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Why Sly Cooper Deserves a Return

Why Sly Cooper Deserves a Return

Sucker Punch Productions’ original Master Thief, Sly Cooper, stole the hearts of many gamers, and the fandom is still going strong. Lizabeth Phoenix makes a case as to why this smooth criminal deserves a return on PlayStation 5.

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Friendship Enders: Mario Party

Friendship Enders: Mario Party

After a bit of a hiatus, we’ve got the second installment of Friendship Enders and we’re focusing on part two of the relationship-ending trifecta – Mario Party. Grab your controllers, get those thumbs ready cause it’s time to party.

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What Effect Did Loki Have on the MCU Timeline? Series Review and Theories

What Effect Did Loki Have on the MCU Timeline? Series Review and Theories

Loki aired its last episode, which means that I can put all my thoughts into an article, review it, and ponder theories about it. Naturally, there will be spoilers from throughout the season. Without further ado, let’s get right into it! 

As a long-time fan of Tom Hiddleston (since Wallander), seeing his career grow was already a privilege, but now it’s just pure happiness. Ever since he was first introduced in Thor (2011) as the mischievous god Loki, I couldn’t wait to see more of what he would do with this role. I think it’s completely fair to say that he loves this character dearly and, more than anything else, he understands it. After 6 appearances in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, we finally arrived at Loki’s glorious return in the form of a Marvel TV series on Disney+.

Loki gives us the version of the character who escaped with the Tesseract during the time heist in Avengers: Endgame. From a character development standpoint, this is the Loki from 2012’s The Avengers. This Loki obviously didn’t go through all the same changes as the Loki we lost in Avengers: Infinity War. So people were wondering (and rightfully so) how well the series would work. This version of Loki still has a very rocky relationship with his family. He still believes in his “glorious purpose” and can’t see the bigger picture. Marvel didn’t disappoint, though. After his escape from New York, Loki was immediately arrested by the TVA (Time Variance Authority) and recruited to help by Mobius M. Mobius (Owen Wilson). 

The first episode served two very important purposes: 

  1. Getting to know what the TVA was about. 
  2. Confronting Loki with the events he would have gone through if the time heist hadn’t given him an opportunity to escape. 

That second purpose was the answer fans were looking for after Endgame. By showing Loki what happened to him, his family brought out the side of him who was always there, the one Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Frigga (Rene Russo) saw and we all grew to love. Tom Hiddleston’s performance through those moments was incredible. It sure brought out some tears. 

After learning about the variants (people who disrupted the Sacred Timeline) and why it was important to keep them under control, the series revealed that the variant Mobius was after was, in fact, another Loki. They didn’t beat around the bush, and by the end of episode two, we met Sylvie (Sophia Di Martino), aka “Lady Loki.”

The endeavor of the two Lokis was both mesmerizing and exciting to watch through the rest of the season. I, however, want to share my only two criticisms towards the whole show. 

From the moment they hinted at it in Episode 3 through to the season finale, I just hated the idea of making Loki and Sylvie’s relationship romantic. It would have made much more sense to give them a sibling kind of relationship since Thor wasn’t around to fill that role for them. Even better, I would have loved to see Loki discovering self-love by seeing things through Sylvie’s eyes. I honestly thought that’s where all of it was headed, but they just had to make it weird. Like, disturbingly weird. 

That kiss in Episode 6一even if I do agree with others that Sylvie used it as manipulation to achieve what she wanted一almost made me turn off the whole thing. I know many people don’t like it and a few who do, but people, please, it is just utterly weird and creepy. Some bring up the argument that something like this would be very Loki-like, but I have to disagree on that point. 

The other thing I didn’t really like is how it started as a Loki-based show and then it turned into a Sylvie show. I do think Sophia Di Martino was the perfect casting, and she did an amazing job with the character. BUT the Loki we came here to see basically got reduced to a secondary character. At points, he was nothing more than a helpless love interest and a stepping stone to Sylvie’s goal. They made him seem like he was a bit dumb and definitely way too naive. By Episode 3, I started seeing the signs of this, but it got progressively more true by the end of the season. In the last episode specifically, Loki was basically just tagging along. 

