Thursday, September 29, 2016

REVIEW: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

After last week's disaster film I saw in Magnificent Seven, let's just say that I was pretty much willing to see anything. Well, this week, another film I was curious about came into theaters. The newest film by Tim Burton. And going into the theater I was nervous a bit. To me, Tim Burton is beginning to age on me. He hasn't really done anything recently to wow me. In fact, a lot of his latest films if you ask me are kinda...bad. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the endless roles he does work mad actor Johnny Depp. Maybe it's his focus on visuals more than actual storytelling. I really don't know. As a director, he's never impressed me. But seeing the trailer for this film got me a bit curious. I didn't know what to expect, but it looks like a fun Heroes-y, Harry Potter like story or something. Yeah. I wanted to take a look into it.

And the first thing I said after watching this movie was "......what?"

Honestly, what did I just watch? I might honestly go into another Tim Burton break after this because I'm once again unimpressed. I don't know how to describe this story. I really don't. And it's not that I wasn't paying attention, it's just that this movie seems to explain its own rules, before throwing them out the window completely. I didn't expect time travel to be a factor in this movie, but it is kinda, and it creates one of the most confusing movies I've ever seen, and has left me in a thorough state of....ehh. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. It was...adequate. It was an adequate mess.  Autumn movies this year's aren't starting out so hot, are they.

One thing Burton did nail as he usually does however, is the visuals. Credit where credit is due, there is some lovely, lovely visuals that will please the Burton fans. Wanna see it in 3D? I'm sure you'll get your money's worth. Some scenes are absolutely gorgeous, such as the underwater scenes. They're gorgeous. And though there's extensive use of CGI that can stand out, it's still done in a rather fun way. The visuals once more carry this film in ways that nothing else can. But I'm willing to bet that this trump card for Burton will wear off before too long.

The story focuses on a boy names Jake whose life is just one big joke to Peru much everyone in this film. No kidding. Literally everyone around him, except his grandfather, is a complete jerk. In ways that seem almost completely childish. Send Jake off the road so that he steps in a mud puddle and loses a shoe. Ha ha ha! We're assholes! It needs to be said that no one in this movie is developed enough for me to really connect with them. That's not to say that no one is interesting. Ask the children in this movie with these peculiar abilities are fun to watch in their own ways. And unlike other films that would have a lot of characters like this, each contribute a lot with their power. It's very fun to watch. More on this shortly. But as far as overall personality is concerned, I didn't exactly get a whole lot of development. The two main emotions that people seem to portray in this film, are worry/feelings for Jake, or straight up jerk personas, also aimed mainly at Jake. Would it kill someone to act...ordinary in this film? Not even Jake's parents seem to act loving of their son. His father is a complete jerk (I know I'm saying this a lot but it just happens so much in the movie), and his mother seems so very absent. Like what did she do in this movie? I guess I shouldn't question this too much since the parents in this film are dropped from the film like a dozen eggs.

The story is so convoluted and all over the place, that it's hard to follow. In fact, I genuinly don't understand why things were as they were. So much of this film is unexplained, that by the time the end rolls around, you're left with more questions than you want. Why does Samuel L. Jackson's character HAVE to eat eyeballs? How did he discover this? Why does it need to be eyeballs? Honestly I think Burton wanted an excuse to film someone eating eyeballs. It really makes no sense. On the subject of Samuel, you can tell he is having a lot of fun with his role. And though the film's climax is about as ransom and jumbled, and adds more unanswered questions to the unanswered questions pile, there is a charm in how very awkward, yet action packed it is. What I mean by awkward is that this huge fight involving monsters takes place in broad daylight in London, 2016. A battle involving cotton candy, snowballs, and powers the children have. It's absurdly kinda cartoonish now that I think about it. All set to this awkwardly played techno soundtrack. It's a mess I had a little fun watching. Even though the forced romantic ending is one I don't care for. Again, our characters weren't developed enough for me to care. In fact the ending is so clunky and rushed that it actually kinda annoyed me.

