And Now the News

Hello once again from your Chronic Chronicler. I hope you are all doing well and that you are enjoying my reviews. I thought I’d just put this up to give you all a bit of notice of things that are coming up for the blog and see whether or not you’d like a voice in how this blog progresses.

Firstly, my next review will be about the phenomenally successful How to Train Your Dragon 2. I know pretty much everyone else has reviewed it, and in all probability my review will just echo their sentiments, but I think it’s worthy of a review and I hope you will enjoy it. The review will be out by the 31st at the latest so I hope you all keep a lookout for it.

As for the future I’ve got some films, games and books I’ve been meaning to do for a while so as soon as I can I’ll get those reviews done for your reading pleasure.

But now to other matters. I’m going on holiday so reviews will be in short supply for the beginning to the middle of August. But don’t worry, I’ll be thinking of ideas and jotting down ideas here and there for future reviews so do not worry.

But on the topic of reviews I am hereby announcing I am going to set up a Guest Blogger page. Due to my technological retardation, I’m still not sure how to do this but I’m sure I will find out somehow. If any of my readers know how to do this please tell me as I am hopelessly uninformed.

The Guest Blogger page can be for whatever you want to write about, so long as it is not too offensive or too obscene, but I really don’t need to tell all you responsible people that.

If you want to send something to me, then all you have to do is go into your town centre, slit the throat of a goat, roll around in its still warm blood and and chant to the Dark Lord Cthulhu, Editor in chief of the Chronic Chronicler. But if that’s too difficult, or illegal to do depending where you live,  then you can always send your article by email to chronicchronicler1@gmail.com.

Thanks again for reading and I hope to see loads of contributors for my soon to be up Guest Blogger page. If you have any suggestions of what you would like the Chronic Chronicler to write then don’t hesitate to ask via the comments, Facebook, Twitter or email. Thanks again for reading!

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The Greatest Game Ever Played – In A Really Boring Sport

For any and all golf fanatics that read my reviews, I guess this review is for you. Why do I say this? Well, if you have not noticed, in Britain there was this thing called The Open Championship where lots of highly paid men got to thwack a ball around a course while people applaud for their ability to hit a tiny ball into a hole many yards away and a Northern Irishman won. I think you may be able to tell I’m not keen on the sport, or at least the watching of the sport in lieu of actually playing it.

517b589wJsLBut golf seems to capture the imagination of some so I might as well get down to the spirit of things, reach for the TV remote and turn over from the golf to a film… about golf. Well there’s no time like the present – to the obligatory overview!

Francis Ouimet (Matthew Knight) is a lowly caddy at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts becomes immensely interested in golf after watching an exhibition by British golfing legend Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). After years of working on the course (and becoming Shia LaBoeuf in the process) a Club member, Mr Hastings (Justin Ashforth) notices his talent and asks him to play with him, something which caddies are forbidden to do.

After impressing Mr Hastings, Ouimet is put forth to qualify for the U.S Amateur. However Ouimet’s father Arthur (Elias Koteas) is unimpressed and barters that he will pay the $50 dollar entrance fee on the condition that, should Ouimet lose, he must get a proper job. Ouimet accepts and fails by one stroke to qualify. He then follows his father’s instructions and gets a ‘real job’.

However Mr Hastings offers another chance to Ouimet, but this time to play in the U.S Open, with it being delayed a few months to allow Harry Vardon and Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus) to come and play. Although frowned upon by the golfing elite, Francis Ouimet joins the ranks of legends and takes them on at their own game.

a9405i0_Greatest-Game-250Now I know what you are thinking. I thought it too. A film with Shia LaBoeuf. That’s primed for criticism is it not? But in actuality I don’t think LaBoeuf does a bad job in this film. He’s serviceable, brings the character to life and doesn’t seem to out of place in the direction the film wants to take.

However that doesn’t take away from the fact that Ouimet could have been played by pretty much any other young actor and gotten as good a performance as LaBoeuf. It merely happens that LaBouef was “hot property” at the time so no wonder he was cast. There is nothing really negative to say about LaBouef in this film as, compared to his Transformers performances, he comes out quite well, but it does not detract from the fact that his role was not made his own.

greatestgame12One actor I would give recognition for making the part his own though would be Stephen Dillane. You may not know him by name, but many of you would certainly know him as Game of Thrones’ Stannis Baratheon. Dillane embodies the part brilliantly, letting you see him as not merely a golfing champion, but a man haunted (to an extent) by his past and angered by the classist nature of society. He is bold and memorable, with hints of charm washing through him, inavertedly almost making Vardon the film’s star.

But, saying that, I must give due credit to director Bill Paxton and writer Mark Frost for making the main characters not playing for national pride but rather for personal pride. Indeed, playing for national pride appears to be portrayed as a hindrance to characters and even to embody a certain form of villainy within several characters.

