rushing into battle and plenty of confrontations between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). But it wasn't any of the larger than life special effects or dramatic scenes or epic music that got to me. It was these two tag lines.

The Finale of the Worldwide Phenomenon

The Motion Picture Event of a Generation

More specifically it's the words Finale and Generation. It just sort of dawned on me that I'm part of that generation that's refered to there and that this will probably be the last big thing regarding Harry Potter. It was just a bit of a surreal moment for me.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Wedding, a wedding, we're going to have a wedding, a wedding!

Poor little Sweden.

It doesn't quite seem to be this country's year now does it.

Our entry in the Eurovision Song Contest got out-voted and didn't go to the finale, causing an embarrassing hissy-fit with the swedish people.

And our national team in football flat out lost and didn't get to go to the world championship in Africa. I don't really know how people reacted to that but I bet that it involved lots of swearing and disappointment.

In short, this country needs something to cheer up its spirit. Something that doesn't happen on a regular interval. Something that's a bit extraordinary. Something that the media just won't shut up about.

In short, again, it's rather lucky that our crown princess is getting married tomorrow.

The extraordinary bit is that she isn't just going to marry some random foreign royalty but a man of the people. A personal trainer/gym owner/entrepeneur named Daniel Westling, who in a cute little coincidence has the birthday as the current King of Sweden. So the whole thing has a sort of modern fairy tale wibe to it which people love.

Personally I have no love or hate for the royal family of Sweden. They could stay or go and I'd barely raise an eyebrow. But I do have to admit that seeing Daniel and Victoria together is a bit nice. They look genuinely happy together and the clip of them announcing their engagement is actually touching. I just like seeing happy couples. Which is good in this case because, like I hinted at before, the media will not shut up about this wedding.

I know that it's a big deal and all but it gets a bit annoying when basically every channel has at least one program dedicated to the wedding itself, the royal family as a whole, Victoria and Daniel as a couple or royal weddings in general. And it's not just television. In the papers people on the streets and celebrities have asked boring generic questions about how they feel now that this is happening. There was even a paper that had what was basically a fan fic about the couple five years from now, was a bit long-winded and had a predictable twist at the end, written by an acknowledged swedish writer.

And then there's the newspaper that had a rather detail layout of the wedding and what route the couple will take after he wedding so that they can wave to the people. I'm most likely being irrational about it, but isn't that the kind of information that creepy and dangerous people could use to... I don't know, assassainate one or both of them. Or just be an asshat and do something silly like streak in middle of it all? But they're going to have like 2000 policemen guarding the whole thing. Meaning that it's a perfect time to commit a crime in Stockholm as long as you stay a fair distance away from the wedding couple.

But overall the only really interesting thing that's popped up in the news because of the wedding has been the inevitable bit of controversy. In this case it's all about who will walk down the asile together with Victoria.

You see, in Sweden the tradition is that the bride and groom walk down the asile together to signify that they are truly equals that have chosen to make a commitment towards each other. Following this tradition would mean that Daniel and Victoria would be walking down the asile together.

But a short time ago there was the announcement that Victoria's father, the King, will be escorting her down the asile. It's Victoria's own choice but it has sparked a large debate. On the one hand, it is Victoria and Daniel's wedding and they have a right to do it however they want. But at the same time there's a chance that because they do then many other wedding couples will follow in their footsteps with the father handing over the bride thus further breaking the tradition of equallity in swedish weddings.

Personally I'd wish that they would stick to the swedish tradition. But that's not because I'm a traditionalist of any kind. I just think that it's a nicer sentiment behind it.

When a father escorts the bride to the groom it kind of seems like she's just some piece of property that is getting pawned over to a new owner.

When a couple walks down the asile together it's like they're walking on the path towards their future together as one. I just like that one better.

There's some news that a compromise would be that the King will only escort Victoria halfway down the asile where Daniel will be waiting and from there they will walk the rest of the way together.

Yeah, that's doesn't really change anything. It's not the distance that's the point of debate, it's that she will be escorted at all. But in the end it's Daniel and Victoria's decision to make and that alone seems to have gained them the favour of the populus, at least if we are to believe this site. Hopefully this won't mean that there'll be a rise in fathers escorting the brides down the asile.

Escorting controversy aside I can be happy for Victoria and Daniel. In fact, I'll be extra happy for Victoria. Due to her honeymoon it seems like she won't have time to sit through that god awful televised show where her birthday is celebrated by various artists and she has to sit on the front row smiling for cameras when she'd probably want to do something less public. At least this year she won't have to sit through that shit.

Good for her.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Trekking with Sharkazzz

So today I did something different and calm after turning in my final essay for the term. I went to a Star Trek... movie day I guess you could call it.

My friend, whom I'm going to assume still wants to be called Sharkazzz instead of his real name, found a Star Trek fan club/society based in Stockholm and found out that they were going to have a gathering that was sort of open to anyone, who was willing to pay, he asked me to tag along. I figured that it could be fun and I'd always wanted to see a larger group of Star Trek fans so I agreed. Basically they had hired a small movie theater where they would show episodes of the various Star Trek series for a total of twelve hours.