All in all this film is likely to please that peon of Burton fans who just go to the theater to see something weird. The film has Burton's name all over it. From the strange sets, to the eccentric characters. It's a big ball of weird that does have its moments, but not really enough to make me wanna recommend it to anyone else.

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children earns a two out of four stars for me. I almost gave it a two and a half, but the more I think about what I just sat through the more I just keep questioning it. As bad as the Magnificent Seven was, it did tell a coherent story. One I could follow. The only thing it did wrong was tell it as terrible as it did. This film has a story, but it doesn't seem to focus on it. It just jumps all over the map and hopes you can keep up as it dazzles you with peculiar characters and nice imagery. Unfortunetaly, that's not going to help float the boat for me. Tim Burton's a wonderful visionary, but his stories need work, and this probably shows that more than any of his other recent work.

Please feel free to request and movie you'd like me to take a look at. Leave a comment down below existing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 2/4

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

GAME REVIEW: Star Trek Online

Space...the final frontier. These are the words every Star Trek fan knows by heart. And if you don't, that means you're lying. It didn't take me long to gain a small liking to this franchise, and though it took a while, it has become one of my favorite science fiction franchises of all time. From the series, to the films, to books, to comics, to board games, to ship models, I can proudly say I have a little bit of everything. However, being the big gamer that I am, for the longest time, I'd never owned a Star Trek video game. And honestly, that was for good reason. That's because a lot of the Star Trek video games...well...kinda suck. Like the recent 2013 game simply entitled "Star Trek" Which was based on the reboot franchise. Much love to that series, but that game was pretty bad. That's not to say that all Star Trek games are bad, I remember the Voyager arcade game that dominated most movie theater lobbies in the 90's, and I've been recommended games like Bridge Commander or Armada. Both of which I want to try, but lack the PC to do so. And for the longest time, the game we're going to be talking about was unavailable to me, despite how much I wanted to try it. But finally, it was released as a free to play on Xbox and Playstation, so of course I jumped on it. I was ready to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, and to boldly go where no one has gone before.

...And about fifteen minutes into the game I could list about fifteen things that would make this game insanely better. That's not to say the game is terrible. Far from it.  But the overall gameplay at times can be underwhelming, linear, and far from Trek-like. And thus we do have yet to get that perfect Star Trek game, but it does need to be said that the blueprints for that perfect Star Trek game are here. It gets a lot right, but completely misses out on other things. The result can be a kind of frustrating mixed bag that still has its fun elements.

The first thing that immediately comes to mind that I love about this game is the setting. Unlike a good majority of fans, who prefer the Kirk era of Star Trek, I'm very much a guy who prefers later 24th Century Trek. I like Picard, Sisko, and Janeway. And I much prefer that era. Seeing this game go beyond the 24th Century, into the first decade of the 25th Century is a much welcome move for me. I was ready to see how the Romulan Empire dealt with the tragic destruction of Romulus, I was ready to see how the Federation and the rest of the galaxy was recovering from the devastating Dominion War, I was ready to see what kind of new threats perhaps awaited us in the stars. Unfortunetaly, very little of this comes to be. In fact, you quickly realize the marketing ploy behind this when you get a rather disappointing explanation as to what exactly is going on. The diplomatic relations between the Federation and Klingon Empire has fallen apart, and they're at war. I'd have been open to this, but the way they present it feels so very forced. All I can seem to gather is that some Klingon Ambassador felt that the Empire wasn't itself unless it was at war. I'm not joking, this seems to be the only motive.  I highly doubt that the long-time relations between the Federation and Klingon Empire, which has had close calls before but has also been through thick and thin would go to war for such a simple reason. And if that wasn't enough, you also get to fight Romulans who want revenge for the loss of their homeworld, the Borg who are returning because...reasons, and the Dominion, which is building up its forces yet again. Do you see what I mean by marketing ploy? Instead of giving us anything new really, we're back to fighting pretty much each and every famous antagonist the Federation ever faced. There's no explanation of how the Dominion built up its forces, despite being completely dominated in the last stages of the war, there's no explanation of why the Borg are suddenly a threat again, despite being crippled in feels more like a gimmick.

