Saturday, 30 March 2013

"By now, it's more like "Doctor Why-Bother""

I'm going to throw this out there: The new episode of "Doctor Who", entitled "The Bells of Saint John" felt like watching "The Phantom Menace". Everything seemed wrong with it; the dialogue seemed all over the place, there were plot-holes and important elements that were overlooked, and some of the time, the Doctor seemed to be doing some things somewhat out of character...
First of all: the new intro sequence. Yes, they've changed it yet again. This one is done with so many bright colours whirling past you, that you wonder if you've accidentally tuned into the last ten minutes of "2001: A Space Odyssey", or perhaps one of those "bullet-hell" videogames The game "Super Hexagon", as it makes you go cross-eyed and you lose the ability to distinguish anything. The logo has changed once again too. The "Doctor Who" logo barely changed at all between the first and the eighth Doctors, but since the reboot in 2005, it's already been changed three times!
That aside, after the intro, we are introduced to the new companion, Clara Oswin Oswald. You may be thinking "but didn't we meet her twice before?". No, we met some of her other incarnations before, remember, when Steven Moffat is the head writer on "Doctor Who", all the companions become the centre of the universe and have the storylines focus mainly on them, rendering The Doctor as somewhat of a background character... Anyway, Clara is having some trouble logging onto her household's Wi-Fi, and, it was mentioned in the episode's teaser, that there's a mysterious Wi-Fi network who's router name appears as a bunch of random symbols which no one in the world would be stupid enough to click on because it's so blatantly a scam... as it happens, several thousand people have already fallen for this and had their minds assimilated into the internet for reasons of plot.
Anyway, Clara phones the helpline given to her by "the woman in the shop" who sold her the netbook. As it happens, phoning said number phones the TARDIS.  Quite baffled, The Doctor proceeds to recite the best tech-support he can from what he learned from watching all 24 episodes of "The I.T. Crowd" on 4OD. The fact that "the woman in the shop" knows The Doctor's phone number is never addressed because of Moffat's insistence on overlooking important details like that, but one assumes that it's probably some more lame attempts at a series wide story arc involving River Song or some such bulls**t! This is where we learn that Clara is an expert at following instructions, as, after The Doctor tells her to "click the router name that looks familiar", she clicks the random bunch of symbols instead of the one with her household's family name on it.
The Doctor realises that she's done something that will have her inevitably in danger, and rushes over to the present day, and in doing so, chooses a new, dark brown jacket along with a dark brown bowtie to replace his old light brown jacket and red bowtie. This is one of the aspects of the episode that annoyed me the most, in my opinion, a costume change should happen when The Doctor regenerates, not randomly for no reason; it would be like if the fifth Doctor swapped his iconic beige outfit for a black one!
Naturally, Clara is frightened that a strange man is hammering on her door pleading to be let in, so refuses to do so. Two minutes later, she is attacked by a robot girl thing. Tired of knocking on the door, The Doctor opens it with his screwdriver and finds Clara unconscious  It turns out that the Wi-Fi network is trying to "give people a kind of immortality" by uploading them into a Cloud network, where the subjects can sit around wondering where they are and how they got there.
The Doctor cancels Clara's upload and puts her consciousness back into her body. Since she's still asleep, he carries her to bed, and wanders around her room, sniffing her stuff like a perverted stalker.
That evening, Clara wakes and sees The Doctor sitting outside messing around with her netbook. He explains some stuff about assembling and accidentally inventing a thing called a Quadrocycle. (Though if you think about it, "Quadrocycle" ought to be the name for a quad-bike, since bikes get their names from having two wheels, so "quad bike" sounds like a collection of four bicycles, and frankly, a four-wheeled-motorised-cycle really should be named "Quadrocycle").
We then cut away to the office of the people who own the Wi-Fi network, and we see them use the data they got earlier on Clara to increase her IQ (though how they can change her properties if The Doctor cancelled her upload is one of the episode's plot-holes). The Doctor notices that Clara went from being an oblivious know-nothing to a super-genius and figures out that the company must have tampered with her brain.

Then all the lights in the nearby houses switch on and all the lights in the rest of London switch off.

