Due to a lack of available resources and creative dissonance I felt a influencing compulsion to indulge in some powerful nostalgic proclivities. Now I just have to decide what? Well PS Store has a fine selection of classic PS2 titles remastered with high definition ratio to satisfy my current nostalgic mood. Ah, GTA: San Andreas; the memories, the glory, the feels. One of the most supporting advocates for adolescent indolence. Many an hour/day/week/month were exclusively dedicated to inciting racially motivated violence in suburbs where you couldn’t even trust your own adoptive family. Gorging myself on fast food, just to watch in fascination as my ever expanding stomach swelled so much that it prompted a very graphic expulsion of half digested food and stomach lining to project from my mouth. Occasionally assisting the hood with any number of vacillating errands that only I was adequately qualified to deal with, apparently! And of course engaging in amorous vehicular trysts with women who’d satisfy your carnal desires by writhing up and down on the passenger chair while you both stare blankly out of the window. So it’s no wonder I feel vindicated in popping their pixilated heads under my newly appropriated car. Yes reminiscing about such churlish endeavours is enough to provoke any man-child into purchasing a classic game, at only a fraction of its original retail price. Yet its funny the details your deceptively scrupulous mind can invariably be when you recollect something you regard with such profound affection. How it chooses to discriminate against the faults, yet preserves the good with such diligence. Because I forgot just how hilariously glitchy this game truly was. Not in a bad, this game doesn’t work kind of way, but more of a “how did this ever make it through product testing” kind. So for your viewing discomfort is a series of failures perpetrated by the developers as well as myself. Particular an incident with a rather cumbersome combine harvester which actually gathers momentum quicker when upside-down. Enjoy.
There’s something so animalistic about E3. Many of the presentations are performed like birds in some far-flung corner of the globe, rustling their plumage to attract a mate. Cavorting with its prospective mates with not so subtle inflections. If you could mute what was being said and replace it with a David Attenborough narration the whole spectacle would be infinitely more interesting. The only difference between these birds of paradise and the human parallel is that all this cordial gyrating is replaced by fallacious expressions, imbued with extensive automated vernaculars that make less sense than this sentence, gestural posturing with excessive hand movements, interlocked fingers and flourishes like a magician going “taa daa!”. Not to mention an exuberant audience applauding every single mundane feature purely out of courtesy, as if they need to take long cold showers afterwards. Because who doesn’t want to touch themselves in all their sensitive areas after watching an assortment of CG trailers? It’s a huge, commercialised endorsement for products, accessories, software and hardware, integrated into theatrical posturing as choreographed as any ballet. Perhaps I’m just getting old and this kind of emphatic performance, one in which rationalising inhibits your ability to enjoy it is just too much pantomime for my taste. Personally my biggest gripe has been the way the industry comprises all of its heavy artillery into one giant bazooka and just fires sporadically with a cacophony of noise and explosive nonsense, without ever really clarifying what they are demonstrating.
It’s certainly targeted at a very suggestible audience, generating hype rather than fact and is much more culturally viable for an American audience. It can be very shouty, very flamboyant and grandiose. Not that that’s a bad thing as such but it does leave much of what is shown open for interpretation. The games themselves aren’t finished so don’t accurately represent the performance stated by the makers. And that’s even if there is any game-play to demonstrate. I’ve never had a natural immunity to the oftentimes overwhelming influence of hype and E3 has a tendency to exacerbate this volatile emotion. It’s something I’ve had to condition myself against having been erroneously beguiled by inflated expectation, constructed by my own encouraged ambition and farcical presentation that belies the subverted mediocrity of the product. Exhibitions such as E3 revels in the duplicitous falsities of hype, the ruse that every game exhibited is the best. Its captivating advertisement, but one so fiendishly manipulative you simultaneously curse them for deceiving you and reprimand yourself for falling for it. Developers are granted a platform to showcase new concepts they’ve been working on, presiding across the stage like Steve Jobs announcing the iPhone, wielding propaganda with terrifying precision. And man do some of these presentations go on?!
