Category Archives: films

History shows again and again how nature points out the folly of men

A CNN article asks Why do video games make such bad movies?, citing turkeys like Mortal Kombat and The Wizard. It’s easy to point at films like those, or Super Mario Bros., or Street Fighter. Or Far Cry. Or the Pokémon films. Or anything Uwe Boll’s directed. Easy to point at those (or Doom) and say “hah, video games make bad movies” (or Double Dragon), but that’s ignoring the really great game adaptations, such as:

  • Lara Croft Tomb Raider. It’s a film with Angelina Jolie in it, and is thus empirically brilliant.
  • Star Wars. Building on the success of LucasArts, George Lucas cunningly wove elements of several games into a film, such as the epic space fights of the X-Wing series. The lead character, gaining Jedi powers through the film, was based on Kyle Katarn from the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight first-person shooters.
  • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Widely acknowledged as the greatest Atari 2600 game ever, it was always going to be a tall order to try and translate into a movie. Taken on its own merit it’s actually not a bad film, but expectation was so high that there was massive over-production resulting in The Great Film Crash of ’83. Several towns in New Mexico are constructed entirely of betamax tapes of E.T.
  • Lord of the Rings. Peter Jackson hardly concealed his sources, just dropping the “Online” bit of LotRO to get his film name. Widely criticised for the cinematic release dropping interminably long journeys, after which the characters exchange a few words of expositionary dialogue and perform a menial task before returning on exactly the same journey in reverse, Jackson corrected this with the Director’s True To Game Cut 476 disc box set including classic scenes like The Fellowship Go From The Shire To Rivendell (Discs 24 – 31:); Elrond Tells The Fellowship They Need To Speak To Someone In Hobbiton (Disc 32) and The Fellowship Go From Rivendell Back to The Shire (Discs 33 – 48, thanks to Frodo getting repeatedly dismounted by wandering mobs).
  • Godzilla. Ishiro Honda was inspired by the arcade game Rampage to create his monster opus. Though forced to leave out much of the depth of the source game, such as George, Ralph and the complex political subtext about nuclear weapons, Godzilla was nevertheless successful enough to warrant a couple of sequels.
  • Citizen Kane. Welles did his best to hide it, but there can be no doubt that Citizen Kane is entirely based on Big Rigs: Over the Road Racing. Cunningly changing the lead character from A Big Truck to a media mogul has thrown most people off the scent, but the basic themes are all there: the manipulation of media and other people explored in a medium of incorporeal scenery, the ruthless pursuit of power portrayed as a race against opponents that don’t move; most notably the idea of mysterious, enigmatic key phrase at the heart of everything, though in order to conceal his sources there can be little doubting that the change to  “Rosebud” in the film is much less powerful than the original “YOU’RE WINNER”.

Wacraft: The Movie, part 2

We’ve snagged another scene from the Warcraft movie; set a little after Part One, our heroes found their final party member, and have battled their way into the Scourge-infested dungeon.


With a jawbone-rattling rasp, a GIANT SKELETON clad in tattered armour, wielding a huge terrifying sword, leaps to the attack.

ASH: Oh, brother.

Bloody and exhuasted from the descent into the crypt, he desperately lifts his own sword to deflect the incoming blow. KLANG! FX: shower of sparks. The impact knocks Ash to the ground, the Giant Skeleton triumphantly lifts his blade and brings it down for the coup de grace but Ash desperately rolls out of the path. The Skeleton lifts its blade once more, and… FWOOOOSH! A ball of magical fire explodes in its face; cut to WIDE SHOT revealing FIREBALLDOOD, arm outstretched, fingers slightly smoking from the spell he just cast. The Skeleton briefly staggers, giving Ash just enough time to clamber to his feet and launch an attack that the Skeleton easily parries. The Skeleton swings, Ash swerves to avoid and lands a blow, but to little effect. He deflects another attack with his shield, but is driven back and the Skeleton finds a gap in Ash’s defence and opens a gash in his left arm. He winces. Suddenly from the shadows a black-clad shape coalesces: KNIFESTABKILLA, flinging himself at the Giant Skeleton’s unprotected back.


