Tag: The Last of Us

Re-Views – “Deep Impact”

deep-impact

It’s strange to think, but out of all the movies I’ve seen in my life, I’ve probably watched about nine out of ten just once and never again.

There are lots of reasons this can happen. Most often, it’s because the movie was so thoroughly forgettable that there’s no reason to waste the additional 98 minutes and 1.4 calories required to press the “play” button again. Or, as in the case of, say, “Avatar,” that it was so unrelentingly terrible that I had to stop watching for mental health reasons.

Terrible movies aside, it’s even stranger when it comes to movies I only saw growing up. They leave a certain impression on you that only comes with the (relative) innocence of youth. Like a movie seeming fairly clean but actually being laden with sexual innuendo. Or wondering why Bambi was so sad after his mom went on that vacation. Or wondering why all the people in “Commando” were full of spaghetti sauce.

More recently, though, I’ve been bored enough to actually watch some of these movies a second time. And wow. It’s certainly dissuading me of a few misconceptions…

But let’s get to the Re-View of a movie I saw almost twenty years ago – “Deep Impact.”

Views on this movie were split into two major groups. Half of people remember this movie as “the movie so similar Armageddon that it might have been Armageddon.” And the other half remember it as just “the movie that wasn’t Armageddon.”

Both groups aren’t totally on the mark because this movie is, in fact, a horrible machine that feeds on the tears of parents.

Of course, I had no understanding of this as a child. I fell pretty neatly into the category of people who looked at this as the almost completely forgettable “movie that was sort of like Armageddon but wasn’t and oh, look, Morgan Freeman.”

I remember it not being terrible. In fact, it was actually fairly good, as disaster movies went. And who knows? Maybe things would have played out differently if Armageddon hadn’t come out at pretty much the same time.

Or, you know, not at all, saving us from that damn Aerosmith song about the guy who didn’t like sleeping or something.

Watching it recently, as the parent of a small child, the movie really hits you differently. It was like the difference between my playthroughs of “The Last of Us” pre-baby and post-baby. Before I was a parent, the opening act of the main character’s daughter getting gunned down while he clutches her and begs her not to die, that was rough. When I played it after my son was born, I think I had to go hold him in the middle of the night while he just sort of wondered what the hell was happening.

“If there’s ever a zombie outbreak,” I whispered into his ear, “you have to let me walk in front everywhere, okay?” At which point, he bit me in the shoulder, so that whole thing was messed up on a lot of levels.

To some degree, though, it’s worse in Deep Impact because that movie has a lot of families in a lot of crappy situations. So if any individual plot thread doesn’t tug at your heartstrings just right, they’ve got about thirty or forty to choose from. How about the estranged father who desperately wants to reconnect with his daughter before the world ends? No? How about the family who gets left off the list of people in the shelter and only their daughter gets in? Or the parents who hand off their infant moments before the impact so a guy on a fast bike might get them to safety?

None of those? How about the astronaut who went to space before his son was born and has to sacrifice his life to save the Earth? And his wife and son are late for a last message but get their juuuuuuust in time. But he never sees his son because he was blinded in an accident. Then there’s cooing and “I love yous” exchanged in the final moments before the video feed finally cuts out.

And then, for the last ten minutes, it just lingers on an old dog’s face as it slowly dies in the arms of the boy it grew up with while Johnny Cash plays guitar in the background.

In any event, I thought coming back to this movie after twenty years was particularly strange. Because missing out on sexual innuendo as a kid just means you’re missing out on a movie’s humor. Missing out on the soul-crushing despair in this movie completely changes the subtext. As an adult, you see the disaster as more of just a framing device for a lot of very raw, emotional stories. They could’ve replaced a comet impact with pretty much anything large enough to destroy the Earth but small enough to be stopped by a scrappy team of scientists, and the movie would have been identical.

The only question is, for what diabolical purpose were they harvesting those tears?

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Preview – “Logan”

logan

Now, I’m not exactly a rabid X-Men fan. I petered out sometime after “X-Men: First Class,” largely because the timelines started to get confusing. And I never saw any of the Wolverine solo films in their entirety, since I usually just caught the second halves when they aired on television. But I am a fan of not driving franchises into the ground.

