Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Story From My Time With "Amnesia: The Dark Descent"

Amnesia: The Dark Descent is a scary game. I don't know if it's quite as scary as some of the reaction videos would have you believe, but it's pretty darn scary (Strong language, but hilarity, behind that link). I've been slowly slogging my way through it, because I hate myself I guess, but I had an experience that I thought I would share. I was only about an hour and a half to two hours into the game when it happened, but if you really want to go into the game totally spoiler free (and I'll be very vague with specifics either way) you may not want to read any further on.

I stood in Castle Brannenburg, my heart beating. I knew only that I needed to get a key to progress further. I stood in a small room, one that I knew contained the key somewhere. As this was Amnesia, my heart was pumping, and I was trying to get the key, and get out of the small cramped room. I ran through the door to the room, and saw some drawers, and two standalone closest. As I trembled through the room, I threw open the drawers, knocking several to the floor in my haste. No key. I searched around the drawers, under them, and finally decided to check one of the closets. As I threw open the doors, I heard the door to the adjacent room suddenly, and, after my heart skipped a beat, I threw the contents of the closet to the ground, and jumped in, as it was the only place to hide.

I heard the beast enter the room. As I heard its agonizing groans, I sat, still and silent, in the closet. Petrified to even breathe, though rationally I knew it would have no impact. Its footsteps were my only hint as to the location of the corporeal death which sat outside the thin wooden doors.

Step. Step. Step. I heard it walk to the dresser, and knock some of what sat on it to the ground.

Step. Step. Step. It walked to the other closet. Crunch. It tore it open. I held my breath.

Step. Step. Step.
 It walked to a painting on the wall. Whack. It knocked the painting off.

After this came a long silence, during which I dared not even move. It was still there, it had to be. But where was it? My heart was beating like a drum.

Finally, after what felt like ages, I heard it again. Step. Step. Step. It was headed toward the door. It was leaving. It had to be. Just a moment more.

Step. Step. Step. It was still by the door.

Step. Step. Step. Something was wrong. It wasn't getting any further away. Why wasn't it getting further away?

Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step. Step.

Had I done something wrong? Was the creature never to leave? Was hiding in this closet a mistake, one which the game would punish me by forcing me to meet my own fate of my own volition? Surely I couldn't wait here much longer, the insanity would cripple me before too long, making sure I had no way of escaping.

Step. Step. Step. I finally built up the courage to peek out of my safe, dark corner. I had decided to make a break for it if I could. I grabbed the door, and pushed it open just a crack.

The creature had bugged out and gotten stuck on one of the drawers I threw to the ground. 

I crept out of the closet, pulled the drawer out from under it's feet, and it ran to the door without giving me a second look. Mood ruined. I hit save and quit.

And that's the story of quite possibly the funniest moment anyone has had while playing Amnesia.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Movie Review - The Dark Knight Rises

*This review is spoiler-free. The only things I will mention specifically are things seen in the trailer.*

People who have followed this blog will know that I think Christopher Nolan's Batman films are absolutely wonderful, and that The Dark Knight holds as one of my favorite films ever made. Both films had absolutely perfect casting, great direction, and great screenplays backing them, and the way the second film never gave you a moment to rest, and managed to have a running time of nearly three hours which never seemed padded even for a moment was one of the biggest achievements in comic book filmmaking.

So naturally I was very excited for The Dark Knight Rises, the epic conclusion to Nolan's trilogy. Does it stand up to the other two films, or does The Dark Knight Rises fall (HAH! COMEDY!) under the weight of it's predecessors?

The Dark Knight Rises is a very, very good movie. If you take nothing else away from this review, then at the very least take that away. The action is great, the cinematography is great, it continues the trend of perfect casting, it tries to tell an original Batman story, while at the same time taking loads of inspiration, and even plot points, from some of the best Batman comics ever written. For the most part, this movie succeeds in the same way Batman Begins and The Dark Knight did, in that it takes the characters, and places them in a grim and gritty, realistic setting.

The cast of this is absolutely phenomenal, just like the other two. Anne Hathaway is, without a doubt, the best Catwoman ever seen on screen, and I don't think she could have possibly done a better job to portray the character. Is she as memorable as the Joker from the last film? No, but that's nearly impossible. Her performance is every bit as good as Liam Neeson's R'as Al Ghul, Cillian Murphy's Scarecrow, or Aaron Eckhart's Two-Face, all of which are great, great roles. 

Tom Hardy's Bane is more difficult to judge, partly because the character takes more liberties from the comics than any other character in the franchise to date, and partly because Hardy is confined to be wearing a muzzle throughout the entire film, but at the end of the day, he did a great job in the role, and the character always feels like a presence. Even when he isn't doing anything, you just feel like Hardy is standing there, with unbelievable strength being constrained. Bane also comes across as intelligent, an important aspect to making the character a legitimate threat to Batman, and not just another brute, though the complete removal of venom from his backstory seemed to betray the character a bit. At the end of the day, some may view this as one of the best parts of the movie, and others may view it as an in-name-only version of a villain who's only notable for breaking Batman's back that one time, it depends on your view of the character, I suspect, but personally I liked this version. (I should mention that I had a ton of trouble understanding what the character was saying in my theater, but I've spoken with people from other showings and it sounds like that might have been an audio problem on my end.)

The problems The Dark Knight Rises face, however, and what holds this back from reaching the levels of greatness the second film had, are an unfortunate pacing in the first half, and several gaping and obvious plot holes. Now, I won't list them specifically here, but there were four or five things throughout the movie that just irked me, and either felt like they betrayed a character, or outright made no sense. One of the great things about The Dark Knight is that, as I said above, while it was nearly a three hour film, it never felt padded, and every scene felt essential to the experience as a whole. This movie doesn't have that, even though it's longer than The Dark Knight was. The first half just feels like it takes it's time to get going, and spends a lot of time setting up the events of the second half through a convoluted plot which, while it makes for a great action scene, leads to one of the movie's biggest plot holes by the end, which a screenwriter could have solved very easily, and either cut out a half hour of the film, or given different motivation to the action scene that time filled, or even given Catwoman more screen time and development, something that would not have gone unrewarded, as her scenes are some of the best in the film.

That said, around halfway into this movie, when things start going nuts, things start going nuts, and when Batman fans like myself realize exactly what story arc the second half of the film is borrowing from, their probably going to get very excited. The entire second half of this movie is incredible, and a great ride, provided you can ignore some of the plot holes and sloppy character derailment which it took to get that far. Bane manages to be genuinely chilling at moments, especially in the second half, and if you're willing to look past a few irks, this is easily one of the best movies of the year, giving The Avengers a run for it's money. 

As it is, while The Dark Knight Rises doesn't manage to match Nolan's previous film, an unrealistically high bar, it still manages to thrill and entertain, and I can't imagine a much more perfect ending to the series. You should absolutely see this movie, make no mistake.