__Welcome back. 🙂 I haven’t seen that many movies lately, so this post will focus more on the games I’ve been playing. I spent nearly all my free time throughout the month of May playing all three instalments in the Mass Effect trilogy in a row. Then the final episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier came out, so now’s the perfect time to sum up my thoughts on all the episodes of the third season as a whole.
__But before all that, we start, as always, at the cinema. 🙂 Here are the three movies I’ve gone to see since I last checked in…
Ghost in the Shell (2017)
__In the near future, Major is the first of her kind: a human saved from a terrible crash, who is cyber-enhanced to be a perfect soldier devoted to stopping the world’s most dangerous criminals.
__Let me preface this by saying I haven’t read the Ghost in the Shell manga – I’ve only seen the classic 1995 movie – so I came at this movie from a different perspective than a hardcore fan might: I was simply comparing one movie to another. As a remake, it gave me a somewhat different story, yes, but it came across to me as an extremely derivative one. A cyborg getting flashes of memory from their past life and trying to figure out their identity? Now, where have I heard that before? Yeah, you get my drift: the plot is literally just RoboCop! Any similarities to Ghost in the Shell are purely superficial references, like the invisible street fight, the underwater scene and the climactic tank battle. (Speaking of which, that scene seems surprisingly so much smaller and less grandiose than the animated version.)
__Even the villain is a letdown: gone is the fascinating Puppet Master, to be replaced by just another victim of the corrupt system.
__I liked the original film, but it didn’t wow me like it did so many other people. But even so, I found this movie to be an insult to its predecessor. It’s dull, uninspired, and apparently owes more to RoboCop than it does to Ghost in the Shell.
__My rating: 40%.
Alien: Covenant (2017)
__The crew of a colony ship, bound for a remote planet, discover an uncharted paradise with a threat beyond their imagination, and must attempt a harrowing escape.
__Prometheus was a movie that I liked at first, but now, looking back, I still think it’s visually stunning but I can’t get past what complete morons the characters are. This sequel, while not devoid of stupid decisions on the characters’ part, doesn’t take their brainlessness to nearly the same extreme. But this one has its own problem: the characters have little to no personality at all. As a result, you don’t care about any of them – they really are just there to be alien fodder – which drains the film of any real excitement.
__Once again, the androids are the most interesting characters. I’d say you don’t necessarily need to watch Prometheus to get into this one, because the opening scene tells you all you need to know about David and explains his actions later on.
__But I think the worst scene by far is the nighttime fight scene in the field. I really thought Ridley Scott was above the shaky cam and sloppy editing bullshit that we see so often today!
__And the ending… if you don’t see it coming from a mile away, then you’re clearly not even trying!
__On the whole, though, I’d still say I liked it just a tad better than Prometheus. Both films are equally middle-of-the-road, but I’ll take bland over insultingly stupid any day.
__My rating: 55%.
Wonder Woman (2017)
__When pilot Steve Trevor crashes and tells of conflict in the outside world, Diana, princess of the Amazons, leaves home to fight a war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.
__After three solid disappointments in Man of Steel, Batman v Superman and Suicide Squad, I was willing to give Warner Bros. one more chance with this movie, but this was officially their last one. And… sadly, it didn’t quite rise to the challenge, but it made a valiant effort.
__The first half sucked, thanks to disjointed editing (mainly during the opening exposition) and some truly painful awkward dialogue. I also got really sick of the constant use of slow motion, and the film makes Diana look naïve for believing bedtime stories.
__However, the movie finally perks up when Diana marches across a no man’s land. That scene was simply glorious, because it’s the first time in these movies that we’ve seen the characters acting like heroes! 🙂 It’s terrific! …But then the movie falters again in the third act, after an extremely predictable twist.
__To sum it up, I have very mixed feelings on this movie, which is more than I can say for any of the three DCEU movies before it. But, as I predicted, it just doesn’t hold a candle to the 2009 animated Wonder Woman, and it still killed any interest I had in seeing the upcoming DCEU entries: Justice League or any of the rest. That’s it, I am done.
__My rating: 55%.
__And now let’s talk games. 🙂 But first, let me make a general remark on the Mass Effect trilogy. Since Mass Effect is predominantly an RPG, I began to think of them less as games and more as adventures. So that’s the angle from which I’ve decided to approach these reviews: I’ll be talking mainly about my own experience with the games, including the way in which I played Commander Shepard, the kind of character I was going for.
Mass Effect (PC)
__In 2183, Shepard, an elite human soldier, takes command of the starship Normandy and pursues a rogue Spectre agent named Saren. It transpires that Saren’s goal is to bring back the Reapers, a highly advanced machine race believed to eradicate all organic life every fifty thousand years.
__I have to admit, it took me a while to get into this game, because it has to set up an entire universe, so it throws a lot of information at you in rapid succession. I could probably spend this entire review just describing the world of Mass Effect in detail! 🙂 But, to its credit, it never distracts you from the central goal: you’re always aware that you’re trying to stop Saren. That focus is what keeps you interested in exploring all these different worlds, and the final climax is just incredible.
