Sunday, October 7, 2012

Michael Bay's Resident Evil 6


In the beginning there was a mansion, its surrounding property, and a laboratory underneath it. That was it. The game relied on mystery, environment, it's slow-paced, high tension, moody atmosphere. You had to save ammunition (the knife is your friend) not just for stronger enemies, not just in case of a horde of zombies, but because you don't know when you will REALLY need that ammunition; in fact, you were scared to use it. Hence, the genre Survival Horror was born (some people consider Alone in the Dark the first, which may be true, but Resident Evil was the first huge success). Resident Evil 1-4 relied on this Survival Horror system. Actually, it was more or less an attitude.

Yes, I did include Resident Evil 4 as a Survival Horror game because at the beginning you have a basic handgun and a janky shotgun--which belonged to a farmer, most likely--against these people that are not acting entirely normal (yet they're not zombies, which was SO refreshing--at the time) and a gigantic ogre like boss. In Resident Evil 4 there is a real sense of John Carpenter's The Thing-esque paranoia about the odd acting residence (which is essentially very true to the title "Resident Evil" in the sense that you're going against these residents that are, indeed, evil; and the Japanese title still concurs with the game, too). The deeper you go in Resident Evil 4, the less scary it becomes, but that's because you've figured out the mystery and now you're trying to solve the problem. But, the first half of the game is pure horror (the first time you go into the village is probably the scariest the franchise has ever been before and after)--and then even toward the end of the game, there are still some moments of horror that will get you.

Then there was Resident Evil 5: it was about a guy who killed a bunch of angry people infected with parasites and Star Wars' misfit monsters and Agent Smith from The Matrix made an appearance, but he dyed his hair blonde. Okay, I'm joking as you know, but that doesn't mean it isn't the truth. It was a decent action game (and Mercenaries was really fun with a partner) but not a very good Resident Evil game. This was always my comparison: If Resident Evil 4 was the Casino Royale of the Resident Evil franchise (a reboot which saved a dying franchise and breathed new life into it), then Resident Evil 5 was the Quantum of Solace of the Resident Evil franchise (gimmick after gimmick and an exploitation of the previous title's changes: what that means is that Resident Evil 5 said to itself, "Resident Evil 4 changed a lot of things, so I'm going to change even more things." A decent action game, but a horrible Resident Evil game from almost every aspect except for its dazzling graphics.


I thought that Resident Evil 5 was the Quantum of Solace of the franchise . . . but I was wrong.

The game starts off without explanation: Leon and an injured girl (Helena) are in a ravaged city--zombies are everywhere and a helicopter is seemingly shooting at you. You make your way through the city only for you to realize that it was just a very interactive title and credits sequence. At the end of the gameplay you see a monster's foot and Leon says something smart like usual and then we see the title--Resident Evil 6--and now you're in the menu where you can choose your campaign or its multitude of special features.

You can initially choose from Leon's campaign, Chris's campaign, or Jake's campaign, but choose wisely because once you pick one you have to see it through to the end. But, before getting into the campaigns, I'll discuss my general thoughts about the game.

The general critiques about RE6 have been quite consistent. Imagine that you have a person with ADHD that loves action movies--but is trying to throw in horror to appeal to the fan base--and is trying to put together a very elaborate plot without the necessary skill for storytelling to tell it. The game is very unfocused; you're not sure who's the main* villain--in fact, not even the villains know who the true villains are. And when you beat the campaigns, only the least important details are explained--and even worse--in mundane manners.

