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Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Highlander 2. Bad Movie, Great Meaning

Highlander 2 is infamous for Highlander fans and movie fans in general, mainly for its poor continuity with the other films in the series and its poor quality. But when watching the movie I always feel like there is something within it that gives it a more noble sensibility. The films plot deals with a electromagnetic shield that protects the earth from the suns radiation following the ozone's layers destruction at the hands of industrial pollution. Already its clear that the film has a very bold statement to make about pollution and why we should take care of our planet, and this carry's on throughout the whole movie in a very meaningful way.

The meaningful way it does this is the clever idea of tying in a former immortal man to the idea of the planet essentially dying. From a thematic point of view it is very interesting, the idea that a man who cannot die is the savior of a dying planet. The way the story starts is also very melancholy and symbolic. McLeod is now a mortal man, and is ageing and dying, much like the planet. Once he becomes immortal again, he seeks to destroy the planetary shield, now that the ozone layer is repaired. A greedy corporation wants the shield to remain active, seeing as it funds their corporation. Science fiction often deals with the idea of corporate influence affecting peoples lives, and how we can rebel against it. Highlander 2 does this within its story, although not in a very subtle way.

The whole film feels like it takes place in a dark city that is falling apart, decayed and old.. Its ideas are meaningful despite the films many downsides. The ending scene of McLeod stepping into the shields beam and destroying it is a very positive way to end the film, and the sense of triumph seeing the clear shield less sky with the stars shinning above is a very powerful image. I find the film can be enjoyed if its intentions are kept in mind. Its still a clunky mess, but I find it fascinating that the film makers did at least want to highlight a certain subject matter and theme. Its kind of operatic in a way, a film about a newly restored immortal trying to save the planet he feels responsible for dooming.

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Akira (Anime) Film Analysis Part 4: Sins Of Science

Akira goes to great lengths to suggest that over ambitious scientific study can lead to disaster. Throughout the film the idea of interfering with Tetsuo's psychic abilities presents itself as a destructive decision, as it fails to keep him under control and only ends up provoking him even more. The choice to study Tetsuo was conducted fully knowing the risks involved, but lacked any restraint in actually trying to prevent the disaster before it was too late. Its possible that this idea has some links to the idea of nuclear weapons, the idea of a powerful and dangerous creation basically being used on its own creator due to accidental reasons and a lack of proper control over it. Akira's iconic opening shot demonstrates the nuclear viewpoint even more, evoking imagery of a large explosion consuming Tokyo. This ties into Akira's study of a post war Japan, and it economic issues following such a destructive series of events, events it caused by underestimating scientific consequences. Japan faced a real life nuclear attack during the second world war, something it has difficulty recovering from. Akira alludes to this openly, portraying a post World War 3 Japan as being economically unstable, and socially unstable. The metaphor for the nuclear issue is Akira himself, the one who destroyed old Tokyo. However is this instance it wasn't a attack from an enemy like it was in the second world war, it was from within Japan, and was the result of scientific incompetence   As I have said in the other 3 parts of the analysis, Akira has themes of rebirth, revolution, and growth. The idea of Tokyo essentially creating its own destruction is a interesting take on the fears of technology, and how when not harnessed properly it can cause disaster. Nuclear plants have meltdowns, machines malfunction, and a lack of security are probable occurrences and fears for many people. In the world of Akira, and the real world now, there is a over reliance on technology being our saviors, and Akira plays against this feeling of comfort and security by having technology be our downfall, and the idea of interfering with things we cant fully understand to be a apocalyptic consequence.

This is a common theme in many cyberpunk stories, the machine metaphorically rebelling against its creator. although in Akira's case its not necessarily just the machine, its nature. Tetsuo's destruction at the end of the film reduced Tokyo to rubble and ruins. it no longer stands proud as a city, but a hollow shell of a civilization reduced to nothing. It almost like the city was never there, its like new ground for a new earth, where a new city will eventually take its place. The cycle of destruction will continue from here, again and again.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Only God Forgives Analysis / Review

Only God Forgives is a Crime/thriller directed by Nicholas Winding Refn, fresh off of his success with his previous film, Drive. The film is about a Thai boxing ring manager called Julian, who is a criminal drug launderer that seeks out the killer of his criminal brother, who was killed by a Thai police Lieutenant by the name of Chang. Chang is referred to as The Angel Of Vengeance, as he dispenses justice on the brutal streets of Bangkok.

