It has been an occasionally lonely life, being an un-ironic fan of Vin Diesel.
I freely admit that there is no rhyme or reason to my enjoyment of work – I will essentially see nearly anything that he appears in, which means that I do own a copy of “The Pacifier”, which is a fairly twee family comedy that I’ve watched once and then sent to live on one of our DVD shelves, never to return again to regular circulation.
For the most part, my fandom revolves around the Riddick movies. “Pitch Black” (2000) was the first DVD which I saw played through a home cinema system, and it’s one of my favourite SF movies of the last twenty years. Dark, brooding, boasting a killer twist and a anti-hero for the ages in the form of Diesel’s character, Richard Riddick, “Pitch Black” is one of those films which I like to watch every so often, to help me keep the faith that movie studios will stop making ruinously expensive, wannabe-event flicks and go back to the idea of making relatively inexpensive, character-driven genre pictures.
That wish, of course, was somewhat contradicted by “Pitch Black” follow-up, “The Chronicles of Riddick” (2004), which eschewed small-scale, idea-driven genre concerns and went all-out to craft Diesel an SF franchise which would be his “Lord of the Rings” – a trilogy of pictures told on a bigger scale than the original film, a dark “Star Wars” with realistic characters contrasted against a grand galactic canvas.
There are elements of “The Chronicles of Riddick” which work beautifully – the dark tone suggests that all concerned were going for a story which is heavily indebted to the best literary science fiction, the film’s future-gothic hybrid look is still quite distinctive seven years later and the cast (Judi Dench!) is seriously impressive – but the whole piece weirdly fails to cohere satisfactorily.
Genre ace David Twohy returned to write and direct but despite his involvement the film feels flabbier and unfocussed, presumably as a result of the film (and Vin’s) epic aspirations – you get the sense watching “Chronicles” that everybody involved wanted a piece of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” action but somehow forgot that an F-bomb-fuelled, glumly-lit SF epic, full of bone-crunching violence and morally compromised characters probably wasn’t going to appeal to the widest audience possible.
Riddick, after all, is an unrepentant murderer and anti-hero – the mantle of galactic saviour was always going to seem like a bad fit. The film’s insistence on ret-conning an elaborate mythology (Furyons! Necromongers! The Lord Marshall!) into Riddick’s small, noir world never quite comes together – we never had a hint of this stuff in the first movie, so to cut-and-paste this small-time bad man into ornate throne rooms and despotic societies, presided over by aristocratic undead nether-gods, to position him as a Christ-like figure with supernatural abilities and make his character central to the fate of an entire galaxy is at odds with the smaller concerns of “Pitch Black”.
It’s perhaps heartening, then, that Vin Diesel’s hard-won return to box-office success in the last couple of “Fast and Furious” movies has meant that Universal are ready to roll the dice on a third “Riddick” installment, with Diesel and Twohy doing away with the grand scale of part two and returning to a survival story akin to the first movie.
The art atop this post was posted by Diesel at the weekend, on his Facebook page, where he continues to post updates on his “Riddick” adventures, the next “Fast and Furious” picture (Memorial Day 2013, fact fans) and perhaps even the rumoured “XXX” threequel. Where he was once eager to avoid sequels, he’s now happy to return to characters that his audience loves.
If it stops another family comedy nightmare for yours truly, I’m all for his return to the well…
It’s a weird one – you wait for a game to be released for what seems like ages, follow previews on the internet and in magazines, get hyped when the pre-order bonuses are listed, perhaps even splurge on the special edition and then what happens, when you have the lovely disk in your console’s tray?
I’ve been a good boy this year – the two titles that I’ve bought in 2011, “Bulletstorm” and “Hunted: The Demon’s Forge”, have been new IP’s and had compelling enough stories to make me fight my way through the final boss and get that wholly invisible badge of honour for beating the game.
As to why people don’t finish games? At lot of times, it just isn’t worth the effort to persist when you’re not enjoying the experience. Most adults have a limited percentage of leisure time to spend on entertainment and the middling quality of so many games can’t be allowed to eat into it without some kind of promise of payback.
For example, I gave up on “Final Fantasy 13” after seven hours because the promise that ‘Oh, it gets really good twenty hours in’ seemed like such absurd B.S. and a pathetic justification for the medium. Would any film director get to make ten or eleven movies in the abstract hope that he or she might hit a rich streak of inspiration? I think not. In addition, “FF13” was essentially ‘Home & Away’ with anime characters and, to be honest? Not a great loss. Traded!
Gaming culture is an odd fish, anyway – devout gamers buy a game on Friday, beat it by Sunday and trade it in the next week for the new title out that weekend. As a medium, the fan base is capable of utterly brutal, near-instant dismissal of two-three years of some developers life. Forget the on-line modes, forget another run through the game – beat the campaign, harvest the gamerscore/trophies and move directly to the next thing, because if you don’t, you’re sunk. Mrs Fluffrick is especially bemused by this – ‘Spend forty pounds on something that you only play for a weekend? Have you heard of Blockbuster?’ and I can’t help but agree in this context.