Brevity is concept rarely utilised at these events, exemplified by the incessant discharge of information that goes on longer than a Sloths foreplay. You could cut 3/4 off the Sony press conference and still have your butt bored into atrophy. Then you have the inevitable inert contest between companies, adjudicated by the opinions of observers that must assign a definitive victor to the event. Comparing their prospective ideologies and moderate a “winner” based on technique, presentation and most importantly the approval of bias. Why? The only real winners should be us. “Oh Nintendo definitely won E3”. Yeah! Congratulations. What do they win? The respect and admiration of the gaming community and their peers? “Anything from the bottom shelf sir”.Oh, well I’ll have the goldfish then my fine fictitious carnival proprietor! Proclaiming a victor seems redundant, garnering all the prestige of a fat kid finishing a race at sports day. And yet in spite of its jumped up, “look how awesome I am!” exultation, it’s still a largely captivating event.
I love talking about games, I could discuss any number of gaming related utilities all day. I particularly enjoy other people expressing their own excitement for games. Just a brief stroll (scroll?) through Twitter reinforces my adoration for the subject and community that embraces it. Whether it’s people excited about the new Xbox, the new Spider-man game or the wealth of opportunity available for the Nintendo Switch. Just observing gamer’s optimism for whatever it may be feels my spirit with delight. Really it’s an enjoyable farce with all the depth of a puddle, yet it always has the potential to be energetic, kinetic and even fun. E3 is a commercialised institute for the exposure of lavishly augmented trailers. A demonstration of potential rather than actual quality. You don’t get an authentic indication of what the game you will eventually play within the next year will be like, not really. So the cynic in you is always fearing the worst as opposed to hoping for the best. Because that’s what the show is all about, exhibiting content that inspires. Sure it doesn’t always succeed, intentions can be dubious and innovations sceptical, but it’s always earnest if not honest. It’s the not knowing whether a game will be good or not that is kind of the attraction and that affixing a level of expectation, derived from what we’ve seen that ultimately defines the success or failure of game.
As much I loath E3’s procedural, gaudy sensibilities and conceited self service, without it gamer’s would have nothing to get excited about. We need the assurances of spectacles such as E3 to nurture and sustain a sense of hope, even if ultimately it fails. Because when expectations are met or even bettered you can look back on it’s discovery with joy and it’s presenter with affection.
What games/hardware were you most excited about at this years E3? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
On June 6th 1944, the allied invasion of Normandy was launched. Operation Neptune, or D-day was one of the most ruthless amphibious offensives in maritime history, resulting in a decisive victory for the allies and at the same time inflicting a critical blow to the Nazis consolidation of occupied territories abroad. It was also responsible for the deaths of over 425000 allied and German troops, including wounded and those that simply went missing. It’s difficult to conceive or even visualise such a devastating loss of life, in fact one of the most accurate portrayals you’re likely to see is the opening of Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic “Saving Private Ryan”, which recreated the sorrowful brutality of that morning with detailed authenticity. If you’re like me however then you may have been introduced to this historic conflict in “Medal Of Honour: Frontline”. Though lacking the theatrical refinement of the cinematic equivalent, “Frontline” did an admirable job of presenting a vicarious depiction of this notorious invasion. WWII was never a subject I personally regarded with much interest. I respected the significance and admired the sacrifices consummated by all involved, but never felt a great deal of effusion for an event – that to my adolescent mind occurred such a long time ago. So being provided with an endearing stimulation, that of a game yields a much more persuasive connection to such a vile, yet crucial atrocity. You can’t accurately depict the inherent terror facing soldiers storming the beaches of Normandy with any legitimacy, nor the profound sense of personal isolation they must have experienced in knowing they were unlikely to leave those shores alive. Especially when your character has been resurrected thanks to an auto-save. Of course applying such logistical inhibitions would severely compromise the immersion of the game. But should war games portray such enduring cultural events at all? Are war games disrespectful? Do they really compromise the integrity and severity of the conflicts they portray?
