Did Twilight Ruin Fantasy?

...Or just drain some of its life force?

 

This post was inspired by the newly released teaser trailer for Catherine Hardwicke‘s upcoming release Red Riding Hood. In this ‘breathtaking vision’ of the fable, a pair of mismatched lovers; one a ‘different’ young girl, struggling to supress he inquisitive nature, the other a gorgeous young man with funky hair and a bad streak; fight for their love to be allowed by other who rebuke it. The boy is supernatural and the girl will break any rules to discover his secret, there are clans out to kill the beast and the film is set in the forest… sound familiar?

I wonder would these parrallels become clear to me had I not been informed the Director for Red Riding Hood was also the directer of Twilight, but I was, and I am. See instantly we have a problem – Hardwicke, with more credits to her name as a designer than a director we could hope for stylish fantasy flick, but such comments would be deluded after witnessing Hardwickes most successful screen project Twilight. Now here is where I was about to exploit how such an accomplished production designer could get the styling of a movie so wrong, however after researching Hardwicke more thoroughly I find only two titles in her eighteen design credits that I have heard of-one of which is Three Kings, the other Vanilla Sky. Now of these two Three Kings was probably slightly better recieved by reviewers, though I must confess to actually rather enjoying Vanilla Sky when I watched it. Though to stay on topic, both these features hardly allowed Hardwicke to flex any really designer muscle, though the high concept future elements of Vanilla Sky could have done this, the direction is noticably muted and understated, limiting any flashy designer effects. Perhaps it is these limitations that impeded Hardwicke with the effect implementaion in Twilight; cheap blurring effects for speed and painfully obvious wirework stunts for the acrobatics took the only joy I probably would have got from watching Twilight out of the movie. Sadly from the teaser trailer of Red Riding Hood I feel that this boat is already heading down the same river; deep into post-production, every shot has that overly-glossy feel the first Twilight film had and though we see so flashes of the beast himself, I’m confident of a badly colour-graded CGI monster.

Of course fantasy films are not merited wholly on their effects (even if they are more so than others) but of the content also; sadly Hardwicke seems to go weak at the knees for scripts that match two lovers who were just-not-quite meant to be with a fantastical twist. At 0.51 seconds into the trailer for Red Riding Hood, the painfully good-looking boy says five words that will be sure to make any 15 year old girl swoon: ‘I’m no good for you’. Like some box-office spell, no doubt it is the tortured love affair between the two protagnists that will draw in the majority of the films audience but personally, it will keep me away. The scripts modern fantasy dramas seem to follow now are becoming more like a one and a half hours worth of dialogue punctuated by two fight scenes and a lot of snogging; anyone can seemingly buy this script and just change the names (though I think Hardwicke may be recycling her copy); as seen here in my attempt to reconstruct a scene about one hour and fifteen minutes into any Hardwicke fantasy:

Girl (A): You can’t kill him!

Alternative Love Interest (B): I have to A, he’s no good for you… he’ll KILL you!

A: No B, he LOVES me!

B: You’re deluded A! He’s trying to trick you! You should be with me!

A: What!?

B: I’ve always loved you A, why can’t you see I’ma  much better fit?

A: I don’t love you B! I love C!

B: Fine, then I guess I’ll have to kill him…

A: You can’t, by now he’ll be miles awa-

Love Interest (C): Hello A… Hello B.

B: Hello C.

A: What are you doing here C!?

C: I’m here because I love you…

B+C: LETS FIGHT!

And so the dreary narrative continues…

It’s not just the dialogue though; Twilight is also singlehandly the excuse for the resergence of the fantasy genre… and I don’t mean that in a good way.

The Wolfman: I truely pity anyone that paid money to watch this film, I was lucky to be able to watch a copy rented by my friend and I can hounestly say it was  one of the worst fantasy films I have ever watched, ranking highly also among my worst ever films list. Such effects laden films cannot and should not be rushed through post-production; not only are the effects extremely poor though, the characters are all cheaply acted with everyone embodying some sort of world weary tone to their performance followed up by a ridiculous narrative involving emplanationless murder and Anthony Hopkins’ hairy face (for those of you that havn’t watch the film lets just say he, like Benicio Del Toros lead, doesn’t like the moon too much).

Underworld Evoloution: The franchise really didn’t need this sequel, though I feel it would probably have been made anyway seeing as we have already seen one more poor sequel, soon to be followed by another; but I’m still going to blame Twighlight… somehow.

Avatar maybe? Ok, so James Cameron’s script may have been in development for however-many-years but does it really benefit from having it’s two characters so objectivley opposed? This journey of discover crap is starting to become so formulaic that I’m starting to fall asleep! I must admit though, Avatar wasn’t really my favorite film, overly simplictic in it’s story and shallow characters meant that it was just a really long CGI advert… but that’s another rant altogether.

Twilights 2 + 3 (and the soon to come 4th): Perhaps the biggest injustice to cinema served byt he twighlight series is the brand itself. Of course these would not have been made had there not been an absoloutley MASSIVE demand, but the quality of cinema in all these flicks is very low indeed and for anyone who has isn’t a (pre)teen girl, these films are just becoming a chore.

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I do appreciate this is only a short list and some of it is not even fully justified but we do see Twilight everywhere… constantly. And whilst I have no problem acknowledging a billboard of the beautiful Kristen Stewart I do have a problem with trying to avoid the eyes of the flawless Robert Pattinson. So maybe a psycologist could look at me and tell me how I have some complex about not being the adored teen idol of millions and that really I want to be just like Edward Cullen. But I think I have a point; as fantasy is slowing being overtaken by graphic novel adaptations now (another topic entirely), we have been subject to Twilight’s legacy for nearly 5 whole years now and it’s impact into modern Hollywood filmaking has been massive. Maybe it’s not a bad thing, maybe Twilight really is better than Nosfuratu and we are all blessed by it’s existence. All I’m saying is when something has such a massive impact on cinema and all you can see are the cheap knockoffs such as Blood and Chocolate and the (admittedly self-mocking) Vampires Suck, you just kinda wish they fantasy market left it at Van Helsing and pretended the whole thing never happened. But it doesn’t matter what I say, Twilight is here to stay and it’s stars are going to love in masions made out of money for the rest of their lives.

All I’m saying is, were I left alone in a room with Edward Cullen…. I’d make him eat his hair.

Peace,

Matt  :)

CoD: Black Ops Review

 

“There is No Revolution Without Ammunition.”

Sgt. Reznov

650, 000, 000.

That number denotes the millions of dollars that Call of Duty: Black Ops (CoD:BO) generated in it’s first 5 days of release. That’s $100 million more than Call of Duty: Modern Warefare 2 (CoD:MW2) made. 5.6 million units sold in it’s first 24 hours (claiming the news world record for gaming sales) and 2010’s most successful game so far. (source)

But let’s stop talking numbers, everyone who knew anything about gaming knew this game was going to be huge. With a luxurious marketing budget and a larger production budget, money, size and power has always been what this game was going to be about. The point of this review though, is to determine whether the game lives up to the hype.

In short: It does.

‘Black Ops is a game removed from the rebooted CoD: MW2 franchise, this isn’t Cod:MW3 it’s CoD:BO. This is because that game was not made by the fan favorite Infinity Ward, but was tailored by Activision, crafters of the cult hit CoD: World at War. Activisions hand in development in clear from the start, the game looks, plays and sounds like a Call of Duty Game, but in some ways just doesn’t feel like Infinity Wards genre defining MW2. This may be because you aren’t playing the modern-day, you are playing as Alex Mason flashing back to his missions during the 1960’s and 70’s. Oh and when I say ‘flashing back’ I mean it, straight from the title screen the single player campaign kicks into life; you’re strapped to a chair with a distorted voice commanding you to clarify details of your past, however you are so heavily sedated that you keep dropping out of consciousness and this is when you start to re-play your memories.

To say anymore of the plot would be unfair, but rest assured the plot just keeps gathering pace untill the extremely satisfying finale which will not disappoint. The only criticism I would have of this campaign is that because you play through ‘flash backs’ I didn’t feel I bonded as well with the characters as I could have, as I kept jumping between present day and the past, instead of going on the same journey as my colleagues (With the exception of Sgt. Reznov who I found to be a fantastic character).

This leads my nicely into the voice acting; as is typical in video games you won’t recognise most of the voices in Black Ops, in fact you might not recognise any. But in fact the protagonist in Black Ops is voiced by none other than Sam Worthington, the lead in Avatar (ooooh! That guy!), Worthington does a fantastic job revealing more and more of his character as his journey progress’, gradually losing his military veneer to lay bare his emotions (even if he still has that weird accent). Also another significant character, Sgt. Reznov is voiced by none other than talented brit’ actor Gary Oldman (Gordan from the rebooted Batman franchise). Oldman’s Russian accent is flawless as is certainly the standout performance in the voice cast, though saying this, it shouldn’t be hard to shine amongst the otherwise military chatter of the other characters. Furthermore the sound design in this game is fantastic, everything sounds like it should do and coupled with the beautiful graphics players should become completely immersed in the game world (providing they do not try to steer from the very non-linear levels).

Of course no CoD game is complete without world-class multiplayer and in this regard Black Ops does not disappoint. The maps are ingeniously designed and the weapons are very balanced. However the only disagreement I have is that the weapons are very underpowered at the start of your multiplayer campaign and you have to play for (I felt) significantly longer than in MW2 to unlock the more powerful weapons; plus some weapon attachments are overpowered, such as ‘grip’ giving you an godly strong hold of your weapon removing kick-back and an attachment giving you fire power twice as fast as normal. However saying this not only is it still very satisfying to rack up the kills online, but there are almost infinite combinations of perks and attachments making almost every player unique in this regard, helping level out the playing field greatly.

I haven’t even begun to talk about Nazi Zombies or the addictivly fun unlockable minigames, but I feel my words may become just to over-awed to be respected should I continue. Overall then, this game is fantastic. As someone who has only recently broken into the CoD franchise I am not a biased reviewer and I still love this game. Everything from the sounds, to the sights, to the multiplayer is impeccable and of stellar quality.

If you haven’t worked it out yet, buy this game.

Peace,

Matt :)