That said, this didn’t stop Tom Hiddleston from being the absolute highlight of every scene he was in. He is Loki; he understands this character like no one else can, and it shows in everything he does. I think it is one of the main reasons why many love both Tom and Loki so dearly. 

I am still trying to digest everything we saw and all the information we got from the show, but these two things definitely bug me in this near-perfect entry to the MCU. 

 

Looking ahead, what effects will the events in Loki have on the MCU timeline?

It seems that WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier served more as character developments while also setting up these characters’ places in the future while the true start to MCU’s Phase 4 is in the last episode of Loki. 

First and foremost, we were introduced to the next main villain of the MCU in the form of He Who Remains played by the amazing Jonathan Majors (Lovecraft Country). The show doesn’t reveal much at first, but people following MCU news closely know that Majors was cast as Kang, the villain in the next Ant-Man film. Kang the Conqueror is a time-traveling supervillain in the Marvel comics. He had several versions of him appear throughout the stories mostly fighting the Avengers and Fantastic Four. To quote He Who Remains himself from the last Episode: 

If you think I’m evil, well, just wait ’til you meet my variants.”

He Who Remains (Jonathan Majors) waits at the end of time

It’s in this scene that He Who Remains revealed to Loki and Sylvie that they had two options. Option 1 was to kill him and, with that, break the Sacred Timeline, pushing it into war with his other variants wreaking havoc. Option 2 was to take over control of the TVA from him and preserve the Sacred Timeline indefinitely. With Sylvie being dead set on revenge, combined with not believing a thing that He Who Remains is telling them, she chooses Option 1.

With that one moment, the MCU changed at its core. 

I had a theory on why we haven’t had a Spider-Man: No Way Home trailer yet. With the rumors already surrounding the movie, I said that the reason we didn’t get a trailer is because the events in Loki will have a serious effect on it. I now whole-heartedly believe that I was right. We already know that there are two confirmed returns in Spider-Man with Alfred Molina reprising his role as Doctor Otto Octavius from Spider-Man 2 and Jamie Foxx as Max Dillon from The Amazing Spider-Man 2. Rumors have been going around ever since, that previous Spider-Man actors Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield will be in the film. With the events of Loki in mind, there’s now a logical way that both Tobey and Andrew could return, each one as a Spider-Man variant. 

Also keep in mind that the big boss himself, Kevin Feige, hinted that you need to see the MCU TV shows to fully understand the upcoming movies. 

Spider-Man is just one of the stories that could be highly affected by the events of Loki. We don’t yet know much about this year’s upcoming films Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Eternals, but I definitely wouldn’t be surprised if they also acknowledge the events from Loki. For certain, though, there are three other upcoming films that will have strong ties to the show: Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Thor: Love and Thunder, and Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is already very revealing just by its title. Jokes are flying around that poor Doctor Strange will have to clean up all the mess Loki and Wanda caused. Elizabeth Olsen has been confirmed to reprise her role as Wanda in the film, and rumors are that Tom Hiddleston will appear as Loki. Given the events in Loki, there are endless possibilities of where Doctor Strange’s story can go, and it would be impossible to even guess which way Marvel will take it. But, with Benedict Cumberbatch also returning in Spider-Man as Doctor Strange the chances of… well… madness… in his upcoming solo film literally multiplied. One thing is for sure, we are definitely not ready for what’s to come in this new era of the MCU. 

Natalie Portman from San Diego Comic-Con (2019) (photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez)

Thor: Love and Thunder will be affected, not just because Thor is Loki’s brother and is rumored to return in this movie, but also as part of answering the big questions about Jane (Natalie Portman). We haven’t seen her since Thor: The Dark World, and Thor: Ragnarok revealed that Thor and Jane broke up. So it definitely came as a surprise when Marvel announced the Phase 4 movies and TV shows that Kevin Feige happily announced that Natalie Portman will make her return. During the 2019 San Diego Comic-Con where this was announced, Natalie herself even held up Thor’s hammer, Mjölnir. This suggests we may see Mighty Thor from the comics in which Jane Foster becomes worthy to wield Mjölnir the same way Captain America did in Endgame. BUT, with Loki in mind and Jane Foster being MIA from the MCU for so long, one can’t help but wonder if this version of Jane is gonna be a variant.

