Saturday, December 17, 2016

Rogue One - Still a Star Wars Prequel

"Rogue One" has its head in the right place, at least.

Currently Disney is threatening the world of pop culture with a superweapon whose power is beyond imagination: an endless series of Star Wars sequels and spin-offs for the rest of our lives. If you want a picture of the future, imagine Darth Vader’s boot stamping on a human face – forever. So it is good that "Rogue One" looks and feels like a very different kind of SciFi movie. This is not grandpa George Lucas' space opera.

Rather than the operatic joy of a typical Star Wars episode, "Rogue One" goes for a more dour and gritty view of the universe. It is stylistically darker and more serious than even "Empire Strikes Back" or "Revenge of the Sith". The heroes do not get huge action scenes and victories. Giant weird monsters and fun quips are missing. This is a Star Wars film without an idealistic Jedi hero. It shows just how essential those Joseph Campbell protagonists are, because without them, this series ends up in a much uglier and more desperate mode. With a cast of badly broken people and morally gray decisions, "Rogue One" gives us a view of the hard underside of the Star Wars universe.

But what I really love about "Rogue One" is the design of this movie. Most Star Wars cinematography is very plain, if even deliberately retro. No other film series can get away with cheesy side-wipes anymore, but Star Wars can. "Rogue One" uses a digital camera rather than film to create a grimmer tone, but also beautifully complex shots. This is the best looking Star Wars movie by far. The typical bombast of the John Williams score is replaced. We don't even get an opening crawl. Director Gareth Edwards makes it clear he's telling his own story without the old formula.

So far so good. The only problem is that "Rogue One" forgot to have characters.

Monday, December 12, 2016

The Last Guardian - A BlueHighwind and His Dog

There have been three games that I have been waiting patiently for in my little corner of the world. Two of those games came out in the very first week of this month. The last, "Kingdom Hearts III", will probably be released in my lifetime. Hopefully. But it’s definitely a weird feeling. All of a sudden I have very little to complain about at future E3s. I can’t be automatically disappointed at Square Enix for not showing "Final Fantasy XV". I can’t wonder if "The Last Guardian" was secretly cancelled. That part of my life is gone.

The world has become somehow a less magical place now that all my dreams have come true. That’s probably the worst lesson of becoming an adult. It is more enjoyable to want than to actually have. I spent six years on the Final Fantasy Wiki working to become an Admin, and when it happened I felt no joy. If all of a sudden tomorrow somebody hired me away from my day job to work full time as a video game/movie commentator/reviewer… whatever thing I am, I imagine I’ll be disappointed in that too. Because once you’ve achieved your goals you realize how hollow they really were. Life just becomes all the more empty.

And what do you know? It’s also appropriately Christmas, the time of the year when we get all kinds of bullshit and junk that somehow never satisfies us.

It should come as no surprise that both "The Last Guardian" and "Final Fantasy XV" have not lived up to expectations. After you’ve spent six or ten years waiting for a game, they can never match the emotional investment you’ve already put into them*. "Metal Gear Solid V" last year turned out to be badly flawed in story and excellent in gameplay. But after years of watching perfectly directed trailer after perfectly directed trailer, that was not enough. "The Last Guardian" and "Final Fantasy XV" are both not enough in their own ways. I’ll cover both on this blog before the year is done.

But "The Last Guardian" is much much shorter, so I beat that one first. Thus it gets the first review: