Author Archives: force_echo
Mar 29 2013
-WARNING! MAJOR SPOILERS FOR BIOSHOCK FOLLOW-
My vote goes for the best non-interactive cutscene in Video Game history is where Jack Ryan beats down Andrew Ryan in Bioshock. This cutscene, is quite simply (like most things in Bioshock) an amazing thematic tool. It’s not just a cutscene to show off how badass Character X is, it’s a commentary on the nature of control. For the first time in the game, you DON’T want to kill Andrew Ryan, but you’re forced to watch as your character mercilessly slams him with a golf club.
And really, once you’ve figured out that Atlas has been controlling you thus far, it really makes you think about the nature of control, not only in videogames, but in politics too. As soon as you got out of the Bathysphere, you had a single-minded purpose to pursue Andrew Ryan and kill him. But WHY do you want to kill him? Why do you follow Atlas’ every request? Why do you kill innocent violent-only-if-provoked Big Daddies? Because the game told you to? What possessed you to stick a needle full of volatile genetic material in your wrist? The game poses a question no other game I’ve ever played poses, “Why are you doing this?” Why are you taking this at face value? If the player is asked to mow down armies of faceless baddies simply because they are “evil,” what does that even mean? The same thing is applied to politics, when the government tells you faction x is bad, they’re bad. Just because. Don’t question it, don’t find out their motivations, don’t think. It’s all black and white. We’re good, they’re bad. Always. Right? Right??
Now, in this cutscene, the game is pretty much saying, “You don’t want to question WHY you’re doing what you do? Fine– we’re gonna treat you like a slave, you’ve essentially forgone human volition. Now, you hopelessly watch as you beat a man who’s motivations you didn’t even QUESTION before, just because some dude over a radio told you he was a bad guy. Suck on that you little bitch.”
Basically, the cutscene gives immense meaning to Andrew Ryan’s final six words:
A man chooses; a slave obeys.
Let me just start by saying that flying around is by far the most interesting part of this game. Let me also say that this is the first MMO I’ve ever played, so I’ll be basing my opinion on single player RPGs.
Ok. So, flying is cool. Really cool. I haven’t really tried any other movement options (when you’re creating a character, you get a choice out of flying, acrobatics, or super speed), the flying mechanic, especially in the relatively open area of Metropolis (I chose to be a hero allied with Superman, you can also choose to be with Batman or Wonder Woman), is well done and fun. As for the actual game-play?
I thought it was boring. I mean, nearly all of the quests were destroy X number of machines, or kill X number of retarded cartoony looking characters. The boss fights were boring- spam attacks until you see a icon that looks like the logo for a death metal band and then roll out of the way. The combat leaves little to ingenuity, and I wasn’t really impressed with the overall level design or missions. Just a maze of enemies with a boss at the end. The loot system works pretty well, even changing the aesthetics of your character when you equip an item.
This game seems to try and cash on its label more than it provides a unique and ingenious (or hell, even fun) method of gameplay
Well guys, to finish off my review of this great and complex movie, we’ll take a look at some of the characters behind Alien, and perhaps most importantly, the atmosphere of the movie. Not many movies can successfully pull of a mix of genres…
But Alien seems to do so seamlessly (pun completely intended). Anyways, lets look at the characters of the movie.
It’s no secret that Ripley is a groundbreaking character as far as sci-fi goes. Ripley is one of the first strong female leaders and protagonists in the history of sci-fi, period. In addition to being an influential heroine in the sci-fi genre, Ripley serves mainly to explore the theme of feminism in the movie. It was mentioned before that Ripley did not allow the team of explorers to reenter the ship with Kane after they came back from investigating the SOS signal. This is not a very traditionally feminine thing to do. Rather, it is something a leader would do. Also, Lambert, the story’s more emotional, feminine character, is placed directly at odds with Ripley to emphasize Ripley’s portrayal as a female leader. For example, Lambert chastises Ripley for not letting Kane on board. Lambert also clashes with Ripley when Lambert wants to escape on the shuttle.
Make no mistake, Ripley is still somewhat sexualized—as shown in the scene where Ripley strips down to her undergarments in the space shuttle. However, the point still stands that she is a highly revolutionary protagonist.
Anyway, even the secondary characters of the movie are interesting in their own right.