Here’s my logic: We know that Mjölnir got destroyed by Hela (Cate Blanchett) in Thor: Ragnarok. Thor brought it back from the past during the time heist event in Endgame but it was returned to its original place by Captain America in the end. So at the moment, Mjölnir is in little pieces in the current MCU timeline, right? But then why would Portman have held up Mjölnir at SDCC? Given all that, I believe that the Jane Foster we are getting in Thor: Love and Thunder will be a variant. I might be completely wrong, but as the title of this article says I am giving you all my theories. 

Ant-man and the Wasp: Quantumania is likely going to be the film most affected by Loki. I believe that the TVA and the Citadel are both places existing in the Quantum Realm. In Ant-man and the Wasp, you can see a subatomic city structure for only just a second. Although it wasn’t confirmed by the end of Loki Season 1, I still stand by this theory. I think that what we see there is the TVA headquarters. Also, as I previously mentioned, we’re gonna see a version of He Who Remains in the next Ant-man movie in the form of Kang the Conqueror (Jonathan Majors). 

The suspicious quantum realm city from Ant-Man

I won’t speculate about the upcoming shows like Hawkeye, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel, or Marvel’s What If…? because while I do believe Loki could have an effect on them, I also think that the major multiverse events will happen in the movies more so than in the shows. But, at this point, it is all a waiting game. 

Our favorite God of Mischief made sure that we are not without excitement, entertainment, and fun. Loki managed to add even more layers for us to love in Loki while also giving us many things to look forward to. We don’t know yet when Season 2 will arrive, but one thing is for sure: Loki still has a lot of things to do, and I can’t wait to see it! I won’t try and speculate which way the story will go because I strongly believe it will be affected by the previously mentioned films. I’m confident saying that the future is bright for the MCU. Maybe, even brighter than ever before, and I honestly can’t wait to see what else they will come up with. 

What’s your take on the Loki series so far and how it’s going to impact other MCU films and shows? Let’s speculate in the comments!

 

Great Directors and Why I Hate Them: Quentin Tarantino

Great Directors and Why I Hate Them: Quentin Tarantino

Allow me to introduce you to this new series of articles! Full disclosure, as well as a disclaimer, I don’t actually hate any of the directors in these articles. (HA! I just baited your click!) I speak in hyperbole merely because it’s funny. However, in my experience, it’s become apparent that simply declaring, “I’m not a big fan of (insert popular director),” causes people to infer that you actually “HATE THIS WRETCHED ABOMINATION OF CINEMATIC ARTISTRY!” 

But, let me be perfectly clear here… not being a fan doesn’t equate to hate or disrespect for the artist. Just because I don’t like strawberry ice cream doesn’t mean I hate “happiness milk.” ‘Cause I love it, I’m just lactose intolerant (okay, maybe this example got away from me).

That’s why in this series I will attempt to explain myself, a filmmaker, and the hills I will DIE on when it comes to certain directors and the types of film choices they make. I will also do my best to include contextual examples and even offer feedback on what I think would improve their style in a hopefully objective manner. This is not crapping on these directors, this is merely an attempt to voice my opinion and see what you all think about these incredible artists and create a dialogue. 

Without further ado, let’s do this (oh shit)…

First up: Quentin Tarantino. I know. How taboo, right?

Quentin Tarantino at the premiere of Inglourious Basterds.

I’m going to start with someone who is possibly the most jarring example of a great director that I have issues with. Saying you don’t like Tarantino to a film lover or filmmaker is akin to saying, “The Beatles suck!” to anyone with ears and a soul.

Again, I do not hate Tarantino’s films. On the contrary, I find him as one of the most important directors in modern cinema. His method of storytelling and nearly flawless ability to capture genuine human interactions is something to be admired by anyone looking into script writing. Hell, his writing style is the central focus of many writing courses in college. The only people I can think of capable of rivaling his style are the Cohen brothers

It is his directing style, however, where I take umbrage.

 

The problem: 

For however consummate Tarantino truly is in writing organic human interaction, he has a tendency of leaning into this form of realism far too much for what was initially promised as the focused genre. That’s especially true when he promises the most bombastically violent and action-packed film since the last most bombastically violent and action-packed film he made. And, oh brother, does he deliver on that promise… eventually. 

