Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Some reasons why 'Quantum Break' was so bad.

A couple of days ago, me and my friends managed to play through Quantum Break's story mode. After spending four evenings playing this much anticipated game about time travel gone bad, we managed to reach the finish line.

As a whole, we agreed that the game unfortunately wasn't that well made. The only really good thing about it was that graphics wise the game looked pretty solid and that the combat system was somewhat entertaining too.

In any case, in order to keep things simple, I'll try to list seven major reasons why Quantum Break's story didn't work at all. These are the things why the game failed and why most of the time its story felt so disappointing.

1) There's not much of a reason for the protagonist to exist.

Let's not forget the old adage about how plot is character and character is plot. This means that the better written and the more compelling your protagonist is, the better the story as a whole is going to be too.

Unfortunately, when the game started, it didn't take long before we noticed that a) our protagonist's presense in the beginning wasn't really needed and b) him instantly agreeing to participate in the experiment made no sense whatsoever.

Also, when the 'catalyst' phase happened in the story, the villain in the game had no compelling reason to invite our Jack Joyce. He could have found someone more trustworthy than a person that he had barely met before.

2) Our main character seems dumb and doesn't know what to do.

As the game progresses, it becomes apparent - although not stated - that our main character has no clue about science or about time travel. Nothing in the game suggests that he knows what the villain and his scientist brother were up to.
This means that he has no idea what to do or what his goals should be. All the actual 'decisions' in the game are made by other characters (some of them you get to play very briefly) who supposedly know what they're talking about.

So since our main character can't do anything intellectual in the game, he more or less resorts to shooting and killing the bad guys. This makes him a fairly uninteresting and bland character that you can't really root for.

3) Exposition in the game is simply horrible.

Easily the biggest problem with the game is how badly the parts where you get to play the game and how the live action sequences mesh together. This 'ambitious' aspect of the game doesn't work at all and warrants a lot of criticism.

The single worst moment in the game is when the first live action scene kicks in and we're introduced to a character that we haven't even seen in the actual game. This is such an awful way to tell a story that it needs to be seen in order to be believed.

When it comes to producing a game like this, you are allowed to take chances, but you also have to respect the basics of storytelling. There are some axiomatic rules about what you can and can't do that simply cannot be ignored. 
4) Those 20+ minute live action scenes are pointless.

I have no idea who's idea it was that we would follow the private lives of some tertiary characters in the story. This seems such an awful idea that you might even think that someone was sabotaging the game on purpose.

In these live action scenes we keep following (among other things) the private life of one of the villain's bodyguards. For some reason we're supposed to be interested in following this guy who happens to have a pregnant wife.

In my estimation, only like 10% of these videos are about the actual main characters & the villain. The rest of the videos are about these 'red shirts' who don't really matter and who go through meaningless events in the story.

5) The game has all kinds of continuity problems. 

Unfortunately, there's not that much immersion in the game or moments that keep you excited and entertained. Since the objective of the main character is fairly obscure throughout the game, it's hard to give a damn about the story.

I mean, there are certain moments when things are almost interesting and you're almost entertained. The sequence on the broken bridge was at least somewhat interesting and there was a fight scene about two thirds in that didn't wear me down.

However, both these exciting moments are shortlived and don't last long. That abrupt transition from the bridge to the homebase is extremely awkward and that cool fight that I mentioned ends with an awful cutaway scene.
6) The story already happened - so there's no reason to play.

That's right, for some reason every single thing that you experience in the game has already happened. Our protagonist is only retelling his story, which becomes clear when he talks to some woman inside some random interrogation room.

I have no clue what the writers were thinking when they decided to throw that curveball at us. The story in no way benefited from this pointless revelation and made playing the game even less interesting as a whole.

To be clear, this 'it already happened' can be okay as long as only certain parts of the game have already taken place. Uncharted for example did a pretty good job with it when Nathan Drake's story started with that train accident in Uncharted 2.

7) The ending, not surprisingly, doesn't make sense.

Finally, after finishing the game, one big problem we had with the ending was that one of the villains who already died apparently wasn't dead after all. He hadn't died even though he was shot in the head and clearly was a goner.

Yet, what was even more troubling about the finale was how our 'smart' protagonist wanted to go back in time again. He wanted to go back, because - surprise, surprise - he wanted to save one of the female characters that we briefly met in the game.

Considering that 'Quantum Break' was all about how we shouldn't mess with time travel technology, and how we should be aware of the risks that would be involved, that was probably the worst way to end the game. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Comedies shouldn't last more than 90 minutes.

