Tag Archives: Comics

Watching the Watchmen


I just got back from seeing Watchmen, which is a film I’ve been anticipating since I read the graphic novel a couple of years back, so I just wanted to put down some thoughts while it was still fresh in my mind.

I’d been generally avoiding reviews, but what I’d picked up from friends and Twitterers who had seen it in advance it had been suggested that it was maybe too close to the source for its own good. I’d pretty much agree with that. There were parts that could have done with trimming for the screen that were left identical to the book, but then Snyder was happy to alter the ultimate plot twist to make it work better on screen, which makes letting other parts suffer a bizarre decision.

Without spoiling anything, I’ll just say that the ending doesn’t make as much sense to me as the one in the book did, but at the same time I can see how that one wouldn’t have worked on film. Not only would it have looked silly, but it would also have required a lot of exposition and bloated it further with the setup interspersed throughout. The film was labyrinthine enough as it was.

Could it have┬ábenefited┬áby having a different director who is perhaps more comfortable with gravitas and directing emotional scenes? Possibly, as there’s one scene in particular that I’m not sure was being deliberately and ironically cheesy or if Snyder thought it was actually going to bring tears to our eyes. It wouldn’t take a genius to work out that this is the guy who gave us 300 because a lot of the action is very similar, and despite being set in the 80s we have a lot of the modern music video school of direction tropes like slow motion. I might be being pretentious here, but I’d prefer it to have been directed less stylistically, because I think – or hope – that this kind of direction will date horribly in a few years when people grow out of it.

Don’t let me put you off it if I’m sounding negative, though. Overall I enjoyed it, and I mean it as a compliment to say that it didn’t feel like the 163 minutes that it was. Getting Watchmen into a single film was always going to be tough – I’d still like to see it as a miniseries one day – and they did a good job, thankfully without watering it down for a lower age rating like we might have expected. Hell, the sex and violence quotient is higher than I can remember being in the source, which doesn’t happen a lot these days. There’s an awesome jizz gag as well.

For anyone who hasn’t read Watchmen in a while and has seen the film, I recommend perusing this fairly comprehensive list of the changes. There are quite a few that I’d forgotten about or not noticed in there. It contains spoilers, obviously.

Transformers Binge

The movie could be wank, despite how great the latest trailer looks (remember The Phantom Menace?), but I’m sure even those Transformers fans who have fallen farthest from the tree can’t fail to be excited by the potential for big screen spectacle and a new generation of toys. I won’t mention the Bay if you don’t.

Like any good fanboy I’ve been buying the new stuff, encouraged by the current BOGOHP deal on Transformers in Toys R Us. And this isn’t counting the three versions of the original movie that I now own (original DVD, 20th anniversary DVD, ultimate tin), my old toy collection, Dreamwave G1 comics, and the splendid 20th anniversary Optimus Prime that I nabbed from eBay.

Movie Leader Optimus Prime

Movie Leader Optimus Prime

I think this guy looks better than the actual movie iteration, even if he’s no G1 Prime. Similar size to my 20th anniversary Prime and with flashing lights and sounds so that you know that he’s from the 21st century.

Continue reading Transformers Binge

The Darkness Impressions

The DarknessThe Darkness

I was thoroughly impressed by Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay when it came out a couple of years back (look into the 360/PS3 remake if you missed it), which made a similar game from the same developer an extremely tempting prospect. If this is anything to go by I’ll be very keen to see Starbreeze’s next title, as well.

The Darkness is similar to Riddick in that it’s a licenced FPS with a story-driven adventure to tell, all with superb presentation and a real vicious streak. Riddick could be brutal but didn’t take its PEGI 16-rating too far; The Darkness pushes what we can expect from an 18-rated game and really makes me wonder what exactly was going on in Manhunt 2. Aside from the gunplay and all that that entails, you’ll commonly be eviscerating people or tearing their faces off, and then for the final humiliation there’s a dedicated button to devour their heart. Wait until you see what the grinning fellas to the sides of this post do with said organ. All this, and lots of dirty language. This game might prove what I said about violence needing context.

