A Look Back at Ravage 2099 #1

It’s funny how time moves. The year we live in now is twenty-nineteen (2019). That means eighty years from now, the year will be twenty ninety-nine (2099). As a long time geek, the year 2099 reminds me a lot about the short-lived lineup of superhero comics published by Marvel Comics popularly referred to as Marvel 2099 which had a far future, sci-fi setting.

Back in 1992, the comic book industry was riding high on the spending of collectors who seek profit through the trading of comic books. During those days, Marvel released several comic books with special covers (foil, hologram, etc.) which looked so pretty, a lot of people bought those (normally double the prices of regular comic books) believing it would make a collector’s item (instead of reading and enjoying the comic book).

Marvel added more to the comic book speculation frenzy by launching their 2099 series starting with Spider-Man 2099 #1. Shortly after that, they launched the Ravage 2099 monthly series highlighting a protagonist that was original and co-created by the legendary Stan Lee with artist Paul Ryan. There was also hype accompanying Ravage 2099 #1 as it marked Stan Lee’s return as a regular writer. Here is my review of the comic book Ravage 2099 #1.

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Ravage 2099 #1 and a few other comic books beside my mug of coffee.

The story opens with a man chased by local authorities. Labeled a polluter, the armed personnel killed him instead of taking him in alive. This bothers Paul-Phillip Ravage who is the head of ECO Central (under mega corporation Alchemax). His assistant Tiana warned him that there is greater danger and Alchemax can bring down anyone. Of course, Ravage dismisses her concern as he believed in the system he is part of.

Ravage said to her, “If we can’t trust the system, if we can’t trust Alchemax, then we revert back to anarchy!”

Shortly after, Ravage encounters three young guys who approached him with weapons. After scaring away two of them, the last guy – a teenage boy – said words that made Ravage think. It turns out the young guy is the son of the man who got killed in the beginning.

Even though no compelling evidence was presented to him, Ravage had the teenager come with him to go high at Alchemax. There they meet with Anderthorp Henton, the director general of the corporation. After listening to their concerns, Henton reacts to investigate.

“That’s the most shocking thing I’ve heard! If there’s the slightest shred of truth to your accusation, I’ll move heaven and earth to punish the one’s responsible. You have my word on that, commander and you too, young man!”

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Ravage, the teenager and Henton.

After separating from the teenager, Ravage decides to go back to his office. Tiana warned him that Henton has targeted him for elimination. Suddenly a mutroid (creature brought in from a forbidden place) appears in front of them starting Alchemax’s move to frame and kill Ravage.

Ravage 2099 #1 was released on October 1992 (cover dated December 1992) for $1.75 with a gold-colored foil cover and it sold well for Marvel that month arguably due to the collector craze as well as die hard fans of Stan Lee. In terms of art, Paul Ryan did a good job visualizing the sci-fi, distant future of 2099 laced with futuristic technology (example: vehicles hovering above ground). He clearly made Ravage look mature while Tiana looked too erotic to be in the office. Ryan’s art on Henton, meanwhile, lacked subtlety and right from the start, he obviously looked evil. When it comes to action, Ryan did a decent job.

As for the writing, I can honestly say that Stan Lee’s style lacked precision and engagement. Clearly his style of writing ended up being outdated by the time this comic book got published. Had Ravage 2099 #1 been released in, let’s say in 1975, then the comic book would have felt more engaging and even futuristic. The dialogue is somewhat lousy as well.

I also noticed how Ravage and the villain Henton looked idiotic with their respective acts. While the culture of impunity in 2099 is undeniable, it still does not justify Henton’s knee-jerk decision to order the elimination of Ravage who in turn failed to notice anything suspicious as head of his department. Tiana ends up being the informer for him.

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Ravage starts fighting back at his company’s security personnel.

Another sign of Ravage being not too smart (or at least the lack of precision and intelligence on the script written by Stan Lee) is how unrealistically easy it was for the teenager to convince him that his father was killed WITHOUT PRESENTING ANY COMPELLING EVIDENCE of the incident at all! The teenager only had words…no video, no photos, nothing as evidence!

For a mature man, Ravage was pretty foolish. He never asked the teenager to present any evidence to prove his claims. Instead, he went ahead going to Henton at Alchemax even bringing the young guy with him.

More on Ravage, it was clear that he was doomed as a comic book character even though Stan Lee was involved in creating him. Considering the fact that there were many Hollywood action movies released throughout the 1980s often having a macho guy armed with guns (or capable of doing hard action) as the hero, Ravage ended up looking generic.

 

It is no surprise that even though Marvel Comics revived somewhat the 2099 universe with new comic books over the past few years, Ravage was not revived. There was simply nothing special with the character nor was his part of the 2099 universe deemed important.