Lately I've managed to watch a lot of comedies that in most cases have managed to entertain me and have managed to put me on a good mood. Almost every film that I have watched has been - if not great - at least okay qualitywise.

When it comes to these films, many of the movies that I have watched were comedies. Hotel Transylvania, Hotel Transylvania 2, Shaun The Sheep and The Nice Guys were mostly fairly solid films that I would recommend for others to see.

In any case, when it comes to me liking these movies, I liked most of them because they kept my attention and weren't too long as films. In most cases I didn't get too bored and didn't start to think about other things outside these movies.

When I thought about this a little bit more, I noticed that the shorter the comedies were, the more positive thoughts I had about them afterwards. It made a lot of difference whether the film was a 90 minute movie, or a 2 hour movie.

For example, Shaun The Sheep's running time without closing credits was only a bit over 75 minutes. Compared to some quality dramas like 'Bridge of Spies' (running time 2h 15 min), the movie about sheep was only half of that.

Yet, its short running time didn't hurt the movie at all, because everything in the film was so well thought out and felt perfectly natural. I felt that I got everything that I could have wanted from this wonderful little film.

Hotel Transylvania animations didn't have that lengthy running times either. Since both of these Sony's animations were close to 80 minute movies without end credits, they were only a bit longer than Shaun The Sheep.

When it comes to the quality of these vampire animations, I managed to like both films quite a bit. I liked them, even though film critics (45% and 54% respectively at rottentomatoes) hadn't liked these movies that much.

That is not to say that Hotel Transylvania 1 or 2 were masterpieces as animations, but they were good enough to entertain me. They had a premise that was plausible enough and had scenes, story beats and funny moments that made me happy.

On the other hand, when it comes to a comedy film that is clearly at least 20-30 minutes too long, is there a better example than Shane Black's movie 'The Nice Guys', that was recently released on dvd & blu-ray. 

When it comes to the movie as a whole, there are a lot of good things that you can say about the film. In theory, 'The Nice Guys' has all the elements to be a movie that you could even compare to some of the classics.

Yet, once the film had most of the things wrapped up and reached its climax at the 90 minute mark, it didn't end. It added another 20+ minute final act to its story, even though there was no real reason to do that.

At least in my view, you need to have exceptionally good reasons to keep your comedy going once you go past that 90 minute mark. There has to be something that absolutely has to be seen, or else you need to wrap things up quickly.

Considering that comedies are usually faster paced than dramas, have quicker cuts and use all kinds of storytelling tricks to keep us entertained, every single minute and moment counts a little bit more than in dramas.

Let's not forget that after a certain point, the longer the movie keeps going, the less excited and the less happy it makes us. Our attention spans get shorter and we care less about what is happening on screen.

In the case of 'The Nice Guys', since the last act didn't bring anything new to table, it made the film worse. Every single extra minute that kept the movie from ending made me more confused and made me like the film less.

In that sense, if only 'The Nice Guys' would have ended sooner like Hotel Transylvanias and Shaun The Sheep did. In that case, not only would it have been a shorter movie, but it would have been a better movie too.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

'The Good Place' is not a good show to watch.

Now that the new tv season has started, half a dozen or so new comedy shows have premiered. These are the shows that have been rated highly by the test audiences and have been approved by the network executives. 

Many of these shows get a massive push in the media and get hyped through the roof. They get praise from the critics, regardless of whether they are any good or whether they have any potential to become successful. 

In any case, one of these new 'awesome' shows happens to be NBC's 'The Good Place', that premiered in September. It has received fairly enthusiastic reviews across the board, so you might think that this series would be the real deal. 

Yet, as is the case with almost every new series, this show that stars Kristen Bell and Ted Danson, is no exception to the rule. 'The Good Place', unfortunately, isn't any good and doesn't manage to entertain you in any meaningful way. 

The biggest problem with this single camera comedy is that its premise doesn't make sense. The show being about Bell's character going to heaven doesn't have universal appeal and (literally) doesn't have a connection to real life.

Pretty much none of the stuff that happened in the pilot made sense or felt natural. I can't be alone in thinking that the writers and the producers of the show had no clue what they were supposed to do with their characters.

For example in the pilot, Bell's character's most frequent reaction to going to 'heaven' is a simple 'cool'. She thinks that it's 'cool' that she's there now, that it's 'cool' that she's one of the chosen ones and that it's 'cool' that she has a soulmate there.