You start this game off creating your ship captain using a rather disappointing character creator. While you're given plenty of options, the graphics of this game are nothing to marvel at and it's very hard to give your character a perfect look (for a 2010 game, it could look better). Features can stick out in all the wrong ways. For example, the beard my character sports really doesn't look like its a part of him at all. What disappointments there are in creating your character however are near completely forgotten when you get to customize your ship. Acquiring, customizing, and flying your ship is where this game really shines. While it needs to be said that certain classes of ships are rather hard to come by (more on this later), each ship you get can be customized in so many ways, and the graphics of the ships look absolutely gorgeous. And despite many classes of ships you can use being rather...outdated if you ask me (I have a feeling that in the 25th Century, the NX ships, Miranda Class, Constitution Class, and Excelsior class despite my love of this class would no longer be produced), you're given a decent amount of options to create the ship you want, in look, and performance. You'll start out with a Miranda class (if you go with the Federation), then as you level your character up, you'll unlock other ships, from smaller yet powerful escort ships, to the iconic cruisers, to science vessels. There is plenty of variety to choose from. You can rename your ships, select their bridge crew from personnel who give your ship different abilities, and this has become the main driving force of the game for me. I want to unlock more ships. And pilot them. And I find it very fun to come across other players, and to examine their ships. I love seeing what other Trekkies like myself have named their ships. But of course, you do have the other players, who obviously know nothing about Star Trek, or just don't care about the immersion factor. That's nothing against the game, it's just something I find silly to be warping through the depths of space, only to come across a ship known as the "USS Destroyer 420" or the "USS enterprice". Or to come upon a ship that's a member of "Fleet 69". Classy.  Straight from the numerous lore archives of Memory Alpha itself.

Unfortunately certain ships you might wanna acquire are completely locked off. One ship I've yet to be able to acquire because I'm not a high enough level yet, is the Vesta Class starship, and even if I was at a high enough level, I doubt I'd be able to get it because to my understanding, the only way to acquire it is to buy Zen points with your own money. It needs to be said that microtransactions make their appearance in this game. They unlock certain ships, cosmetics of certain ships, bridge officers, clothing, you name it, they're in a lot of places, and what's really kinda angering is that most of the more powerful ships are locked behind these transactions. You can unlock the games signature Odyssey Class ship, but an even more powerful version of it is available for money. And these ships can run you up to twenty-five dollars or more! For one single ship! This is a bit of a slap in the face to me, but for a free to play MMORPG, my guess is they gotta pay their bills somehow. And I am thankful that they don't shove these microtranaactions in your face as other games do. So I kinda see this as a necessary evil in a way. Even if a bit dickish.

The story of this game is at times, incredibly linear. One thing I found incredibly hopeful at first only to be disappointed, was that you start off as an ensign, straight from the academy.  This I like! I thought it would be cool to work your way up through the ranks to eventually gain command of the ship, but alas, this wasn't meant to be as the first mission has it. Your commanding officer is killed right off the bat and you pretty much gain your ship right then and there. I think it would have been pretty cool to work your way up, rather than just gain commanding status right away. Right off the bat, I found myself not really enjoying the ground missions. The planets you beam down to really aren't that open, the enemies you face aren't overly challenging, and the environments can be rather bland and dull. A lot of these mission maps serve as nothing more than for you to go from point A to point B.  And you're not given a whole lot of options in solving a mission. There is no take suggestions from your fellow bridge members option, or attempt a solution yourself, it is one bridge officer or you have the solution at the ready, go execute said solution, and kill whoever stands in your way.  Again.  Very much like the lore of the franchise. This is where the game could have shone as a testament to what a true Star Trek game could have been like.  While I understand that Starfleet holds to high moral codes, why is the dialogue system of this game so very...scripted? You're not given a whole lot of options.  And even when the dialogue system does have multiple options, you'll always have a green highlighted option which will progress your mission forward.  There is no right or wrong answer.  You cannot develop a personality with your captain, it's been written for you.  In other words, if I wanted to break immersion, and be just a complete jerk of a captain, I can't do that.  I cannot in any way affect the diplomacy of this game, and Star Trek is practically centered on diplomacy. And while certain solutions can come up that are unique to your character's class (Tactical, Engineering, or Science), these so very rarely come up, that I can't help but wonder why they bothered including them in the first place. More work here could have been done to make this a more variable game, perhaps with an added element of cause and effect.  Perhaps a wrong decision has a very negative impact on your mission? Or even relations with other factions? See where I'm going with this? Diplomacy in this manner might actually make for a very strong Star Trek game, rather than the shoot 'em up game we ended up with.