Education is an invaluable asset and I believe you learn more by doing than by saying. It’s all repetition. I’m not saying reading or studying isn’t an important resource, but that shouldn’t undermine the benefits of such a robust medium that I feel adds context to a sustained war we could never comprehend without visual or auditory stimulants. A textbook is indispensable for distributing statistical knowledge and the intricacies that characterises the war, but doesn’t competently evoke the ambience or feel. Gaming is a new educational format that teaches kids about significant historical events, providing interaction rather than talking at them. The prosperity of games and it’s inevitable decadence means that there are certain inalienable liberties taken and events such as D-day are embellished. They are also inhibited by the interventions of a games procedural restraints, which can never accurately reflect the events with any cathartic recognition without reminding you it’s just a game. They are more a simulated interpretation of events that has to be won to progress. Hence the ability to heal, collect ammunition and to re-spawn. Some may argue that games such as Call of Duty, which has been heavily focused on modern conflicts emphasises the decorative veneer of violence. Objectifying or exploiting a period in history or interpretations of them, and glamorising them for the purposes of generating money. And that’s true, to a point.
There’s a potential to capture the authenticity so accurately to promote immersion and to earnestly portray the intolerable conditions suffered by soldiers that you’re never really sure if it should. You can’t depict the psychological trauma sustained by a solider in Afghanistan, or the profound isolation sustained from the killing. That would be crass and inappropriate. In games like Cod killing comes with reward, as you generate points for kills, which appears grossly insensitive. The problem that fluctuates in lambasting Cod as dismissive or even callous towards the death of soldiers is that it’s really just a fictitious representation of modern warfare. An exaggerated calibration of current events. Neither specific enough to be a legitimate incident nor vague enough to be entirely fabricated. Inspiration for levels and tone is evidently liberated from real life incidences, but aren’t definitive enough to be truly insensitive. If a specific terrorist incident that you’re forced to participate in was based on an actual event then things may become easier to criticise, but if it isn’t you can’t necessarily conclude that a game is utilising distressing events for the purposes of commerce rather than craft?
There’s more of an effort to elevate the intensity of conflict, not the subtle nuances of trench life. Not people left huddled in the cold dank trenches, squalled in mud and faeces. Staving off starvation by eating the vermin that feast on the necrotic remnants of fallen comrades that are decomposing just metres from you. Wondering if they will ever see their loved ones again. That’s not fun. A more earnest account sure, but perhaps facilitating too much realism that would verge on disrespectful. A game – as hard as it tries to recreate the pure savagery of the trenches, can never fully convey the experience with the same intensity. These are the limitations of relating legitimate accounts to a generation that have lived through moderate civility of peace, or at least the inactive perception of it. We can’t relate to these grotesque events in any comprehensive way because we haven’t endured extended periods of conflict ourselves. You can watch news coverage where reporters, attired in military garbs and protective clothing are relaying the turmoil of some middle eastern population you’ve never heard of, detailing the famine that has beset some ravaged community from a safe distance and feel empathy for the afflicted, but not enough extensive consideration that it effects our lives. The only ones that can are those people directly affected, who have lost love ones during war. Survivors who can still recant the heinous acts perpetrated by individuals that probably didn’t want to be there either, and do so with succinct clarity. You can’t truly fathom or value the extent of the situation without being there, and trying to depict it too realistically would be futile and largely redundant.
Movies based on war aren’t generally criticised for glamorising it’s narrative, unless inaccurate or unnecessarily elaborated. In fact many have been lauded for their portrayals, reminding audiences of humanities perpetual fallibility and our inherent lust for sovereignty. Though games lack the substance afforded by cinema’s illustrious polish or the authenticity of documented accounts published in textbooks, they can furbish the environments complexities and tone with detailed, analytical preservation. Recreate historically accurate armaments or events. They may not be an all encompassing history lesson, and they seldom contain anything more than mere snippets of information concerning that specific conflict in a loading screen, but that can at least spark some affinity for history and perhaps encourage some humility by reminding us just how lucky we have been.