I think that was supposed to be one of Moffat's "scary moments", the like of which he hasn't successfully achieved since "Blink" in 2007, but this one just comes across as silly.
It turns out that the Wi-Fi company was responsible for messing around with the lights. They also make some pilots within range of their Psy-Fi fall asleep. So now The Doctor and Clara have a Boeing 747 on a collision course with the general area in which they're standing.
This is the bit where they show off the TARDIS to the new companion. "It's bigger on the inside" Clara states blandly. This was actually a little dull, given that 19th Century Clara from the Christmas special actually said "it's smaller on the outside", which, as The Doctor pointed out, had been a first, and it would have been in-keeping with the character to have 21st Century Clara do so too.
After this, there aren't really any more plot-holes or character inconsistencies that I can recall, besides one inconsistency for The Doctor's character, in which he says he doesn't bring the TARDIS into battle "because it's the most powerful machine in the universe and (he) doesn't want it falling into the wrong hands", I think it would be more in-keeping with The Doctor, if he'd said "it's the most powerful machine in the universe, and I feel that by bringing it into battle, (he'd) be cheating". Other than that, there is nothing really worth criticizing in terms of the episode's storyline, so I won't go into detail about too much of it, which means I can keep the second half of the episode spoiler-free for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.

This new episode continues the trend regarding how the series has had an ever declining quality ever since Steven Moffat took over as head-writer. You know, the declining quality that people blame on Matt Smith, even though it's clearly the writing that's the problem?
Besides the aforementioned plot-holes and character inconsistencies, there are some effects that are fairly transparent; one scene in which The Doctor and Clara are at a rooftop cafe has some of the most obvious green-screening I've ever seen, and there's one scene where Clara is supposed to be typing on her netbook, and, besides the fact that Jenna Louise-Coleman was clearly just spamming the "ENTER" key, the footage is clearly sped up to make it look like she's typing much faster than she really is, which is an effect that would be excusable, if they can only make sure not to speed it up so much that the effect is so noticeably fake.
The final problem I had with this episode was the writing was bland! A lot of the time, the characters are just explaining things without any apparent emotion or motivation; once again, this is NOT the fault of the actors, the actors are clearly trying their best to work with a script that's about as believable as Cyprian economy, but just can't manage to deliver such an awful script.
Recently, the UK newspaper, The Sun, rumoured that Matt Smith would be resigning from "Doctor Who" at the end of the year, this rumour has now been denied by Matt; however, what I would like to see happen, is Steven Moffat resign from being lead-writer on "Doctor Who" before he completely drives it into the ground, and should focus more on "Sherlock", for which he seems to be more suited.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A(nother Dumb) Theory as to Why VALVe haven't mentioned anything of a Half-Life 3

Yes, I know, the internet is awash with about fifty gazillion theories as to why Valve haven't mentioned anything regarding "Half-Life 2: Episode 3" or "Half-Life 3", but the other day, whilst playing back through Portal 2 for the fourteenth time, something occurred to me that hadn't before.

Valve have a very distinct style in their games. Okay, sure, they're all just first person shooters, what's distinct about that, right? I mean, whilst franchises like "Call of Duty" have forgotten what makes a game a game and have just started churning out sequels like there's no tommorow are clearly doing it all for the money, the titles released by Valve still keep up with the quality of being completely state-of-the-art, at least in terms of the Source Physics engine, as well as being designed so that the gameplay is fun, even to play multiple times over, (or, in the case of Team Fortress 2, keep playing at all), and, most notably, they keep the storylines deep and engrossing; the main reason most of us want to see a finale to the Half-Life series is to find out whether or not Earth will be liberated from the Combine, who the G-Man is, and what the flipping heck the Vortigaunts are supposed to be rambling on about when they mention nonsense like "The Vortessence" or whatever it is they're trying to say. I mean, there's little more iconic in the gaming industry than the Black Mesa logo, a lambda symbol, or even just a crowbar. The original Half-Life is said to have revoloutionised gaming by being "realistic", in as much as weapons, health and ammunition were found lying on tables or in cabinets, rather than as spinning icons in the middle of the room. These days, that sounds fairly basic, but at the time, it hadn't really been done before.  This, amongst other things the Half-Life franchise have brought to us gives the franchise a lot of reputation in the industry, and Valve know it. The problem is, in recent years, overcooked franchises like "Call of Duty" have been selling more and more, whilst games with proper storylines or ingenuitive gameplay have been cast into the shadows........ except Valve games.  But I think that Valve are afraid that if they release Half-Life 3, then everyone will stop paying attention to them, and so don't bother even mentioning it, in the hopes that everyone will stick around simply in the hope that a continuation to Half-Life will be mentioned, and that when it isn't, they'll buy Valve's other games so that they have something new to play in the meantime between then and the announcement of the next Half-Life game... which if this theory is correct, won't be announced.