THE C-VIRUS (some spoilers in third paragraph): 1/5

From the very start of the franchise what interested me more than the mutants or the zombies or the ganados/majini, was the virus or the parasite used to create such monstrosities. Resident Evil was about the T-Virus (Tyrant Virus) and, if you take Lisa Trevor into consideration, the origins of the G-Virus as well. Resident Evil 2 was about the effects the T-Virus and the G-Virus (which resulted in a form of unstable biological immortality at the cost of the human soul or consciousness); Resident Evil 3--which takes place at the same time as Resident Evil 2--continued to lay down the foundation of the T-Virus, but as opposed to showing the G-Virus (which only Leon was going against), the game focused on to what extent the T-Virus could be used for biological weaponry. For instance, the Nemesis-T Type was designed by a European branch of Umbrella to prove that T-Virus test subjects could still retain most of their intelligence. And to test out this hypothesis: Go kill all the S.T.A.R.S. members in Raccoon City so we could kill two birds with one stone. Resident Evil: Code Veronica was about the T-Veronica virus (which is a little harder to explain, but it's important to know that it's a variation of the Progenitor Virus which is the basis for all the previously mentioned viruses). I'm going to skip explaining the biological agents in Resident Evil Zero because it's essentially the same as in the first game, and finally go into Resident Evil 4, which was a game changer. The T-Virus was mentioned; Luis said that he had scene a sample at some medical center: that means that the T-Virus has been ultimately erradicated from the world; domesticated, you could say. Resident Evil 4, however, brought in a new type of biological weapon--the Las Plagas. Although many of the Las Plagas experiments in RE4 were accidental and experimental--such as the big salamander in the lake; it was just a byproduct of the experimentations taking place. And then Jack Krauser (who has a previously unknown history with Leon, but was later explained in Resident Evil: Darkside Chronicles), who was previously working for Wesker, pretending to work for Saddler, actually did take a gift from Saddler--the Plagas, which he injected into himself--and became more powerful (although I think the arm injure he had obtained against Javier in Darkside was a motivating factor). At one point, he mutated his arm. The point being, all the mutations in Resident Evil 4 made sense. And then we go into Resident Evil 5: the Uroboros makes perfect sense in a biological standpoint, because such a virus would need biological matter to grow in size; but it was the Las Plagas that didn't make sense. Ricardo Irving, for instance, injected himself and became a giant sea monster . . . oh, and he just happened to be on a boat . . . how convenient.

Now, in Resident Evil 6, we have the C-Virus. Unlike in Resident Evil 1-5, I have no idea what the origins are, I have no idea how its biology works (other than it is a conductor of heat in many ways); I have no idea, partially because there are no in-game documentation about this virus or the B.O.W.'s designed from it. That's frustrating, because I don't know about you guys, but in previous games I made sure I collected every single document and I read them. At the time I didn't even like reading books (now I do, but that's not the point), but I still enjoyed furthering my experience. Is it realistic that there will be documents lying around? Probably not, but it's more realistic that some of the insane, ridiculous action sequences in this game which makes the motorcycle majini in Resident Evil 5 look like Christopher Nolan realism. Does CAPCOM think we are illiterate and can't read or don't want to read? Or, are they* the ones becoming illiterate (by the way, the game does have documents, but they can only be accessed through Special Features; I read some of the documents on the B.O.W.'s and they're not really explained intelligently, and the explanation for some of them, like the Chainsaw mutatant, was downright laughable--appearing that a thirteen year old fanboy wrote it without a sense of what they were righting would be perceived as humorous)?

The C-Virus, oh the C-Virus. The C-Virus makes zombies; the C-Virus causes zombies to become obese, causes zombies to grow strange screaming organs in their throats, causes some zombies to become Liker-wanna-bes, and causes some zombies to still wield weapons--guns and bats and golfing clubs--and to still turn cranks occasionally to hinder your process (come on!); the C-Virus causes zombie dogs--which are identical to the T-variation (but what about cats? what about deer? what about raccoons? what about birds? what about animals that escaped from the zoo?); the C-Virus creates gigantic shark mutants, mutants that are three times as large as 4's El Gigante, mutants that somehow--through a C-Virus mutation--grow a chainsaw for a hand which has its heart inside of it (I don't think Neo-Umbrella designed this one through any scientific proceedure; I honestly think it just created itself by a naturalistic evolution of the C-Virus), mutants that are ripoffs of the Iron Maiden Regenerators from Resident Evil 4, or a snake that can turn invisible; the C-Virus causes hosts who inject themselves directly to still keep their intelligence, but to grow a lot stronger and to become mutated--they're called J'avo; the C-Virus causes a J'avo to mutate into a dozen different things, ranging from Bee-headed men that can send bees at you, spider-bodied men, the growth of wings, the growth of two long legs for super jumping, the growth of explosive larvi for their entire body, and more; the C-Virus causes some J'avo to caccoon themselves and then spore new horrors--lizard things (or, you can just say its the dinosaur that killed the fat guy from Jurassic Park), bunky bohemoths with rocks for skin, flying creatures, or a swarm of insects; the C-Virus is responsible for the coolest B.O.W. since Nemesis, Ustanak, the bio-mechanic super freak . . .