That point of nationalistic pride leads on nicely to one other point I found irritating about this film. It portrayed nearly all the British, Vardon and Ray aside, as chauvinistic golfer who needs to teach the ex-colonies a damn lesson about who is the superior nation really is. I was half expecting them all to be wearing top hats, have those villainously long moustaches that could twirl between their forefinger and thumb of their left, while holding a jewel-encrusted skull in their right hand and looking at a globe with America in their view whilst laughing maniacally. There is also a butler holding a tray of brandy also chuckling with the British “patriot”. Oh, and there is a tiger sleeping on a bearskin rug with its natural orange and black stripes replace by the Union Flag. I know sport is still quite nationalistic today as it probably was then and the British are not alone in their nationalistic fervour (see John McDermott) but it is so nationalistic it almost wants to make you want to burn any and all references to national pride that you own.

thegreatestgameeverplayed0cjWhat I do like is when they go about class issues and how the world, at the time of 1913, is still beset by class division. The film’s main point appears to be, despite the fervent nationalism thrown around which may or may not been as prevalent at the time than the film suggests, that it is not where you are born into that defines you, rather, it is who you are that makes you into the great person you may or may not become. Vardon and Ouimet hammer this point home quite thoroughly, perhaps even a little brutally, throughout the film. However the message is a poignant one which fills you with a sense that it is almost you “sticking it to the man”.

That’s all fine and dandy. It shows the lower class man show that he can play against the gentlemen and beat them at their own game. However when the film tries to divert itself from that it tends to weaken substantially, showing glimpses of LaBoeuf’s acting future. The main perpetrator of this is Peyton List as LaBouef’s love interest Sarah Wallis. I know this was her first film after being in American soap opera As the World Turns, but her role is completely shoehorned in.

greatest-game-ever-played_2The only thing Wallis does of any significance is give Ouimet’s caddy Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter), a character who, while may be accurate, is annoyingly chipper, a good luck charm to give to Ouimet when he inevitably is having a crisis of confidence. Aside from that, she does nothing much apart from stand around in pretty dresses flirting with Ouimet and being the girl of the film that isn’t Ouimet’s mother, who also has no purpose in the film except for looking worried and supporting Ouimet’s golfing dreams.

Finally, and I know this may be a bit of a niggle for me and a perfectly justifiable use of special effects, but this film spends too long on making golf look more dramatic than it really is. The visualisation of the hole, the following the ball shot, the clearing of all distraction so it looks like only the golfer and the hole exist, and so on. I grant you there are good once or twice, but they saturate this film so much that about halfway through the golfing part of this film, it really bores you. It is as if the director wanted every possible way to make golf interesting used and didn’t believe that too much might be a bad thing.

But despite my many criticisms of the film, it is still a somewhat enjoyable to watch. It moves at a steady pace, makes you invested in most, though not all, of the characters and makes golf appear to be a more interesting sport than it actually is for the film’s duration, so to that extent it can be considered a success. While not as engaging as my other, and only, sport film I reviewed (being Wimbledon), it still does enough to make golf seem an interesting prospect, before you realise what a bore it actual is.

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Ratchet & Clank – It’s Qwarktastic!

I apologise for being gone for a while, what with work, the World Cup and so on. You know all the usual excuses. But I’ve got a day off so I’m taking the time to write this review I’ve been meaning to do since January.

RatcehtandclankeuropeThanks to The Otaku Judge’s wonderful suggestion, a blog you really should check out if you love all that is anime, I shall be reviewing all my Ratchet & Clank games. This may take a while but I hope you stick with me because Ratchet & Clank are worth it! OK, not let’s get to that ever present obligatory overview of the very first Ratchet & Clank game.

On the sparsely populated planet of Veldin Ratchet, a Lombax (a bipedal cat-like creature) is putting the finishing touches on his spaceship he built himself, being an accomplished engineer. However he is missing one crucial part: a robotic ignition system. However, as it would just so happen, a spaceship crash lands on Veldin containing a small but eloquent robot named XJ-0461, whom Ratchet calls Clank for short.

Clank reveals he is on a mission to stop the villainous Chairman Drek from destroying other planets so he can create a new one and asks Ratchet to help- him find Captain Qwark, the galaxy’s most famous hero. By getting Ratchet’s ship to start, Ratchet and Clank start an adventure that will lead them across their galaxy, with many planets, villains, weapons and a great amount of humour along the way.

224375-ratchet_and_clank_1So I’m just going to get off the mark and say this right now. There are problems with this game. I know, I know heresy you may say but it’s true. One thing that irritated me about the game even when I first played it in 2002 is the slowness of the camera. It turns so slowly that it takes the onus out of the quick gameplay Ratchet & Clank aspires to.

One of the most visible points of this is when you get the weapon the Visibomb. It’s a fun weapon for destroying targets miles away by controlling the bomb without fear of being hit by your target but my god, if you miss the turning circle on the Visibomb is about as wide as the gulf between Germany and Brazil’s goal difference. Yes, I did just make a reference to that semi-final, and no I don’t care. It’s still valid.

But back to my point, the slowness of the camera is aggravating after years of playing games with more receptive controls so it may have been a small niggle then, but it has grown to a niggle out of all proportion.