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Ultimately, Ravage 2099 #1 is a comic book worth getting way below its cover price. In my view, it is worth fifty cents at best. Ravage is truly a failed hero of Stan Lee’s.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

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A Look Back at X-Men (2000)

The first time I saw the first live-action movie of the X-Men was on August 30, 2000, here in the Philippines. Back then my interest in comic books had waned but I was still an X-Men fan by heart. I enjoyed reading the comic books written by Chris Claremont, the early 1990s comic books drawn by Jim Lee and Whilce Portacio, and the X-Men animated series.

Prior to its Philippine opening, X-Men was released in the cinemas in the United States on July 14, 2000, and in the weeks leading to August 30, there were several pirated copies of the movie in video CD format made available here in the Philippines. I resisted the temptation of watching a pirated copy in favor of the cinema experience.

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Arguably the one superhero movie that sparked the 21st century wave of superhero movies which we moviegoers enjoy now.

Back on August 30, 2000, it was a rather intriguing experience for me to see the X-Men and the villains portrayed by actors on the big screen (and there were no IMAX cinemas back then). While I felt Hugh Jackman (then a newcomer) lacked impact on portraying Wolverine, Patrick Stewart captured the essence and look of Professor X/Charles Xavier. Halle Berry’s half-baked foreign accent ruined the cinematic Storm while James Marsden and Famke Jansen really had no chemistry as Cyclops and Jean Grey. Ian McKellen was passable as Magneto while I found Rebecca Romjin’s Mystique a distorted version of the character. On the side, the supporting role of Bruce Davison as Senator Kelly was very solid and it was too bad he did not have enough screen time.

More on the storytelling, I noticed back then that X-Men really felt more like a build-up laced with some spectacle rather than a complete standalone story. Of course, the filmmakers really had to do lots of build-up and they could not just expect moviegoers to be fully aware of the X-Men comics and mythos. At least the movie did a decent job of assembling the characters, emphasizing the theme of public fear of mutants as well as the struggle of mutants, and establishing the elements of good and evil.

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Magneto and Charles Xavier.

There is also symbolism with how the filmmakers translated Charles Xavier and Magneto from the comic books to film. Xavier strives for helping mutants use their powers for good purposes while trying to help them survive in human society that fears them….plus help humans understand mutants in order to accept them. Magneto, who as a boy lived through the Holocaust and witnessed how brutal humans are to his people, strives for the rise of the mutant race even if it means harming innocent humans.

Wolverine and Rogue, in their own ways, are the lost people who have yet to realize their true purpose. They symbolize the mutants struggling in society and in the case of Rogue, played by a very young Anna Paquin, she is the lost youth whose future is clouded with uncertainty since her mutant ability makes her a danger to others by simply touching them. Wolverine/Logan, for the newcomers reading this, has been lost for decades and what makes his plight painful is that he could not remember his past nor is he aware he is over a hundred years old living with claws and a healing factor that delays his aging.

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A young Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. He came into the film as a replacement for Dougray Scott, the guy originally hired to play the superhero icon. Fortunately for Jackman, he became a superstar and a movie icon.

When it comes to spectacle, X-Men is satisfactory. There is enough action to balance with the storytelling and character development but for the most part they lack impact even back in 2000. The standout action sequence is the fight between Wolverine and Mystique which is a mix of martial arts and stunts (aided by wires). The next best sequence is Wolverine’s fight with Sabretooth at the Statue of Liberty. The fight between Toad and the other X-Men meanwhile would have looked better had there been none of those silly moments pulled of by Ray Park (Toad). Special effects that emphasize Cyclop’s optic blast and the Liberty Island energy generation looked tame.

Flaws in the movie? Apart from the uneven quality of cinematic performances and use of cheesy dialogue, not to mention the half-baked use of a foreign accent for Storm, the presentation of Xavier’s estate as a school filled with multiple students remains alienating (note: the “school for gifted children” in the comics had only the X-Men members living and learning in comfortable privacy). Next, Magneto showed carelessness over the handling of his machine designed to mutate humans and his plan to use Rogue as a source and handler for the Liberty Island incident was illogical.

As there were so many characters in the story, the key element of Cyclops as a mature and calculating leader in the comics was absent in the film. James Marsden ended up playing a Cyclops who really did not have much to do other looking cool with his visor.

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Mystique in action.

And then there was the scene in which Magneto kidnapped rogue only to face several police officers outside. During that scene, Charles Xavier mentally controlled, temporarily, Toad and Sabretooth to push Magneto into submission (with Sabretooth’s large hand holding his neck). Magneto answered back by threatening to kill the police officers with their guns and bullets (controlled by Magneto) forcing Xavier to just give up. Knowing that Magneto’s helmet protects him from mental control by Xavier, I said to myself – why Xavier have Sabretooth or Toad remove the helmet so that he can control Magneto? That scene took me out of the film.