Overall it was fun. The theme of the episodes was supposed to be fathers and sons and it overall held up pretty nicely but was something of a strech in a few episodes that they showed. Also, there was a clear over-abundance of Next Generation episodes, six while the other series only got one each. A bit boring since I've seen like 90% of the TNG episodes but what are you gonna do.

The fans themselves amounted to about 20 with only few dressed up in costumes, all of them human star fleet commanders. I had hoped for a bit more on that front. Generally they were male (shocker!!), with a few women, in the ages 25 and up and most of them were a bit overweight. So besides the gender ratio being flipped, and there being much fewer attentees, it was sort of like the Angel convention I'd been to a few years ago.

As for the episodes. They were are generally good, but there's one moment that I remember distinctly.

Captain Kirk from the original series had a most peculiar fighting scene. It looked sort of normal for the 60s, fake but full of energy, then Kirk pulled of a strange attack on his oppoent. At least it looked strange. Kirk's adversary was down on the ground and the brave captain was going for the finishing blow. Kirk runs up to his foe and leaps at him with a flying kick. That's what I assume it was supposed to look like. What I saw was Kirk's feets and legs going past his oppoent's head but the opponent still fell down as if he had been hit. A common mist-step that one can most likely find in loads of tv-series and movies. What made this one particularly memorable was that due to Kirk's angle it looked like he was hitting the bad guy's head with his butt. I actually LOLed at that. It was just funny.

Nothing much else to say really. The other friend that Sharkazzz had invited, and paid for, left sort of rudely before even the halfway point with no real good explanation. Though, it just wasn't his thing really and I wouldn't want to be something that's not my thing for twelve hours either. They're having a facebook argument about it now.

Then Sharkazzz left because he was dead tired, this had caused him to arrive annoyingly late this morning. But I'm used to that. Also they were going to show episodes from two other non-Star Trek scifi series. Sharkazzz being the Trek purist that he is didn't want to stay around for that. I did and discovered that Battlestar Galactica is really weird unless you've already seen the rest of the series.

Overall, a pretty fun and lazy day.

Oh and the lyrics to klingon songs are strangely, yet somehow understably, similar to the lyrics of Dragonforce songs.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Conflicted emotions due to remake

Close to where I live, like a block or so, there's a movie theater. In the big hallways leading to the various screenings they show soundless trailers of upcoming movies and sometimes I just like to sit down, relax and just watch those trailers.

Today I had one of those moments and did so to procrastinate a little. The usual suspects were shown. Crappy comedy, boring horror movie, stupid action movie, Twilight: Eclipse (HOW do they keep making these so fast?) etc etc.

Then something else showed up. The trailer started out in a ghetto setting with a black kid, that I sort recognised as Jaden Smith the son of Will Smith, as the focus. Then from what I could tell of the trailer he and his mom moved to Asia, Beijing to be more specific. In my concieted and cyncial mind I role my eyes and figured that it would be some sort of comedy about cultural conflicts and stuff like that.

Then Jaden Smith's character started getting his ass kicked by the native kids as he tried to protect a girl. "Huh." my mind went as its interest got peeked. It was surprisingly dark and brutal how these bullies kept beating him up. Then Jaden is saved by this cool looking old asian guy who whoops the bullies asses and scares them away. What follows is a training montage where Jaden is taught martial arts and later competes in a tournament.

I scoffed it off by thinking "Please, are you actually trying to do some hip Karate Kid knock-off?". Then I go two surprises.

The first was that the mentor dude was played by Jackie Chan. I was surprised because he looked totally serious and badass. Now I know that he is serious and badass when he does his stunts and fight scenes. But outside of those I'm pretty used to Jackie Chan looking like this nice, playful uncle kind of guy who's a bit silly. In this trailer the seriousness of the character fooled me and I couldn't see that it was him.

Second surprise was the title of the movie. It was plain and simply The Karate Kid. Cue my mind blinking for a few minutes.

Now, I love the first two Karate Kid movies with Ralph Maccio and Pat Morita. They're fun movies with interesting characters and entertaining martial art scenes. I even like the premise of the fourth one where Hilary Swank takes over as a female apprentice, saddly the execution of that one sucked. And considering the level of "quality" that remakes usually have in this day and age my initial reaction was a nerdy rage which almost caused me to denounce the movie.

Then my inner voice of reason told me to chill and pointed out that the trailer at least looked good and deserved some investigation and a look over with sound. So home I went.

I've now seen about three or four different trailers for the movie and I am intrigued to say the least. The characters are all different from the original movies and the setting has moved but the overall set up is pretty much exactly the same as that first movie, but with a little modern touch to them. I love this movie's take the whole "catching flies with chop sticks" bit.

I found the jokes funny and the style is certainly more cinematic than the original, probably due to the remake having more money to spend. At the same time it seems to have a more gritty tone to it to reflect modern times.

A nice little tidbit I found was that the film is actually... ehm... filmed in Beijin: China. That's pretty awesome and should give us some great visual backgrounds.

But remakes have stilled sort of burned me before so despite the general positive feeling I get I'm going to be catiously positive until I actually see it. But hey, I do want to see it. So the trailers have done their job.

Here's a link to my favorite trailer for the movie. If you liked the old movies, check it out.

Also, interesting note. Since the movie actually focuses on a kid learning kung fu in China it will be called The Kung Fu Kid in Asia. It will still be The Karate Kid in America simpy because that's probably more marketable.