Another thing that left me wishing for something better was the lock-on system the weapons have. When playing the game and, for instance, you choose to use your Blaster or Devastator, you can lock on to one enemy to help you shoot at it. This can be helpful, however it will sometimes decide you want to fight a small enemy instead of the large lumbering boss that is about to make you as flat as some of my jokes. It leaves you shouting at the controller going “NO!! I WANT TO SHOOT HIM NOT HIM!” and then resulting in you getting hit and possible death.

Something else that irritated me, I seem to have more than I thought to be honest, is that space fights were too easy. Even on hard mode if you discover the one tactic for dealing with oncoming projectiles, you can easily defeat any boss in space. Although not all space battles are the same, it sometimes feels that by having one tactic you can easily win, unless you hit an asteroid and start the whole thing again.

But in the end these are just minor gripes with a game that I was afraid I would hate in comparison to the new and shiny Future Trilogy and I just didn’t. The humour, the constant which the series has yet to fail in my book, sets great precedent in this game. While not in your face humour, the small jokes, visual gags and witty dialogue greatly complements the platformer style of the game.

Pretty decent for 2002 graphics

Pretty decent for 2002 graphics

The graphics while not as great as they used to be twelve years down the line do not seem to have been wholly been made ghastly. Rather they have a brilliant retro feel about them that almost makes the game feel a little bit timeless.

But the games real forte is its wealth of imagination. The use of bolts as currency, while not a new thing as alternate currencies have been around in gaming for a while, seems ingenious as most things you pay for with bolts are weapons. I like to think you need so many bolts because it helps you make those weapons.

Furthermore the amount, variety and downright craziness of some weapons are a wonder to behold. While there are your bog standard hand gun (the Blaster), rocket launcher (the Devastator) and so on, the Tesla Claw which shoots electricity, the Morph-O-Ray which turns enemies into chickens and, of course the R.Y.N.O (Rip You A New One) which shoots nine missiles per attack which seeks onto all enemies is just like putting a kid into a sweetshop… and then giving him a multi-missile launcher.

Also the plot is brilliantly woven together. There is no planet feels visited for no particular reason as there is always something that helps the plot move along. Both Ratchet and Clank get their gameplay with Ratchet taking on the bulk with Clank assisting, and then to get mini missions with Clank at the command of Gadgetron bots allows for both characters to gain recognition for their talents in their own right.

Evil_Chairman_Drek

He may be small, but damn he packs a great amount of villainy in his tiny size.

Now I must say that Ratchet and Clank have some of the greatest chemistry in gaming that has ever occurred. They are such believable friends as, while their friendship is only in its infancy, they make such a great team, relying on each other in great measures. I almost want to use a Yin-Yang metaphor, but I shall refrain from doing so. Their character arcs are deep, but leave enough room for development for further games, as all gaming characters should.

But no game like this would be complete without a villain and Drek is all that and more. While this may be nostalgia making me see Drek in a more horrific light, but Drek is still the greatest villain in Ratchet & Clank’s history. He carves up planets without regard for their inhabitants all to build a new planet for the Blarg (his race), whose home planet has been polluted beyond recognition.

With eco-warnings aside, this is a brilliant villain whose every move makes you want his defeat to come all the more sooner, yet not so hateable that you don’t find his presence on screen annoying. Drek is a truly brilliant villain that you love to hate.

Much later, and better graphics, but all hail the bumbling imbecile Captain Qwark!

Much later, and better graphics, but all hail the bumbling imbecile Captain Qwark!

However there is one character that, no matter what he does, you cannot help but love, and that is the ever present Captain Qwark. Qwark, while elusive for most of the game, is a source for so much humour, whether it being his bumbling incompetence or just his general inflated ego beyond, Qwark manages to be loveable and funny in a way that has meant he survives on through all Ratchet & Clank games to date.

While this has not been the most critical of reviews, there is really little to fault with this inaugural effort by Insomniac Games. Ratchet & Clank is a well-paced, well thought out and highly entertaining game that will leave you begging for more. And for all those who have not played any of the Ratchet & Clank games, go and do so now. The ride may be bumpy on certain games, but the overall ride reaches dizzying heights, all from such humble beginnings on the PlayStation 2. And there are making a revamped version to coincide with the release of the Ratchet & Clank Movie in 2015 for the PlayStation 4 so definitely get that!

Thanks again for reading my review and I hope you enjoyed it! Please leave comments below, like the review if you did and follow me here on WordPress, Facebook and Twitter.

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The Bell Jar: Finding the Point of Getting Up in the Morning

belljar_lSo I’m back again with another book review and this one is one quite dear to me. I bought it purely because I had heard about it vaguely, I knew it was Sylvia Plath’s only novel and that it was very well reviewed by one or two of my friends (although not so by another). It caught my interest and made me part with my money. And now I’m here telling you what I thought about it. Cue the obligatory overview!

Esther Greenwood is a young woman from the Boston suburbs who has won a summer internship with a magazine in New York which, rather than invigorating her makes disorients her, affecting her deeply. After a tumultuous time in New York, Esther returns home increasingly depressed. This depression is only further increased by her lack of identification outside of doing well academically.