But how? The game never gets into the scientific aspects of the virus. That's something that I always loved about the franchise until Resident Evil 5. Now, granted, a lot of these mutations are very cool--but hardly any of them make sense. Unless of course they went through the effort of trying to make them make sense. Why couldn't one of their campaigns have been about figuring out how ONE virus could do all these things? Another big problem is this: the C-Virus is TOO GOOD. It'll put the T-Virus, G-Virus, T-Verinica, Las Plagas, and the Uroboros out of a job. Especially since Ustanak is one of the hardest B.O.W.'s in the series. You see the problem here, don't you?

They're trying to please the fans in unintelligable ways. I'm sorry CAPCOM, I'm not that stupid. And I know there are a lot of other fans who feel the same way.


Those of us who were good at RE4 were probably good at RE5; both games essentially had the same gameplay mechanics, aside from RE5's clunky inventory system. Well, RE6 throws that out the window in almost every way. The gameplay is what wounds the entire game fatally. I don't mind about walking while shooting, but I do mind about the unfixed camera behind the character. It feels like I'm playing a videogame adaptation of a movie in some points of the game. The weird thing is, the creators probably thought they were helping out the player by having a fluid camera behind them at all times, but really it gives me a headache and it's hard to aim my character when I need to run somewhere. The old system had its flaws, but this new-and-supposed-to-be-improved system creates even more.

Oh, and get this. You know how you could shoot enemies in the legs in RE4 and RE5 and they fall to their knees so you can do some interesting melee attacks? Well, in RE6 you can't shoot enemies to their knees--hence, creating less melee variety. I wonder which one of the creators said to the others, "We should definitely get rid of shooting enemies in the legs." It's a really strange decision they made that I don't understand the point of which.

And quick time events. There are tons of them, but none of them are as good as the Leon vs. Jack Krauser scene from Resident Evil 4. A lot of people have complained about this, but I didn't mind. I was just never blown away, aside from the final Ustanak battle at the end of Jake's campaign. That was innovative, I must say.


Have you ever read an over bloated novel that could have been a whole lot better if the author cut out at least 25% of it? Well, that's what Leon's campaign felt like. His campaign is deliberately designed for the Survival Horror Resident Evil fan--you know, the gamers that likely hate on RE4 and RE5 because they have no Survival Horror (or a lack of); "zombies" return only* in Leon's campaign, and it also features some really cool zombie-variations (although I couldn't help but compare most of them to Left 4 Dead's super zombies). Leon's campaign starts off in an intense situation without much explanation, then travels through a zombie infested Tall Oaks, goes to a church which happens to have an underground laboratory underneath (there is sort of* a reason for this), then goes to China (which he randomly and too conveniently reunites with an old acquaintance immediately after the rough landing of the plane, which will undoubtedly make the player giggle with how unlikely the by-chance meeting really is).

Leon's campaign is the heart of Resident Evil 6. Leon knows Sherry, Leon knows Chris, Leon has a thing for Ada (who seemingly is/isn't the villain in the game), and by theory does the most important things in the game. The game's creator(s) deliberately did this because Resident Evil 4 was the most successful in the franchise.

The highlight of Leon's campaign is the atmosphere; the flaw is its overly bloated length (this campaign feels as long as Resident Evil 5 as a whole, and yet there are still two other campaigns--technically three more--to go).


The first thing that you will ask is: what the heck happened to Jill Valentine? And who the heck is Piers? The game never answers those two questions, but it only hints at the fact that Chris never gave up the fight against bioterrorism after he saved the world from the Uroboros. It's a little jarring when we first see Chris Redfield; he's lost his memory and he acts like a depressed Tony Stark drinking and smoking himself to death in a bar in some country. Piers was his old partner and he recruits Chris back into the force (why didn't they just have Jill Valentine instead? I really don't know). Piers is one of the least likeable characters in the franchise just because of how bland he is and really has no purpose in the story or the history of the franchise. I would have at least liked some references to what happened to Jill Valentine, but I was left unsatisfied.

To say the least--and without spoilers--Chris's story is structured oddly; but, moving on from that, there is only one strength to his campaign. And that's when he and his team go into a building to chase a snake B.O.W.. It did not contribute to the plot at all (which is good, because RE6 is soooooo plot heavy that it gives me a headache); nope, Chris is just in a frenzy to chase down this snake B.O.W. at all costs (and it's no doubt a shout out to the first Resident Evil game). It's actually when Chris is walking the "screenwriters" path to keep the plot moving when I care the least about what's happening. The problem with Chris's campaign is that they--the creators of the game--forced his purpose in the game (I'd like to say more, but that would include spoilers) by giving him personal vendetta instead of just doing his job. A BSAA operative's purpose is to kill B.O.W.'s and to rescue civilians--it would have been a lot simpler if that's what Chris's purpose in the game was, instead of being so plot driven.