Overall, by today’s standards, X-Men of 2000 is a satisfactory superhero flick. Directed by Bryan Singer, it was fairly good in 2000 but did not age well. Really, the film was more of a build-up and set-up for expanding the X-Men Cinematic Universe. Fortunately for Singer and 20th Century Fox, this movie was successful and justified the plan to release sequels (best sequel: X-Men: Days of Future Past) and spin-offs (the best is Logan) which not made billions of dollars more in ticket sales for the studio but also helped make the superhero movie genre wildly popular today.

If you plan to watch this movie, don’t set your expectations too high. Try to enjoy X-Men for what it is and see if you can tolerate the flaws. Definitely this one is no classic.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

For more X-Men insight, check out my latest article about X-Men: Dark Phoenix and my review of Logan.

 

 

 

A Look Back At Logan

What a journey it has been! When I first saw then newcomer Hugh Jackman play Wolverine in the first X-Men movie back in 2000, I was not that impressed. In X2: X-Men United, Jackman outdid himself and established Wolverine as a very defining action hero for 21st century Hollywood cinema that moviegoers can keep coming back for more.

Then Jackman played Wolverine (referred to as Logan) several more times in the X-Men movies plus the standalone Wolverine movies. His most defining performance as the cinematic icon happened in 2017 with the release of Logan directed by James Mangold.

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Hugh Jackman delivered his best superhero movie performance in Logan.

Set in what is the near future, Logan takes place in a time (note: the X-Men cinematic universe timeline was revised as a result of X-Men: Days of Future Past) when mutants are dying off as a human species. Wolverine/Logan works as a limousine driver and lives at a smelting plant in Mexico with Cabal and a very old Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) who has dementia and has been unstable with his telepathic powers which make him a danger.

The future is bleak for them. Logan is very old and his healing factor has weakened a whole lot and the adamantium coating of his skeleton has poisoned him. Xavier meanwhile needs be provided with medication to prevent him from having a seizure which, combined with his telepathic powers, affects all others around them negatively. It has also been confirmed that an incident was caused by Xavier’s seizure which killed off several X-Men members leaving them three. Logan has to work and earn as much money as he could to keep providing the medication.

One day, a lady approaches Logan to try to hire him to drive her and a young girl named Laura (X-23 in the comics, played by Dafne Keene) to a refuge in North Dakota to escape from danger. Logan accepts reluctantly but discovers that the lady got killed. He returned to the smelting plant and learned that Laura stowed away by discreetly riding his limo. Eventually mercenaries led by Donald Pierce (who met Logan early in the film) arrive at the smelting plant. From this point, Logan realizes why the lady and Laura are targets and then mayhem begins when the little girl fights the mercenaries.

When it comes to storytelling, Logan emphasizes the violent and bitter journey of Wolverine who, at a very late stage in his life, has to accept the reality that he has to make another hard adjustment as a key element from his past comes into his life which is Laura who is actually a clone of him produced from an extracted sample of his DNA. The movie has some parallels with the 1950s cowboy movie Shane (which has some scenes in the film) which added depth to the story.

Logan also emphasizes the element of aging which has not been fully explored in the superhero movie genre until now. Wolverine lived lonely, had no people to love and his personal journey has been marked with violence and death. He could only move forward with whatever opportunities he could find but no matter what he does, happiness will always be unreachable to him. For Charles Xavier, age really tore him down and being almost 100-years-old in the story, he really has nowhere else to go to but death. Not even his legacy of brilliance and teaching mutants to use their powers for good could make any profound changes.

The long journey of Logan, Xavier and Laura in the film is where the character developments really set in. Along the way, there is a scene in which Logan, holding X-Men comic books (made specifically for the story), expressed his displeasure about how people perceive the X-Men and that the pharmaceutical company fed their young cloned mutants with fantasy and lies. Also striking to me as a viewer and a geek were the scenes showing how unethical the company has been with developing the young mutants (X-23’s pals) who decide to fight to escape.

In terms of presentation, Logan was rated R and for good reasons. It was rated R not simply because of very brutal violence and swearing but because its concepts are clearly meant for adults to see. If you combine the concepts of unethical science experiments, mercenary brutality, human rights violations and unchecked destruction, clearly Logan is NOT the superhero movie made for parents and their little kids to watch together. When it comes to action and spectacle, this movie has more than enough stuff to keep viewers entertaining while at the same time it has this particular 1980s R-rated Hollywood action film feel to it.

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Dafne Keene as X-23/Laura. Her great act will be remembered for a very long time.