KnifeStabKilla slashes horizontally; he slashes vertically; he slashes diagonally; basically, he’s Connect 4 in dagger terms. The Giant Skeleton is briefly stunned by the initial ferocity of the attack but swiftly recovers and, with a ghastly screech, sweeps the Rogue away with a skeletal arm, slamming him into a wall.


CLOSE SHOT as the Skeleton moves in on the dazed Rogue intent on finishing him off, when

ASH: Hey, you miserable bag of bones!

The Skeleton turns its head as Ash slams his shield into it; enraged, it turns its attention back to the Warrior, slicing and chopping, opening a wound on Ash’s cheek.

ASH: A little help here, guys?

B0WBA3B: o yeh lol

The Hunter nocks an arrow; cut to her POV as she carefully takes sight and lets fly; cut back to Ash, who turns to shout at his comrades, revealing an arrow embedded in the back of his helmet.

ASH: Not helping! Red, hit him with the hot stuff again!

Pan over to Fireballdood; glowing mystical letters have appeared over his head: “<AFK>”. Pan back to Ash, taking a beating from the Giant Skeleton, getting in a few shots in return but not enough to seriously damage the undead monster.

ASH: Any chance of some of that great healing? Y’know, it’s kinda the reason we brought you…

Pan to GR8HEALER, the fifth member of the group, a Priest dressed in flowing robes.

GR8HEALER: What do you mean? I’m at absolutely full health, I think I’m doing awfully well… oh, you meant heal you, well, I’ve got some spare mana I suppose.

Gr8healer starts chanting magical incantations; cut to WIDE SHOT as KnifeStabKilla recovers and resumes his attack; B0wba3b fires another arrow, this time actually hitting the Skeleton. Gradually the abomination is worn down, Ash attacking with renewed vigour as Gr8healer’s spells infuse him with vitality. The Giant Skeleton winds up for one last swing, on the verge of defeat, when…


FWOOOOSH! Another ball of fire erupts from the Mage’s hand, slamming into the Giant Skeleton causing it to collapse in a heap of bones.


Cut to ASH, breathing heavily. He sheaths his own sword and kneels to examine the remains of the Skeleton. Bending its bony fingers from the hilt of the sword it was carrying, he picks it up to examine it more closely. Cut to close up of SWORD BLADE, pulsing with magical power, Ash’s face in the background.

ASH: (reverently) Could this be? The wise man spoke of a weapon such as this, the Red Sword of Courage. A blade that imbued the bearer with great strength and stamina, and enabled them to shrug off blows that would fell another. A blade that would sunder iron as easily as cloth. A blade truly fit for a warrior. This must once have been a great and noble knight who set out to battle the Scourge, yet fell before them and their dark and evil magicks, doomed to continue his existence ‘tween life and death itself as a vile puppet of Arthas. With a sword such as this we can stand with renewed hope in our bid to drive the evil taint from this land! This knight shall not have fallen in vain, I shall take up his weapon and honour his memory, never resting until victory is ours!

Ash selects Need for Red Sword of Courage

B0WBA3B: hunter weapon!!!

B0wba3b selects Need for Red Sword of Courage
Ash rolls (Need) for Red Sword of Courage: 84
B0wba3b rolls (Need) for Red Sword of Courage: 97
B0wba3b wins Red Sword of Courage.
B0wba3b activates her hearthstone.
B0wba3b has left the party.

Warcraft: The Movie draft shooting script

Doubtless you’ve all heard by now that Sam Raimi is to direct a World of Warcraft film. In a KiaSA exclusive, our operatives managed to swipe a page of the shooting script, so we’re very excited to present… Warcraft: The Movie!

Camera pans to Ash, a valiant warrior, square jaw set in determination.

ASH: I know now that there is such a thing as a living Evil. A dark and shapeless thing that lives not in the spaces we know, but between them. In the Dark. In the night. And it wants the exact same thing as you and I: a chance at warm life on this world. It doesn’t care that it already had that chance… once. Now we’re going into the Scholomance to take it down, and the gods help any who get in the way of these hombres. This guy is a rogue, a deadly master of stealth, the Scourge wouldn’t hear him coming even if their ears hadn’t dropped off a while back.

