I’ve had various wandering thoughts this week.
1. Battle Royale is a weird movie. Not bad, but weird. I see where the inevitable comparisons with The Hunger Games come from, but the similarities are superficial at best. It’s like comparing Lord of the Flies to Spartacus.
If you’re not familiar, Battle Royale is a Japanese movie about a class of children dropped on an island and forced to fight until only one remains. There are key characters, but I wouldn’t say the movie is really about them. The heroes don’t have much depth and it’s obvious who is going to live and die. From that aspect the overall story it’s rather bland.
The movie works much better when viewed as a collection of connected vignettes about what happens to young people in such violent circumstances. I have not read the original novel or the manga adaptations, but it’d assume that this is how the story was presented in those mediums.
There was a gaping plot hole that kept bugging me. The story is that the government created the Battle Royale death game in response to an out-of-control teen culture. The movie opens with a media frenzy around the winner from one of the games. Yet when the class we’re following is thrust into the game they don’t seem to know what is going on. This helps give exposition to the audience, but makes no sense. If the games are a secret, then they serve no purpose towards keeping teen culture under control. If the games are not secret, as the opening shows, then the students should know what they’ve fallen into. It’s a big enough plot hole to make me wonder if the subtitles were an accurate translation.
Battle Royale is a solid B movie. It has good action, it’s very violent, and has plenty of good moments. But it’s definitely a niche movie and not to everyone’s tastes, and it has a number of flaws holding it back.
2. I’m still catching up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and am now only three episodes behind. The show continues to get stronger and I love it. The agents live in a world between the superheroes and the regular secret agents, and they walk that line well. I also appreciate that they don’t shy away from their comic book foundations, embracing it instead. I will never understand why so many shows have tried to draw in fans based on a comic book character and then discard as much as possible of the character’s comic book nature.
Another thing I like about the show is that despite the dark and grim events that happen the show frequently injects a sense of optimism and hope. This is usually thanks to Clark Gregg’s performance as Agent Coulson and is a welcome tonic in a world where too many superhero stories focus on angst instead of hope.
3. I’m prepping to run a Stars Without Number game for our Google+ group. My love of science fiction games is well documented and I’m excited to give this one a try. I love the Stars Without Number books and own almost all of them, many in both print and pdf. I’ve mined them for ideas and simply read them for entertainment value, but this is the first time I’ve run the game itself. The rules are like the lovechild of Basic Dungeons & Dragons and Classic Traveler and look fast and flexible.
The genius of the Stars Without Number series is that they focus on giving the GM tools for building game settings and adventures. The tools are powerful, cover a great deal of territory, and are largely independent of the game mechanics. This makes the books invaluable for any system you want to use them with.
Sine Nomine Publishing gives their core book away as a free .pdf. This isn’t a stripped down version of the rules, it’s the whole thing at no cost. The latest edition of the paid book does add a couple new sections, but they’re certainly not necessary.
Check out the core book. You won’t be sorry that you did and you’ll probably end up snapping up more of their products.
4. Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is ridiculously fun. It’s a first person shooter spun off from the Far Cry franchise. Blood Dragon is a parody that uses 80’s action movie tropes and solid game mechanics to make a game that is far more entertaining than it has any right to be. If you grew up on Predator, Terminator, Aliens, and any other movie where a commando wearing a bandanna is out to avenge the death of his best friend, this is the game for you.
Major bonus points for having Michael Behm do the voice of the main character, Sgt. Rex Power Colt, Mark IV Cyber-Commando.
5. Disney and Pixar have confirmed that Incredibles 2 is going to happen. This thrills me to no end. I love The Incredibles, for many of the same reasons I love Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., and I have a lot of faith in Pixar. If ever there was a movie I’ve been craving a sequel to, it’s The Incredibles.
6. In other movie news, director Steve Martino will be bringing us a CGI Peanuts movie in 2015. I have mixed feelings about this one and not only because my opinion of Peanuts as a comic strip has gone down as I’ve gotten older.
On the plus side, the short trailer they released looks good. The translation of the art style works better than I expected and the action has the right flavor. They also nailed the sound of the show, both for the characters and the music. This is important for a cartoon that has such a unique audio history.
On the negative side, I question their ability to keep a Peanuts story engaging for the length of a feature film. Peanuts has never been about the long story and it’s never been about big things. If they make the all too common mistake of trying to make a blockbuster adventure out of this, then we’ll have another Garfield or Marmaduke movie on our hands.