Ultimately Chris's campaign is a narrative mess. They tried way too hard with his personality, his past (by ignoring a lot of it), his purpose, etc.. Instead of just letting him do what he does best . . . kill B.O.W.'s and then--and ONLY then--discover what's going on in the grand scheme of things. The ONLY redemptive quality about his campaign was hunting the snake: that felt like survival horror. Although, on that note, I wish that Chris could have been able to save more of his team. There's no reward in inevitable cutscenes killing off the team. In that sense, CAPCOM is the monster, not the snake. In this Skyrim day and age, players need to be rewarded or punished for in game choices.


Let me say this right off the bat. Only one element to this campaign makes it worthy of playing: the Nemesis-esque bio-mechanical B.O.W. which was designed and programmed for one thing and one thing only: to capture Jake Muller. Why? Well, if it hadn't been for most of the trailers of the game, then it would be a spoiler, but since everyone knows, it isn't a spoiler anymore. Jake Muller is Wesker's son. That's why he's important. Sherry Birkin magically finds him in a European country (she wasn't--but somehow was--trying to find him from the beginning. It's hard to explain. It goes back to a similar awkward narrative that the Chris campaign had). And she knows that he has rare antibodies that can save the world. Talk about taking it slow and letting the player discover the mystery on their own, which is a huge problem the game has in general . . . it treats the audience like everyone is a Michael Bay fan and doesn't care about story and characters, but only the spectacle and thrilling events. I think the usually-good-reviews that RE5 had sort of enforced this ideology that not-everything-has-to-make-sense-because-the-fanbase-doesn't-care-too-much-about-logic (why CAPCOM? Are you saying I'm stupid or just complacent with the mundane?)-just-give-them-zombies-and-they'll-be-satisfied. Honestly, I wish the creators took care in their story as if I was watching a Christopher Nolan film instead of a Michael Bay film. I think the Resident Evil fan base is too smart for some of the very illogical "moments"/plot elements in RE6; a lot of which are in Jake's and Sherry's campaign.

What I found most annoying about this campaign is that I thought it would answer the most questions, such as what "Ada Wong" is up to, and Jake's origins and what about the crazy awesome Ustanak B.O.W.? As cool as these questions are, none of them are really answered at all. They're half-baked ideas that never really formed.

When I played the Leon campaign, I thought that Chris's and Jake's campaigns would make sense out of a lot of random B.O.W.'s and plot events; when I played the Chris campaign, nothing was answered, so I was thrilled that the Jake campaign would answer everything. Nope. Not at all. His blood is important and that's all that you* need to know.


There are moments in the game that are better than any moments from any of the other games. In fact, if they had trimmed anywhere from 25% to 50% of the game, then maybe this game would be just as good--if not better--than Resident Evil 4. But the problem is this: think of RE6 as a buffet, but you can't choose what you eat; you have to eat in a random--but set--order. If green beans are first, you gotta eat them. Then cheesecake could be next (AWESOME), and then . . . you gotta eat piss and snot soup (EEWWW), and then some tasty Chinese food, and then fried poop. You see, it's the highs and lows of the game which makes it so disappointing. I could have forgiven the clunky controls and awkward inventory if they cut out all the mundane aspects of the campaigns, making them more to the point, even if each campaign was cut in half. Then it would have been an amazing game.

But it's all the crap (no pun intended) that you're force to eat which makes it so frustrating at times; for instance, in the Leon campaign, there's a part where you have to chase a zombie dog around a graveyard (spooky, right? You're in a graveyard, so it HAS to be spooky--and there's lightning, too) because it has the key . . . and somehow it's smart enough to know that you need it and it runs away and doesn't attack you. And it's all the illogical inclusions of B.O.W.'s (that are cool, mind you, but without purpose) which makes me feel like I'm watching a Paul W.S. Anderson adaptation. Then there are all the pacing issues too. It's such a fast paced game that you can't stop and smell the flowers and enjoy--and be disturbed by--the horrific terrain and scary atmosphere. CAPCOM tried to do way too much. They cannot make this the scariest game in the franchise and a high octane thrill ride at the same time. They need to get off the fence and decide what they want to do. And I hope it's the former, and not the latter for the next game.