Performances of the actors were top-notch, specifically Jackman, Stewart and Dafne Keene. Hugh Jackman as a superhero cinematic artist truly evolved! If you disregard the timeline alteration of the X-Men films, you will realize how Jackman’s Wolverine gradually changed in terms of style and expression. In 2000’s X-Men, Wolverine was trying to figure out his place among the mutants as Charles Xavier helped him. In X2, he decided to be with the X-Men and help them out in their situation. In X-Men: The Last Stand, he has to deal with helping the X-Men tackle Magneto who has Dark Phoenix/Jean Grey (the lady Logan has feelings for). In X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he struggles morally and dealt with his relationship with his “brother” Sabretooth. In The Wolverine, he moves away from the X-Men and got himself involved with a conflict (plus an old friend) in Japan. In X-Men: Days of Future Past, Wolverine of the dark future goes back through time to his younger self with the pressure to alter history.

Patrick Stewart’s dying Xavier in Logan shows a new dimension to the cinematic art of the actor. He really makes Xavier look hopeless and yet he successfully made viewers more sympathetic to his character than ever before. Last but not least, Dafne Keene as Laura/X-23 proved how talented she really is when it comes to dramatic scenes. Even though she got yelled at by Hugh Jackman, Keene still moved on with her strong performance. Definitely her performance is something to be remembered for a very long time in cinema.

Conclusion

I have seen a whole lot of superhero movies in my life. Just over a week ago I managed to watch Avengers: Endgame and it was a true epic like Infinity War. Even by today’s standards, Logan is a standout superhero movie that delivers spectacle, action, solid performances, some humor and the distinct vibe of 1980s R-rated Hollywood action cinema combined. In fact, I should say that Logan is a modern day classic among all superhero movies.

As such, Logan is highly recommended and I urge you readers to watch it on Blu-ray disc format to get the best visual and R-rated viewing experience.


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Game Review: Gears of War 4 (Xbox One, Single Player Campaign)

Believe it or not, I completely missed out on Gears of War 4 on Xbox One back in 2016. I simply had other priorities and I was unable to raise the money needed to buy the game. A year after that, I downloaded the demo of the game and managed to play

Finally, thanks to a recent sale online at Xbox LIVE, I purchased the game at last and recently managed to finish it. Gears of War 4 proved to be a lot of fun and even until now it still is a gem of game design and visual art.

To put things in perspective, I played the first three main Gears of War games from 2006 to 2011 and those games were mainly designed by the talented Cliff Bleszinski who had NO INVOLVEMENT with the latest game. Gears of War 4, by the way, is the first-ever internally developed game of Microsoft through its studio The Coalition.

The good news is that Gears of War 4 is not only a fun and engaging game. It is also a continued evolution of the game franchise’s design and it is easily the best cover shooter game design to date.

On face value, it looks like the creative team led by Rod Fergusson (The Coalition studio leader) and director Chuck Osieja decided to play safe on game design by retaining the gameplay functions from the past. Quite easily, I managed to reclaim that old Gears of War feel in terms of control, shooting, moving and aiming. Like past GOW games, you must take cover for protection from the bullets fired by the enemies then peak, aim and shoot. Then when possible move forward to take cover at the next protective object and make your way to beat the other side. Then there is the classic reload function which, when well timed, can grant you temporary strong firepower.

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Melee attacks in Gears of War 4 have improved and are more satisfying.

But as the game progressed, the new gameplay features emerged. For the first time, I can finally grab an enemy (who is crouched taking cover) from the other side of a protective object or barrier, pull the enemy and get to do a melee attack (or shoot with the gun). There is also the feature of the knocking the enemy off balance (by means of jumping over cover to kick the enemy on the other side) as well as performing the shoulder charge. Take note however that these new gameplay features – which add a lot of depth on the classic GOW gameplay – can be used by the enemies against you.

And then there are the new weapons like the Buzzkill (watch those flying sawblades ricochet!) and the Dropshot (challenging to use but very satisfying when the target gets hit!) that add new dimension to the gameplay.

More on gameplay, if you are expecting enemy artificial intelligence (AI) to be the same as before (remember all the Locusts?), you will realize that’s not the case at all. The new enemies behave differently in combat and you will be compelled to change your strategies. Expect to see the enemies (which include robots) be more tactical with their movements and attacks, and you will also realize you will need to move out of cover more and search for a new place to take cover at.

That’s not all. The weather effects impact the gameplay a lot this time. There are these windflares that not only blow strongly (watch the environment move) but also generate electricity that you must avoid touching. When the weather changes, you will not only have to take cover but be more strategic moving around as well as adjusting your aim when firing at the enemy (example: strong wind can alter the direction of the Buzzkill sawblade you fire). Lastly, there is a motorcycle chase scene that is quite action packed!

Visuals? This game really looks very great! The art is top-notch. The animation, the textures, the special effects and lighting effects really make a great showcase of the Xbox One, especially the Xbox One X (4K resolution with high-dynamic range). The character faces are very detailed and very photo-realistic! Facial expressions really will convince you into thinking you’re watching real people instead of computer-generated ones.