Playing on the same theme of feminism, Mother the ship’s AI, is depicted to be anything but motherly. This irony is highlighted by her actions, or lack thereof, throughout the film. She serves no purpose save to reveal the expedition’s true purpose and to thwart Ripley’s attempts to override the self-destruct sequence. There is also the alien, an interesting character itself. The alien is different from most other science fiction antagonists because it is not sentient at all. It is a primal beast, and Ash points out that he admires the fact that it is “unclouded by conscience or delusions of morality.” This lends the story a distinct survivalist feel, as opposed to Frankenstein or other famous sci-fi monster movies. There is a sense that the story is man’s desperate fight for against the far more powerful force of nature, and it adds to the atmosphere of horror created in the movie. Another interesting point about the creature is that Ash calls it “the perfect life form”. This raises the question: if it was the perfect life form, how could it be beaten by a mere person? The movie makes me consider the alien—is it truly “better” than man? It is faster, stronger, hardier, but man still comes out on top of the encounter. The movie, in this way, makes me consider the factors that make on3 organism “better” than another- is it dependent on physical feats, or adaptability and intelligence? The film seems to lean toward the latter point of view.
“Come on, its a Sci-Fi movie, get to the damn explosions already!” Fine, fine.
Just like the atmosphere of Alien is a fluid combination of science fiction and horror, the special effects also include this melding of genres. Horror movie special effects consist mainly of the movie monster, such as the shark in Jaws, while science fiction special effects are famous for explosions and the like, such as Star Wars. Alien has both. In contrast to today’s standards, some special effects in Alien are almost comically bad, such as the explosion of the Nostromo near the end of the movie- a ridiculous two dimensional blue and orange mushroom. Sometimes, the special effects lead to a “dilution” of the impact of the scene. For example, the scene where the baby alien violently explodes out of Kane’s chest is meant to be one of, if not the, most disturbing scene in the film. Yet the impact of the scene is lessened because of the unrealistic spurting of blood out of Kane’s chest and the obviously puppet-like alien baby. The scene was still disturbing, but the impact would have been even greater if the special effects were better, or if I had been watching the movie in the 70s when it first released. However, Alien does have its high points when it comes to special effects. One particularly impressive example was the decapitated android head talking, which looked exactly like it did on Ash’s body. Also, when watching movies from the time period, I find it is very hard to get frightened because the monster itself doesn’t look scary at all, due to the limitations of special effects at the time. Ridley Scott realized these limitations, so he took steps to maintain the horror of the alien creature. Scott hides most of the alien in darkness throughout most of the movie. Not once is the full alien shown in full lighting—the closest the viewer gets is the scene where the Alien is in Ripley’s shuttle, but even that mainly shows the alien’s head. This leads the viewer to fill in what he imagines the rest of the creature to look. In this way, Alien seems to have a scarier monster than other movies of its time period.
Well folks, that’s all for this movie. I hope you enjoyed the movie just as much as I did, and enjoyed the review just as much as I enjoyed writing it (although whether you experienced actual humor, or just find my analysis hilariously bad, is debatable). Until next time!
Force here again, opening your eyes to the complexities of one of Sci Fi’s great classics- Alien.
Initially, many critics believed that Alien was a shallow horror movie (unbelievable, right?). For example, David Kehr, a reviewer from The Chicago Reader, describes the movie as “an empty-headed horror movie (1979) with nothing to recommend it beyond the disco-inspired art direction and some handsome, if gimmicky, cinematography” (“Alien”).
Anyways, in contrast to Kehr’s beliefs, I found the film to have a great deal of thematic depth to it. In the beginning of the movie, Kane is attacked by a facehugger while the team was investigating an SOS call. The team, consisting of Dallas, Lambert, and Kane, returns to the Nostromo, and Dallas demands Ripley to open the airlock to let the team into the ship. Ripley refuses, saying that if she lets Kane in, whatever attacked him might kill the whole crew. Ash wants to let Kane in, and although this is later revealed to be because Ash wants the alien for the corporate heads behind the expedition, the ethical dilemma still applies. Does Ripley let in Kane, who will die for sure if left outside, or run the risk of the whole crew dying in exchange for the possibility that Ash could heal Kane? You might say, “Let the f*cker die, why the hell would you poke around alien eggs anyway?”