Ash is gesturing at KnifeStabKillah, a black-clad assassin who leaps high into the air, lands with cat-like grace, then jumps up again, and again, and again, and again, and…


ASH: Then this guy is a Mage, he may look like a sissy in a dress but don’t say that to his face, he’ll fry you soon as look at you.

Ash is pointing to Fireballdood, calm, still, barely moving.

FIREBALLDOOD: goin 2 get fud brb

Mystical glowing letters appear above his head, clearly the work of magic: “<AFK>”

ASH: And finally this foxy Hunter can put an arrow through an apple at a hundred paces, and her pet scorpid packs a mean sting. All right, let’s take down Darkmaster Gandling once and for all and put an end to the vile taint of this place!

The hunter, B0wBa3b, shoots Ash a pitying look.

B0WBA3B: lol noob i dun it 8 times ystday but my legs nvr dropped neway still need heelr LF HEELR 4 SCHOLO


Fireballdood remains stoically still.


Continued in Part 2

Reviewlet: 21

A few years back there was a wave of interest in card counting, specifically the antics of the MIT blackjack team, largely sparked by the book Bringing Down the House, later made into the film 21.

Though based on fact, Bringing Down the House and thus 21 employ a substantial amount of artistic license, so while the methods of card counting get an airing they’re really something of a MacGuffin for the Pygmalion-esque transformation of Jim Sturgess’ character from broke MIT geek to Vegas high roller. It’s a lightweight frothy romantic-comedy-thriller-heist-type film, the young leads are charismatic enough, especially with the more heavyweight backup of Kevin Spacey and Larry Fishburne; nobody really needs to get out of first gear with pretty one dimensional characters. There’s a bit of a twist to give our requisite happy ending, but it’s somewhat Ocean’s Eleven-Lite (when it’s not as if Ocean’s Eleven is that heavy in the first place).

Fun enough for a throwaway film, but if you have more of an interest in the mechanics of card counting then the Horizon documentary Making Millions the Easy Way is worth a look.

Developerial Intentionality

I’ve never been the biggest Star Trek fan; I’d enjoy the odd episode of the original series or The Next Generation on BBC2 but didn’t religiously watch full series, and hardly caught any of Deep Space 9, Voyager or Enterprise. The new JJ Abrams-helmed film looked quite fun from the trailers, though, and sure enough turned out to be a rather splendid romp, which in turn has fuelled my previously low-key interest in Star Trek Online. Checking on their forums, though, it appears the game won’t tie in to the new film, being set after the end of the “old” timeline (at least according to Wikipedia, Star Trek Online being set 30 years after Nemesis). Understandable, given it’s been in development for a while and would presumably take a fair amount of effort to update, and setting the game slightly outside established events gives them a lot more freedom (Star Wars: The Old Republic takes a similar tack, of course, only setting itself well before the established timelines rather than afterwards; Lord of the Rings Online cunningly interleaves its story with the events of the books, but does need a certain amount of handwaving to explain away the hordes of Elven adventurers trooping around the Shire and endless stream of people standing next to Strider for photo ops). The new Star Trek film rather shakes things up, however, so in the best comic tradition “nothing will ever be the same again”…

(Warning: if you want to know absolutely nothing whatsoever about the new Star Trek film, look away now. I’m pretty sure the following includes no major spoilers, and unless you’ve been living with the the Toast King or Moon Nazis of Iron Sky you’ll probably have picked up more details in reviews, trailers and the like, but just to be safe…)

Star Trek (2009 film), as Wikipedia would title it, changes the (Star Trek) past slightly, unravelling the big ball of wibbley wobbley time-y wimey stuff such that the events of the original series didn’t really happen, a rather cunning mechanism that allows them to effectively reboot the franchise and start afresh, but without having to shout “LA LA LA LA LA the previous series don’t exist LA LA LA”. It’s no surprise, then, what one of the main talking points around the geekier forums is: the number of chairs on the bridge of the Enterprise in its various incarnations. It’s simply ludicrous that any starship would expect a crew member to perform their duties while standing, it just wouldn’t be efficient, especially for long periods, and spoils the whole film. (The Liberator of Blake’s 7 is much better seat-wise; Doctor Who’s TARDIS, total disaster.)