The presentation bears mentioning again, because it’s at least as good as it was in Riddick. Aurally I can’t really find fault with the great voice acting (can’t imagine it’s hard to do Italian-American), but if I was being picky I’m not the biggest fan of the thrash metal that occasionally fades in during action. I have to drown it out with the sounds of death.

The game is very strong graphically, with only the occasional texture that doesn’t hold up too well and that common shimmery shadow problem on face blighting things. Overall they’ve done an incredible job depicting the grimy underbelly of New York while keeping faithful to the comic’s style (my preorder came with a copy as a bonus, and there are a few issues in the game as unlockables), and although I can’t really go any further without pushing into spoiler territory, suffice it to say that certain parts are among the most unsettling gaming sequences I’ve ever played.

My biggest complaint is that the aiming takes some getting used to, as it doesn’t really feel as responsive as it might be at first. It’s workable once you get used to it and, to be fair, certain other weapons take precedent over guns most of the time. It’s certainly not a flaw that’s going to ruin the game because the AI isn’t really all that clever. I doubt you’ll be that impressed with the game if Riddick didn’t do it for you but if you missed out on that one or liked it as much as I did The Darkness is well worth a look. Hopefully this is indicative of an upturn in the quality of games this year.

Ten Things I Learnt from Kevin Smith

Ever since I saw An Evening With Kevin Smith it’s been my mission to see one of his legendary Q&As, but his trips to the UK don’t happen too often. On every previous occasion I didn’t find out in time, so this one must have been kismet as I fired up my RSS reader for the first time in ages, just in time to be informed that it was happening.

So that was where I was last night, and I ended up learning some interesting stuff from the great raconteur.

  1. If Kevin Smith had to pick a man to have sex with, it’d be his friend Bryan Johnson.
  2. Kevin Smith’s next comedy, which he has just about finished writing but won’t be made until after his planned horror movie (inspired by Race with the Devil), will apparently have the most self-explanatory title ever, on the same level as Snakes on a Plane. Unsurprisingly, he wouldn’t tell us the title.
  3. Kevin Smith is currently a fan of (NSFW!) SexyLabia.com. I dread to think how much comment spam posting that link will bring in.
  4. Kevin recently bought a miniature dachshund because he and his daughter thought they were funny. Despite the age difference (eight years next to less than a year, or 56 and 6 using that seven-dog-years-to-one-human-year thing), his labrador Mulder may have gotten the weiner dog pregnant.
  5. Jeremy London is the only actor that Kevin regrets casting. Despite the fact that Jason Lee was far better, Jeremy gave him notes on how to improve his performance.
  6. Kevin finds the idea of black pudding abhorrent. As do I, to be fair. He also finds British cuisine’s obsession with pigs weird.
  7. Harvey Weinstein wanted them to show Clerks 2’s pussy troll on screen. Kevin and Scott Mosier didn’t want to, so set out to make it unusable by either making the depiction far too offensive (getting John Kricfalusi to animate something obscene that wouldn’t make it past the MPAA) or too lame (Jason Mewes dressed up as a troll doll inside a giant wooden pussy). Despite Mewes’ enthusiasm – he’d get to keep the wooden pussy, you see – the idea thankfully passed.
  8. Kevin ended up rewriting his whole scene in Die Hard 4.0, giving himself a huge speech. The studio was unsure about it because it turned a humourous scene into one with a ton of exposition, but Bruce Willis had Kevin’s back (“let me ask you this: who’s your second choice to play John McClane?”).
  9. Kevin Smith can use the word ‘tchotchke’ in a sentence. I still struggle to pronounce it.
  10. Lucas and Steven Spielberg are huge nerds: they like to compare websites and look at pictures of women in lingerie together. And Lucas liked the Death Star contractors idea in Clerks.

My photos are up on Flickr here.

And, one thing I learnt in London itself: some people shouldn’t be allowed to drive. This is aimed at the cunt that almost took us all out on the zebra crossing in Richmond.