Gameplay on the ground is also rather stiff.  I almost never aim down the sights because the aim is so very werky-jerky, and constantly locks onto members of my own team, and I have no easy way of switching to enemy targets. At times, it even switches when I don't want it to or tell it to. The weapons that you can have are pretty fun and varied. And capable of doing different effects. You don't really have to worry too much about aiming as a lot of these kinda just hit your target, but this isn't so much a complaint from me, because headshots and whatnot really don't matter too much in this game, and I actually like this aspect as it keeps very much to the Star Trek spirit.  It's cool to know that your high intensity weapon can be just as deadly on the body as a head shot in your average Call of Duty game. While ground combat and gameplay can be disappointing, it is all forgotten when you're piloting your ship and engaging in ship to ship combat, because this is again, one of the coolest aspects of the game. Like ground combat, you don't have to worry too much about aiming, but this is again, very much in the Trek spirit.  And you can still work to avoid the attacks of your enemies, and are very much focused on ways to deplete the shields of your enemies, whilst unleashing your full payload of photon torpedoes on your enemies. This is yet another aspect of the game that keeps me playing.  I'm not confident enough to try and challenge other ships, but it needs to be said that when you're engaged in battles in which the ships are neck and neck and tearing each other up, it can be satisfying to walk away victorious.

Some Trekkies will appreciate the amount of nostalgia that is in this game.  Many levels of this game come straight from elements or actual plots of other episodes. For me personally, this can get a bit confusing, or at times a little...too safe.  I don't like spoiling things, but the very last level of the Klingon War story arc, you get to fight a planet killer. If you don't know what a planet killer is, it's an enemy from one of my favorite episodes of the Original Series, "The Doomsday Machine". I wouldn't mind this too much as fighting this mechanical horror is fun in a nostalgic way, but the take a lot of elements straight from the episode it's based off of. An ally you have in this straight up rams a shuttlecraft down the killer's maw and reveals to the player that the open maw is its weakness. Another example includes an altered timeline because the Enterprise-C was taken from its original timeline. You the episode "Yesterday's Enterprise" of The Next Generation, which features the same ship and plot. While each of these missions have their own take to the story, it cane be a bit of a head scratcher to me.  Why just base missions off famous episodes of the franchise, instead of create something new? Because a lot of the original missions they have seem so very basic and not too rewarding. While I enjoy playing through these missions, and uncovering lore and background of this universe, a lot of it can be rather bland. But it does need to be said that there are a lot of very fun missions that aren't just based off episodes of the franchise.  One of my favorite episodes revolved around my ship going back in time to stop a Klingon ship from destroying the original NCC-1701 Constitution Class USS Enterprise. This episode does kinda...well...feature the Guardian of Forever from the Original Series, but it does it in a very fun way.  Hearing Leonard Nimoy's voice (he did do some voiceover work for this) as Spock, thanking my ship for the assistance made me smile. And later on when I'm confronting the Klingon who tried to destroy the Enterprise, they come back and assist me!  This is a geek's dream come true.