For me, looking at this picture is basically identical to watching the protracted “dialog” scenes in a Tarantino film.

BUT, dear God it takes so long to get there.

Tarantino focuses on the realistic aspect of the characters and their conversations, and more recently has leaned into the action like he originally promised: bombastic and action-packed. The problem being that this form of hyper realistic narrative is extremely difficult to inject in such a cinematically action-driven story. And if you go in thinking it’s just an action movie and get a strong character study, which is easy to do, this can take you out of the brilliance of his films. Additionally, part of his realism is to include over-saturated storytelling. He tends to give far more information than is needed. I don’t care what Kurt Russell thinks about coffee! Just please get to the point.

 

The example:

Imagine if Tarantino were given a Batman film. Here’s how I believe it would go:

Tarantino knows that you are already painfully aware of Bruce Wayne’s past and, correctly, assumes you don’t need a recap. So, he won’t go through the dead parents or training montage and instead we’ll get a Batman movie where he’s already Batmanning as Batman. The opening scene is two criminals having a long-winded conversation about sandwiches or something only to reveal after 5 minutes that they’re torturing a family for money. 

Then Batman shows up. 

But it’s more like a stalking serial killer from a horror movie. We don’t see him, but he takes out one of the guys surgically. The other finds his partner, we see Batman’s silhouette ominously emerging from the shadows behind him, then the title screen: Batman: Rogues Gallery. Strong 30-minute opening! A different take on a famous franchise. VERY Tarantino.

Then we get about an hour’s worth of Edward Nigma and Victor Zsasz collecting various villains and cryptically speaking about a “plan” they have. This is the over-saturated part I was talking about: lots of conversations that don’t go anywhere, characters that we begin to relate to that die offscreen immediately after being developed so the time we spent with them didn’t matter, and all the while Bruce Wayne isn’t even in the picture anymore.

Now the good stuff. The villains—Riddler, Zsasz, Black Mask, Penguin, Two-Face—all storm Wayne manor, take Alfred hostage, and keep him in the master bedroom, torturing him. Again, Batman is nowhere to be seen. Now we get a character study of all the villains as Alfred questions them, picking their brains and learning about them and their motives. Brilliant acting and some of the best lines put to paper.

Finally, Batman shows himself. He uses their vulnerability to dismantle all 5 villains in a BRILLIANT 5-minute action scene. Some of the best fight choreography and stunt work in any film. The film ends with the villains subdued, Alfred dying from his injuries, and Batman contemplating whether he will take their lives or not as he holds a since-passed Alfred in his arms.

Who am I kidding, I’d KILL to see this Tarantino-style movie that I just made up!

All this, however, is in a 2 1/2 hour BATMAN movie, where he’s maybe a side character at best. There’s 10 minutes total of great action, but it ultimately flatlines for a casual viewer who isn’t a Tarantino fan. 

There isn’t anything wrong with creating a character-driven action drama, but you can’t forget the action part.

And you know the media attached to this will be showing nothing but Batman and how dark and twisted the movie would be, forcing you to go in expecting a comic-book Batman film with a Tarantino twist instead of the other way around. And we know the other way around works! Just look at Joker, for crying out loud. Not to mention, that big hour-long part where nothing happens could be cut entirely, like some pretty big spots in most Tarantino films. That extra hour could make this unwatchable to some audiences.

You’re reading this on paper (internet screen?), which is much easier to digest. Imagine going to see a Batman movie where there’s only 5 minutes of actual Batman, or even Bruce Wayne, and, instead of ANY action, there’s far more character study with an emphasis on the study part. There isn’t anything wrong with creating a character-driven action drama. However, you can’t forget the action part. 

I created this example rather than using one of his existing films because many of us already have an opinion on Tarantino’s existing films. His legacy is sound. Regardless of whether or not you like his work, that opinion is already formulated. With this hypothetical example, we can view Tarantino’s formula more objectively. Even if this movie that doesn’t exist (yet) sounds super badass (man!), you know there will be people that hate the concept.

 

The solution: 

So let’s fix that right now, and easily: The title. 

Name the movie The Rogues Gallery. That’s it. In any and all press, exclude Batman. Promise that this will be a movie about the villains and what makes them tick. Offer nothing else. People will only expect to go in getting to know the villains, not see Batman Batmanning with batarangs and a bat-bat (that’s a baseball bat in the shape of a bat symbol). Give me what you promised, damn it!