New Halo Books

Since it’s another slow news week and I haven’t had a lot to talk about, how about something a bit different? I ordered a couple of Halo books – one new, one a few months old now – a little while back and finally got the chance to read through them recently.

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx

Halo: Ghosts of Onyx

The fourth Halo novel and the third by Eric Nylund, Ghosts of Onyx is an attempt to fill in some of the blanks (some would say plot holes after Halo 2) left by the previous books and, hopefully, set up certain events for Halo 3. Chronologically, it’s set partly before the original game, but mainly runs concurrently with the latter stages of Halo 2.

Overall I felt much the same way about it as I did about the previous novels. Ghosts of Onyx is fairly entertaining enough and a good read for fans of the game looking for a quick story fix, but ultimately a bit of a typical trashy sci-fi novel. Everyone speaks in technobabble (it’s not a rocket launcher; it’s an M19 SSR SPNKr rocket launcher) to the point where talking about technology often becomes a monologue, and the characters can seem like one-dimensional military stereotypes. That might be intentional due to the nature of the Spartans (read The Fall of Reach or the ever-reliable Wikipedia entry) but when most of them have never even been referenced in the games and do little other than fight – sometimes with a SRS99C-S2 AM sniper rifle, naturally – it can be difficult to empathise.

And yet, despite these flaws, I found it hard to put down until I’d finished it. It’s not a bad book; just, like I said, a bit trashy sometimes. Nylund is clearly very good at writing action, and coupled with a universe as interesting as Bungie’s it’s certainly a fun read for fans. Just don’t expect a work of great literature, OK? It’s just an extra helping of Halo.

Halo Graphic Novel

Halo Graphic Novel

Much was made of this when it came out as Bungie partnered with Marvel and a selection of prominent artists to bring their universe into yet another media. It was popular, too: we asked about it in a big Australian comic shop back in August and they said that they were selling out even their largest shipments in hours.

It’s definitely an attractive book – hardback, with a lovely painting of the Master Chief spread across the two covers – and while the artwork ranges considerably in style it’s all definitely Halo. Recognisable characters and enemies all make appearances, never deviating far in their look from what the games have shown us. And in addition to the four stories here, there’s a gallery section with some wonderful paintings of scenes from the series, from both Bungie and Marvel’s artists.

Unfortunately, I didn’t think too much of the stories themselves in the HGN. Most of them aren’t as fleshed out as they could be and, in particular, one of them seems to contradict what has been said in the novels, making one (or indeed both) of them non-canonical. It’s a really geeky criticism, I know, but a lack of continuity in stuff like this is a bugbear of mine. Then again, Bungie is supposed to have overseen the stories for both, so maybe they can be reconciled. We’ll see later this year.

Whether the stories are particularly strong or not, the HGN is still a worthwhile book for fans. I’m happy I got it for some of the gorgeous artwork alone and, in my case at least, that’s the main reason to read a graphic novel.

Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings

Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings

I got my copy of the new Penny Arcade book in the post this morning, Epic Legends of the Magic Sword Kings. It not only continues their tradition of great but incongruous titles (starting with their first volume, Attack of the Bacon Robots) but brings together all of their comics from 2001 in one neat package, complete with some extra artwork and some of the best news posts.

I’ve been a fan of PA for some time – I can put my introduction to their oeuvre somewhere in the first book, circa 1999 – but, as with The Simpsons when watching the early seasons on DVD, it’s hard not to look at the older stuff with a more critical eye. Not only does it not look as good as the new ones but the writing isn’t as sharp and the characters haven’t yet found their niche.

Same thing here. The first book was good but it wasn’t until near the end that the pieces were all falling into place. This book is where things start to feel right. They of course have the endless source of material that was the early PS2/Xbox/GameCube conflict and the end of the Dreamcast (*sniff*), but it also helps that it doesn’t look like it was drawn by a GCSE art student.

They already have the next two books, titled The Warsun Prophecies and Birds Are Weird, in the pipeline, but this one gets the thumbs up from me. There are some really classic strips in there and for gamers it provides a handy chronicle of what seems like an age ago.