The film blends genre's in fairly interesting ways, as this film is essentially a western masquerading as a eastern neo noir crime film. It features tropes associated with westerns (silent characters, justice being brought to the lawless, ect) and has a slow, mesmerizing pace that borders on the surreal and fantastical. The director also said this about the film, "From the beginning, I had the idea of a thriller produced as a western, all in the Far East, and with a modern cowboy hero." Many people would assume that the "cowboy hero" would be Julian, but it becomes apparent over the course of the film that he was most likely subtlety referring to Chang.

The cast is lead by Ryan Gosling, who despite top billing, is actually very underplayed and the film is essentially about his redemption at the hands of Chang, the Thai police Lieutenant played by relative newcomer Vithaya Pansringarm. The films features a heavy cast of fairly unknown Asian actors, since the film is set in Bangkok. This choice of setting combined with the gives a sense of disconnection, as we are experiencing a culture we are unfamiliar with, which helps identify with the few American characters who feel the same way. It links to westerns in a way, with the trope of the stranger in a strange town. Its the films clashing of east and west which is interesting as we feel like we are watching a western fused with elements of samurai films, though the film takes more of its cues from Sergio Leonne rather than Akira Kurosawa.

The setting feels very authentic, as the film was shot on location in Bangkok. The setting feels lived in, mysterious, intimidating, exotic, atmospheric, and dangerous. The film focuses more on the seedy side of Bangkok, which paints its setting as a very grim, uncompromising reality. The sense of surreal mysticism that the neon drenched streets of Bangkok at night creates is almost dream like, and covers the screen in a hellish red and orange glow with slight variations with other bright colours, a thematic artistic choice that makes the Bangkok setting look like hell has corrupted the earth. This contrasts with other parts of the film, where the colours are more pure, and elegant, which gives of a sense of more peaceful imagery, which is also important thematically.

The reason why the colours are so thematic is because of the hidden symbolic, or possibly real nature of the films premise. Simply put, Chang is God, and he is unleashing his wrath on the hellish landscape of a seedy Bangkok, one sinner at a time. Whether or not he is God, or is a man who thinks he is god, is left ambiguous. Although Nicholas Winding Refn as said in interview that he is a man who thinks he is God, This doesn't rule out the fact that he at least symbolically represents God and is portrayed in a larger than life, powerful and highly respected light. His fellow police officers are angels, who are with him almost all the time and have huge respect for him. Whenever we see Chang at his home, the films lighting and visuals become more peaceful and pure. He home is surrounded by nature, which gives off the idea of heaven, or paradise, and that Chang (God) is residing in a place of peace and purity, while the inhabitants of the corrupt seedy Bangkok are condemned to rainy, smoggy, moody looking areas with the hellish red and orange lights bearing down.

The red and orange lights provide a fiery hellish colour scheme.

The red hellish image of Bangkok on the horizon, bordering Chang’s peaceful green paradise.

 The contrast is very strong and visually Operatic. The way the film is shot adds to its theme, with its cinematography using colour as a way of symbolically portraying a subtle hell on earth scenario, in which criminals prey on those who are not corrupted. The films use of neon lights gives the film a dreamlike quality, which helps sell the fantastical and otherworldly elements of the film.
The Chang Characters role as God is demonstrated in subtle ways which border on the supernatural. As to whether or not Change in literally God in human form is left ambiguous but it is hinted in bits of clever visual design and direction. For example Chang uses a sword to kill criminals, but when he draws the sword from his back, its as if the sword is being pulled out of nowhere, as we never see him with the sword actually on his back. He also appears to show a level of all knowing abilities, as he senses the incoming danger of a gun fight before it even occurs, and at one point demonstrates his talent for vanishing completely after turning a corner while he is being followed. Also a very important hint, is that the director directed the actor playing Chang by literally whispering into his ear "You are God".

Chang reaches for his sword.

The music is a mix of instrumental music and Karaoke songs. The Karaoke songs are very important thematically as the director said that in the region of the world where the film is set, Karaoke is considered "almost religious". Interesting thing for him for him say, especially interesting since its Change (God) who sings the Karaoke songs at a bar after he has brought a criminal to justice. In a way him singing is a symbolic way of  showing people in awe while in the attendance of God and hearing his voice reaching them. The looks on the faces of people in the Karaoke Bar while Chang is singing seems to support this, as they are mesmerized, and have a massive sense of respect for the man and hold him in very high regard.