This is the face I imagine Tarantino would make reading my article.

Tarantino does this a LOT! Kill Bill: Vol. 1 was awesome and tons of violent action, then its sequel, Vol. 2, took a weird turn that I couldn’t appreciate as a viewer until I wasn’t a stupid high schooler. Inglourious Basterds (still the movie I HATE most in his catalog) barely featured any of the “Basterds” we actually went to see and, instead, had 10-hour-long conversations about nothing and everyone died anyway (but Christoph Waltz is the F’n GOAT). The Hateful Eight had a bunch of characters (9, I think?) with background information we didn’t need to appreciate the whole story, and it only got really good after everyone started dying (which is why there’s a 4-hour version). And Death Proof… I won’t even get into that mess… though the last 20 minutes were awesome.

What I would suggest to Tarantino, or any filmmaker, is to know your own themes. If you’re making a character drama with action, tell me that’s what it is. Don’t tell me to expect TONS of action when I’m only getting one (albeit very impressive) fist or gun fight while the actual point of the film is to understand what the characters truly embrace out of life. Tarantino is very capable of great action and action-driven plots, but I love his character study and would appreciate knowing which film I’m getting when going to see it. Creating an audience expectation for a film that is heavily objective can really create dissonance in the community and generate animosity with your audience. Know what you’re writing, know your themes and genres, and most importantly, know what you are promising.

What are your thoughts on Tarantino as a director? What directors do you feel have a similar problem with setting the wrong expectations? Drop your thoughts in the comments. #ComeAtMeBro #ThisWasABadIdea 

 

Why Korean Movies and TV Shows Should Be on Your Watch List

Why Korean Movies and TV Shows Should Be on Your Watch List

I have to admit that Train to Busan wasn’t the first Korean movie I saw. It was actually The Host from acclaimed writer and director Bong Joon Ho. Back then, I don’t think I really appreciated that movie. I think I only watched it because everyone seemed to be talking about it. Years later, I went back and watched it again, and it was amazing. It gives a new shade to the monster genre and a depth that you probably didn’t even think was possible from a movie with a big monster in it. It’s not as much about the action as it is about the connection between the characters, the different relationships, and how they change. Although I have to admit, the action sequences are pretty damn good as well, especially the one at the beginning when the monster first attacks the people on the beach. But, I needed time (and an extra kick) to truly appreciate Bong Joon Ho’s movie. 

 


Gong Yoo (left) and Ma Dong-seok (right) in Train to Busan

In 2016 a new zombie movie rolled into the cinemas, and this time around, it came from Korea, not from the United States. It came at the right time when it seemed like that not even ‘The Walking Dead’ would be able to keep the zombie genre alive. In my personal opinion, Train to Busan single-handedly saved zombie films and is without question, the best one ever created. Yes, I know that is controversial to say, but I am standing by it with all my heart and soul. Once it came out, I managed to get it on Blu-Ray, watched it at least 50 times if not more, and I can’t get tired of it. I even got my hands on the novel version (it wasn’t an easy task).

I watched Seoul Station which plays in the same universe as Train to Busan and tells the story of how it all started in Seoul. This movie was such a huge success internationally as well, that we also got a second film called Peninsula which heavily involved the Americans, and not to throw any shade, but it sadly shows. Peninsula is nowhere near as great as Train to Busan was, and except for the opening scene on the ship, it fails on almost every level as it is heavily influenced by the simple curse of “More money, bigger effects and losing the heart and soul of the movie”. The characters are a bit flat and grey and they are your typical “genre characters”.

 

Not too long ago, we also got the news that James Wan (master of horror if you ask me) got the rights to create the American version of Train to Busan and I am not really happy with this news, to put it lightly. I love James Wan, respect him, and would LOVE to work with him one day, but I honestly wish that no one would ever touch Train to Busan. This movie was so good story-wise, in character building, and in the genre itself that it doesn’t need any remake/reboot. It needs to be left alone and exist perfectly on its own, please and thank you. I could go in-depth of why I think Train to Busan is the perfect zombie movie, but since I want to talk about other Korean movies and tv shows as well, I will link the video from the YouTube Channel ‘Wow Such Gaming’ in here because he explains it flawlessly:

After watching Train to Busan and falling in love with two actors Gong Yoo (he played the main character Seok-woo) and Ma Dong-seok (he played the absolute badass Sang-hwa) I did my usual ritual… I stalked them on IMDb and watched MANY of their movies and TV Shows. 

