Monday, November 10, 2008

Quantum of Solace

Remember Casino Royale? Of course you do. It was a fantastic reboot of the Bond franchise, cutting away the camp of the later Brosnan movies, and Daniel Craig creating the definitive Bond by sweating, bleeding and being hit on the balls a lot. It could've used a bit of trimming, but overall it left me really excited about Bond for the first time in a really long while.

Quantom of Solace completely pisses that away.

Let's pause for a brief wanky beret moment. Closure is the act of observing the parts but perceiving the whole. Filling in the blanks. Everytime you move between panels in a comic, or an edit happens in a movie, you're relating the frames spatially and temporally, as well as extrapolating from the visual elements in the frame. This takes brain power, and audience involvement. Knowing how to use it is absolutely key in visual storytelling.

At some point, someone had the idea of making more agressive use of this, sacrificing clarity in favour of getting in close and giving a more impressionistic view of action sequences in the hope that it would increase audience involvement. And you know, people complain about shaky cam a lot, but I'm fine with it when in the hands of a skilled director. Remember the Tangiers chase in the Bourne Ultimatum? Ten minutes of Bourne running after Desh, Desh closing in on Nikki, and the audience completely pinned to their seats.

Marc Forster is not a skilled action director. So he just throws a bunch of frenetic edits of moving bits at the screen, without little regard for establising spatial relation, in the mistaken hope that we'll mistake the confusion for excitement. There's a particularly egregious sequence kicking off the film, a car chase where it's fucking impossible to make out who's chasing who until it's over and you realise that Bond was in the car in the front becasue he's still moving and the car behind crashed.

This is a problem when the movie is 90% action. It's even more of a problem when the script gives the action sequences little purpose other than being loud, noisy padding.

Oddly for a movie that literally picks up an hour after Casino Royale, it has little interest in what made that movie good, or the fraught emotional state Bond was in at the end. Oh, there's some lipservice about how angry and hurt he is, but anytime there's danger of a real character moment, the movie panics and hurtles along to the next action sequence as if slowing down would put it in danger of being accosted by rape-goblins.

It's a real pity, because Daniel Craig is still as great in the part as ever, Judi Dench is in fine form, and Olga Kurylenko is a good Bond babe, but the script doesn't put them to good use. The only weak link among the principals is Mathieu Amalric as the hilariously ineffectual and unmenacing villain.

It's not worth writing off the rebooted franchise completely yet, but they'll have to do a lot better next time around.

At least it's better than Max Payne, which has an appealing performance by Kurylenko for all of her five minutes of screentime, and then goes back to being completely useless, lumpen pap. You'd think it wouldn't be too hard to get a pulp tale of revenge for murdered loved ones up to acceptable standards, but alas, the video game movie curse struck again.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hello again blog

It's been a while, hasn't it? No, contrary to appearances, I did not disappear into a crippling WoW addiction. I rode out the trial and left it at that. I was just being lazy again.

The apparent irony of that last post was pretty funny though, wasn't it?

Even if it wasn't true.

I have to admit that I sometimes feel a slight temptation whenever I walk past a retail copy of WoW though. It's a very polished game, and Azeroth has a lot of sights to see. And I can definitely see why people get stuck in it. There's always a new little reward. *ding* You reach a new level. *ding* You get a new spell. *ding* You find a nifty item. *ding* You learn to make a better sandwich. *ding* You fi- *ding* Y- *ding* *ding* *ding*

It's a constant barrage of little happy pills of accomplishment.

It still can't escape the fundamental rubbishness of the genre though; the inability to affect your world meaningfully, all the while maintaining that you're super awesome one chosen hero of singleplayer rgps. But you can't fool me. I possess cleverness and functioning retinas. I can see that those nasty critters I genocided the minute before spawned back and nothing changed.

Which wouldn't be that big a problem if your genociding the evil critters was fun, but WoW's combat is neither visceral nor tactically challenging enough to make it entertaining. It's easy to do the math and see how an engagement will end the minute it starts, and then it's a dull couple of minutes to execute your plan. Unless of course an angry bear spawns in behind you, and then you die, because you're as fierce as a soggy kitten and can't handle angry bears in addition to the other enemies, and the camera refuses to let you spot their filthy spawning hides before you pull aggro. And then you swear copiously, while wondering why you're supposed to put up with this on the promise that it gets better after the first 20 or 30 levels.

Which leads you to putting the box back down in the store and move on to purchase other, more appealing games. Like Fallout 3. On which there will be many words later.

Unless shiny things happen.

You can't trust those shiny things.