In the beginning of my review, I referenced 28 Days Later. The reason is, CAPCOM is trying to cure the franchise without truly understanding. Yes, they listened to some complaints, but ignored others. Yes, Ustanak is an amazing B.O.W.; yes, Chris isn't so bulky anymore; yes, zombies have returned (sort of); yes, they tried. But they weren't very smart in the sense that they don't understand their own franchise and they exploited beloved characters to the point of ridiculousness. Must they deliberately hire a few fans to be the creative directors in the next game? Does it need to come down to that? At this rate . . . absolutely. If they want RE7 to survive. Otherwise, there's no hope left.

Resident Evil is not Uncharted, it's not Gears of War, it's not Call of Duty, it's not a racecar game, it's not an on-rails shooter. Resident Evil, from 1-4, has always been about exploration and horror, stumbling onto a mystery and trying to solve it, and survival. While Resident Evil 5 was not a Survival Horror game, it did attempt to stay true to Resident Evil 4. It didn't take enough risks, mind you, but it didn't step backwards either (the only* gripe I have with RE5 is some of the story decisions and how Wesker could teleport).

Resident Evil 7 needs to take a step back. No they need to take a couple hundred meters back and objectively and subjectively look at the franchise. What works? What doesn't work? Horror works. Too much action doesn't. RE6 had so much environmental action to the point of predictability--such as walking across a bridge, you knew it would fall--but the thing about predictability is that it isn't scary. Actually with the environment going haywire while playing the game, it could be looked upon as a Final Destination videogame adaptation too (really). RE6 failed to understand that having awesomely grotesque monsters doesn't make it a scary game (such as being in a graveyard while there's lightning). Pacing is what makes games scary. Why were the first few games so scary? Not because of what happened, but because of what didn't* happen. In RE6 too much happened.

Resident Evil 7 needs to be shorter (gasp!) and to the point. There needs to be a clear cut villain or two or three (like in RE4), and a sense of exploration and difficulty. If Resident Evil 7 took some RPG elements and throw in Dark Souls-esque difficulty and strategy, it could be the greatest game of all time; but--and this is probably scary for CAPCOM--they need another reboot. They must if they want to survive, because for RE7, I'm going to be smart enough to read the reviews first, and if it's not a good game--and if it's not a horror game--I'm not going to buy it. And I consider myself a diehard fan. I've beaten Resident Evil 4 20+ times and can't think of any flaws; I played Resident Evil 5 twice before realizing it was a little bit of a disappointment; I played only the Leon S. Kennedy campaign to realize that Resident Evil 6 was simply not a great game. RE6 felt like it was essentially an on-rails game: there's no straying from the path and no sense of exploring the area. Why not have a few houses available to go through to see if there is anything of use?

And for the love of God, bring back the merchant. I hate "buying" things on a screen. It might not make a whole lot of sense how he can transport as quickly as you can, but at least the buying/selling process makes sense with the merchant. Also they could give him a backstory too, because clearly he isn't entirely human. And if your character learns skills, then why not have random BSAA operatives around the city which know skills that you can learn from? Maybe Erickson with a broken leg and hiding on a roof can teach you a move or give you a gun if you find him crutches in the city (but without any cookie crumb trail system to lead you the way; let the players find it themselves), and the possibilities could go on forever. Kind of like in Skyrim. And speaking of which, it needs to have a lot more RPG elements.

All in all, CAPCOM needs to slow it down for Resident Evil 7. Resident Evil fans (unless they're fans of the films, too) generally are patient people: that's why they're Resident Evil fans. In the first five or six games, there was a lot of walking around, not knowing what to do exactly; there were a lot of puzzles and a lot of backtracking. So why are the creators treating us like we have ADHD and no attention span and no intelligence at all? Seriously, Resident Evil fans don't need (and generally don't want) non-stop action; we don't need the cookie crumb trail system to tell us where to go (we like finding our own way); we like to play a Resident Evil game and have a sense of accomplishment afterward, like the effect that Dark Souls has--with difficulty comes rewarding accomplishment. Come on CAPCOM. Know who your fans are. Don't assume that we're all Paul W.S. Anderson fans. Some of us expected a Christopher Nolan-esque tale, not another Schumaker game where the characters have rubber nipples on their suits. The creator of the series mentioned recently that the fans and the creators have like two parents trying to do what's best for their kid, and that they're going to disagree with one another. Come on, CAPCOM! That's a very unfair thing to say, because we're the ones who made you successful, and we are--for the most part--flat out telling you guys that you're going too far. If the fans and the creators are like two parents that disagree with one another, then CAPCOM is trying to make our broad shouldered son into a dancer instead of a football player, which is what he does best. Resident Evil is not meant to be as ridiculous as its Paul W.S. Anderson film counterparts, end of story.