When it comes to storytelling, Gears of War 4 takes place 25 years after the previous game. You play as JD Fenix (son of hero Marcus Fenix and Anya Stroud) who is accompanied by Del and Kait. In terms of personality, JD is witty, striving to figure out things and he does not carry the cynical mindset of his father. Del and Kait are likeable characters for different reasons. Del is also witty while Kait has the strong, fighting lady personality. The good news here is that their respective voice actors performed nicely.

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Father and Son.

Back to the plot, the Coalition of Ordered Governments (COG) has been reformed but something is not right and right from the start JD and Del deserted the coalition to join the group called the Outsiders. Government leadership is felt in the story and having the COG as the anti-hero element really makes Gears of War 4’s world really look and feel new. Forget about the memories of fighting for the COG in the old GOW games, Gears of War 4 is a whole new world to figure out what’s been happening while fighting to survive. If you are the kind of gamer who has the anti-authoritarian mindset, then this game is for you.

Strangely enough, this game’s story has some notable similarities with the 2015 blockbuster film Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. Without spoiling the story, I should say that Gears of War icons like Marcus Fenix (the central figure of the franchise) return in supporting roles. Instead of being the hero, he is the mentor to his son JD and even to you the gamer.

While the gameplay is excellent and deeper than ever before, the storytelling this time lacks the depth of Gears of War 3 but in fairness, this new game’s story had to show how much had changed in the world and society in general. Gears of War 3, by comparison, is a war story and the resulting build-up from the first two games led to it having a very engaging conclusion.

Back to Gears of War 4, the ending lacked punch and yet it has a lot of intrigue or even shock, especially if you paid very close attention to the small but key details in the previous games. The ending feels underwhelming as it happened following the high-octane, final battle sequence of the game. Although the conclusion lacked punch, I still felt satisfied. By the way, there is a post-credits ending scene to watch out for.

Overall Gears of War 4 is easily the best 3rd person-view cover shooter and is a true evolution of the Gears of War game design. Now that the game costs much less, it is a great bargain! At the same time, it makes sense now to play GOW4 as Gears 5 (Gears of War 5) is expected to be released this year.

Gears of War 4 is highly recommended!


Thank you for reading. If you find this game review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame

I’ll just say it straight and clear – Avengers: Endgame is an epic superhero movie that, like its predecessor, is great to watch again and again although there are some noticeable differences.

For starters, the creative led by the Russo Brothers came up with a story that somewhat defied most people’s expectations in relation to the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. Considering what happened in the previous film, it’s too easy for moviegoers to anticipate another uniting of remaining superheroes to defeat the omnipotent Thanos who wields the Infinity Gauntlet.

Quite daringly, the filmmakers came up with a story that focused more on time travel and time paradox. Since Endgame is still a new film, I won’t spoil the plot details and will focus on the technical aspects as to why the film is great.

On time travel and time paradox, Endgame felt somewhat self-aware by referencing other popular movies that had time travel concepts. The inevitable time machine gets set up obviously and when the superheroes went their own ways through time, Endgame suddenly felt like The Empire Strikes Back mixed with elements of Back to the Future. What do I mean? What I’m saying is that character development ramps up when the superheroes go their separate ways (not individually but by pairs or small teams) and their time travel exploits brought moviegoers back to the past, especially the unexplored segments of what we saw in previous movies of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

The good news here is that the Russo Brothers did a great job telling the story even though the concepts of time travel and time paradox were so challenging to execute on-screen. Clearly the co-directors did their research to ensure that the story still made sense. Of course, there is the expository dialogue designed to explain to readers the film’s time travel concept.

When it comes to performances, just about each member of the cast performed nicely on bringing to life their respective characters. I felt Robert Downey, Jr.’s performance as Tony Stark/Iron Man is his best since Iron Man 3. Still, I think the standout performer of them all was Mark Ruffalo who proved to be creative not only with his smart Hulk but also managed to deliver the solid performance the movie script required from him. Personally, this cinematic Hulk is the best one yet and we can forget about the mindless, rampaging Hulk of years ago.

Josh Brolin returned as Thanos and his performance was great (as expected) but in order to understand this film’s version of his character, you need to watch the previous appearances of Thanos from the past years especially with 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

When it comes to superhero spectacle, Endgame delivered the fun stuff – the flying, the energy blasts, powerful strikes, collateral damage, cosmic powers, futuristic sci-fi technology and the like. However, I felt that Infinity War was much more loaded with action, stunts, special effects and superhero spectacle. This is understandable because the first 30-45 minutes of Endgame was more about story build-up, heavy dialogue and character development delivered with little action. The good news is that the pace of the film ran faster when the time travel sequences started. Of course, there is also the anticipated giant battle near the end of the film. A very action-packed final battle indeed although I felt the darkness (lack of light on the setting) somewhat lessened the impact.

Overall, Avengers: Endgame is an epic superhero movie that must be seen and it also justifies replaying Infinity War. While both Endgame and its predecessor are epic movies heavily loaded with spectacle as well as a lot of heart in the story and character development, the major differences go like this – Infinity War carried more shock value while this new movie was more about the pleasant surprises related to time travel.