__Now, in terms of the main character… I mostly played Shepard as myself, but with a bit of a reserved and cynical edge, because his back-story involved the trauma of losing his entire squad in battle. I imagined Shepard as someone who knew the cost of war and knew when to be direct and get down to business, but he was far from heartless: he tried to help everyone whenever he could, and very rarely did he lose patience.
__Overall, I didn’t love this game, but it still held my interest and gained momentum as it progressed, and I was most definitely interested in playing the sequels.
__My rating: 80%.
Mass Effect 2 (PC)
__After being revived from death and having to join Cerberus (a pro-human organisation) without a choice, Commander Shepard must assemble a team, battle a new threat and make tough choices in order to save the galaxy once more.
__Mass Effect 2, in my opinion, is a marked improvement on the first game, and the main reason for that is because the entire premise is focused on character development. The goal is to put a team together, so as you get to know the companions joining you on your adventure, you’re guaranteed to grow attached to at least some of them. That’s how it was with me, anyway. 🙂 Except for Jack, I liked every single member of my squad, new and familiar faces alike, so by the time it got to the climax, I legitimately didn’t want any of them to die.
__By this point, I’d developed Shepard into a fully-fledged hero who tried his utmost to preserve life and make alliances if at all possible.
__Not to mention, this is where I had Shepard find love. Male Shepard and Tali will always be my OTP, because once their romance gets going, every single scene they share together is nothing short of adorable.
__To sum it up, this game engaged my emotions in a way that very few other pieces of entertainment have. This is my personal favourite of the Mass Effect trilogy, and potentially one of my new favourite games of all time.
__My rating: 90%.
Mass Effect 3 (PC)
__The Reapers, built up since game one, have attacked the galaxy in full force, and Commander Shepard must work to unite all the surviving races against the enemy.
__I love how the three Mass Effect games can be clearly distinguished from each other. This one is basically a war simulator, with a focus on managing your assets and making alliances to unite a fleet against the Reapers. Each time you open the galaxy map, you can see the Reapers present in more systems.
__By now, my Shepard had fully become the hero the galaxy needed: a peacemaker who possessed the intellect to unite bitter rivals, but still had no sympathy for the Reapers. That doesn’t mean he didn’t feel the pressure, though, of so many people counting on him.
__I have to admit, the main thing I wanted out of this game was for Shepard and Tali’s relationship to work out. I desperately wanted to see them end up happy together – and to hear Shepard tell Tali he loved her, just once.
__But now let’s address the elephant in the room: the ending. I must fully echo the assessment you’ve most likely heard abundantly: I hate the ending with a fiery passion! I already wrote a two-thousand-word essay on my blog explaining why (see here).
__But aside from the ending, I was still very impressed with this game overall. It’s every bit as fun, captivating and emotional as the other two. I just wish it had all ended differently.
__My rating: 85%.
__And, before we move on to The Walking Dead, there’s an update that I feel is definitely worth mentioning.
__I’m still all kinds of pissed at the ending to Mass Effect 3, but now I know about the MEHEM mod, which edits together a custom happy ending that resolves everything the fans complained about, and it’s even tailor-fitted to your particular love interest. I saw a YouTube video of it with Tali as the love interest, and I feel so much better now. 🙂 That mod is an answered prayer! Like I said in the rant post I just linked to, what I hated so much about the original ending was not even being given the option to fight for the ending I wanted to see – and wanted desperately, at that. Well, now I finally have that alternative! 🙂 It actually exists outside of my imagination! Seeing it edited together in front of me makes it feel validated somehow. Plus it’s closer to what I’d call a bittersweet ending, as they’re still remembering those they lost along the way, whereas I find the original ending to be just plain bitter.
__So, now I can rest easy knowing that I’ve seen an alternate universe where the ending I wanted to see did happen. 🙂 And knowing also that there exists an option, even if it is unofficial and user-created, to please both those who liked the ending and those who didn’t. Now everybody’s happy! 😀
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (PC)
__A teenage Clementine and a new survivor named Javier are brought together when a new threat worse than the dead arises.
__Telltale’s original Walking Dead game is still one of their finest achievements, a true masterpiece of emotional and choice-based storytelling. I wasn’t a big fan of The Walking Dead: Season Two, though, because of how perpetually downbeat and depressing its tone was. This third season has a very different tone to the first two: it’s heavy on action and excitement. I have heard complaints that it relies more on action than emotion, but I’ll gladly take that over wallowing in melancholy like Season Two did. Besides, it still doesn’t hold back on the emotional gut-punches, especially at the end of episode one.
__Telltale’s graphics are definitely getting better; there’s a noticeable improvement in the character models here.
__Now, I’m going to give a minor spoiler alert here, because I just have to comment on the ending (or at least the one I got). To my surprise – and relief – it ends on a hopeful and relatively upbeat note. Some people might see that as a cop-out, but given the nature of this franchise, and especially after having just played Mass Effect 3, I for one needed a happy ending!
__In conclusion, I’m happy to say, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is back in my good books. 🙂 A New Frontier is definitely not as good as Season One (nothing can top that), but much more to my taste than Season Two.
__My rating: 85%.