1) Great dialogue
2) Terrifying creature designs
3) Enemy variety
4) Atmosphere
5) Really great moments
6) The partner system is fixed (although I'd prefer without one)
7) Imaginative boss battles
8) Fantastic cutscenes
9) Ustanak

1) Inventory (a step down from RE5)
2) Melee is too convenient, and thus not rewarding
3) Controls are clunky, camera fluidity is irksome
4) Mundane tasks (chasing a zombie dog around a cemetary)
5) Forced plot (they meet up in the darnest spots)
6) No in-game documents (which would help make sense out of some random B.O.W.'s)
7) No typewriters (but it's such an on-rails game, why would it matter?)
8) No treasures (which makes buying skills VERY difficult)
10) No merchant (come on, CAPCOM, bring the man back)
11) The C-Virus (the T-Virus has children to feed; you're putting it out of a job)
12) Too long (with too many mundane moments in all the chapters to even revisit)
- On that note, the campaigns are so long that it would be a task to replay any of the campaigns.
13) Not scary (although it had its moments)
14) Confusing plot elements
15) Too much action (seriously, this is Michael Bay's Resident Evil; I'd prefer Christopher Nolan's or Frank Darabont's)
16) Vague B.O.W. origins (a chainsaw arm, really?)

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Resident Evil: Retribution (The Schumacher Era)


When I spent my fifteen bucks—one for me, one for my girlfriend—I knew I was getting my money’s worth in one way or another; most likely it would be a laugh riot and hence I’d consider the film the best comedy of the year . . . or I could be pleasantly impressed that Paul W.S. Anderson (Resident Evil, Alien Vs. Predator) got some things right. Well, it’s the former; no surprise there. But it’s also the funniest movie of the year by far.

It’s safe to say, however, that the Resident Evil franchise has stepped into the Schumacher era of its overlong lifespan. Alice may not be sporting rubber nipples on her suit, but the entire film had its own metaphysical rubber nipples popping out left and right. The first rubber nipple is during the intro in which Milla Jovovich speaks to the camera and explains all the events from the previous films (at least in Apocalypse that made sense, because toward the end of the film we saw that she talked to a camcorder); then the film essentially starts  straight to the Dawn of the Dead rip-off, which Alice wakes up in a suburban house with a mute daughter (that speaks just fine) and husband Carlos Olivera (what?!) and then Carlos gets bit, oh no, and it’s so blatantly obvious that the film is copying Dawn that I expected to see Ving Rhames dressed as a cop and say the same exact lines he said to Sarah Polley; then, what these not-quite-literal rubber nipples made me giggle the most was all the copy and pasted elements from the video game franchise that has no rhyme or reason to even be in the film. For instance, the zombies now have mouths like the majini from Resident Evil 5—you know, the mouths which CAPCOM clearly took from Guillermo del Toro’s Blade 2 and made them not as scary; yeah, those mouths—and in Retribution, I finally thought that Anderson actually was about to make sense of something every fan of the video game franchise was confused about. The Red Queen told us—yes, literally, she talks to the camera too (Alice isn’t the only one)—that she was initiating the Las Plagas Undead. In my mind, I thought, Yes, finally he’s explaining why the zombies have become fast with majini-mouths. But, really . . . it was his excuse to have zombies with guns and chainsaws (but why wield a chainsaw if you can use a gun?), that could ride motorcycles and shoot guns at the same time—if that’s a spoiler, it’s a spoiler best known upfront. This isn’t scary; this is outrageously funny. What also doesn’t make sense is the fact that the Umbrella Corporation currently manufactures the Executioners from Resident Evil 5 and meticulously hammers in each nail in their heads and shoulders just for theatrics—if it didn’t make sense in RE5, it’s definitely going to be a laugh riot in Retribution. Which it was. But even funnier yet, while Alice was fighting Jill, and Luther (didn’t he die in Afterlife? I swear he did) and Leon were fighting the evil Las Plagas-infected Rain (I was expecting her to become a giant sea monster like Irving in RE5), I thought to myself, Paul might make terrible Resident Evil films, but he might make a good Mortal Kombat film . . . then I realized he already did . . . and it was terrible.