What do you guys think. Have you ever felt compelled to read up on an incident or story because of a game? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
A few years ago I was at my in laws house for a Saturday night dinner. It was a totally spontaneous evening, completely last minute, so we all agreed that a takeaway was the most appropriate means of sustenance, as opposed to cooking. Once we’d finished our meal, Chinese if I recall everyone convened in the living room to stifle our collective intellect by watching some banal television show that exploited the mentally deficient for the purposes of entertainment. You know, “Talent shows”. As you can imagine I’m not particularly fond of modern terrestrial programming, so I instead neglected my social insertions by playing a game on my phone, much to the chagrin of my girlfriend who indicated that my misanthropic state was a rude deterrent to the inclusive, family orientated tone of the evening. Basically she insinuated that she would deny intimacy with me if I didn’t at least attempt to embrace some communal interaction. Out of fear of having celibacy thrust upon me I complied, as if I had any alternative, but with the proposed caveat that we had to at least change the channel to something other than the decorated irrelevance of wannabe singers. This concession to stimulate a much more congenial viewing experience was inexplicably accepted, presumably because the morally repressed talent show had concluded anyway. As a result of my incredible negotiating skills we changed the channel to some trivial game show, some derivative of “The National Lottery”, hosted by the perennial tangerine Dale Winton. The premise of the show was simple; contestants competed against one another by answering a series of general knowledge questions until only one is left. A question concerning Greek mythology cropped up. Dale, with his ever evanescent glow asked “In Greek mythology, Cerberus was a 3 headed what?” The contestant, suitably confused by the word “mythology” stammered and delayed his response, allowing me to exhibit my own profound public school education by responding “dog”. My girlfriend couldn’t contain a fleeting chuckle, discerning that my reaction was obviously a joke. “No really” I countered, “It’s a dog. The original hound from hell?!”. She, along with the rest of her family were astounded by this sudden affinity with Greek mythology, yet more shocked when they discovered I was right.
Did I obtain this knowledge through years of academic study? Perhaps through an extensive affinity with the region and ancient culture? No. It’s because I’d played Devil May Cry 3. Cerberus happened to be a boss, a snarling 3 headed dog no less that Dante intentionally provokes into an intense confrontation. I didn’t tell her this of course, as I wanted to preserve the illusion that I was studied in the ways of Grecian myth. You can’t begrudge me for perpetuating my limited knowledge of the subject to ensure I gained momentary recognition and to astound people with my superior intellect, however briefly. Yet it’s staggering just how much knowledge you can attain through games really. Just how often they impart knowledge, even if the reality of these truths are inverted or embellished for a more theatrical representation, with many replete in culturally significant mythology such as Greek, Norse and Egyptian. Many game concepts are derived from some form of ancient mythology. Just look at the Twelve Labour’s of Hercules, what he was tasked with reconciling and tell me that this doesn’t sound like a concept for an open world Rpg:
1. Slay the Nemean Lion and bring back its skin. (An invulnerable Lion that could not be killed by traditional methods).
2. Slay the Lernaean Hydra. (An immortal serpent with nine heads, that could regenerate two new heads if one were removed).
3. Capture the Ceryneian Hind. (A female red deer that required a years worth of tracking to capture).
4. Capture the Erymanthian Boar. (Weird conclusion to this. Hercules coerced and harried the exhausted creature into a bush and caught it in a net. Killed a number of centaurs beforehand though?).
5. Clean the Augean stables in one day. (A stable occupied by immortal cattle that hadn’t had their residence cleansed of their excretions for over 30 years).
6. Slay the Stymphalian Birds. (Large predatory birds that required “Clappers” forged by an immortal to scare away and kill).
7. Capture the Cretan Bull. (By all accounts this guy was as difficult to catch as herpes from Katie Price).
8. Steal the Mares of Diomedes. (Man eating horses?!).
9. Obtain the Girdle (Belt)of Hippolyte. (This belt belonged to the Queen of a female tribe called the Amazon’s. Which has nothing to do with South America. Amazon is in fact Greek for, and I’m not joking here “missing one breast”).
10. Obtain the Cows of Geryon. (This feat required Hercules to travel to the “end of the world”).
11. Steal the Apples of the Hesperides. (Golden apples that belonged to the God Zeus. A wedding gift no less!).
12. Capture Cerberus. (The most dangerous task of all! Cerberus was the guardian of the underworld appointed by Hades to prevent the living from entering the underworld).
They read like errands in an Rpg. He even had side quests and was constantly challenged to feats of physical labour. I’m sure if you read through enough parchments, ornate pottery or even the bio tapestry there’d be an engraving depicting a wounded solider clutching an arrow that had pierced his knee.