Games offer great value – but they’re expensive, of that there is no doubt. If you play “Call of Duty” multi-player and prestige 15 times, that equation probably weights itself in favour of the game offering better value than say, a novel in hardback or a first-run, opening weekend viewing of a 3D feature film. Thing is, those games are the exception and certainly not the rule.
I’m more of a fan of single-player titles, but the replay of a game is, for me, sometimes the better play through, if I am inclined to play again. Ganesha only knows, I might even complete some of “Hunted”s side-quests now that I know not to walk through doors because the game path is so super-linear…
I don’t believe in guilty pleasures. If you love something, and it gives you moments of joy in an otherwise difficult existance, it’s long been my belief that you shouldn’t have to defend it against those self-appointed, self-important culture cops who would prefer you to watch, read, listen or play something more enriching and ‘worthwhile’.
You love “The X Factor”? That’s fine – I don’t. In fact, I’ve barely watched a full episode of it, but I would never try and diminish somebody’s enjoyment of it by disparaging the singers and bands entering the competition, or the people who enjoy it (Full disclosure: thanks to my wife’s love of the show, I’m more a “Project Runway” man).
Equally, when it comes to films, I’m quite happy to defend the next movie that I’ll be venturing out to see (and let’s be absolutely clear, here – it’s a movie, not a film).
“Resident Evil: Afterlife” is the fourth in the series of avowedly unpretentious B-movies adapted from the long-running Capcom series of “Resident Evil” survival horror video games and the latest iteration arrives with that most modish (and divisive) of technical additions – 3-D presentation (indeed, the first teaser trailer proudly boasts of using the same James Cameron /Vince Pace camera system used to shoot “Avatar”).
Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who returns to the helm after producing the second and third films, “Afterlife” apparently continues to appeal to nobody. Critics have consistently deplored the series’ video game aesthetics and ‘level-boss-level-boss’ construction of the screenplays and are united in their condemnation with gamers who would only be happy once the series has gone back to the drawing board, rebooted and the foul stench of the Anderson years has been once and forever expunged.
This, as you may or may not be unsurprised to learn, is where I take my leave of fanboys and hacks and publicly proclaim my unironic, whole-hearted love of this film series (isn’t the word ‘series’ nicer than ‘franchise’? I do get the assertion that this is a movie sequence which has more in common with Fast Food that Fellini, but I do feel that the ‘F’ word, in connection with films, has reached a point of some over-use).
I’ve enjoyed every film in the series to date – and this is possibly due to my misgivings about the Capcom games and their hackneyed insistance on prioritising ancient notions of game design over player logic – if Visceral Games/EA’s Sci-Fi horror mash-up, “Dead Space” can achieve the insurmountable task of balancing simultaneous player movement and looser, intuitive combat against your mutant foes on their first go-round, why can’t Capcom eschew the antiquated, player-hobbling mechanics ingrained in the series and move forward?
That I’m not a fan of the games perhaps affords me the opportunity to enjoy the films for what they are – wilfully absurd, B-grade pictures with no ambition higher than cranking up the sound mix and scaring the crap out a weekend theatrical audience.
I don’t have the problem that many fans have with the films’ insistance on recontextualising characters from different games into a mix-and-match continuity all of their own – that Alice doesn’t appear in the games, or Chris Redfield doesn’t look like a steroid-crazed, 90’s boy band escapee is not my primary concern.
I anticipate only solid, B-movie thrills from “Afterlife” – series mainstay Milla Jovovich glowering and dispatching Zombies with the dispassionate economy one would extend to removing stray lint from a sweater cuff, crunching electro-metallic scoring from neo-industrial noise mongers Tomandandy, the steely metallic set design and clinical look indicative of director Anderson’s involvement and which was perhaps missing from 2007’s entry in the series, “Resident Evil: Extinction” and – drum roll, please – the proper and overdue arrival of game series Big Bad, Albert Wesker.
The film has enjoyed the biggest debut of any entry in the series yet – due, perhaps, to the hilariously overpriced premium being charged by cinemas for 3-D presentation – and shows no sign of slowing down (indeed, initial reviews indicate that Anderson goes for the bold, post-credits gambit of referencing the next installment before the movie that you’re watching has actually finished).
The 3-D aspect is something of an issue to me, as I have suggested in the title of this post. Simply, I’ve yet to see a film which has been honestly and truly enhanced by the 3-D process currently so fashionable with studios and spectacle-minded producers (the less said of the cack-handed, post-processing model beloved of tight-fisted Hollywood power-brokers, the better).
Even “Avatar” couldn’t convince me – I saw it first in 2-D presentation and couldn’t truly tell you that stereoscopic presentation gave me anything more or enhanced my enjoyment over the ‘flat’ viewing I initially took in. The best part of $2 billion at the box office isn’t to be sniffed at, but the technique seems at best to be an enhanced value proposition for the studios – at worst, and in my view, 3-D is a case of the Emperor’s New Pseudo-Raybans.
I hope to report back with good news – I do feel that we need fewer ponderous blockbusters and more unpretentious B-movies filling cinemas, if only to preserve the idea of (comparitively) economic, genre-aware film making – and will do my best to convince you that this latest return to Alice, Raccoon City and Global Saturation is worth your hard-won moolah.