Unable to find peace or even sleep, even with the “help” of a psychiatrist, she continues to spiral into depression and attempts of suicide. And there I shall leave you on tenterhooks and hopefully searching Amazon and adding it to your basket for purchase.

I feel like I have spoiled more of this book than I intended, but it is really the final stages of this book that provides the master stroke so, although much of the book’s plot has been revealed, I do not think I will have discouraged the great majority of you from reading it.

Before I get into the bones of my thoughts on this particular book, I feel I should give some pretty well known background on Sylvia Plath and the book itself.

The book was published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas. Under a month after The Bell Jar’s publication, Plath committed suicide. Debate still swirls around on whether Plath truly meant to kill herself or whether it was merely a cry for help, as Plath had previously attempted suicide in 1953. The parallels of depression, suicide attempts, psychoanalysis and psychiatric treatment is palpable in the novel and one can be forgiven for reading Esther Greenwood as Sylvia Plath.

But leaving aside the Sylvia Plath tribute, let’s dive into how good the novel is. While a purely innocent reading of the novel is rendered impossible because of Plath’s death so soon afterwards, I feel I can say that this novel would have become a classic if Plath had lived.

I may be speaking out of turn here, but whether or not it would be a slow burner in terms of hits, I think it would have found its audience and exploded on the literary scene. While the beginning of the novel appears to be monotonous, this all sets up Esther’s decline into suppression and attempts at suicide so, when you think back, it gives you the sense of impending inevitability in Esther’s decline. In a way, the monotony of the New York section gives credence to her view that her life without academic approval is somehow directionless and pointless.

When returning home, she shows she views her academic prowess to have been, for lack of a better phrase, almost wasted, with Esther stating:

“I had always looked down on my mother’s college, as it was co-ed, and filled with people who couldn’t get scholarships to the big eastern colleges. Now I saw that the stupidest person at my mother’s college knew more than I did.”

Esther even tries to convince herself to get work in order to progress with her education, but realises she does not have, or even want, the skills that would help her, like shorthand. Esther muses that she could take a year off and become a waitress or a typist, but comes to the decision that:

“I couldn’t stand the idea of being either one.”

This lack of drive in her life and the realisation of her emptiness leave Esther unable to write or read and would eventually precipitate to her eventual suicide attempt. This is particularly resonating, in my opinion, to people then as it is now. People see academia as diving board into an extraordinary life filled with wildly wonderful things that would make the mind froth with excitement. But the reality leaves you dull and wounded inside, as the realisation that you are no different to someone who left school at sixteen slowly overwhelms you, sinking into the bone.

tumblr_my8j3hS2AD1s3wwu1o1_500
It would be wrong of me to also leave out that her depression is caused by her feeling that she does not belong to any convention of womanhood, neither aspiring to be a mother or to the type-cast role of women in the work place, such as shorthand writing. Esther is caught in a culture she does not seem to feel in touch with. She wants to be more but feels she must conform or, at the very least, be something greater than she feels she can be. This gives The Bell Jar a brilliant edge which makes the novel much more readable, yet more tragic as we realise the stereotypes women faced and also still face today.

The descriptions of her half-hearted then full-blown suicide attempts are painfully beautiful to read. It is when Esther has fully decided to end her life that a somehow poetic beauty is lifted from the page. Esther states that, after consuming the sleeping pills:

“At first nothing happened, but as I approached the bottom of the bottle, red and blue lights began to flash before my eyes. The bottle slid from my fingers and I lay down.

The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of my vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.”

While I could go as analytical into every word and phrase to extract its hidden nuances and specific meanings, I would rather focus on the beauty that flows freely from the sentences. Her apparent death is not seen as a tragedy in Esther’s mind, or at least not so far as these lines tell, rather it is a fitting end to a life that has become so ruined: a life that appears to have no promise of improvement or regeneration. It is an end, and a rather tame one at that, as if she has fallen asleep on a beach, with the tide lapping at her feet.

Suicide is dealt with in The Bell Jar not in hushed tones, but in explicit statements that it happens. People feel this way. People can outwardly appear fine and then are gone as quickly as the last of their breaths.

I hope I have not spoiled too much of this book so I have ruined your possible enjoyment of
it. Also I hope I have not done an injustice to The Bell Jar as it holds a particular personal resonance for me, something which I hardly expected it would so on reading the first few lines.

MTE4MDAzNDEwNjU4NzU2MTEwPlath has woven a beautifully constructed narrative half-told from her own life experiences, yet allows it to become applicable to more than just a few. Although a slow starter, it is certainly one of the few books that I have found leaving my more appreciative of the written word, more in tune with certain ideas, and seeing reflections of myself within and between the lines of this piece of prose.

Thank you for reading this book review. I apologise this didn’t come out last month as it was meant to, but I have been busy and just didn’t have the time. Please leave me comments on what you thought of this review and don’t forget to follow me her, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Thank you for reading.