Does Endgame deserve its massive commercial success? Absolutely! More than that, this film is also the undeniable climax of the 11-year buildup of the Marvel Cinematic Universe that started with Iron Man.

Where the Marvel Cinematic Universe will go next after Endgame will most likely be another uncharted territory of superhero cinema.

Note: When watching Endgame, I highly recommend viewing it on an IMAX screen as it was filmed entirely with IMAX cameras. Go for it if you can afford it!


Thank you for reading. If you find this movie review engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Game Review: Resident Evil 2 (Remake)

Twenty-one years ago, I had a great time playing Resident Evil 2 on the original PlayStation console. I enjoyed the first Resident Evil on the same console in 1996 but it was the sequel that turned me into a fan of the game franchise.

A few months ago, Capcom released the remake of Resident Evil 2 (which I bought for Xbox One) completing the promise they made way back in 2015. Sure details of the game were kept in great secret until E3 of 2018 (when it was first previewed) but I can tell you from my experience that the long wait was indeed well worth it!

Before I go on, let me share to you that while just about everyone called this new version of RE2 a remake, for me it is more than that. I personally would call it a remake with expansion.

Now I can discuss the game

Gameplay and Presentation

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Shooting in 3rd person.

The way this game was remade and expanded, Capcom’s team did a great job to modernize Resident Evil 2 a lot. This is not a carbon copy of the 1998 game design done with 3D environments and a 3rd person view (over-the-shoulder) for the 8th console generation. The developers went the extra mile adding some new challenges and gameplay features that just might inspire other game developers to follow suit.

At its core, RE2 Remake is technically a 3rd person adventure game that carefully blends horror, action and exploration combined with suitable storytelling split into two sides. When you play a new game, you get to choose either Claire or Leon. Once you finish the game, a “New Game – 2nd Run” option comes up which allows you to play the other character on the other side (or scenario) of the main story that you just finished.

While the 1998 game had pre-rendered backgrounds presented in 2D (which makes sense with that game’s outdated tank-like controls), this game has every environment in full 3D which you can freely explore and revisit. As you control your character with a 3rd person view complete control of the view (that allows you to look around), the developers used shadows and darkness in many parts of the game to ensure an atmosphere of horror and suspense. There is nothing like walking down a very dark corridor with your flashlight not knowing what’s ahead of you.

Of course, there is the classic Resident Evil challenge of solving puzzles and item management. There are also these containers where you can put your items into for safekeeping and the good news is that identical containers in other locations instantly carry those stored items.

As this game deals with zombies, the game developers went all out on making each zombie and monster very detailed and grotesque to look at. The 3D artists seem to have studied anatomy while the in-game physics handlers ensured that whatever part of the zombie’s body gets hit by a bullet, it gets the corresponding damage. The zombies are scary and grotesque and compared to their 1998 counterparts, they are tougher and more dangerous to deal with. With regards to the monsters, the standout is the Licker which in this game is much more dangerous even if you have lots of ammunition. The Licker is capable of jumping a great distance towards you with a lot of speed to boot. The Licker can push your character down on the floor when you least expect it.

More on the monsters, the 3D art on William Birkin is incredible! It’s as if the game developers took a close look at the 1998 William Birkin (much lower polygons back then), watched John Carpenter’s movie The Thing for inspiration and then made the modern William Birkin look more monstrous with photo-realism in mind! The more mutated Birkin got, the more incredible the visual detail and scare factor got!

The most defining gameplay challenge is exploring the police station with Mr. X (a Tyrant) walking around searching for you. He walks around obsessively and can go into most rooms although he cannot enter the room with game saving devices (typewriters). Mr. X is very dangerous and each time he appears, the tension and fear run up high forcing you to get away somehow. As long as Mr. X is in the game, you must listen carefully to the ambient sound (note: raise the volume of your sound system or that of your HDTV) to watch out for the sounds of the steps he takes. The louder the steps, then it means his presence is very near you.

As expected, guns are the main weapons to use and eventually you will get to use a shotgun (for Leon), a machine gun (for Claire), grenade launcher, flame thrower and others. This is not a straightforward shooting game however. Zombies are tough as they take a lot of bullets to put down. This will force you to get the most out of each shot as the impact per shot is directly affected by the quality of the aiming which itself goes down as your character moves. To get the best aim, your character has to stand still and when you fire, you better hope that the zombies (which constantly move) do get hit. Sure you can move and fire at the same time but you won’t get good results in return. Forget about doing the Gears of War tactic here. Just pace yourself, be strategic, then aim and fire.

Your character gets to use a secondary weapon in the form of a combat knife or a flasher or even a grenade. Imagine your character is armed with a secondary weapon. If an enemy grabs, you will be prompted to use the secondary weapon to damage (or push back at least) the enemy and allow yourself to keep your distance away without getting hurt.