There’s an incredibly liberating rapport when it comes to interpreting myth into a cogent narrative. If you think about it most myths are fictionalised, or at least embellishments of a less glamorous truth. The ancient equivalent to comic books really. Fanciful tales written to amuse and delight children. So it’s only natural for games to take rigorous liberties with the original text. It’s not just legends and parables either. “Eternal Sonata”, a Jrpg is a very liberal interpretation of the death of famed French composer Frederic Chopin. Specifically events that’s transpired in Chopin’s unconscious mind after slipping into a coma, having suffered a debilitating illness. As well as Chopin, traversing an imaginary world inspired by his own work, the characters he comes across on his expedition through the subconscious possess many musical connotations. You have names like Beat, Viola and Polka, all musical notations or instruments. In Tales of Symphonia “Yggdrasil” is an egocentric deity that preserves the life of a great tree. In Norse mythology Yggdrasil is the fabled tree of life.
I’m sure there are other notable examples that demonstrate just how significant historical or cultural events inspire the concepts of computer game development. Yet its fair to say you aren’t going to write a detailed thesis or graduate University with a diploma in Ancient mythology and history by simply playing God Of War, sadly. But that shouldn’t imply that games are totally devoid of any academic nourishment. How else could any of us win a physical altercation without the invaluable knowledge provided by Street Fighter. Hadouken!
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be Spider-man. It became such an obsession when I was younger that I used to try and encourage spiders to bite me, just so I could somehow contract their inherent abilities. It’s a churlish dream I still cling too now like Spidey does to walls. I imagined swinging through the streets of my quite, suburban town where the most severe crimes are perpetrated by dogs urinating on walls or kids littering. To escort civilians across moderately congested roads, while concealing my identity from my gorgeous red headed girlfriend who is voraciously attracted to me, for some reason. This adolescent career ambition occurred at a time when the animated Batman series was having a profound influence on kids my age. Yet the proliferation of atmospheric morbidity and Gothic tone depicted in that show, though more popular, just didn’t appeal to me. I personally exhibited a preferred affinity for the cosmetic vibrancy of its cheerier contemporary. The Animated Spider-man Television series from the mid 90’s was my first foray into Spidey’s robust mythology. Centring around Peter Parker in college as opposed to the traditional High School location, this series had the courtesy to omit the abundantly ubiquitous origin story, graciously presuming that it’s audience was aware of how he had obtained the vaguely arachnid genetics and came to understand that “With great power, comes great responsibility”. Though the series lost direction towards the end, evident in the recycling of animation and superfluous characters I still found Peter Parker to be a provocative yet fallible hero to idolise.
There was something so relatable about an anxious teenager that was socially awkward, suffered with crippling acne and couldn’t talk to women without stuttering like Hugh Grant at gun point. I’m not sure what it was? Perhaps the dark hair. What I do know is that I wanted to emulate him in anyway I could. The most effective means of doing this without injury, which was ordinarily sustained when I attempted to crawl down the stairs pretending I was Spidey, was through gaming. The first exposure I had was Spider-man on the PS1. Because this iteration featured many vocal talents associated with the show, including Rino Rimano (Spider-man Unlimited) as Spider-man/Peter Parker I immediately gravitated towards this vernacular of Spider-man lore. Featuring an effusive roster of villains, including a comical Venom this particular Spider-man remains a vigorous emulation of what I consider to be the chief principles of being Spider-man, albeit within the confines of the consoles technological limitations. It’s wasn’t perfect, sure, but there is certainly a potential. Spider-man 2, the game adaptation/accompaniment to the Sam Raimi movie was a valiant, if venerated attempt to imitate the sensation of Web slinging with authentic orientation. Navigating through streets with a fluidity and precision that has never been bettered. The novelty wears off rather quickly, as you become distinctly aware of the enviroments artificial experience, exposed to the cities vacant energy and modulated extremities, such as the routine activities of vehicles and dead eyed general public. Not to mention Tobey Maguire’s inept delivery of Spiderman’s rapier wit. Many (Many!) Spiderman titles have followed, some better than others. Yet none have adequately condensed the endeavours of this illustrious periodicals. Moreover it became evident that Batman was fairing much better.