Posted in Anime, Awards, Film, Game, Life Occurrences, Non-Reviews, Novel, Reblogs, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

To All My Chroniclers

Hello everyone! Now you may have guessed that this isn’t a review and I’d like to apologise about that. I have felt really unproductive after getting back into the swing of things in May by doing a large amount of reviews. However since then I feel June has been lacking in content and I’ve only got myself to blame for that.

The reason I’ve dropped in the quantity of reviews is that during May I was revising for my exams (which were late May and early June) and while I was doing that I was able to be in the mood to write a lot of reviews while I was taking a break from the depressing, seemingly never-ending downward spiral that is revision. I’d rather be productive with my breaks than not, though I still found myself glued to YouTube videos as well because, you know, I’m human after all. Just.

But I was able to keep content up because I was driven. However after my exams, which was a few days before my Sinbad review went up, my productivity massively declined, with Titan A.E. being the only other review I’ve managed to do since then. Things that didn’t help was moving back home without most of my stuff which was still at my University accommodation. So I had to borrow/covertly steal under the cover of darkness my brother’s computers to write my last review which was hard because they like to use there own computers.

But now I’m going to try and get myself to do some more reviews and other bits and bobs back to its once per week quota. So my next review (fingers crossed) is going to be on Sylvia Plath’s only novel The Bell Jar and after that there will be other film, book and game reviews coming up, such as Treasure PlanetCross of Honour, Ratchet & Clank and so on.

Thanks for bearing with me in this month of being unproductive and I hope to reverse this shortly. Also, if you want me to review anything please tell me and I’ll try to do it. Also don’t forget to follow me here, on Facebook and on Twitter. Thanks again and I’ll see you all soon.

Posted in Anime, Awards, Film, Game, Life Occurrences, Non-Reviews, Novel, Reblogs, TV | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Titan A.E. – Simply Squandered

So my vision after finishing my review of Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas was to be ultra-productive. I was going to start a book, game and film review all within a week to be put up over three weeks, Then my body went “Hey, this is the perfect time to have the mother of all colds.” So for the past week I’ve been surrounded by tissues, Lemsip, lots of drinks and more tissues. But now I’m coming out of the constant sneezing and coughing so I can get around to writing my reviews!

To start with I decided to do a review of Don Bluth’s last film Titan A.E. Bluth’s films have been classics in their own right that have helped shape many childhoods, including mine. What with The Secret of NIMH, The Land Before Time, American Tail and All Dogs Go to Heaven, Bluth films are much darker films mixing realism and mysticism together in an interesting way. It is quite safe to say that during the 1980s, Bluth films ruled the animation world while Disney still lingered in their Dark Age.

Titan_AE_One_SheetBut times changed and Disney began their ascendency in their Renaissance and Bluth films bombed, leading to the closure of Sullivan Bluth Productions and Bluth creating an animation division at 20th Century Fox. While Anastasia was a success, the division died in 2000, with Titan A.E. being the last film produced by the animation division. Yet it has produced a cult following since then so let’s have a look at it. Is it a forgotten treasure or just people having nostalgia for a once great film company’s final film. So let’s go to the obligatory overview before getting onto the review.

In 3028 AD, humanity has mastered deep space travel and has met alien races but is then attacked by the Drej, aliens who are just pure energy, meaning that humanity has to escape from earth to keep the human race from going extinct while the Drej go about blowing Earth up.

Fifteen years later, Cale Tucker (Matt Damon) works in a salvage yard when he meets Captain Joseph Korso (Bill Pullman) who knew his father Professor Sam Tucker (Ron Perlman). Korso tells Cale that the ring Cale’s father left him will guide them to Titan, a project his father had been working on to create a new Earth.

With this knowledge Cale and Korso, along with fellow human pilot Akima (Drew Barrymore) and some other alien side characters, they venture to find Titan to create a new Earth, all the while trying to avoid the Drej who are out to stop them.

TitanAE0668

Oh God, my eyes! It’s terrible!

After watching this two thoughts sprung to mind quite provocatively. First was, “God, hasn’t CGI Animation moved on so much from the year 2000?” The other was “How in all the Film God’s names did this make it to our screens?”. But why would I be thinking this, well let’s get into this film properly then.

Well let’s look at the characters and right off the bat they are boring, generic and, to be blunt, just badly written. Take Cale for instance. He’s your generic young guy (not helped by the fact he’s voiced by generic Matt Damon) who’s looking out for himself but is central to the future of the human race and it is only through growing up as an individual, and through the romance with Akami and father-son relationship with Korso that he learns to fight the good fight. And to that I say: SEEN IT!

Cale-Tucker-titan-ae-35320661-450-244I’ve seen it. Hundreds of times and done so much better than Titan A.E.. Cale’s turn around from indifferent young person to valiant hero is so quick that it is barely noticeable. You can tell that it was done so quickly to get to the “action” of the film, but it’s done so halfheartedly that Cale’s character seems to have no linear development to him. Instead he just jumps from one extreme to the next in only one or two scenes where relatively little happens.