Actually that might just be the more ergonomically focussed forums. No, one of the main talking points is: timelines. What happened to the previous Star Trek series and films (apart from Enterprise)? There are two general schools of thought: firstly that the events of the new film caused a branch in time, and the new film runs in an alternative timeline parallel to the previous series, which still happen as portrayed. The second is that there is only a single timeline, and the changes wrought in the new film mean none of the previous series happened at all, disappearing in a puff of reboot. I say “two general schools of thought”, naturally there are several others including the ever-popular “what the hell are you talking about?”, the slightly missing the point on a sci-fi forum “you know it’s all fictional and none of it *actually* happened, right?”, and the more unusual “what does it matter, only The Cage is true Star Trek, everything else is non-canon apart from my own twenty seven volume fanfic epic Captain Pike and the Ocelots of Uncertainty”, but most of the debate is around single vs multiple timelines. In a wildly surprising turn of events, what may seem to the casual observer to be a largely esoteric matter is a fierce point of contention, both sides deploying a terrifying array of precedent from previous episodes, films, authorised novels, unauthorised novels, slightly authorised novels, interviews, commentaries and other references, not to mention light sprinklings of astrophysics, lashings of quantum mechanics, and, when all else fails, pictures of cats accompanied by grammatically suspect captions.

A key weapon in the multi-timeline armoury is an interview with Bob Orci, co-writer of the film, which states:

Anthony: So what happens (…) is the creation of an alternative timeline, but what happens to the prime timeline after (a character) leaves it? Does it continue or does it wink out of existence once he goes back and creates this new timeline.

Bob: It continues. According to the most successful, most tested scientific theory ever, quantum mechanics, it continues.

Anthony: So everyone in the prime timeline, like Picard and Riker, are still off doing there [sic] thing, it is just that (a character) is gone.

Bob: Yes, and you will notice that whenever the movie comes out, that whatever DVDs you have purchased, will continue to exist.

So Cryptic’s Star Trek Online can boldly go where no online game has gone before back in the “prime” timeline, and still be consistent with the “official” rebooted franchise (as far as anything in a long running sci-fi franchise can be consistent). I’m not sure if there are going to be any time travel elements in the game; I did have a brilliant (if I say so myself) idea to explain character respecs: you pop back in time, have a little chat with yourself, and suggest that you specialise in Engineering instead of Medicine at the Starfleet academy, and Bob’s your proverbial Uncle (who may also be your Nephew in another timeline). Course you’d have to avoid giving yourself a sporting almanac, or the secret of the Tension Sheet, but those are minor details.

Anyway, back to the sci-fi forums, and Orci’s quotes have resolved the debate, the new film is in a different timeline, everyone’s happy, right? Right. No, wait, not “right”, the other one… No; Orci’s quotes merely escalated the conflict into the new and yet more terrifying realm of authorial intentionality. In a nutshell: is the author’s intent important, or even relevant, compared to a reader’s/viewer’s interpretation of the work? Once a thread reaches the point where it’s simultaneously debating wavefunction collapse in the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics and the deconstructionalist approach to internal, external and contextual evidence in a medium in which the notion of the “author” is highly fluid, I figure it’s time to run up the white flag, but the question of the importance of authorial intentionality struck me as Quite Interesting in relation to games, particularly in light of the recent happenings in City of Heroes regarding the Mission Architect.