The fact that she doesn't have problems and doesn't have issues with what's going on is not a good thing at all. That she doesn't have obstacles or goals to deal with means that the show doesn't have organic story ideas that it could build on.

Naturally, these problems and logical inconsistencies were not the only things about the pilot that didn't work. The pilot also happened to have many other problems with storytelling and with things that didn't make sense.

For instance, the 'revelation' in the middle of the pilot that Bell's main character wasn't actually a good person felt extremely artificial and unnecessary. It absolutely wasn't needed in any way and made the pilot feel even more constrained.

I also didn't like how her supposed 'soulmate' didn't speak english. I found it to be unnecessarily convoluted when the token black character simply 'revealed' that his french got automatically translated to english instead.

Yet, the single worst moment in the pilot was when Ted Danson's character out of nowhere decided to kick a dog. This kind of animal cruelty had no reason to be in the script and made me feel even more angry towards the writers of the show.

In the end, even if one was willing to overlook all these problems with the show, let's not forget that 'The Good Place' was supposed to be a comedy. It was supposed to be a series that made you laugh and made you feel better about yourself.

Unfortunately though, there's almost nothing good about the show's pilot. It's not well written, interesting or funny and the pilot doesn't have anything in it that would make you care about the characters and what happens to them.

In that sense, since the show doesn't really know what it's supposed to be about and since it doesn't make you laugh, 'The Good Place' as a series is probably not going to make it and is likely going to get cancelled fairly soon.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

South Park is the only relevant comedy on tv.

For some reason I hadn't been that excited about watching South Park's return to tv this season. I hadn't paid much attention to the show lately and had managed to see its new episodes only after I had first watched some other comedy shows.

Yet, after watching these new episodes that have aired, I'm really happy that I managed to see them. Almost certainly the best thing about this television season has been South Park's return to our tv screens.

In my view, there are certain reasons why the show is still the best comedy series out there. Even though the show has entered its 20th season already, it doesn't seem like it has lost its relevance as a television series.

At least in my opinion, the best thing about the new season is that the series has managed to be actual. The fact that the season has been about the ongoing presidential election has made the show so much more interesting to watch.

In any case, the season premiere, not that surprisingly, was about Colin Kaepernick (pictured above) and his silent protest during the national anthem. The town didn't seem to get enough of this totally overblown spectacle.

In the episode, I couldn't help but to like when the audience was only interested in the reactions of the players and left when the national anthem was finished. I loved how the sportscasters reacted to the national anthem as if it was an ongoing game.

I also liked how the episode was about rebooting the national anthem and how Mr. Garrison as Donald Trump was trying his best to lose the presidental election. He was convinced that he was incompetent and that he wasn't up to the job at all. 

The second episode switched to another storyline, where Cartman was suspected of being a world class troll who had made people quit social media. Cartman was allegedly the person who added photoshopped dick pics to get a reaction from social media users.

In this storyline, Stan and Kyle had had enough and thought that they should something about the phenomenom. They decided that together they would 'kill' Cartman and his trolling by destroying his laptop and his smart phone.

The only problem was that it wasn't actually Cartman who was behind the alias 'Skunkhunter42'. This mistake of the kids not finding out who the real culprit was made the situation worse and things started to get out of control.

In the third episode, we continued with this storyline and also got back to the presidential election. Here Mr. Garrison again tried his very best to lose the election, although nothing that he did was enough to turn the voters off.

When it came to the troll storyline, the actual troll happened to be Kyle's dad, who got himself in real trouble. One of his famous victims decided to end her life, which drove Gerald into panick mode and deep despair.

Not only did his trolling have grave consequences, some hackers also were able to track him down. This happened, even though he had tried his best to cover his tracks so that no one would figure out his real identity.

Aside from dealing with these storylines, the third episode also dealt with an idea that was briefly brought up in the first episode. Randy's storyline was about why most elections seem to be so close no matter what happens during the election season.

This 'memberberry' storyline, just like the Gerald the troll storyline is still ongoing and hasn't been resolved. We have to wait until we'll find out more about where this storyline is going and whether it's going to be finished soon.

All in all, based on these three episodes, I've been pleasantly surprised how well written the series has been this season. All these episodes in my opinion have been based on pretty solid ideas and have been entertaining.

As a whole, these episodes have been surprisingly thoughtful and meaningful. Especially those parts that dealt with social media and how we are obsessed with it are relevant and should give us some food for thought.

In the end, we can only hope that the show manages to keep its quality high in the upcoming episodes too. We can only hope that the writers keep up the good work, because at the moment, South Park is the only relevant comedy on tv.