Now to Akami. I hate to say it but, apart from her aspirations to create a new Earth for humanity, she is there for one reason and one reason alone. To serve as Cale’s arm candy. I now despise myself for using such a poor description of Akami, but in essence it is true. Akami is thrown in to pad the run time of the film and to give some flimsy reason for Cale to have a love interest in the film which really didn’t need it. In fact it weighs the film down, making it awkward and stilted in a lot of places, making Akami a really boring character.

titan aeI genuinely believe this film could have been a lot better if the film was about Akami and not Cale. We could have seen Akami’s back story about her leaving Earth and how she wishes for this world she only remembers through faint memories and stories from her elders to become a reality. We could have then followed her journey to becoming a pilot, as well as an independent and capable person, meeting up with the members of what would become her crew, going out to find Titan whilst avoiding and fighting the Drej, then finally finding the remnants of the Titan mission which would culminate in many reveals and fight scenes which, although happen in the real Titan A.E., would have been much more effective. That would have been good right? It would have at least made Akami more interesting than she actually was.

But no. We got an Akami who is solely there to serve as Cale’s love-interest, a bit of exposition and to add to that whole Adam and Eve metaphor that is sort of thrown in at the last minute. That, in my respected opinion, is complete hogwash.

jqp7eeab4odm7pemWhy couldn’t we have a woman be the lead? It would have made the plot most palatable and, if you wanted a love-interest, you could have had Akami with a younger Korso, which would have definitely made for more interesting viewing. But no, we get generic white guy with generic girl with a very awkward romantic ark that feels like some bits were misplaced in putting the film together so that point C happens before point A.

Since we’re talking about Korso, let’s move onto him quickly. I’ll try not to spoil this but if you are going to make a character whose allegiances are not what they seem, don’t just drop out of nowhere like an atom bomb in twelfth-century Italy and then almost pretend that it never happened. It plays havoc with the films direction and then tries to make it better by the end. It really doesn’t work and happens all too often to make the character palatable.

 

Don't try to get a father-son relationship going if it has only little relevance to the plot

Don’t try to get a father-son relationship going if it has only little relevance to the plot

If you want to do that, do it like Long John Silver from Treasure Planet. He was unquestionably the bad guy, but his changes were not hated by the audiences but mourned for a loss of a character they had grown to liking. Even when the character changes allegiances again, it is believable, whereas Korso feels more like a schizophrenic than a redeeming character.

Now I’m just going to talk about the side characters briefly as their characters are so paper thin they only deserve the briefest of mentions. The side characters are so one-dimensional that they are comparable to the love and affection you give to the goombas in Mario games. Stith is a weapon specialist with a bad attitude, Gune is the freaky genius navigator and Cree is a villain (not much of a spoiler here) who could have been the main villain of this alongside the Drej but is left underdeveloped and is then tossed away in the same, but perhaps more violent, way that General Zod was in Man of Steel.

All these characters seem to have the potential, but really don’t make the cut. Perhaps it’s a lack of screen time or the fact that they seem to be weird personalities in alien form and nothing else, but in the end they are just left by the wayside in favour of quirky, yet ultimately forgettable characters. This decision may have been done to give the film a more distinctive edge, something which only really makes the film more bland and forgettable.

The story is done in a ham-fisted manner. Some of it is interesting with wonderful locations and intriging aliens. The rest feels awkward and not thought through. One instance that comes to mind is when Cale and Akami are stranded on the human drifter colony New Bangkok (something I must at least give the film credit for recognising that not only white Americans were affected by the destruction of Earth), they just let Cale and Akami make a rocket from their colony. There’s no interaction with the colony’s leaders about whether Cale and Akami can use parts of the drifter colony to make the rocket, they just do it.

What’s more, the entire colony helps without so much as asking what are they doing this for.It’s also really weird that Cale has an interaction we only see on screen twice, and the second is only very briefly, and it helps Cale try to find the Titan with new vigour. But the conversation isn’t very inspiring. It doesn’t bring anything new that already has been said. Yet Cale reacts like its the news that the Holy Grail has been found. This part of the film is so poorly executed that it just leaves you bitter at this half finished scene which just sums up the rest of the film.

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He may be superfluous as a character, but still shows good traditional animation

Now let’s move onto the animation. In fairness to Titan A.E., it’s traditional animation is really good. It’s distinctive, if a bit Disney-ish, that gives the film visual appeal. However the computer animation is, well there is no other word for it, abominable. It really is. The Drej look superimposed on every background they are in that you really feel that the process to blend the computer and traditional animation styles together was left to Steve the Cleaner after all the animators went home and left the keys with him (see above for visual example).

The music is also…there. That’s the only way to put it. It doesn’t contribute to the feeling of the film and add some other dimension. It’s just there. There are all songs and not one of them is memorable. If you think you recognise the song or even the band who sings the song, you have better music knowledge than I. It’s all sounds similar and, looking at the titles, it seems they are meant to have some relevance but it hardly resonates with the viewer.