I remember playing Arkham Asylum and thinking “Why can’t we have a Spider-man game like this?”. All the elements are there; such as the similar frenetic combat. They both accommodate a varied and robust rogues gallery. They’re both equally adept scientists and skilled tacticians. Yet what was most striking was the way in which Batman was able to intuit and anticipate an adversary strike and successfully counter it using, I guess, some kind of inherent “Bat-sense”. There were even visual lightning bolts that would flash above his head to indicate an incoming attack?! You know, like a “Spider-sense”, an ability that Spider-man actually possesses, rather than a convenient combat auxiliary that facilitates a arbitrary visual mechanic to help expedite the need for intuitive player reaction. Not that I’m mocking it’s inclusion, I would have died repeatedly without it. But how difficult would it be to convert Batman into Spider-man, Gotham City to Manhattan, The Joker into (preferably)Venom and brighten the monochromatic style associated with Batman into a brightly coloured style of a Spider-man comic? Not 20 years of mediocrity difficult, surely?!
Spider-man Homecoming is released this year to coincide with its cinematic equivalent. Expectations are high considering Insomniac are developing it and if anyone can pull it off its this talented studio. But to me it shouldn’t be difficult. If it can harness the style and tone of the PS1 game, with the open world and swinging mechanics of Spider-man 2, coupled with the combat and polish of the Arkham series! *num num num*. Tasty. I’m confident that Spider-man Homecoming can replicate the energetic feel of character, without comprising the environments with linear concessions or impeding the dynamic free sprawling architecture, that Spider-man can interact with, skirting acrobatically across buildings, spinning webs any size, catching thieves just like light and generally doing whatever a spider can. Insomniac have been given a great power, now please use it responsibly.
Which Superhero has been most influential to you? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
Alien, the seminal horror classic from 1979 is easily one of my favourite movies. Alien terrified generations with its dark temperament and gratuitous oral penetration, which incidentally culminated in one cinemas most brutal, nauseating scenes: a deadly Alien bursting through John Hurts now convulsing body, spurting blood through his exposed chest cavity, which is still the series most defining moment. Every scene, however trivial had a purpose. Whether it established chemistry amongst the crew, the occasional division between shipmates, the claustrophobic ambience of the Nostromo, the commercial towing vehicle carrying 20,000,000 tons of iron ore, or conveying the desolation of the vacant planet that accommodates adverse weather conditions seldom seen outside the UK and the now infamous reveal of the derelict alien spacecraft. Not to mention H.R Giger’s exquisite artistry that was the core inspiration for the ferocious, acidic blooded parasites; the Xenomorphs. It was conceptually bold, startlingly audacious movie that without the exuberant direction of Ridley Scott could’ve been a lambasted B movie, forgotten by critics and audiences alike. Alien spawned five sequels, one prequel, a host of comics books and further novelisations as well as merchandise, video games and innumerable parodies that have solidified Alien as cultural icon, thus creating an endearing legacy that has endured despite the economical inferiority of its proceeding attachments. After a 30 year absence from the series, Ridley Scott returned with 2014’s much maligned prequel “Prometheus”. With a vaguely defined story and abject crew of dumb scientists that treated obvious threats like a child would treat a puppy, Prometheus ultimately failed to resonate with any coherent investment. Scott, seemingly aware of the of the fans desire for a more affectionate consort to his original material sought to rectify this by not only including the parasitical organisms that sought refuge in John Hurts rib cage back into the movie, but include Alien in the title. What he achieved however is to prove that he could make the same movie 3 times, with various degree’s of success.