 

As I mentioned in my previous article, Ma Dong-seok will star in Marvel’s The Eternals this year, which I am overly excited about as it will be his first appearance in an American film. I would highly recommend some of his movies first for you all to fall in love with him. The two movies I love him in (besides Train to Busan of course) are two huge movies from Korea: Along with the Gods: The Two Worlds and Along with the Gods: The Last 49 Days. In the first one, he only appears in the end but in the second one, he is one of the protagonists. These movies are mind-bending and I can guarantee you that they are very different from what you are used to. The first one tells the story of a firefighter who after his heroic death has to go through 7 trials in 7 hells over 49-days to disclose how he lived his life. He has the help of three guardians who are trying to succeed in defending him during the trials so he can be reincarnated as he is considered to be a model citizen. In the second movie, the Last 49 days we find out who the three guardians were in their life on Earth, and it is one of the most beautiful stories about how our lives can intertwine.

Watching these two movies made me realize why Korean movies are so appealing to me. The story-telling can be confusing at first because they are going deep from the beginning. They do not introduce their characters the same way other movies would, instead they go deep into the stories of their characters and the reason behind how they act during the main act. They don’t follow the so-called rules of story-telling. Therefore, when you fall in love with the characters on your screen it feels more natural, more human, as you find out who they really are and can get genuinely surprised when new characteristics are introduced through them. 

 

A TV Show I would like to recommend that stars Gong Yoo from Train to Busan, is called Sseulsseulhago Chalranhashin: Dokkaebi or as most people know it: Goblin. This series is mind-blowingly beautiful in every way possible: as a drama, as a romance, the cinematography, the story-telling, and the character building. It’s definitely a high peek of Korean television. Gong Yoo plays the titular character ‘Kim Shin’ aka ‘Goblin’ whose quest is to find a bride to break his immortal curse as he is a 939-year-old guardian of souls. It is at times heartbreaking, but all together just an absolutely breathtaking Korean TV drama. A must-watch. 

 

Still from the movie Forgotten

Netflix is a wonderful ally when it comes to Korean TV and Film, especially if you live outside of Korea. They have Korean originals and TV Shows and Movies (including the previously mentioned Along with the Gods) that are available to watch for the international crowd as well. The first Netflix original I saw was Forgotten. If you like heavily elaborate twists and true mind-bending… you HAVE TO watch this film. I adore Forgotten on the same level as Train to Busan (someone, please count how many times I already wrote down this title). Forgotten is about Jin-seok (played by Kang Ha-Neul) who’s brother returns after being abducted but he is a completely different person, so Jin-seok starts to search for the truth, and oh boy… the things he finds out and therefore we find out are so mind-blowing, that there’s no way you can guess ANY of the steps in this movie. It is masterfully done, every step, the way the story unfolds is something that should be taught to film students everywhere. It definitely changed my view on movies in a major way, especially on thrillers, as this counts as that. And what stands in the spotlight here as well? THE CHARACTERS. 

Another Netflix original I would very highly recommend to everyone is another TV Show called Kingdom. Kingdom is once again a major contender in the zombie genre BUT it plays during the Joseon period. It’s not just a simple zombie series, oh no… not even close, it is also a royal drama series with intricate story-telling and (once again) characters, who will very quickly grow on you and you can’t help but hold all your fingers crossed for them. This series easily knocks The Walking Dead out of the park, without any question. It focuses heavily on how greed is even worse than the dead coming back to life to bring chaos and destruction while also adding mystery and depth to its story. 