I feel sorry for this film. I get the feeling there could have been a good film with this concept and anyone who wants to rework this film into something new should definitely do so. The potential is there. What with all the reboots going on in the film industry, you would have thought some not successful films with a good concept behind them might get another try. At the very least they could try giving a film with After Earth (A.E.) in their title to

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An example of a good space film… I might review it next…

But with the film being what it is, it doesn’t seem like it should attract the cult following it purportedly has. There’s some humour, some good fight scenes but beyond that not much. The plot’s too choppy, the characters are stiff and shift from one extreme to another, the animation is a blend of decent traditional animation and awful computer animation which makes the entire film a weird experience. If you want a weird experience, then by all means watch this film, but if you actually want something watchable, then steer clear. It will leave you wishing you had watched Treasure Planet instead, an actually decent traditional/computer animated film.

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Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas – Sailing Away Over the Traditional Animation Horizon

sinbad - legend of the seven seasWell here we are, the end of traditional animation, or at least, the end of DreamWorks traditional animation efforts. I apologise at how long it’s taken me to produce these reviews but I hope you’ve been able to bear with me through all of this. But since it is the end let’s see how this ends, with a whimper or with a bang.

Sinbad (Brad Pitt) is a pirate out for his last heist, to steal the mystical Book of Peace, before he and his crew retire to a life of luxury on the island of Fiji. They raid the boat pretty successfully and, after catching up with an old friend Prince Proteus (Joseph Fiennes), a battle with a huge squid monster and sinking to the bottom of the ocean where the Goddess of Discord Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer) makes Sinbad a deal that if he steals the Book of Peace for her, she’ll give him enough riches to, instead of lounging on a beach for the rest of his years, be able to “buy the beach, and the island, and the world.”

Tempted, Sinbad and his crew go to Syracuse in order to steal the Book of Peace; however Proteus then introduces Sinbad to his fiancée Marina of Thrace (Catherine Zeta-Jones). Upon seeing her, Sinbad orders his crew to leave without stealing the book. Eris then decides to take the form of Sinbad and steal the book herself, leaving Sinbad in the lurch and resulting in his capture and trial for stealing the Book of Peace.

Adamant that Eris stole it, keeping it in her realm of Tartarus, Sinbad is sentenced to death. However Proteus, believing Sinbad, demands he takes his place, giving time for Sinbad to retrieve the book from Eris. Sinbad is given ten days to get it so he, along with his crew and the stowaway Marina, set sale for Tartarus to retrieve the Book of Peace and save Proteus and the world from chaos.

So let’s get something out the way first. Something I was glad had nothing to do with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, as I was getting sick to the back teeth talking about it, was religion. But now it’s back. There are religious overtones setting the world within in Greek mythology. However, and now I can speak positively on religion, it’s not used as the driving force of the film like The Prince of Egypt or Joseph: King of Dreams. Rather, it is almost used in a similar way to The Road to El Dorado.

What I mean by this is that the religious overtones are there, but it’s only there to help move the story along rather than being the main point of the film. The Road to El Dorado was a story of adventure and a quest for gold. Sinbad is also about adventure and a quest to save a friend in need, so in reality the religious bit just adds to the film rather than being the core mechanic to it. There is even a bit of disbelief in gods as when Sinbad tells Kale (Dennis Haysbert) about his meeting with Eris, Kale laughs, commenting that he had to write that down.

Sinbad-Legend-of-the-Seven-Seas-animated-movies-17597542-950-534But now to the animation and it is very, very good. It looks as if their efforts after going all out on The Prince of Egypt and the fun, playful but less awing style of The Road to El Dorado have finally coalesced into one definitive style. I would say Spirit nailed it first, but Sinbad shows that it wasn’t just a one-off effort.

One thing that I thought I would be irked by was the computer animation. While the backgrounds are all meant to look traditional, and therefore don’t seem to out of place, the memories of computer animated sea monsters left a feeling of dread that they would be completely dated and would ruin the entire experience. Amazingly, they didn’t.

You get the feeling that, since they are brought into the world by Eris, they are otherworldly and the fact they are computer animated lends to that other worldliness. But if you don’t think about it too much and just look at them from an aesthetic point of view, they hold up pretty well. Well, aside from the ice bird which does looks a little too out of place in the traditionally animated world. But aside from that, the computer stuff holds up pretty well. It would have been better traditionally animated but it still looks cool.

Something else which I find has gone a bit unnoticed in my reviews of these films is feminism. I realise how this could degenerate into a comment war and my analysis may be inaccurate or at least flawed, but I shall try my best to explain. I know Chel from The Road to El Dorado can be seen a little bit feministic with her stronger character than Tulio and Miguel, but Marina and Eris take it to a new level.

sinbadlegendofthesevenseasMarina is single-minded and an able seaman. Or is it seawoman? Seaperson? Anyway, she’s able. She can sail a ship, she’s knowledgeable and is very resourceful. Although she occasionally falls into the trope of damsel-in-distress, she is not shown to be this completely helpless woman who always needs a man to save her.

Only in certain situations does Sinbad have to save Marina but, when you watch this film, you have to acknowledge the film is ultimately about Sinbad so he will come across as the most heroic, but Sinbad and Marina save each other an equal amount of times, with Marina even saving the whole crew at one point. Marina is by no means just the woman for Sinbad to chase after; she is a fully formed character in her own right.