So, to summarize for those of you who were daunted by the big paragraph above and scrolled straight to the bottom, Valve are leaving a popular series unfinished, simply to make sure their eager fans keep listening to them and keep buying their stuff in the fear that if they do finish that series, people won't care about them anymore.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Why are franchises important to film producers and audiences?

So recently, I found myself going through some exam questions in preparation for my upcoming exams.  One of the questions for the Film Studies exam was a question about franchises being important to the film industry and blah blah blah.  I decided this was as good a time as any to start complaining about everything even remotely connected to the idea of movie franchises, this was my answer:

Film franchises are important to audiences because they provide a sense of familiarity in characters and storyline.  Audiences will keep paying to see new instalments of franchises they enjoy about characters they like.  They will be eager to keep going back to find out what happens to those characters and how they develop, although, in the case of an adapted property, a lot of people will see the film because they are interested to see how the franchise has made the jump from it’s original format to the big screen.
This means that film franchises become very important for producers and production companies, who, more often than not are making the franchise for the sole purpose of PROFIT!
The majority of major film franchises consist of adapted properties, as producers can pick out the franchises that are already popular, they can almost guarantee themselves a massive income from the pre-existing fanbase.
But franchises can often cause people to start using the term “remake”, usually to varying degrees of inaccuracy.  If two films are made of the same property, it’s less a remake that someone else’s adaption, for instance, a lot of people consider the American “Let Me In” to be a remake of the Swedish “Let the Right One In”, whereas, in actual fact, both are an adaption of a novel; and in any case, the Swedish version was released in 2008, and the American version in 2010, which means the American one would probably have already been in early stages of pre-production when the Swedish version was released, and one can hardly remake something they haven’t seen yet.
Similarly, Tim Burton’s upcoming “Dark Shadows” is being accused of being a remake, even though the property it’s based on was a TV series! That would be like saying “The Simpsons Movie” was a remake, but it’s just not, it’s essentially a feature length episode of a series.  So “Dark Shadows” might not have any of the original cast, but that’s because the TV series was syndicated several decades ago, and now all of the original cast are either too old or too dead to play their characters.
Something can only logically be classified as a remake if it’s a new version of something that started out as an original screenplay, not if it’s just  a(nother)  adaption of a property.
My point being that franchises are as much of a danger to producers as they are a monetary opportunity, as they’re likely to be wrongly accused of making  remakes, which for some reason are often considered in a rather derogatory manner.
Producers tend to see franchises as important, because they’ll look at some other franchises like “Harry Potter” or “Star Wars” and decide that they also want to start a franchise that could earn billions.  And it’s  initially a very good idea, and in some cases, like “Harry Potter” it will work enough to make approximately 6.3 billion dollars, and in cases like these, audiences will appreciate that adaption that’s been done; but in other cases, like anything that has the name Tim Burton associated with it, audiences will just make accusations of it being a “remake” and that the producers are “too lazy to do anything original”, so it may seem more sensible to make a franchise out of original characters, but then of course, the producer is in danger of catching ‘George Lucas Syndrome’ and just re-releasing the same old films time and time again, but each time it will have “changed” slightly, like having a slightly different sound design, or be in 3D.
All in all, whilst franchises seem like a profitable idea, the producers seem to be in danger of ruining their careers, and the audiences aren’t that safe either, given that most of them  can’t seem to tell the difference between remakes and adapted properties, which, in a world where most films are either of those things,  it really is something that more if them ought to have a better ability to distinguish between.
So: how important are franchises to producers and audiences? I’d say very important, as the way things are at the moment, it seems that franchises will end up causing the ultimate demise of the entire film industry!