Rising in my queue

Dead Rising 2
The Chuck Stops Here

Having received Dead Rising 2: Off the Record for my birthday, I decided I should finally get around to playing Dead Rising 2. I love the DR franchise and always wanted to play DR2, but it got pushed back in my queue by a few other games I also wanted to finish. So I put the game in a couple of nights ago, loaded up my last saved game, and quickly realized why I’d put it aside before in favor of another game. Of all the things I love about the DR games, the one thing I don’t is that it is nearly impossible to “win” on the first time through.

If you aren’t familiar with the games, your character gains experience (PP) and levels up as you complete tasks, save people and kill zombies. When you lose, and you will lose, you can start over, retaining your levels and unlocked abilities, thus making the second trip through easier. During the first game, this was an interesting mechanic, but in DR2 I found playing the first run through a bit disheartening as I knew I wasn’t going to succeed. I last saved my game just moments away from failure.

Of course, failure of the game’s main mission has its own reward: you can keep playing. Once the mission failed and I was informed that the truth had vanished, I was reminded why I didn’t mind failure in the first game. Now with an open world and no real reason to be there, I’ve been going on zombie killing sprees and saving random people when I’m able.

In the zombie genre, there tends to be two stories to tell. The first is full of hope, that our intrepid band of survivors is going to make it – final stand not withstanding. The second is stubbornness. Our survivors are only survivors for now, everybody dies, it’s just a matter of when. When in a DR game you fail the main mission and the story, the path to hope, fades, your game shifts from the first type of story to the second. Hope is gone, you’re all going to die, but not yet, not if you can help it. It’s sort of a “rage against the dying of the light” feeling.

I love it.

Originally posted on Google+, but I just had to repost it here since it isn’t public over there.

Batman Begins

When Batman came out in 1989, I was wary of the casting of Michael Keaton, Mr. Mom, as the caped crusader. But it turned out that he was actually able to capture the duality of Batman and Bruce Wayne extremely well. And while I was disappointed with the death of the Joker (why do they insist on killing the bad guys? the comic books don’t), the movie as a whole was just good.

With Batman Returns… well, Keaton was still good, but the way they chose to portray the Penguin was just… well… crappy. Catwoman wasn’t bad (a zillion times better than the most recent incarnation with Halle Berry) but there were issues with the movie.

Then Keaton flees Batman, and we get Val Kilmer. Now, Val, I thought, could make a very good Batman and Bruce Wayne, but watching the movie, he seemed to be phoning in his performance. He was very wooden in both roles. Add to that the introduction of neon day glo Gotham, and the movie’s suck factor began to swell. Making Robin not be a kid was a step in the wrong direction. He’s supposed to be a teenager, that’s the whole point of his freakin’ character, a young foil to help keep Batman from plummetting off the deep end. I thought after seeing this movie that it had to kill the franchise. Whatever pull Bob Kane had he’d use, and DC would look at the movie and say “Oh, hell no.” and we would never see a Batman movie again. Then the stupid thing, propelled by Jim Carey as the Riddler, made truckloads of money. God help us all.

Val exitted stage left, and we got George Clooney. Now, I like George… he was great on ER, he did a fine job in From Dusk ‘Til Dawn and even in One Fine Day. As Batman/Bruce Wayne he brought so much bravado and swagger to the role that the film choked on it. I figured when I saw Batman Forever we’d seen about as over the top a film as could be made… Then somehow Joel Schumacher managed to double and then triple it and cram it all into the godawful Batman & Robin. The plot was horrid, the actors all gave the worst perfomances of their lives, and Gotham became the new Las Vegas. Utter trash. Thankfully, without the odd star power of a Jim Carey, B&R died (well, it made over $100 million, but it was far less than any of the others in the franchise).

Now that I’m done with that walk down memory lane, let’s get to the movie at hand…

Forget all four of the previous films, Batman Begins is THE Batman movie. Much like I pretend that there is only one Highlander film, and thanks to Episode III I now pretend there are only 3 Star Wars films and it ends with Return of the Jedi, I will now happily pretend that this is the first Batman movie ever made.

Christian Bale is Batman. Christian Bale is Bruce Wayne. He’s able to pull off the brooding superhero, the tortured man, and the facade of the billionaire playboy like no one else. Add to that surrounding him a fantastic cast including Liam Neeson, Michael Caine, Gary Oldman, Tom Wilkinson, Rutger Hauer, Cillian Murphy, Morgan Freeman, and more. Then add a fantastic script that isn’t full of camp and punchlines (though not without its laughs). And finally put Christopher Nolan (Insomnia, Memento) behind the wheel. What you get is a film about the construction of a hero, a crusader, a legend.

If you go to the film looking for the ‘Biff’ and ‘Wham’ of the old TV show, or the tongue in cheekiness of Batman Forever or Batman & Robin, you are going to be horrible disappointed. You’ll probably think this is the worst movie ever made.

But if you go for Batman… if you like The Dark Knight Returns, or Batman: Year One, or the current run of the comic books. If you view the ‘camp’ of Batman as a blip wrong detour of a much better and larger tale, then this movie is for you.

I can only hope that Batman Begins really is a new beginning, and that at least another movie or two with this collection of folks manages to find its way to the big screen.