What Paul W.S. Anderson doesn’t seem to understand is that copying moments and characters from the games and pasting them into the films isn’t working. Fan boys are going to pick out the illogical inclusion of the characters, like I am right now; and people who aren’t fans of the games aren’t going to care if Leon is in the film or not. At this point, however, I think Paul W.S. Anderson knows how terrible the films are, and he’s taking advantage of it—bringing characters back to life just for giggles, having hilariously cheesy dialogue every chance available, and not really giving a crap how terrible the actors are acting (the actor who plays Leon, for instance, just talks louder when he is supposed to be angry)—also, Sienna Guillory—who plays Jill—was by far the weakest in the film even though she did fairly well as Jill Valentine in Apocalypse.

I will say, however, that Resident Evil: Retribution had some interesting science fiction themes. That’s where Paul W.S. Anderson excels the most at: abstract, absurd ideas—like an underground laboratory—that somehow just works. In fact, it’s a great idea. I will go even further to say that Resident Evil: Retribution is a great science fiction zombie thriller, but it’s the Resident Evil game elements which makes it a funny, funny farce and—as stated earlier—the best comedy of the year. It’s too late now. The franchise is now five down . . . but how many more can Paul W.S. Anderson and his wife Milla Jovovich go on?

Which brings me to the Schumacher effect; there gets to a point in every franchise that starts becoming a joke—whether films or video games (even music; Linkin Park, for instance—although they deliberately rebooted their sound to survive the Nu Metal extinction)—in which a reboot is necessary. Pierce Brosnan’s 007 became too absurdly science fiction, enter Daniel Craig as the realistic bond (and then there was Quantum of Solace, which was going back into bad habits); Kilmer’s and Clooney’s Batman films became gaudy and flamboyantly gothic with ridiculous set pieces and actors casted based on their popularity (Jim Carrey and Arnold Schwarzenegger), enter the Christopher Nolan reboot; and in video games, Fallout 3 and Turok to name a couple (although, when you reboot a dying franchise that has previously made good money, you must make it fantastic—like Fallout 3, as opposed to Turok, which was average and therefore the franchise isn’t really being considered for another reboot or sequel). And now we’re getting to a point in the Resident Evil film franchise in which the rubber nipples are exposed—the fan boys only watch the films to laugh; the unbiased viewers might come out thinking it was entertaining, but over the top, and none of the monsters made any sense (and they wouldn’t be alone—the B.O.W.’s didn’t make any sense to me either); the actors are lazy; the plot is confusing when it’s vague and absurd when it’s clear; and worse of all, the director doesn’t care about the source material anymore.

I think that Hollywood might pull out the Nolan card pretty soon, because Resident Evil does have very important contemporary themes. Biological warfare seems more realistic than nuclear in this day and age, but Paul and friends seem to be stuck on the zombies and the theatrics of the game franchise, rather than the scientific aspects, the concepts, the survival horror, and the atmospheric tension. What makes the Resident Evil video game franchise so endearing are the story and the characters (which is why Resident Evil 5 was the worst—the lack of survival horror put aside—because that’s when the game franchise stopped caring about story and characters; but I blame the directors and producer of RE5 rather than CAPCOM as a whole), but Paul W.S. Anderson focuses on plot (which isn’t the same as story) and dresses up actors like characters from the game franchise and names them that character from the game franchise and prays that the fans don’t realize they’re nothing like the character from the franchise. I give credit to the Harry Potter film series for at least attempting to stay true to the story of the books; while still they’re nowhere near as good as the books because filmmakers tend to care more about plot than they do story—which is a wide spreading disease in the illiterate world of Hollywood—it’s still an honorable attempt, unlike with the Resident Evil franchise. Seriously, the Resident Evil from games 1-4 have as good of a story as Harry Potter, so why did Paul W.S. Anderson butcher it?

Oh yeah, I know why: after the first film Milla Jovovich had his baby, so that meant that Alice had to reoccur in RE2, 3, 4, and 5, and hence altering the good storyline from games, and keeping his wife happy and making money. But, that’s fine. I’m glad Anderson burned the franchise to the ground, because I’d really like to see Guillermo del Toro (Hellboy) or Neill Blomkamp (District 9) try to helm a reboot. Because, let’s face it, Resident Evil will always be a money maker . . . but they need to know when to quit, otherwise a reboot will be impossible. I initially didn’t want to watch Batman Begins because I was left with the sour taste of Batman & Robin in my mouth (YUCK!), but finally someone said, “It’s a crime thriller ninja movie,” and I was like “Heck yeah, I’ll watch it”—and it was great. But if Schumacher made one more Batman film, I don’t know if Nolan could have salvaged the series. Which leaves me at the end of my review . . . will Anderson know when to quit for the greater good of mankind?
I give this film a 2/5.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Best Novels I've Read

The Best Novels I Have Read


For the past three years I have been an aspiring author and avid reader. The following books are from varying genres, varying publish dates and varying popularity. I have made the list in descending order in terms of greatness; that's not to say that the books at the top of the list are bad. All the books that have made my list, I would highly recommend that you give them a chance, whether you think the book or author is overrated or too unknown for you. I have searched and I am still searching. It's my goal to kindle a desire in reading that I have never had until three years ago. Please enjoy my list.