You might say, “What the hell do I care, they can all die if ya ask me.” You might even say, “Force, what the hell are you talking about, this is a movie about a rubber alien eating people for Christ’s sake!”
In which case you might be among the majority of readers. In any case, it turns out that Kane dies anyway, and the alien that springs out of his chest goes on to kill everyone except Ripley on the Nostromo. In this way, Scott may be advocating the need to protect the greater whole over the need to protect the individual.
Speaking of Ash, the android makes for a highly interesting subplot. After Brett and Dallas die trying to find the alien, Ripley discovers that Ash is an android commissioned by The Company– the company which sent the Nostromo on its mission– to ensure the safe delivery of the alien. This betrayal does introduce a major plot hole however—if the company was capable of making androids, why not just send a whole team of androids to collect the aliens? Regardless, I find Ash’s role interesting, because in many science fiction movies, science is glorified. In Alien, there seems to be the sense that science is ineffectual. Mother, the ship’s AI does little to help the crew stop the alien, and the chief science officer turns out to be a traitor, even admitting that the crew of the Nostromo is doomed. There is also the now common science fiction theme of evil faceless corporations concerned only with their own gain, and not human life. When Ripley looked up the mission agenda from Mother, she found out that the corporation, presumably not named to keep its “faceless” and inhuman quality, labeled the crew as “expendable”. The story could also be a cautionary tale about how the pursuit of knowledge, in this case a new bio-weapon in the form of the alien, could have devastating consequences—a theme dating back to Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, published in 1823.
In addition to its other themes, the film also explores an underlying theme of rape. It’s no secret that horror movies try to play on what makes the audience uncomfortable, which is what makes them scary. In this way, Alien plays off of the theme of rape. In one part in the beginning of the movie, a baby version of the alien called a facehugger was clinging to Kane’s face and forcibly shoving a tube down his throat to deposit an embryo, which emerges from its host in a disturbing fashion, causing great pain to the host in the process. The imagery is not very subtle. Even more surprisingly, the target of the “rape” is male, not female. This may be going against the audience’s preconceptions about the targets of rape. In another scene in the movie, where Lambert gets killed, the alien’s tail is shown to slither between Lambert’s legs. The camera immediately cuts to Ripley, but the audience can still hear Lambert moaning and crying for a few minutes. Other critics have thought of similar ideas. For example, Mark Kermode writes about an interview he had with Alien scriptwriter Dan O’Bannon, where Dan argues that “it [the chest buster scene] also functions as a metaphorical dramatization of the male fear of penetration. He says that the oral invasion of Hurt’s character was ‘payback’ for all those horror films in which sexually vulnerable women were terrorized by rampaging male monsters” (“All Fright on the Night”).
P.S- In looking for an image to fit with the last paragraph, I typed in Alien rape. Lets just say I found a couple of images I definitely was NOT looking for. *Shudders*. The things I do for this site.
Force Echo here, talking about one of the most revolutionary films of all time.
Everyone knows Alien, everyone knows that it has produced countless spinoffs (Alien vs. Predator anyone), comic books, books, 1 awesome sequel, 2 shitty sequels, etc. But what makes Alien such a damned good movie?
Alien is filled with carefully constructed horror moments like these, making it, in my opinion, one of the scariest horror films I’ve ever seen. Personally, I like the movie because of its thematic complexity. I find it interesting how the movie contains themes about science, about the inhumanity of corporations, and about sexual assault. I like how the film prompts me to consider ethical dilemmas, such as the importance of one man’s life over the lives of the whole crew. I find the character of Ripley to be unique, one of the only female leaders I have seen in a science fiction movie. Other characters like Mother and the alien also contribute to the film—I found it enjoyable to see the irony behind Mother or the simple minded mentality behind the alien. The atmosphere is not only genuinely scary, but also one of the most seamless fusions of two genres I have ever seen in a movie. The setting, the surrealist elements, and the cinematography of the horror scenes all contribute to the atmosphere. The special effects elements are clever, even though they fall comically short in some places (due to the period in which the movie was made). The story of Alien is not that complex, but the individual scenes, and the masterful use of a hybrid science fiction and horror atmosphere make this movie one any film aficionado should possess.
The movie is uncharacteristically deep for a science fiction movie. And over the course of this Alien series I will be exploring that very thematic depth.