Alien: Covenant follows the terraforming crew of the eponymous ship destined for a planet suitable for human colonisation. Of course they intercept a distress signal along the way, things go wrong and are passively forced to land on a neighbouring planet that accommodates conditions even more perfect for human habitation. The expedition goes awry, people get infected and aliens begin bursting through every naturally occurring orifices and some fashioned through devastating force! The problem from the off is the sheer number of passengers on this ship. There are 15 or so, but only 5 or 6 of them will have more than a couple of lines of dialogue. Whereas the crew of the Nostromo felt like an ensemble, here most of the crew are there purely to die in the most gratuitous way possible. Nothing but mere subsidiary characters in metaphorical red shirts, that act as disposable cattle, bleating and mooing with as much depth as a puddle. Ridley Scott also has a penchant for killing marriages in this film? As well as lovers in an obligatory shower scene. Because motivations are so fleeting and people are dispatched just as quickly there isn’t really sufficient vigour amongst the cast to establish a report. Tennessee is probably the most affable character, with his interactions with others feeling more affluent and natural. Daniels, the main thrust of the female cast is certainly no Sigourney Weaver, but does an admirable job to a point. I just found her attempts to convey vulnerability were a little inconsistent and jarring, alternating between a scared infant to an embolden soldier a little too readily. What elevates the movie beyond the inept banality of Prometheus is Michael Fassbender’s performance. Or should that be Michael Fassbender’s?
He doesn’t just carry this movie, he’s heaving the languid script like Ripley carries Newt away from the Alien queen; with triumphant fervour. He can go from sincere to psychotic with the same intensity and fluidity as Anthony Hopkins in Silence Of The Lambs. He’s that good! He reprises his role as David, the egotistical synthetic with a proclivity for human experimentation, exhibiting all the traits of a deranged sociopath with aspirations of divination. Since Prometheus David has dedicated much of his time at his procured evil residence trying to create a new species of alien derived from the same space cobras and Hug O Squid from Prometheus. Why? Well there’s a labouring, vaguely defined reason for his Frankenstein incentives, but it’s negligible really. Needless to say his ambiguous intent in the previous movie has distended into pure madness, delivered with devious relish by Fassbender. Though doesn’t murderous artificial intelligence sound strangely familiar? That’s because the biggest problem with Covenant is crucially evident in its familiar routines.
If I was being severely critical Covenant is really just a stylised “Alien” remake with Prometheus aesthetics and most importantly for Scott, Prometheus mythology. There’s certainly a leniency in terms of coherency and convoluted storytelling that impeded the fluency of Prometheus, and it does attempt to try new things such as the way the Aliens gestate, but it does so without ever really standing out. There’s such a reliance on the what’s come before that it all feels reconstituted. You have a crew member’s body, who is killed aboard the Covenant, jettisoned into space. A distress signal from an unknown source that must be investigated. A psychotic synthetic. Derelict ship. A stupid person putting there heads right over the top of obviously dangerous eggs. A female lead who bears an uncanny resemblance to original kick ass heroine Ellen Ripley. And an ending fight that extraneously amalgamates both that of Alien and Aliens final conflicts with a shrug. It becomes painfully obvious that Scott really doesn’t know where to take the franchise without compromising the integrity of his original classic. And it’s a shame because the imagery and visual style of both Prometheus and this are exceptional to look upon. The environments, the ship, the way he contrasts light and shadow, particularly in scenes with Fassbender, channelling some Shakespearean villain, it’s stunning. But so is Megan Fox, doesn’t mean I want to hear her discuss the science of alien genetics!
Alien Covenant represents the over inflated hubris of a man who has dedicated years trying to distance himself from this franchise. Its ambitious, yes, but don’t mistake that vision for anything profound. It seems so concerned with expanding a mythology that it forgets to be scary or even interesting. It’s essentially dumb scientists doing absurdly dumb sciencey things, devolving further into intellectual aberration and becoming at points unintentionally comedic. From the slapstick humour of two separate characters slipping over a pool of blood at crucial moments, to Michael Fassbender teaching “Himself” how to play the flute by erotically cooing “You blow. I’ll do the fingering”. You have to wonder whether the script was written by someone distracted by reruns of “Benny Hill” and “Carry on”. I guess I shouldn’t complain too much considering the steep, downward trajectory the series was taking with the blasphemous Alien Vs Predator tangent. With potential followup’s like Alien Vs Superman. Alien Vs John Wick. Alien Vs Marvin The Martian. Alien Vs Alzheimer.
Alien Covenant isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a great one either. The characters are underwhelming and extraneous, the plot meanders like my Nan trying to recite a joke she’s forgotten the punchline too, before accelerating off like a fart in a hurricane (the story, not my Nan). It culminates in a predictable ending that even M Night Shymalan would dismiss as derivative and stupid. Alien Covenant may well be the third best in the franchise, but by the same extension “Attack Of The Clones” is the third best Star Wars prequel.