However, there are times I feel this game isn't quite as polished as it should be. I've run into numerous bugs that while not entirely game-breaking, have been very annoying and frustrating.  I had the hardest time passing one particular mission because during one segment in which I had to destroy a comet, I had numerous Klingon Ships warp in to attack me. And though I could engage them, after I'd destroy one, my weapons would just straight up refuse to fire. This wasn't anything like a weapons deactivation ability, my weapons didn't even have the option to fire. I'd get destroyed, respawn, I'd be able to fire, I'd destroy one Klingon ship, and then the bug would come right back.  This was beyond frustrating. Eventually I had it so that I destroyed the comet before engaging any other Klingon ships and this worked.  I haven't experienced a bug like that since, but you'll notice them in the game more often than not.  I've also been frustrated when a certain action box or dialogue box will come up, and then shortly afterward, ANOTHER one will come up in front of it or behind it. And there's no way to exit out of some of these boxes. Sometimes you actually have to control your dialogue options of the box that's behind the other box.  There's gotta be an easy fix for this...come on Arc. I also find it kinda silly that there is no ship collision damage. While we know better than to run directly into an asteroid while flying a ship, if you were to do it, there's no consequence.  You'll just kinda harmlessly bounce off it in an awkward way, or even at times, ghost right through it. Maybe Starfleet perfected the Phase-cloaking? The same goes for other ships and planets. You cannot die by crashing your ship into anything which is in a way kinda understandable, but I feel some sort of consequence should have been added here. Another thing I need to mention is that the overall gameplay of your ships and whatnot isn't exactly explained the best.  It took me at least ten to fifteen missions to realize that Bridge officers provided the numerous abilities for your ships, and even then I didn't know how to equip the ship with bridge officers.  And I can't say I'm an expert there because I'm still learning how to recruit additional bridge officers and whatnot.  I'm a Commander, level 29, and only have one additional bridge officer from recruitment. I'm unsure if this is the way it's meant to be or if I'm just missing something.  

All in all, the blueprints for a good Star Trek game are here, and in some ways, the elements in this game are very well done.  But as fun and satisfying as it can be, some things do just hold it back.  I won't penalize it too much as it is free-to-play, and for the amount of game we're given, it can be quite impressive despite a few frustrations in learning, but once you pick it up, it can be a real treat, especially if you're into Star Trek as I am. Yeah the story doesn't really feel very much like a Trek type of story, but for what we have right now, there are a lot of things I have found fascinating in the game's lore, and overall story.  It does hold to the spirit of discovery, even if you're not exactly out exploring the unknown, more than you are just fighting your enemies.  The music, is nothing too special, but the opening theme I gotta say is pretty cool. And it does need to be said that there are times you will go off the path of your normal missions just to go and explore, and you will find things to do, that will keep you entertained, or come across just little things like a memorial where Romulus once was that make exploring a bit encouraged.  It's not the perfect Star Trek game, but it's a really good first step to getting that perfect game we will one day have...hopefully.

I'm giving Star Trek Online a solid seven out of ten.  If you're on the console Xbox One or Playstation 4, and have been wanting to try this game, we've final been given the opportunity, For a free to play game, I'm happy for the most part with what we got.  Feel free to voice your opinions down below, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 7/10

Thursday, September 22, 2016

REVIEW: The Magnificent Seven

The Magnificent Seven is the definition of a remake that nobody asked for. one. Did anyone my age even know about this movie? For Those who don't know, The Magnificent Seven is a remake of the classic 1960 western of the same name. And that is a remake adaptation of the epic classic 1954 Japanese masterpiece "Seven Samurai". So really...this is a remake of a remake! And people think endless sequels are a sign that Hollywood is out of ideas. Okay enough jokes, Magnificent Seven is the remake about seven gunslingers who protect a village from a large gang of bandits. It was a classic western back in the day, and it's back. How does it hold up?