Eris is just as feministic in her own way. While her art style and actions give hints to a more sexualised aspect to Eris, it’s not done so overtly to suggest that most irksome of tropes that shows  women to be the cause of all bad things in the world. Rather she is capable adversary which is actually a good thing because, aside from the Aardman-made, DreamWorks distributed Chicken Run; Eris was the only primary female antagonist in tumblr_m5ivi930521qdmisxDreamWorks Animation until Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted, nearly eleven years later.

Eris is sublime and, while not necessarily hateable like other villains, she brings that certain amount of conniving and intelligence that makes her evil enough to be taken seriously. Oh, but don’t think she’s an underwhelming villain by any means because, when the chips are down, she shows she can a bombastic villain, even if that is a bit short-lived.

There is a minor bit of controversy in this film seeing how Sinbad, originally a Middle Eastern character, was put into a Greek setting. It has been argued quite reasonably that a Greek setting would be less controversial than a Middle Eastern setting, particularly after the fact that Sinbad was released nearly two years after 9/11 and was not long after the invasion of Iraq. However, despite this Hellenisation of an Arab character, it somehow seems to work.

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Now don’t get me wrong, the fact that DreamWorks failed to incorporate some Arabic themes with an Arabic character is irksome but the Hellenisation of Sinbad and the world they live in almost makes it seem like an alternate universe rather than the world of ancient Greek mythology. That’s how the film should be seen, because when Greeks know about Fiji and how to get there, rather than all mystical stuff that goes on, it somehow made more sense to me that this was a different universe and therefore a different Sinbad. But still, DreamWorks should have been braver with Sinbad’s roots.

One other thing that irritated me a bit was the Book of Peace. What it does is pretty self-explanatory, but what the effect of it being stolen by Eris has is not really seen. Eris does explain her plain on stealing the Book of Peace and how it can lead to chaos, but stealing the book which supposedly keeps peace in the world doesn’t seem to bring any chaos upon being taken away. There’s no fighting amongst the peoples, no corruption of the land, no descent in darker acts, nothing.

S5837104_2-fileminimizero for a book that supposedly keeps peace doesn’t really cause any chaos when it is taken away. The only bad things that happen are the world going a few shades darker, due to a large cloud, and some buildings begin to crack. That’s it. I would have really shown the terror of what losing the Book of Peace does and then Eris’ plan compounding the issue would have made the loss of the Book of Peace even worse.

But despite those niggles, there’s really not that much to complain about the film. It’s a bit short at nearly an hour and fifteen minutes without the credits, but it’s still very enjoyable. The characters are varied, fun and likable, the humour is very good and the film gives you a feeling of a new bit of adventure just waiting around the corner. The music also adds quite well to this as, while there is no songs, the instrumentals and occasional vocal, are good enough to heighten the urgency to the more exciting scenes. But neither is the film afraid to take its time in the slower scenes as, despite the short length of the film, we get a decent amount of character building and the growth of Sinbad’s and Marina’s relationship that is believable, which is quite impressive.

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Not a wholly developed crew, but still some fun personalities in there.

All in all, it’s an enjoyable film somehow best summed up by Brad Pitt himself. Pitt had tried out for the narration for Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, but lost out to Matt Damon. Then, after Russell Crowe pulled out of production for Sinbad, which if we’re all honest would probably not have worked, Brad Pitt stepped in. He wanted to make a film his kids could see, because they couldn’t see his other films as, in his own words, “People’s heads getting cut off, and all that.”

Fair reasoning, but that sums up this entire film. It’s a film you can watch with your kids and not feel it is too dumb for you. It’s pleasant, well-paced and fun, with the occasional slightly subtle adult joke thrown in for good measure. It’s not top class cinema, but it’s till enjoyable in the same way The Road to El Dorado was. Although there more of a moral lesson to Sinbad, it’s still focuses on adventure and a bit of romance which makes it fun to watch.

However the film had to compete with Finding Nemo, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines and Hulk and, although only Finding Nemo would go on to be a memorable classic, Sinbad lost out in at the box office, resulting in $125 million in losses for DreamWorks Animation and, what with Disney’s financial flop Treasure Planet, Jeffrey Katzenberg called time on DreamWorks’ traditional animation films, seeing computer animation as the way forward.

images (1)It’s such a shame as traditionally animated films still live beyond DreamWorks and the ever more computer animation based Disney, such as Studio Ghibli, and they
continue to make profits. What’s worse is that DreamWorks still clearly have traditional animation talent as the section in Kung Fu Panda 2 were perhaps more beautiful than the rest of the film itself. Sinbad may have been the last traditionally animated film, but it did not go out with a not whimper, but sailed off into the sunset in a way we hope most films do.

Thank you for reading this series of traditional animated DreamWorks films and I hope you go and see them for the enjoyable films they are (apart from Joseph: King of Dream). I hope you enjoyed these reviews as much I enjoyed writing about them. If you want to see more from me please don’t forget to follow my blog, as well as liking my Facebook page and following me on Twitter!

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