Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

Judging The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises

The Dark Knight Rises (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As the summer begins, so does the massive on-going debate over which comic book movie will reign supreme in 2012. Will it be Joss Whedon’s Avengers movie? Perhaps the return of Spider-Man to the big screen will win over fans and critics alike. Or will the final instalment in Christopher Nolan’s Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises prove to the best comic book movie yet?

While I’m a bigger Batman fan than I am Avengers, I feel as if The Dark Knight Rises isn’t offering audiences anything new than what we’ve seen before. Like so many comic book fans, I’m fairly critical of Christopher Nolan for waiting over three years before creating a sequel to arguably the greatest superhero film of all time. I understand reasons beyond his control may have caused him to change from his original script, but I felt as if he needed to strike while the iron was hot.

Now, four years later, The Dark Knight is going to be competing against the likes of Marvel’s Avengers, and the return to cinema of Spider-Man. If we take a look at what The Dark Knight Rises is offering us, there is the existing dilemma over whether Bruce Wayne is able to stay on as The Batman, Commissioner Gordan facing more criticism from his peers, and a new villain that will push Batman to his limits, wielding a potential weapon of mass destruction.

It all sounds a bit similar. Don’t get me wrong, I am greatly looking forward to what Anne Hathaway can bring to the Catwoman role, as we’ve yet to have a true breakout female character in the trilogy. Batman’s previous love interest, Rachel Dawes, was a bland character, who seemed to regress over the course of the two films before meeting her demise. I’m sure we’ll hear more revelations about who Marion Coltillard is really playing, but for now, there just isn’t enough to make me believe The Dark Knight Rises will be able to outclass The Avengers or Spider-Man for that matter.

Perhaps The Dark Knight has returned at a time where it faces much tougher opposition. New dark fantasy film, The Hunger Games has opened up with a weekend of sensational success, massively exceeding expectations by having the best opening weekend for a non-sequel, and third best opening weekend of all time. Not bad for a film that has had the misfortune of being labelled as the next Twilight. The Avengers is approaching in a month’s time, and in terms of scale and ambition, blows the Batman franchise out of the water.

While The Dark Knight Rises will undoubtedly have its class, as Nolan has demonstrated how to perfectly mix superhero action and intimate drama, it’s not holding the same impression The Dark Knight had in 2008. Perhaps coming towards the end of the summer wasn’t the best idea for Warner Bros. The storyline seems good, borrowing from one of the most critically acclaimed Batman stories of all time, in Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns. Perhaps this is another problem that might not work well for Warner Bros. The Dark Knight Returns is a brilliant story, that could easily be translated into a fresh trilogy of films. If this is to be the last we see of Christian Bale as Batman, a future trilogy based on Frank Miller’s story would have been an effective way for Warner Bros to keep the Batman franchise going. If Nolan has already covered the storyline of an aged, weakened Bruce Wayne coming out of retirement in The Dark Knight Rises, it doesn’t leave much for Warner Bros to able to continue developing the existing Batman franchise without resorting to a franchise reboot.

While The Dark Knight Rises will undoubtedly earn a great deal of success, whether or not it will live long in the memory of film fans remains to be seen. In a cinematic year where we’ve already had a masterclass in dark fantasy, a group of Marvel’s best superheroes facing an alien army due, and the return of Marvel’s most beloved wall-crawler, 2012 may prove to be beyond Nolan.

 

 

How to make a superhero game work

Arkham Asylum - the game

Image by s3rioussam via Flickr

As you may or may not know, I am a harsh critic of both video games based on movies, and games based on superheroes. Whilst movie games seemed doomed to an eternal fate in the bargain bin, games such as Batman: Arkham Asylum and Spider-Man 2 have shown us superhero games can be fun and enjoyable, and in Batman’s case amazing.