Chang's fellow police officers act as either literal or symbolic angels on earth.

The instrumental music is brilliant in what it achieves. Because the film is basically a larger than life clash between good and evil, its appropriate that the film has music of high energy and operatic sounds. The score has both of those things, with the music being both surreal at times, sorrow filled, and pulse pounding. The films story is told primarily though visuals and music, with very sparse Dialogue, so the music at times acts as the voice of the situation, helping us paint a much larger more epic picture of what’s going on.
For example there is a fist fight in the film which is done is a very down to earth, heavy hitting way with a focus on realism. But the music makes the fight seems like a much bigger, epic feel and gives it a sense of larger than life purpose. The music in the scene is a mix of electronic music and what sounds like, and could possibly be, a electronic organ. The electronic organ sounds are very interesting as it evokes the sounds of a church organ, and links it to aggressive religious retribution. which makes sense in the context of the scene since Ryan Goslings character, Julian, is fighting Chang (God).

Also during the Karaoke scenes, Change is singing in front of  mural or painting of sorts that appears to be showing a long bridge or series of steps leading up though a cloudy sky. This image evokes heaven, and further suggests that Chang is God, singing from the heavens.

The image behind Chang shows a walkway or stairs leading through the clouds, and someone can be seen in the bottom right hand corner walking up it. The picture possibly represents heaven, with Chang prominently standing in front of it.

The film is edited is a way where we are entering and leaving reality at times. Julian has visions through out the film, where the scene will seamlessly go into what he is imagining or experiencing, with visual cues to let us know it is a vision (for example his shirt changes to a different colour in his vision, and then back to its original colour to let us know we are back in reality). The visions are directed with a quality reminiscent of Stanley Kubrick, with lots of long shots peering down hallways and creating a sense of surreal dread.
In a effort to evoke the feel of a western, many scenes have long drawn out moments before a big moment as a way of building suspense. For example the fist fight with Chang is done in the style of a stand off or dual from a western, with long shots showing the combatants opposite each other, and shots of close ups of the characters faces as they clench their fists while getting into a fighting stance. The films also uses its imagery as a way of foreshadowing later events. Early in the movie Julian is positioned in front of statue, and the statue appears to be looming over him in the background. This is a visual cue which evokes imagery of the fist fight with Chang later on in the film, in which Julian in knocked to the ground with Chang standing behind him, with his fists raised in the same position as the statue. The scene also cuts from Chang to the same statue to further imply the connection.

Foreshadowing for Chang’s fight and victory. Also the light above the statue makes it look like the statue is holding a sword, just like Chang who uses a sword.

Chang after knocking down Julian, mimicking the statue

Also present in the fight scene is some background detail which further adds to the red hellish visuals. There is a big neon dragon face watching over them, like some demon is observing the fight.

Only God Forgives is a very complex and challenging film, and its critical response is a clear sign of that. The film has polarised both critics and audiences, with people accuses it of style over substance, calling it shallow and having a lack of focus. Other critics and audience's have had the opposite reaction, and have praised the film for its ideas, pacing, and visuals. Some even call it a masterpiece. When I saw the film in the cinema the polarising effect of the film was on full display. People in the room were laughing at it out loud, cracking quotes, leaning over to their friends to trash it. 4 people walked out of the room and never came back about halfway through, just jumped ship before the film was even over.

The big problem here isn't the film, its the marketing. This film is a difficult one to sell, so the trailers basically made the film look like a action movie, with a quick pace and lots of action. But its not, its a character study, its a film about redemption in a symbolic hellish landscape. About the power of forgiving sins, but being burdened by them as a reminder to be a better person. Its story as a mystic quality, like their is something other worldly inhabiting each frame, like something is on a much larger scale than what’s being presented. Its story is told through imagery and music, rather than words or conversations. The director believes that silence is a good storytelling device in films, because it forces the viewer to engage with the film, to find what its saying on a more personal level instead of having it told to you.