This article is very long. But hang with me as there are a few more titles that I need to mention as a must-see for anyone who would like to dive into Korean cinema (and oh boy, I hope you all do):

  • The Wailing (2016) – Psychological and Supernatural Horror
  • #Alive (2020) – Another in the Zombie genre, it has an American counterpart with Tyler Posey as the lead called ‘Alone’ but please, watch this instead of that.
  • Sweet Home (2020) – This is a Netflix original Monster TV Series, that I highly recommend. I had a bit of a harder time getting into this one than the others mentioned before, but once I was in… I did not regret it at all 
  • The Call (2020) – Remember the movie ‘Frequency’ with Dennis Quaid and Jim Caviezel. Well, this movie is very similar to that but it has a huge twist on it that works in its favor perfectly.
  • Lucid Dream (2017) – Another Netflix original Film, dives deep into the theories on Lucid Dreaming set in the crime drama/thriller genre. 
  • Space Sweepers (2021) – One more Netflix Original Film, fresh and crunchy, this is a sci-fi epic made as an international co-production, very fun, a bit rough around the edges but altogether beautiful. Less focus on characters, which might be a bit of a weak point. 
  • Parasite (2019) – Bong Joon Ho’s masterpiece. If you haven’t seen it yet, what are you doing with your life? 

There are so many more Korean TV shows and films we could talk about, but I tried to highlight some of my favorites in this article. I’ve only really started to get into Korean cinema the past few years and I do regret not getting into it earlier. It’s so different from what I am used to that it is actually refreshing. I would give out a warning though… once you get in don’t be surprised if it completely sucks you in. As a matter of fact, I started learning Korean back in 2020 so I can watch and enjoy them without subtitles. 

 

Bong Joon Ho with his Oscars

Just to mention one last thing. Because I can’t leave without talking about it. Bong Joon Ho directed one of the best post-apocalyptic movies with a mostly American cast (khm… Chris Evans… khm) and I truly and fully believe that everyone should watch it. It’s called Snowpiercer and with it, you will glance into what Korean film-making and story-telling are like. It’s also worth it to mention that Bong Joon Ho is an executive producer on the SnowPiercer TV show on TNT as well. 

Why Video Game Movies Always Come Up Short

Why Video Game Movies Always Come Up Short

I like video games.

That shouldn’t be a shocking statement if you’ve read the other articles I have on the site. I even dedicated an entire article just to talking about old Adobe flash games that I played as a child. I also like movies, and my blog on my website *shameless plug* covers movies quite a bit.

Naturally, this predisposed me to watch a whole bunch of video game movies over the years. The many films came rushing back to me as I watched the latest trailer for the new Mortal Kombat movie, and this question kept coming back to me:

Are we ever gonna see a good video game movie?

Sure, we’ve had enjoyable video game movies—your Sonic The Hedgehogs, Lara Crofts, Mortal Kombat, if you will. And there are films and games that pair together to tell a bigger story. But there’s also been the god awful—Street Fighter, Super Mario Bros., and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation to name a few. None of these have been good in my view. The highest I’d rate them would be a below-average or average grade. 

All of this kept running through my head as I was watching the trailer, and my excitement for the movie started to slowly leak out of my body the more I watched. I realized I’d been here before, excited to watch the latest video game movie thinking ‘this’ll be the one’, only for it to turn out like it always does: hollow and disappointing. I asked myself why this is the case, and I reckon I’ve got a pretty good idea why.

You can’t play a movie.

I mean, of course, you can’t play a movie, but that’s beside the point.

The interaction audiences have with movies and video games is quite different. Movies are mostly passive unless you decide to pass the TV remote between your mates. In contrast, video games are generally one of the most audience-interactive modes of entertainment we have.   

A lot of AAA games developed these days have production values on par with most modern movies. However, I believe that video games’ interactivity lends more weight to the experience because it’s you controlling the events instead of just being along for the ride. I think this is always there in the back of gamers’ minds when they’re watching these video game movies. 

It would make sense that when you watch the Tomb Raider movies, you’re reminded of all the action set pieces you’ve played through. You’re inevitably going to compare them to the scenes in the movie. Thus, most of the time you’ve either seen it before and played it in the game or it’s just not as exciting as the game.

This interactivity also allows video games to connect with audiences in a completely different way compared to a movie’s passive nature. The best way to explain this would be by using an example. Let’s just pick a random game as an example…

Ah yes, Yager Development’s 2011 underrated gem Spec Ops: The Line, that’ll do nicely. (This choice isn’t surprising for those that know me considering I recommend this game to everyone any chance I get.) Spec Ops is a great example of how video games’ stories are inherently unique to the medium.