Superhero games usually tend to fail because little care is taken from the developers to actually make you feel like the character you’re playing as. For example take SEGA‘s Iron Man video game in 2008, which is one of the worst critiqued superhero video games in existence. And why? Because rather than make you feel as if you’re actually playing as Tony Stark in a one man army suit, you feel as if you’re playing a really poor arcade game with ridiculous difficulty and rubbish design. The developers seem to make a poor attempt at creating the hero’s powers, whilst putting no creative effort into making the personality of the character. For instance as I mentioned with Iron Man, the main protagonist Tony Stark was portrayed as a dislikeable, arrogant egomaniac. There was no insight into his self-destructive traits (alcohol, depression etc) and unlike the fantastic portrayal of Stark in the 2008 film; this Iron Man had no substance.

That’s where games such as Batman: Arkham Asykham have flourished. Arkham’s developers RockSteady took the time to explore the man behind the mask. For instance in one scene, Batman is hallucinating that he is reliving the death of his parents again. Or in another, you witness the guilt Batman has after he fails to save Commissioner Gordon’s life. It’s these moments along with awesome action orientated game play that makes you feel like you are actually the character you’re playing as.

Spider-Man 2 also incorporated the best of both elements and did it fantastically. You had awesome web-slinging game play, which still incorporated Spider-Man’s Peter Parker Persona. For instance one mission had Spider-Man deliver pizzas because Peter Parker’s job was on the line. The game was so good it actually made you care about the repercussions of what if you didn’t deliver the pizzas on time.

Game play should take a back seat to characterization and narrative in superhero games. After all look at Spider-Man 3. It had the same game play that made Spider-Man 2 so successful but a boring story and terrible voice acting/characterization earned the game universal panning. Sort the story, and the game play should follow. I know Arkham Asylum hardly had the most character driven story, but the moments it did have were better than anything we’ve seen from a superhero game so far.

With so many fantastic superheroes such as Thor, Captain America, Green Lantern etc finally finding their way onto video games it’s time superhero games start delivering, or the bargain bin at your local Game store is likely to fill up big time this Christmas. All superhero games need is a little more development, more character driven stories and original game play. Sure it’s a lot to ask for but come Christmas this year when Batman: Arkham City takes the gaming world by storm, the bar for superhero games will be raised even higher.

Video games based on movies suck

Fantastic 4 - Rise of the Silver Surfer

Image by Brajeshwar via Flickr

I know I’m stating the obvious here, but it seems most video games based on movies turn out completely awful. I recently played the latest movie tie-in Thor, made by SEGA, and to no surprise it was terrible. It just outrages me that the prices for these games are so high, ranging from 40-50 pounds, yet game developers feel they can make a rushed game, knowing the drive of the movie will sell it anyway.

Take for instance the game I mentioned, Thor. With a license with so much potential you’d expect the developers to at least give you some feeling that you are actually playing as a Norse hammer-wielding god. Instead you find you’re just playing a terribly generic button mashing glitch fest. Here are some obvious reasons why movie video games suck:

Rushed production: Movie games have to ship in time for the films release to generate sales, therefore production is often rushed causing movie games to be full of glitches , un-imaginative, and un-polished. Why don’t developers being production on these games earlier? Surely if they didn’t worry about copying the films plot they could generate a unique story that actually makes sense. Too many move games either contain a boring re-hash of the films plot, or an un-imaginative rushed storyline. The games are just products to further hype the movie, therefore developers can put little effort in and get away with it.

Un-original: Due to the rushed production of movie video games, they tend to suffer from copying the core gameplay from other successful games. This wouldn’t be a problem if the developers could do it well, instead the movie games seem to use another games idea, but still make it terrible. For instance SEGA’S, Thor was a rubbish attempt at imitating Sony’s successful God of War series, where as their Captain America video game almost looks like a complete rehash of Rocksteady’s Batman: Arkham Asylum. Another mention could be how Atari’s Enter the Matrix turned out to be a clone of Max Payne‘s video games.