Only God Forgives is fascinating, technically superb, and such a daring cinematic endeavor that its impossible to forget it. The films invites you to explore rather than tell you to, its imagery leaves room for many interpretations, and each frame is masterfully crafted with great cinematography and art direction. The film turns its premise on it head by making the audience assume Julian is the protagonist, when in reality he is the antagonist. He is a flawed man, and he has committed crimes he is not proud of, and he wants some form of retribution to save him, to change him. But he is constantly battling inner demons, his anger leads to conflict, he manipulative mother forces him to commit crimes, and he feels disconnected from his partner because he feels quilt for what he has done, and knows that what he does is wrong.

A big motif in the film is hands, and the idea that the hands committed the sin, so the hands are to be removed a way of removing the sin and forgiving the person. Julian has a vision of having blood on his hands, so he is constantly reminded of what he has done. He has trouble connecting with other people because he is ashamed of himself, and doesn't have direct connect with people unless it is an act of violence, something he feels tainted and cursed with. He is seeking a purpose, and doesn't want to just be a violent criminal, he wants to have a relationship, and he it hints he wants to be a boxer so he can fight for sport rather than for anger or in criminal activities.

His character has traits of Oedipus, his story and motivation are very similar. He fights Chang about of frustration, realising Chang is possibly God and he is angry at God because he feels he has been created to be the way he is rather than accepting that his mother is the source of his problems and is the one who manipulated him and his brother into getting into crime in the first place. After Chang beats him, and his mother asks him to kill Chang’s family, Julian realises that Change can be his chance for redemption and to be a better person. Julian realises that his mother ordered Julian’s crime partner to kill Chang’s wife and daughter along with Change, which Julian objects to. He shoots his crime partner before he ha to chance to shoot Chang’s daughter, his first big act of goodness in the film. The film ends on a somewhat happy ending in a way.

Julian offers himself to Chang so Julian can be forgiven, and Chang show shim no anger, but a subtle hint of understanding and gratitude for Julian because he stopped his daughters death. Chang then takes Julian to a peaceful forest, taking Julian out of the red Bangkok and into the pure peaceful location associated with Chang. Julian holds out his hands so he can be forgiven of his sins, and Chang cuts of his hands. The film ends with a final Karaoke song from Chang. The song is called "You're My Dream", and the lyrics somewhat symbolise Julian’s chance of a new start in life, with himself and with the girlfriend he was too ashamed of himself to be with, and can now be with now he can forgive himself.

Only God Forgives is remarkable thematically, and ends on a somewhat happy note as Julian’s character arc comes full Circle.  I loved the film and found it to be fascinating and brilliantly well made.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Far Cry 3 Analysis: What Is Vaas?

Vaas is defiantly one of the most popular characters in Far Cry 3, with his interaction with the player being one of the highlights. But what is Vaas supposed to represent in this deadly wonderland, and why is he interested in Jason (AKA the player).

Simply put, Vaas is just like Jason. Both of them were drawn in by power. Hoyt recruited Vaas using drugs and the promise of power. Citra drew Jason in using very similar tactics, using drugs to cause hallucinations that Jason believed woud lead him to become a powerful warrior. Basically both of them are mere pawns in a deadly game of chess on Rook island. Hoyt uses Vaas to terrorize the isand, and Citra uses Jason to fight back at the pirates. When it comes to conflict, Jason and Vaas lead the fight, they are the ones doing the main fighting. Hoyt and Citra just give orders and relish in the victory that their soldiers earn.

Vaas seems somewhat aware of Citra's true plans for Jason, as he mocks the idea of Jason becoming an all mighty warrior just because Citra says she can make him one. The idea at the start is that Vaas is insane, but when you compare that to the fact that Jason has deluded himself into thinking he is some kind of savior ,then Jason seems even more insane.

Vaas has been compared to the Cheshire Cat, in the way that he almost acts as a guide. He is Jason's motivation for vengeance, he is the constant threat just waiting to tie a block of stone to your feet and drown you, he is the one that spared your life so that you could become just as brutal as him. In a strange way, he made Jason become just like himself, brutal and uncompromising. He acts as a warning to Jason because Vaas is what Jason could become, a pawn that acts as someones attack dog. During the final encounter with Vaas, he mentions being reborn in a Christ like way. This is because he lives on inside Jason, as Jason has now become just as brutal and prone to violence as he was.