When it comes to survival, the classic gathering and mixing of colored herbs are back. Taking inspiration from 1999’s Resident Evil 3, the game allows you to create new ammunition by combining items needed for creation. As the items are varied, you can decide which kind of ammunition to make. Speaking of which, the amount of ammunition in this game is pretty limited and this will compel you to conserve bullets and make the most out of what you have to survive.

On the aspect of exploration, the locations in the 1998 RE2 are back but they have been expanded even as key locations from the old game were recreated in 3D. The police station seems bigger to me this time but the standout zone of exploration is the dark and gritty sewer (which puts the sewer in the 1998 game to shame). There are a lot more places to explore and the good news is that there is something worth collecting when visiting those places.

As for the deep underground science experiment facility, the game developers made the place really looked like it was used for work by the employees. There were lots of equipment around that were not presented as mere in-game decorations but rather they gave me a clear idea that work was done previously before disaster struck. There was even a sleeping quarter for stay-in employees which really looked lived-in.

Storytelling (warning: mild spoilers ahead)

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Leon Kennedy and Claire Redfield.

A zombie outbreak struck Raccoon City. Near the city, Claire Redfield (who’s searching for her heroic brother Chris) and Leon Kennedy (a rookie cop on his way to the police station) incidentally get together after having an early confrontation with zombies at a gas station. As they got into the city, an out-of-control truck hits their car (which they got out off in time) and separates them. Claire and Leon make it to the police station only to find out that it is hazardous with zombies and corpses inside. From this point on, they have to figure out what is going on, who is responsible and how they could escape and survive from the ruined city.

As this game is a remake, it is no surprise at all that the original script from the 1998 game was not reused but rather this new game has a new script inspired by it. The intention was to reintroduce not only the characters but the game’s core concepts to a modern gaming audience who, by today’s standards, are very used to watching very cinematic cut scenes in their video games.

The dialogue is lengthy and for the most part the voice actors performed nicely on delivering the drama (and the expository dialogue) and bringing the characters to life. The script captured the essence of 1998’s RE2 mostly but there were a few noticeable differences that bothered me.

For one thing, I noticed that Leon Kennedy in this modern game does not really take charge of his situation and even gets fooled and manipulated by Ada Wong who poses as an FBI agent. By comparison, Leon has a subtle but notable taking of responsibility (and taking charge) of the situation in the 1998 RE2. Remember dialogue in that game with Ada telling her that they cannot progress if she does not let him take charge? Remember the scene when the jailed journalist was told that if he wanted to survive, he would have to leave with Leon?  Those character traits of Leon taking charge against the odds really happened back in 1998. The remake’s Leon is more gullible and naive by comparison. Was this a deliberate alteration done by the script writer? We don’t know yet but the difference of Leon’s personality is noticeable.

Next is the lack of strength in the way Leon and Claire reacted to the zombie outbreak in Raccoon City. The scene where they get together for the first time at the exterior of the police station showed them being too casual (not that concerned) of their situation. Their exchange of dialogue felt better suited in a romantic movie. By comparison, their portrayal (getting reunited after the initial separation) in the 1998 game was more convincing.

Next, I have a problem with the way Claire decides to fight the heavily mutated William Birkin in their 3rd fight. It’s just not convincing in relation to the entire situation of the outbreak. Even though Claire Redfield has no military training (she knows self-defense only), she decides to risk her life fighting him completely disregarding the need to quickly save Sherry (suffering at this point) and escape with her. This scene is clearly another one of those “because the game requires it” situations. By comparison in the 1998 game, Claire reacts naturally with silent fear each time she sees William Birkin.

Apart from the differences between RE2 1998 and RE2 2019, there were these inaccuracies regarding the narrative of the game. Supposedly, regardless of which characters were used on each side of the main story, the core story’s events took place in close proximity to each other if not at the same time. This however does not explain Annette Birkin’s appearing in BOTH sides of the main story specifically in the moments leading up to the 3rd boss battle with her mutated husband William. She appeared in Leon’s side of the scene and also in Claire’s side of it. Was there a clone of Annette Birkin made behind the scenes?!

And then there was Mr. X who in the main story appears to hound both Leon and Claire respectively. What happened to Mr. X during Claire’s side of the story goes into direct conflict with Mr. X being the final boss in Leon’s side. I can only speculate that there were two identical versions of Mr. X in the story which the game developers never bothered to explain.

Conclusion

This remake of Resident Evil 2 is indeed a great game to play and I sure got my money’s worth having finished the single-player campaign a total of six times (focusing on the scenarios) even though there is a lack of zapping (which the 1998 game featured) and the narrative lacks precision when dramatizing the two sides (scenarios) and emphasizing the little details between them. The other game modes like The 4th Survivor, The Tofu Survivor and others add value on the side but for me, the real stuff of the game is the single-player campaign.