The fact that they’re actually doing a movie to end Wolverine’s story line has me intrigued, since I was expecting they’d keep trying to lure Hugh Jackman back with higher paychecks and promises of vegemite.

I saw the Red Band trailer, and I have to say I was fairly impressed. It offers a raw, gritty take on the character that I think has been oddly absent from a series about a raw, gritty character. They’ve constantly teased the idea that despite all he’s been through, for a mutant who’s essentially immortal, there’s bound to be a happy ending eventually. Only, what if there’s not?

In any event, I’ll let the trailer speak for itself.

While looking for the trailer, I was surprised to see there’s actually a second trailer out. I mean, I’m not sure about the wisdom of releasing two trailers back to back. But I thought this one was impressive, too. Check it out.

Wait. Hm. Something’s not right here. Specifically, it’s the same exact movie and trailer as “The Last of Us.”

Hold up. Let me get a summary for the movie.

“A worn and grizzled Logan lives in a future he didn’t ask for, one of the last of his kind. Despite surviving the trials and tribulations that brought the world to this bleak place, he eventually comes to realize that he’s lost everyone he ever cared about and now, all that’s left for him is survival. When an unexpected mission falls in his lap to protect a young girl who may be the key to saving the world, he realizes that it may be his last chance at personal redemption. Also, Sir Patrick Stewart is there.”

And the summary for “The Last of Us.”

“A worn and grizzled Joel lives in a future he didn’t ask for, one of the last of his kind. Despite surviving the trials and tribulations that brought the world to this bleak place, he eventually comes to realize that he’s lost everyone he ever cared about and now, all that’s left for him is survival. When an unexpected mission falls in his lap to protect a young girl who may be the key to saving the world, he realizes that it may be his last chance at personal redemption. Sadly, Sir Patrick Stewart isn’t there.”

Oh. Right. Sir Patrick Steward. Well, carry on then.

All right. So they aren’t identical. I wouldn’t go quite that far. But there’s more than a superficial relation between the two.

If you play both trailers at the same time, you’ll notice that a lot of similar beats come at around the same time. Logan waxing poetic about the changing world. Joel and Bill explaining that things are different now. Professor Xavier trying to convince Logan to protect the girl. Tess explaining that escorting the girl is no different than any other cargo. The big crescendo with both Joel and Logan going into a berserker rage. Even the strange choice to accompany both trailers with depressing Spanish guitar music.

Both Joel and Logan have become old men with beards who are on the “Norwegian fur trapper” end of the grizzled spectrum. Both have lost the last person they truly cared about. Both have a no-nonsense fighting style that puts effectiveness over fairness. And both seem to be heroes only in the sense that they often end up in places where someone needs help, and they’re the only option.

“All right. Fine,” you say. “If you don’t like it, then don’t see it.”

Only, I kind of love it. Ninety percent of the stories I read about the hero’s journey stop somewhere around the part where they defeat evil and happiness ensues forever. At worst, we’re sometimes left on the cliffhanger that while things didn’t go quite as planned, there’s always hope for the future.

But heroes die. It’s part of the journey they tacitly agreed to when they first set out to save the world, either by choice or necessity.All that’s left is the choice to die as an old man in bed, or to die as something like the hero they once were.

Preferably after severely messing up a few dozen bad guy with adamantium claws.

Review – “Journey” (PS4)

So I have Playstation Plus, which gives me somewhere in the area of four to seven free games on the first Tuesday of every month. I figure it’s high time I started using it.

Playstation Plus does tend to focus mostly on older games. As an intelligent person, I see the sense in this, as giving your game away for free on day one is a pretty crummy marketing strategy. As a gamer, grumble grumble, I want new free games.

There’s not much point in reviewing games that have been out for months or even years by the time of their free release. Reviewers have already said pretty much everything there is to say within a few days of any game being released. In the case of preview copies, reviewers cut that time down to about a week before the release.

All that being said, let me immediately break my own rule and review Journey.

journey

The Background. Journey first came out in Spring of 2012 and was developed by Thatgamecompany. And no, that isn’t a typo. That’s their actual studio name. Which I guess makes sense, because using no creativity whatsoever to come up with their name gave them plenty to spare for their actual games.