Not very well. Right off the bat, this film not only does little justice to the original classic (if any at all), but just makes you rub your head in frustration as every cliché in the book is thrown at you amidst nonstop gunfire, explosions, and cheesy unamusing one liners.  If you're going into this theater, hoping for a good retelling of the classic, then you're going to be sorely disappointed. Look, I'm not gonna pretend that the original 1960 film is perfect, because it's not. Seven Samurai is the superior fillm, but it was still very well done, and did justice to the film it was adapting.  This?  This is pitiful. The story is replaced by over-the-top action that is all show, no impress. Chunks of this incredible story, have been taken out of this story, where they now rest in oblivion. 

Okay, before I unleash myself on this film, let me say what I liked. The first thing that immediately comes to mind is the diversity of the characters. This I like. In the original, the main characters were all your typical cowboy gunsliging heros, who defend a village against a bunch of bandits. And they're all white. Here, the cast is more diverse. The lead is black, one's a Mexican outlaw, one's a Chinese immigrant, they even put in a Native American. This would all be really cool, if they were developed properly. But unfortunately, they don't take advantage of this diverse lineup. They don't get risky with it.  You'd think that racial issues would come into play here, but they don't. Not one n-word, not one issue regarding discrimination. Nothing. I can think of one stupid racial stereotype joke that Chris Pratt does with the Mexican. And the Native American kinda trashtalks "white-man's food".  Beans. How barbaric.  The original lineup isn't as diverse, but they're much better developed, and you actually connect with them. This movie attempts to try to have us feel for these guys, as they laugh with one another and give us an idea of "bonding" but each character is so unbelievably one-dimensional that by the time the end rolls around and characters start dying (spoiler alert), you just don't care. 

Another thing I kinda liked was the setting. There are some very cool landscape shots in this film, but it needs to be said that the settings of the towns seem rather underdeveloped in more ways than one. I feel like the city's size changed more than once.  And it does need to be said that the ending shot is completely CGI, and it stands out...SO BAD. I don't often complain about bad CGI, but with something like this shot, you'd expect them to nail it.  It wasn't anything complex, it was just four graves. And it looked so unbelievably fake.

This being an adaptation, I was ready to see some changes, but I feel a lot of the changes made, either hurt the film, or don't make sense. While the original antagonist wasn't exactly memorable, he was certainly intimidating, and you could see his motives.  The antagonist here is so unbelievably one-sided evil, that it's annoying. He does things because....he's evil. His motives? GOLD! (Facepalm) The original antagonist is written as the leader of gang who conducts annual raids on a village for their food and crops, which effectivly starves the village to the point of them searching for outside help.  This guy just rolls in, says he's driving everyone out because mining, murders a bunch of people and we're supposed to care. The movie falls on its face right there. I could call so many shots with this antagonist that it became a game for me. As a matter of fact, this whole movie became a game for me. There is so much predictability in its clichés, that it's hard not to see things coming honestly. Even out and out guesses on my part came true.  There are so many clichés that come into play here, it's almost laughable. You got the one hero who decides to leave, only to heroicly come back, you have a tough woman character who no one seems to give a chance, despite the fact that she can shoot better than ANY of the other guys in the village, you get bland dialogue, generic's just painful.

One thing that I absolutely hated about this movie however was the fact that the mortality of our characters seems so unbelievably absent. The action is over-the-top in all the wrong ways. I hate continuously bringing up the original film, but the Magnificent Seven did a good job of portraying the characters as humans with limits.  And yeah, none of them died until the end, but not one of them reached Clint Eastwood levels of quickdraw. Here?  Everyone is unloading their pistol in seconds, dead on accuracy, never missing. In fact, the ONLY reason any of them die is because the bad guys brought in a gatling gun. Hey that wasn't in the original film. Good job new film for bringing in your own touch...just to kill off the heroes because none of the other bandits are any good with their guns apparently. That or when they do hit their target with the guns, everyone soaks up bullets like BBs. Chris Pratt's character gets shot like five or six times.  And even THAT doesn't kill him. Heck, they rip off straight from Lord of the Rings as one of our characters gets the Borimir treatment. 