 Prior to the final encounter with Vaas, Jason climbs out of a mass grave, and the way he has to push his way out is almost like he is being born again after almost being killed by Vaas (a lighter in Jasons pocket stopped a bullet Vaas fired at point blank range. Dennis then says you have returned from the dead which also leads into the whole being reborn thing. Its after this incident that Jason finally learns that he has to become just like Vaas to beat Vaas. He assaults Vaas directly, infiltrating his island and slaying everyone there, including Vaas.

Vaas also claims to have set you free, by allowing to unleash a brutal instinct. Its like Vaas in example of everything Jason needs to be in order to "win". Vaas has a very interesting presence on the island. I almost expected him to be a part of Jason's Mental State seeing how he is barely seen. Even when Vaas died I still felt his presence on the island, probably because Jason has now become just as notorious as Vaas after killing him. Its like he has killed the king and taken his throne.

Also the final fight with Vaas seems to be a battle of the minds as well as a physical fight. Its like Vaas in inside your head at this point, as indicator of how you are becoming just like him. This idea of also enforced by something Vaas says during this event. He says "you are me, and I am you". He is right, after all they both have the same purpose, they are tools for violence. The insane side of Vaas possibly occurred the same way Jasons did, he was thrown into a impossible situation and had to choose how to survive. The games main title screen also reflects the parallel between them, literally. Its shows distorted images of Vaas in a reflected surface as it switches from Vaas to Jason, with the two of them being symmetrical to each other.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Improving Resident Evil 6

I was recently thinking about why I think Resident Evil 6 failed as a concept, and I thought up my own Resident Evil 6 story line and how it would lend to a scary, atmospheric, and survival horror themed game experience.

The Problem with Resident Evil 6 was the fact that the story was designed to be this high octane vapid action movie that barely stopped to take a breath or build any kind of suspense. I thought to myself about how Resident Evil 6 was a missed opportunity in a actual positive evolution of the series that would bring it back to its horror roots. I have written a short story outline for an example of a story I think a new Resident Evil game could have had that is possibly better than the one we got with Resident Evil 6 ( I don't mean exactly, but somewhere in the same territory.)

Its been 5 years since the events of Resident Evil 5, and since Weskers death and the termination of his plans, the world is finally free from bio terrorism. All traces of any bio terrorist activity has been wiped out and the BSAA have disbanded.

In the fictional town of Inns Wick, Jill Valentine has settled down, attempting to live a care free life after the nightmares she has faced. All is looking well and good until a small number of disappearances of the towns children sparks the suspicion of a local police chief. After visiting Jill at her home on the towns out skirts he tries to tell her about a strange abandoned military complex about a mile from the town. He talks about how he has spotted signs of life there while on patrol. He also mentions that the base has a history of "illegal weapons testing". The following day Jill discovers that the chief has been murdered at his home which leads her to at least check out the military complex. Finding nothing but an abandoned base she heads back home only to find the door kicked in and the house a mess. Some one was looking for some thing, or looking for her.

From there on I would have the game play be very much like a mystery game for a fair amount of the games start. I would set up the story as a mystery and let it slowly unravel over the course of the game, just like the other Resident Evil games. Instead of jumping right into the monster killing I would have exploration of the town be a major factor, talking to the residents, noting their suspicious activity and behaviour. Basically It would feel like the village stage of Resident Evil 4, except people wouldn't be trying to take your head of with an axe, well, not yet anyway.

For an idea of what I mean when i say exploration in a Resident Evil game, I mean something like Silent Hill, which is filled with interesting locations with things to explore. Not only do I think this would be a great way to evolve the Resident Evil series from a frantic rush forwards to a slower paced experience, I also think it would offer an opportunity to bring back a more survival horror style to its game play  and let the story unfold in a compelling, tense, and atmospheric way.

Combat would be like Resident Evil 4 and 5, no moving while shooting, no ability to kick or punch unless the enemy is stunned, and ammo will be once again limited.

Other story elements I thought of that connect with the plot outline above involve an underground base populated by a new Bio terrorism group, a conspiracy within the town to achieve genetic perfection in future generations, and a new nemesis style creature that will hunt you down through out the open and expansive locations at random. And I do mean at random, there wont be any quick time events or cut scenes to help you or alert you. This thing will hunt you down will out any warning, its fight or flight.

Well anyway that's just something I came up with in the span of 5 minutes of thinking while I was bored ( seriously Capcom it isn't hard). If we do see a Resident Evil 7, will they go back to the horror themed game play? will they have actual tension and a great atmosphere? lets hope they do.