Though they haven’t made many thus far, they have a solid pedigree as the people who made that game where your little thing ate smaller little things (Flow) and that game where you controlled flower petals in a breeze (Flower). Again, none of the preceding things were typos.

Like the previous two games, Journey is a short game with no dialogue, no onscreen meters and only the barest of story lines. The graphics are stylized, looking beautiful without wandering too close to actual realism. Except for your character’s robe and scarf, which animate well and flow about in the wind believably. If nothing else, I can say that this title revolutionized scarf and robe physics in video games.

In the same way that Dead or Alive: Extreme Beach Volleyball revolutionized…um…jiggle physics, except without the long sigh when you say it.

The Basics. The game starts you off as a nameless robed figure in the middle of a ruin-filled desert where you’ll spend most of your time playing. After climbing a small hill you’re presented with a view of the glowing mountain in the distance. And that’s…pretty much all there is to it. There’s no story or anything else to otherwise motivate you to go there, except that it’s constantly looming there in the distance looking all enticing and whatnot.

With so many games beating you over the head with your character’s motivations (which are oftentimes stupid or impossible to relate to) or throwing long, convoluted stories at you (which are oftentimes boring or impossible to understand), Journey was honestly a breath of fresh air.

The same objective is in sight almost the entire game with no need for detours. There are no sidequests to rescue supporting characters. No collect-a-thons to pad out the game time. Just a robed figure. A glowing mountain. And a desert between them.

There are some story pieces thrown in here and there in the form of visions and murals, yes, but because there’s no talking, almost everything you see is open to interpretation. While it’s fairly clear that something very bad went down from the paintings you find, that much is already clear to anyone who notices the ruins almost everywhere. The clues are subtle without being intentionally vague, meaning that any two players might have played very different stories on their way through the game.

The ending was admittedly open to some interpretation but by the time you reach that point you sort of get the idea that it doesn’t really matter. It’s a fulfilling enough closure that you don’t feel cheated. And, as the title suggests, the point of it all was the journey – not the destination.

Or, at least, I think so. The cynical part of me says that a lot of the praise this game gets for being philosophically deep could have just been people filling in the blanks themselves. I suppose we’ll never really know.

The Rest. Gameplay itself is simple and straightforward. You have a scarf that lets you jump and glide through the air slowly. As you progress your scarf will grow longer, allowing you to jump higher and glide longer. You’ll slide down slopes in certain sections. And that’s pretty much all there is to it.

There’s is a mechanic that seamlessly adds other players to your game as semi-permanent companions on your quest. I’ve heard it can be very fun and you can grow very attached to these people, but they’re an entirely optional experience. Unfortunately, I had a sum total of three people appear – two of which were too busy screwing around to move forward and one who kept me waiting ten minutes while they failed the same simple puzzle over and over again.

I inevitably left all three behind and didn’t look back, though your mileage may vary if you find people who are helpful and/or competent.

While I wouldn’t say the game is very challenging, I personally feel that it’s as hard as it needed to be. It’s enough to engage the player without bogging down the straightforward narrative. I don’t think the developers wanted the video game portion to detract from the story, if that makes sense.

The simple story and soundtrack get you very invested in a character you essentially know nothing about (aside from them being a robe and scarf enthusiast). The result is that you’re given swells of excitement, fear and hope as you get closer and closer to the summit. And it leaves you wondering why games that give you so much more emotional fodder to work with rarely provide the same highs and lows as Journey.

(Except for “The Last of Us.” I have paprika in my eye. I was making deviled eggs. Shut up! I’m not crying. You’re crying.)

That all said, I realize that a two-hour game with very little story and possibly less payoff for an ending might be a hard sell for some. I liked the cinematic feel of the game and its ability to get me to feel things, but I also understand that some of you are dead inside. And that’s fine. I mean, I guess it’ll just hurt less when your pets die.

Final Thoughts. I honestly haven’t come up with a concrete scoring system for reviews yet. (My best idea thus far is a sliding scale of “not fun at all” to “amazingly fun” atop a scale of “short” to “long,” but I have to tinker with it.) In the case of this game, I would even hesitate to rate it by the same scale as other games because it just is so fundamentally different as a playing experience.

The Verdict. Though not exactly rollicking fun to play, the game is nonetheless absolutely worth experiencing from beginning to end. Just prepare for the feels.