My final big issue with this film is the fact that the story seems much shorter in the wrong way. THe original film shows an ongoing struggle against a group of bandits that remain a threat.  Here, it's more like a one-off shoot-em up. The protagonist and antagonist exchange no words at all until the fighting is pretty much done, the battle drags on a long time, to the point where it's kinda boring actually, and when the hero and villain finally do meet and begin to talk, we get backstory that was never hinted at beforehand, and by the time it comes around, you just don't care.  You're just counting the seconds until the credits roll, and you can go home. We don't get the famous ending in which the heroes realize that they themselves didn't win, the villagers won. They just ride off into the sunset, no questions asked, the end. Roll credits, play the original Magnificent Seven theme, because it's the only song on this soundtrack worth a damn, and this movie didn't deserve to use this theme.  Much respect to James Horner, but this was no masterpiece score. This movie amounts to nothing more than a cheap excuse to bring an old classic back onto the big screen, only pack it full of action that you just can't get into.

The Magnificent Seven earns a one star rating out of four. It didn't infuriate me enough to score it any lower, but I continuously called the shot, continuously rubbed my face in annoyance, and continuously wanted to just turn my phone on and see if anything interesting was going on in the world. Because this movie certainly wasn't keeping my interest. And I'm sorry for that.  I was curious about this film.  I liked the cast for the most part, and I liked the idea of the characters being as diverse as they were, but they aren't focused on, aren't developed, and it doesn't hold up. It's an action packed mess that doesn't deserve the name it bears.  Do yourself a favor, and go find the original 1960 classic. Or do an even bigger favor, and find the 1954 Japanese masterpiece.  It's three hours of your life that still holds up.  If you find either of these films, I've won my battle, and you will have won too.  Just stay away from this.

Please feel free to request any film you'd like me to review.  Leave a comment down below expressing your own thoughts on the film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 1/4

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

THROWBACK REVIEW: The Sword in the Stone

Growing up I fell in love with the legend of King Arthur.  In my adult mind, I can't exactly recall a lot of the legends and life of King Arthur. I watched plenty of movies though, like Quest for Camelot (which I barely recall), and of course...Monty Python and the Holy Grail which I can quote line by line from memory. But then again who can't? Then there was also this film, which I never owned, but certainly watched as a child, and enjoyed it to an extent. It wasn't my favorite Disney movie out there, but I had enough fun. Writing this ten, fifteen years later, my stance really hasn't shifted...much. And I say that last part because watching it as an adult, I can't help but ask myself of what the point of this film was.  The title event doesn't happen until the very end of the film, the film focuses more on Merlin than it does Arthur most of the time, and in the end, the film feels most like a compilation of Disney shorts than it does a feature length story.

It makes me think that this movie likely would have been much better off as just a small series of Disney shorts. Maybe a fun little television series of a young Arthur getting educated by the powerful Merlin.  The characters are most certainly likable enough. Merlin is voiced by the late Karl Swenson, and there were plenty of times I was chuckling over his bumbling attitude towards certain inconvieniances all around him, from his beard to no electricity (he apparently can travel across the temporal planes and has been to the 20th Century). Arthur is voiced by...three different voice actors. No joke, look it up.  This can lead to some noticable flukes in the film structure and whatnot. It can also get a little noticable and slightly annoying to hear recycled voice clips, or animation sequences ranging from Arthur simply yelling "Whoa!" To Arthur tripping down the stairs carrying way too many dishes. I'm also unsure but I'm pretty sure that the Jungle Book would use some recycled animation from Arthur stuffing his face with cookies, but I'm not entirely sure. And while I'm on the subject of animation it unfortunetaly needs to be said that this is far from an animated pinnacle. There are areas in this movie where I could easily spot sketches that seemed unfinished or unpolished. 