Terrible voice acting: In order to push game sales, developers often use the voices from actors in the movie. Whilst this may provide a good taste of the movie to some, just because the actors were good in the movie, doesn’t mean they will be good in a game. Take for instance the Playstation 2 tie in to X-Men2, Wolverine’s Revenge. Rather than have Hugh Jackman reprise his role as Logan, the developers chose to hire former Luke Skywalker Mark Hamil. Hamil is widely known for his incredible voice acting, and the decision to have him paid off massively as he gave a unique performance that jumped right out the comics.

There are always some exceptions. Last years Toy Story 3 was a pretty solid experience where as the tie in to X-Men Origins: Wolverineended up being better than the movie itself! Developers should look at these games and see how much time and effort was spent into making an actual enjoyable experience. After playing Thor, it’ll be a long time until I play a movie video game again. If only everyone else boycotted these games and developers might actually take notice for once.

Why IMAX is the definitive experience for comic book movies

Real D glasses

Image via Wikipedia

Yesterday’s article illustrated my hatred for the 3-D phenomenon. I think unless there is a justified need for the film to be shot in 3-D, movie makers should leave 3-D alone. It hasn’t worked in a big Hollywood blockbuster since Avatar, and that was in 2009. Leave 3-D to animation, IMAX is where the future lies.

I realise shooting films in IMAX is hugely expensive and complicated for film studios. Shooting in IMAX cost up to three times more than an average film, so you can see why it hasn’t caught on as well as 3-D. The quality of special effects has to be perfect for it to work on an IMAX screen, so films such as Thor and Green Lantern would really need to rev up their special effects team for IMAX to work.

Also IMAX cameras are much more time consuming and heavy to work with. An IMAX camera weighs 240 pounds compared to an average 35mm movie camera weighing at 40 pounds. The reels only last 3 minutes and takes twenty to reload therefore it’s an incredible time consuming experience.

But what if film studios took and gamble for once. Christopher Nolan has illustrated the beauty of IMAX in The Dark Knight. Rather than add a countless amount of special effects to his films, Nolan does everything for real. This means that when it comes to viewing the film everything is perfect. You see, if there is a slight error or inconsistency on screen, IMAX will make it instantly visible to the audience, so everything has to be perfect. Unfortunately, there was one glaring error in Nolan’s film, where a cameraman was visible in one the films most pivotal scenes so even Nolan isn’t perfect.

Making everything perfect needs to become a movie making essential however, as it could raise the professionalism of movies to a new high. I lost count of how many inconsistencies there were in Iron Man 2. The professionalism of movie making needs to be raised and IMAX would work wonders with the comic book movie genre. Imagine seeing Green lantern’s energy constructs in glorious high-definition quality. Or Thor’s lighting summoning down in a god like thunderous fashion. It’s pricey but the rewards would be truly thunderous. For a recently established studio such as Marvel Studios, this may be financially risky; it would truly revolutionize comic book movies.

I’m not against combining 3-D with IMAX, but on it’s own, 3-D isn’t justifying itself. I can’t wait to see a certain green giant smashing down in IMAX, if it ever happens. Imagine hearing those iconic words in glorious IMAX sound

HULK SMASH!

Why isn’t 3-D the revolution it should be?

Real D 3D Glasses

Image by donbuciak via Flickr

I recently watched Thor in 3-D at the cinema, and despite the rave reviews it had one big flaw, 3-D. The effect added nothing to the film and in some cases it actually made the film almost unwatchable. This occurred in the opening battle of the film and the dimness of the 3-D glasses actually made the scene very difficult to see and showcased the growing disappointment the 3-D phenomenon is beginning to become.

The biggest exception would obviously be the mega-hit Avatar directed by James Cameron. The use of 3-D in Avatar created a hugely immersive environment, and heightened the cinema experience. The scenes on Pandora were beautifully constructed and the battle scenes were massively intensified by the 3-D effect. The clever use of 3-D even managed to win over critics and fans alike. Was it sign of things to come, or was it just a one hit wonder?