Have you seen Alien: Covenant? If so what did you think? And what is your favourite Alien movie in the franchise? Let me know in the comments below. Cheers.
Last Sunday I went out for lunch with one of my best friends from school. We hadn’t seen each other for roughly 3 years. That’s a long time considering how close we were. The significant passage of time between meetings was nothing to do with a dispute or any kind of altercation, but just one of those mutual divisions that occur as you get older. People drift apart, priorities change and we each seek personal goals. In any case a reconciliation had been long overdue, so we finally reserved some time to just sit down with a beer, some food and just chat. We discussed our formative years in school, predominantly concerning all the juvenile escapades we’d assume with various collaborators. Regailing our perceived “rebellious delinquency” with sneers of derision and embarrassment. With initiatives such as throwing pencil cases out of the windows, swearing at a teacher – though in my defense the extended middle finger had been intended for a member of the public that had almost ran me down! – carving “Aaron Smells” on the wall of the assembly entrance, much to the grievance of our headmaster who regarded such creative flourishes as vandalism, and getting help from Miss Wallace in I.T class just so we could get a good look down her top. They were hardly schemes or collusion’s conceived by nihilistic activists. And though it was nice catching up again, sharing details regarding drunken nights out in town, the various failed attempts at courting women while under the influence of our preferred libations (basically anything alcoholic!) it did feel like talking to a stranger. Conversations that years before would’ve been free flowing and jovial now felt anxious and forced, like former band members trying to rekindle musical differences after a prolonged hiatus. The problem is that during this 3 year interlude between meeting last a lot has changed.
I myself had become a father. Roughly around the same time that my girlfriend and I had welcomed our daughter into the world, he was saying goodbye to his wife who tragically passed away due to cancer. She was only in her late 20’s. Death of any kind is always sad, but at such a tender age with their marital life ahead of them this was just cruel. I was unable to attend the funeral, owing to my girlfriends continued hospitalisation due to complications from childbirth. In fact I didn’t know what had happened until a mutual friend of us casually mentioned the event in passing. So finally here I was sitting across from him and I just couldn’t bring myself to broach the subject. I skirted the issue entirely as often as I could. I mean how do you approach that kind of sorrow with any delicacy? It was clear from his posture, the melancholy, the ruffled and matted hair that was now tinged with whisps of grey that he hasn’t endured the most pleasant 12 months. He looked older, weary even. Akin to a soilder who has returned from active duty a changed person. The jovial and acerbic wit were gone, replaced by a man hardened and matured by agony. Perhaps even permenantly.
You could tell that this was a man that had and probably still was grieving, but I didn’t want him to interpret my ambivalence as something inconsiderate. Instead I decided that it were best for him to dictate the course of the conversation, with me expressing my own condolences without having to address it with any intimate detail. As such we both became a little more comfortable chatting, establishing a natural dialogue between two friends who’d forgotten just how good it was to just sit down with a pint and talk bullocks for a couple of hours. It was great too that he finally got to meet my daughter, demonstrating his own paternal skills, as my daughter chuckled at every facial expression he could muster. By the time we’d eaten, discussed our respective families and conferred every nugatory information about life in general the mood was suitably congenial. We parted soon after to pursue the trifling monotony of domesticity that seems to clasps your freedom with persistent regularity as you get older, vowing to meet up again much sooner.
I guess the message, banal though it maybe really is to value your friendships. To nurture and preserve them regardless of petty arguments, distance between you or the elapse of time. There shouldn’t be anything to stop you, just encourage you. Don’t leave issues unresolved, festering for years nor hesitate calling a friend even just to say hi. I thought that by neglecting my involvement in his life because of fatherhood would somehow absolve my absense, but it doesn’t. There was no real excuse for me not to contact him sooner, to exhibit a profound regret for missing his wife’s funeral, even if it couldn’t be helped or be there when he needed all the help he could get. You can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. And when you do you have to remain committed to maintaining they’re loyalty. You never know when they may need you, or when you might need them.