As I said above, the film's title event doesn't really come into play until the very end of the movie.  Instead, the film decides to focus on the educational experience and adventures of Merlin and young Arthur, which most of the time revolve around Merlin changing Arthur into an animal, and them living the lift of that animal.  I guess it's no one's fault that a fish is easier to draw than a person.  Each adventure tackles some different "lesson", and I put that in quotes because I gotta say that Merlin isn't that great a teacher, rather more than he is just plain...dickish at times. Arthur gets chased by a large fish in the moat that wants nothing more than to snack on Arthur, and Merlin just says "Oh you're on your own, use your brain to outsmart the fish." Great advice that I'm sure most teachers repeat nowadays (but then again a lot of them kinda do). Arthur is changed into a squirrel, and gets the attention of a female squirrel in a scene where he's told that love is perhaps the greatest force in the world.  And I'm not gonna lie, that is one depressing as hell scene. I never thought a movie could make me want to hug a squirrel of all things. Arthur is changed into a bird and learns that the power of logic is one that can triumph over brawn, but it seemed more like a cheap excuse to have Merlin battle a witch. Yeah, it's no secret that the plot of this story really isn't that focused. It jumps all over the place and since we're supposed to get the feeling that Arthur is our main character, it can be strange to see him take the backseat for Merlin who tends to take up more of the actual story. Heck, the film opens with Merlin.

Each adventure is its own thing, offering a fun unique adventure with different characters, and dangers, though in the same way, each plays out like the other a little too similarly at times. During the fish adventure, a frog takes a liking to Arthur, and follows them around the water before a large fish decides to chase Arthur around.  During the squirrel adventure, a girl squirrel of course takes a liking to Arthur, follows them around, and even saves Arthur from a wolf character that we saw at the beginning of the film.  The only difference with this one is that Merlin also attracts a friend of his own.  Then we get the bird example, where Arthur becomes a bird, doesn't get any friends, but still runs from a hawk, and Madam Mim in a cat form.  So literally, each adventure is just a different chase scene with different takes and endings and whatnot. Then when the final event of the film, which is focused on the sword begins to come up, Merlin gets angry for very little reason, disappears off to Bermuda until the very end of the film, and we get a climax which is rather...anticlimatic. There's very little jousting shown of the joust the film mentions, after Athur pulls the sword and becomes King, we don't exactly get much of a hint for what's to come in Arthur's time as king, and this ultimately leaves more questions unanswered than it does answer questions.  Despite the likability of Merlin and his owl pet, the rest of the characters feel a little too one-dimensional, so when the climax happens, and people act like they do, it's hard to really care, because all you know is that Arthur's older stepbrother is a jerk, his stepfather kinda cares, but obviously favors his actual son, and honestly, that's about it. I can barely remember any other character in this movie by name. 

One thing I must give say about this film is that the music is surprisingly well done. That's not to say it's flawless, Madam Mim's song is completely forgettable there, but Merlin's songs can actually be surprisingly catchy in the right way, and the music that plays when Merlin uses his magic to help Arthur clean the dishes is really fun. But that's really the only thing that stood out to me.  They had a decent musical score and a few fun musical numbers. But that's not enough to really carry this film if you ask me.  I'm not saying that the movie is bad,'s not exactly the best effort Disney ever did.  There are a lot of shortcuts taken, and it kinda shows here.  I had fun watching it, but it's hardly one I'll recommend or rush to watch again in the near future.

The Sword in the Stone just barely earns a two and a half star rating and honestly, that might be a little generous. It coul easily be a two.  But despite the lack of focus on its plot, and bland cast, the film is still fun to watch on multiple levels. Each little adventure presented is presented in a charming way, and will give you a reason to laugh or smile.  It's Disney, so it really doesn't have something that would make me condemn this film on a whole. It just needed a better direction.  If you're in the mood for some quick nostalgia, you'll probably have a good time, but it needs to be said that it likely spent a lot of time in the Disney Vault for a reason.  Heck for all I know, it's probably sitting in that dark place now.

Please feel free to suggest any films you'd like me to look at in the future.  Leave a comment down below of how you feel about this film, and as always, thanks for reading.

Final Verdict: 2.5/4