For the purposes of this post, I’m only going to be looking at the game’s story because the gameplay isn’t anything to write home about, and that’s not what I’m talking about today.

In Spec Ops, you follow Captain Martin Walker as he and his fireteam of Delta operators travel through a sandstorm-ravaged Dubai. They’re searching for a way out of the city when they discover survivors of the storm and are fired upon. This inciting incident leads Walker and his team along an inexorable path in a downward spiral as they delve deeper and deeper into the city. This concludes in a hideous maelstrom of violence and death as the player’s control over Walker is called into question. Players becoming unwitting passengers as the war crimes start piling up.

This basic plot isn’t anything groundbreaking or revolutionary. The developers are very open about their inspirations from Apocalypse Now and Heart of Darkness. Where the game’s story takes on a new level is when the player’s direct interactions with the game world are used to show the state of Walker’s fractured psyche.

At this point, I’m going to be talking spoilers for the game, and there are also some images that some of you may find distressing.

The best example of this is towards the end of the story when any semblance of buddy-buddy warfare has crumbled along with the squad’s mental state. Your squad member Lugo was hanged by civilians in a refugee camp. Walker and Adams are surrounded by the civilians, and the player can choose to fire into the air to scare off the civilians or gun them down without mercy. This choice may not look like much, but if we were a passive observer (like with a movie), we can’t know what kind of options Walker has. This would stop us from being able to analyze his actions with as much depth as we can as the interactive player.

See, that’s the thing. The fact we control the characters and make decisions for them gives us an insight into the characters that we can’t get from watching a movie portraying the same events.

However, this control being taken away from us in-game is also a way games can affect us on a much deeper level than movies can. Going back to Spec Ops, specifically the white phosphorus scene, Walker and the player encounter heavy enemy resistance outside The Nest. At this point in the game, the mission for Walker has morphed from fleeing Dubai to rescuing civilians held past The Nest. The team knows that they can’t win a straight firefight against that, and we learn that a mortar is nearby loaded with white phosphorus.

White phosphorus is a horrible chemical that does horrible, unspeakable things to humans when they come into contact with it. I’m not going to list them here; you can look that up in your own time if you so wish. Using the chemical is also a war crime in certain situations. Lugo even states that the team knows what the chemical does and is reluctant to use the weapon, bordering on being insubordinate. He even flat-out states that there’s always a choice, to which Walker replies, “There’s really not.”

We’ve already experienced these movies… every time we pick up the controller. 

This entire dialogue is played out in cutscene, a passive movie-watching experience that cuts away from your interactive gameplay. You can’t stop it. You can’t try and rationalize another way out of the situation. All you can do is watch as Walker commands his squad to set up the mortar and fire on the enemy encampment. However, the game drops back out of the cutscene with you looking upon the battlefield through the targeting system of the mortar, unable to stop until you have killed every last one of the enemies.

Except that not every person at The Nest was an enemy.

Do you feel like a hero yet?

Right at the end of the set-piece, you fire upon a huge mass of people that you believe are enemy combatants. After you walk your team through the scorched earth that you created, watching soldiers try to escape their fates, their screams assaulting you, you’re greeted with a terrible sight—civilians that you had set out to save, their bodies burnt and hollowed out by the white phosphorus.

It’s easily one of the most horrific acts Walker commits in the entire game.

But he wasn’t the one pushing the button and giving the commands.

That honor goes to the same person you see when you look at your screen right now.

That person is you.

That scene, more than any other in the game, shows how games draw the player in and can put them in the character’s headspace so easily. Movies just can’t get close to that experience.

That’s why I don’t think we’re ever going to get a good video game movie. Because we’ve already experienced these movies… every time we pick up the controller.     

Do you have a favorite video game movie? What movie game franchise do you want to see on the big screen next? Let me know down below.

Author’s Note:

This post delved into some pretty dark subject matter. If that’s dredged up some stuff for you on a personal level, know there are always people on hand to help you through it.

All around the globe, there are countless organisations there to help you through any tough times you may be having. You can link here to search for a mental health organisation in your country.

Stay safe and I’ll catch you all next time. -Rohan

 

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