So to translate the idea a bit to “developerial intentionality”: does it matter how the developers intend a game to be played, or is it entirely down to the player to decide how they should experience the game? It’s terribly easy to say “I’m the player, I know what ‘fun’ is, I should be allowed to play this game however I like to have the most fun, and anything the developers put in my way is a Bad Thing(tm)”, but I’m not sure the player is *always* the best arbiter; obviously they need to provide the bulk of the input (Developer: “this game is a plain black screen and consists entirely of pressing the ‘f’ key, which does absolutely nothing” Player: “erm… that’s no fun.” Developer: “YES IT IS!”), but a bit of developerial nudging can sometimes be useful. Difficulty is an obvious one; as players, we often tend towards a path of least resistance (well, I know I do). A while back, when playing the old superhero game Freedom Force vs the Third Reich, I hit quite a tricky mission, and after failing it a couple of times I thought I’d reinforce my team a bit by building my own hero with the editor it provided. I can’t remember if the game naturally allowed you to make stupidly powerful characters, or I just min-maxed seven shades of arse out of the system, but either way I ended up with someone who smote fascists with the greatest of ease, allowing me to easily finish the difficult mission. And the next one. And the next. All the way to the end of the game, in fact. In doing so, I didn’t get a great sense of accomplishment, it was all somewhat anticlimactic, but I also felt like I’d finished the game and didn’t have a strong desire to re-play it “properly”. My own fault entirely, but on the “fun” scale having amazing power and smashing through everything seemed like “a lot” of fun, but turned out to be “probably not as much fun as playing it ‘properly'”. Though perhaps the original mission was just too tough and I’d never have been able to get past it, which would have been “still less fun that that”. Tough business, this “fun” scale. And that’s just in single player games; any sort of multiplayer, especially massively multiplayer or player vs player content, dramatically increases the complexity as your “fun” interacts with that of other people. At which point I think it’s time to run up the white flag again before quantum physics comes into it.

In conclusion, then: the new Star Trek film is fun; I cannot prove this, but it *is*, in the same way that Mount Everest *is*, and Alma Cogan *isn’t*.

Reviewlet: Run, Fat Boy, Run

We subscribe to the full Sky “six billion channels of stuff” package, and every now and again look to see if it’s worth trying to save a bit of money by removing a few channels. The expensive bits are sports and movies, but there’s enough rugby and NFL to keep the sports channels, and if you’ve got those, it’s not much more for movies; about the same price as a cinema ticket, or membership of a DVD rental scheme (but without the hassle of walking all the way to a postbox). It’s quite handy, then, for films that you wouldn’t mind seeing, but don’t seem worth a full cinema trip. Case in point, Run, Fat Boy, Run.

Run, Fat Boy, Run is a totally formulaic film. The most remarkable thing about it is that it’s actually simultaneously two totally formulaic films, the Sporting Underdog and the Romantic Comedy, specifically the lovable slacker (Simon Pegg) winning his ex (Thandie Newton) back from the seemingly-perfect new boyfriend (Hank Azaria). Sorry if I’ve given away the entire plot there; towards the beginning I thought it might actually subvert the form slightly and have Azaria be as nice as he initially seemed, but no, quelle surprise. It’s very much, as Mark Kermode would put it, a “tab A into slot B” film, ticking on to its inevitable conclusion. Within those parameters it works well enough mostly thanks to the cast; not a bad way of spending a brain-dead evening when too zonked to even log in to a game, and a couple more like that in a month justify the movie channels.

TYALIW: Batman Begins.

Today on Treating Your Audience Like Idiots With we’ll be Treating Your Audience Like Idiots With Batman Begins.

Good Evening, Mr Begins.

BB: Good Evening, Melmoth. And please, call me Batty.

Well Mr Batty, it seems like you have been treating your audience like idiots, and we’d like to ask you to respond to this. But first, let’s have a look at the evidence shall we?

It starts with a quick exposition for those of us who are perhaps a little lost as to why you’ve gone on and on and on earlier in the film about a microwave emitter – a device capable of vaporising a water supply – having been stolen, and how this could possibly be related to a plot where the villains have poured a deadly poison into Gotham’s water supply. One might have assumed, for example, that you were merely highlighting the plight of discarded microwave emitters, often overlooked by charities and aid workers around the world for more fashionable weapons of mass destruction. Give a home to a microwave emitter this Christmas: the vaporise that really satisfies.

So, we have a brief plot meeting between two board members, Mr Big (played by Rutger Hauer) and Mr Plot Exposition (played by someone obviously overjoyed to get his meal ticket in Hollywood for that night), to work through some Powerpoint slides as to what exactly is going on with this missing microwave emitter that can vaporise water supplies, apparently.

Then along comes our hero and his plucky sidekick who is thankfully not Robin, to spell it out for us:

Bruce Wayne (He’s Batman really, you know): “Somebody’s planning to disperse the toxin using the water supply.”