When the final chapter of the Saw franchise hit in 2010 in 3-D, fans of the genre were adamant the 3-D effect would slot in perfectly with the horror genre. I have to admit the prospect of having blades and rotating sharp wheels fly off the screen was appealing, but the film fell flat on every level. Critics argued the 3-D effect fell flat on the film, and did nothing to heighten the film’s experience. It seemed 3-D was beginning to stutter.

Clash of the Titans was tipped to be a box office smash in 2010. Fresh of his stint in the brilliant film Avatar, Sam Worthington starred as the son of Zeus set against the underworld. The previews looked great, and the film had the potential to rival the brilliance set by the film 300, yet critics poorly received the film. Clash of the Titans was panned for pointlessly being in 3-D as it added nothing to the film and made some scenes difficult to view.

It has however found a home in animation, which is where I believe 3-D should stay. Films such as How to Train Your Dragon, Toy Story 3 and Rio: The Movie have highlighted how brilliant the use of 3-D can be. Animation makes 3-D more pleasing to the eye, less nauseating and much more immersive. I think film makers shouldn’t attempt to film/ or convert their movies in 3-D, unless they can truly make it look special.

This applies to gaming as well, as the 3D Nintendo DS console has only received lukewarm reviews. Critics have criticised the ridiculous angles players need to watch the screen in order to get the 3-D experience. The 3-D effect has only been panned for killing the battery life of the console very quickly.

I’m not a fan of the 3-D trend. I find wearing tinted glasses ruins the experience unless the filmmakers can make it spectacular and immersive. In my opinion 3-D has become a cheap way for Hollywood to earn an extra buck or two, and to that I say

Make it as good as Avatar.

Why you should never turn down the chance to live in university halls…

A little more on the sad side this one…

When your university accommodation office calls you to offer you a room never turn it down. I did and let me tell you it will completely ruin your university experience. If you chose to live in private accommodation fair enough, but staying at home isn’t a good idea.

Of course to get a call from the accommodation office you actually need to have previously applied, which I had done but decided halls were not for me last minute. My ideology was that I was in a happy relationship and going out clubbing to see who can pull the easy tart obviously didn’t appeal to me, and my university was in the same borough as my home so I just thought it would be easier and cheaper to stay at home.

This has this really damaged my social life as I can’t see friends from home because I’m at uni most days, and also i can’t see my friends at uni because I’m at home and unless there’s a spare floor going, partying out isn’t an option. But missing out on clubbing doesn’t bother me as much. What bothers me is that it seems it’s impossible to get to know your classmates if you don’t socialise outside. I’m a nice guy but for some reason that isn’t enough.

Now I’m noticing how my decision is starting to have an affect my grades. Practical projects, which need to be done outside of the classroom, I’ve found really hard to do because of the time constraints commuting adds. Where as students have time to do their work early morning and evening, I don’t because I’m traveling for four hours and fifteen minutes a day.

I’ve made a really bad decision and sometimes I think uni might not be for me, but i can’t help but think how better things might be if I just said yes to that one phone call.

2011-The year of comic book movies…

Amongst the hype of such successful films released this year such as The King’s Speech and Black Swan , brewing in the back somewhere seems to be the emergence of comic book movies based on B-list superheroes. When I say B-list I’m referring to characters that are not as popular as your mainstream heavy hitters such as Batman and Spider-man. At first you may ask your self, why are these movie studios bringing out films based on B-list heroes?

Some of the more popular characters such as Spider-man and X-men have had their franchises exhausted  to the point of actually having to reboot the movies only ten years after the original. With the success of the breakout B-list hero Iron Man in 2008, movie studios have seen that there is a winning formula is delivering superhero movies which are fresh, non-exhausted and different. If 2008 was the starter than 2011 appears to definitely be the main course with eight big comic book movies due this year alone. Is this a case of there being more appeal for fresh, untouched characters, or a simple case of Hollywood tying to milk as much money as they can of out comic book fans such as myself.

Time will tell but as far as my prediction of success, DC’s Green Lantern will be the most successful with Marvel’s Thor and Captain America making just enough to get people excited about superhero team up film The Avengers in 2012.