It’s not a perfect game but it is great enough for Capcom to keep me interested again in the Resident Evil game franchise. I hope that secretly they are working on a full 3D remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis (which has a visual clue in the RE2 Remake).

RE2 Remake redefined survival horror as much as it modernized the core concept of the 1998 game. In terms of survival horror gameplay, this game is the definitive model on how to do it. Forget about the debacle that was Resident Evil 6 because RE2 Remake is the one to play.

Resident Evil 2 Remake is highly recommended even if you are not an RE fan.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco and follow me at HavenorFantasy@twitter.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carlo Carrasco’s Movie Review: Shazam!

I’ll just say it out loud – I had a lot of fun watching Shazam! at the local cinema today. I’m not even a fan of the character Shazam/Captain Marvel (as he was called prior to Marvel’s legal takeover of the name) and still I enjoyed watching the movie. I rarely watch comedies in the cinema but I still had a lot of fun with Shazam!

Whatever challenges the filmmakers led by director David F. Sandberg faced, they succeeded in making their movie fun, action-packed and more importantly telling a story with a lot of heart with the main characters. It also proved crucial that Warner Bros. marketing team did not spoil the pleasant surprise the movie had all along and that surprise alone is already worth the price of admission.

Shazam! introduces moviegoers to Billy Batson who has moved away from multiple homes as he searches for his mother whom he got separated from as a child. At the new family he moved into, he meets Freddy Freeman who lives with a disability. Things change when Billy meets an aging wizard named Shazam and gains his power. By simply saying the wizard’s name, lightning strikes Billy to become the muscular, adult caped superhero. Along the way an obsessed Dr. Sivana rises with a lust for power which only means trouble for the Billy Batson/Shazam and his friends.

Why is storytelling a success in this movie? Answer – it was done with a lot of heart and director Sandberg succeeded in getting very strong performances from the cast. You will really sympathize with Asher Angel as Billy Batson who lives with a missing link in his personal life and often finds himself lonely. This is a movie about a teenager who does not aspire to become a superhero at all but rather find his mother anyway he could. The superhero aspect of the film is an extension (but a very significant one) of that core concept.

In terms of storytelling tone, Shazam! looks so much like a comedy based on the way it was marketed but rest assured the movie is not a dominant comedy at all. In fact it has a lot of dramatic scenes and even some horror elements spread around. Darkness? There is some of that by means of horror elements. Grit? Very little of it too. Cynicism? Non-existent. Clearly the DC Cinematic Universe under the leadership of Warner Bros. executive Walter Hamada continues to move away from the darkness, the grit and cynicism of Zack Snyder’s influence and for me that is a good thing.

In terms of performances, this film has a lot of good acts. While Asher Angel excelled as Billy Batson, Zachary Levi truly brought Shazam/Captain Marvel to life on the big screen. Not only does he really look like the superhero (as if he was ripped straight from the comic books), Levi was successful in playing his character with the act and mindset of a teenage boy. Jack Dylan Grazer was pretty engaging as Freddy Freeman (who is the in-movie geek and superhero culture researcher) and so was Mark Strong as Dr. Sivana. The other cast members like Grace Fulton, Ian Chen and Faithe Herman were good players as well. To sum it up, the quality of performances from the cast is varied and at the same time of good quality and nice artistry. From drama to humor, these cast members really pulled it off.

Shazam! was made to tell a compelling story that can be taken seriously while at the same time it delivered the humor and spectacle to satisfy moviegoers who want their superhero cinema experience to be enjoyable. When it comes to weaknesses, I say that the first twenty minutes was kinda slow. While the film is indeed very wholesome, the horrific imagery of the monsters can scare little kids and compel their parents to cover their eyes.

As a superhero comedy, it definitely is a more fun to watch than any of the Deadpool movies. As a superhero spectacle, Shazam! is quite comparable not only with DC Cinematic Universe movies but also with other humor-laced superhero movies from Marvel Studios. As a DC Cinematic Universe movie, Shazam! is 3rd best to Wonder Woman.

Given its high amount of fun, engaging storytelling, good comedy and solid performances, Shazam! is highly recommended! I urge you to watch it as soon as you can and for the best visual experience, I recommended watching it on an IMAX screen if you can afford it. Shazam! is a lot of fun and you will love it! Very clearly the DC Cinematic Universe continues to improve and its future under Warner Bros. and Walter Hamada looks very bright!

For your enjoyment, posted below are some videos related to Shazam.


Thank you for reading. If you find this article to be engaging, please click the like button below and also please consider sharing this article to others. Also my fantasy book The World of Havenor is still available in paperback and e-book format. If you are looking for a copywriter to create content for your special project or business, check out my services and my portfolio. Feel free to contact me as well. Also please feel free to visit my Facebook page Author Carlo Carrasco.