Lucius (Not Luscious) Fox (Not Batman): “The water supply won’t help you disperse an inhalant. Unless you have a microwave emitter powerful enough to vaporize all the water in the mains. A microwave emitter like the one Wayne Enterprises just misplaced.”

Ah! So they’re going to use the stolen device that can vaporise a water supply, to vaporise a water supply! Ingenious! That’s the thing with these modern villains, always thinking outside of the box. The box labelled Original Plot Devices.

However, I’m confused, because how is vaporising the water supply filled with a deadly poison with a water supply vaporising device going to cause the collapse of Gotham as the world’s leading city?

Batman “If they hit the whole city there’s nothing to stop Gotham tearing itself apart.”

Well yes, but how ar…

Gordon: “How are they gonna do that?”

Yes, ok Gordon, I was just about to ask th…

Batman: “The train. The monorail follows the water mains to the central hub beneath Wayne Tower. If the machine gets to the station it’ll cause a chain reaction that’ll vaporise the city’s water supply. Covering Gotham in this poison.”

Well ok then. Despite the rude interruptions, we thank you for taking time in your busy ‘last minute against the clock to save the city’ crusade to explain all that in such agonising detail. Especially the bit about vaporising the city’s water supply, I think we were all confused on that issue.

Meanwhile, whilst Batman and the ‘cop who can suddenly drive a high-tech tank by pressing random buttons’, race off at break neck speed to save Gotham because they’ve realised they’re late, probably due to all the time they’ve spent expositing plots (they’d just started on a detailed analysis of Twelve Monkeys when they spotted the time), here’s a helpful fellow at Water Supply Central, with a public information broadcast:

Old Father Exposition: “The pressure’s moving along the mains, blowing the pipes. If that pressure reaches us the water supply right across the whole city is gonna blow!”

Oh my god! So it’s the water supply! I thought they were going to use the water-supply-vaporising microwave emitter to vaporise all the honey in the supermarkets in Gotham, such that the entire population was stuck in a sweet sickly mess, and as such all their precious hairstyles would be ruined. I mean that seems like the obvious thing a villain would aim for. Hair. But no, you’re saying that they’re going for the water supply? Huh. Waiiiiiit. Didn’t those villains put something, you know, like stuff, in the water supply earlier in the film? I’m sure I saw something about that. Yes, there was a huge scene with a factory and loads of men standing over a hole saying things like “Let’s get the last of this poison in the water supply”, “Careful with that poison, make sure it only goes into the water supply!” and “Don’t fall into that hole, it’s the water supply to Gotham and we’ve filled it with poison!”. I’m sure I recall something along those lines. Oh lordy, but wait, I’ve forgotten what’s happening in the film now, because my poor tiny mind can’t keep up!

But wait, who is this dark crusader swooping across the floor at Water Supply Central in the manner of a slightly agitated sloth, why it’s the hero of Gotham, Old Father Exposition! Save us, Old Father Exposition, tell us where we are in the film before we blow!

Old Father Exposition: Evacuate the building. We’re on top of the main hub and it’s gonna blow.

Thank you Old Father Exposition! Thank you!

It’s gonna blow?! Why the hell didn’t you tell us earlier so we had a chance to evacuate! Now we’ll probably have to rely on an aging police detective to use a prototype, highly technical, military bridge-jumping vehicle with which he has had two and a half seconds training from a strange pervert in a rubber neoprene suit who turns up at his house in the middle of the night when he’s trying to feed his kids, to destroy one of the stanchions on the monorail causing the train to crash, and in all likelihood kill thousands of homeless people sheltering beneath the track, one of whom only moments before had probably complemented the police detective on his rocket-powered black armoured tank as a ‘nice ride’, in some sort of bizarre attempt at surrealist humour.

Or something, I’m just speculating in a panicky fashion here because, you may not have heard this, but the mains are gonna blow! I know; it took me by surprise too.

So there’s the evidence, Mr Batman Begins, any words on this for your audience?

BB: Well yes, I think they’re all idiots.

Thank you, Mr Batman Begins.

Until next time on Treating Your Audience Like Idiots With. Good night.