(This list is a work in progress; eventually I'll add pictures and better descriptions of the books, as well as new books.)

69. Roadwork by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

68. The Running Man by Stephen King
67. Firestarter by Stephen King
Thus far, Firestarter—out of the seventeen Stephen King books that I’ve read—has been the most non-SK book; it reads more like a Michael Crichton book, not just in content, but in the way he writes. It’s a straight-forward on-the-run-from-badguys premise.

66. The Willows by Algernon Blackwood
It's H.P. Lovecraft meets with H.G. Wells. It's about two men on an island and one of the men thinks the trees are moving--as in the act of covering ground. Are they? And if they are moving, then what are they? It's a hard book to read because of the vocabulary is really old English, but it's a fairly quick read.

65. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury

64. The Dead Zone by Stephen King
This book is Firestarter’s twin brother—assuming that Firestarter is a female; I make this allusion for a few reasons. Firstly, they’re back to back; secondly, in King’s early career, they were both (in a sense) anti-war books, and politically charged in general.
The Dead Zone is anti-climactic and the ending is odd . . . but I think it’s a good sort of odd.

63. The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells
Frankenstein is to resurrecting the dead as The Island of Dr. Moreau is to genetically splicing, or chimeras. A guy is the only survivor of a shipwreck and ends up on an island in which a doctor is genetically modifying animals and turning them into humanoids; it's a very odd book but a classic in science fiction.

62. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
Asimov is the Godfather of science fiction, and this book is the first entry in his robot series. It’s a science fiction detective story. Some of his writing is very vague; but I think it’s because he was explaining things that he did not completely understand himself. However, the dialogue is where Asimov excels at, and the plot twists.

61. Cujo by Stephen King

60. The Dark Tower VII: The Dark Tower by Stephen King
The best way to describe The Dark Tower VII compared to the rest of the series is by saying it's a bitter cup to swallow. For the entire series, Roland and his ka-tet (Eddie, Susannah, Jake and Oy--along with Father Callahan from 'salem's Lot) have been traveling toward the Dark Tower. And now their destination is finally reached.

59. World War Z by Max Brooks
WWZ is a very a novel of loosely connected short stories about different scenarios; it’s overrated, too. But, as a zombie fan, beggars can’t be choosers . . . and until a good zombie book comes out, this’ll do, this’ll do.

58. Fevre Dream by George R. R. Martin

57. Let The Right One In by John Ajvide Lindquist

56. At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft

55. Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix by J.K. Rowling
The reason for it to be so low on the list is the fact that Order of the Pheonix is about one-hundred pages over-bloated. But, it still has its moments.

54. Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King
Hearts in Atlantis is a compilation of short stories that are loosely connected. Low Men in Yellow Coats is the best of the short stories--and the first one; it's also the short story that the Anthony Hopkins adaptation is based off from. Low Men is also one of the best of the Dark Tower "connection" books.

53. Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood

52. Watchmen by Alan Moore

51. The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

50. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

49. We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson

48. The Wind Through the Keyhole (a Dark Tower story) by Stephen King
47. 1984 by George Orwell

46. Baltimore, or the Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire by Mike Mignola
If you love Guillermo del Toro, you'll love this book. It's one of the first books I've ever read and it got me into reading.

45. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card

44. 'salem's Lot by Stephen King

43. On The Beach by Nevil Shute
It's the post-apocalyptic book that your girlfriend or wife or sister would like; and likely she'd like it more than you.

42. A Door into Summer by Robert A. Heinlein

41. Carrie by Stephen King

40. Child of God by Cormac McCarthy

39. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling

38. The Dark Tower II: The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King

37. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin
This is the first book that I felt a feverish sweat upon my face when the intensity starts kicking in to
toward the middle of the book. It's one of the most terryfing books I've ever read (and as you can see, there's quite a few Stephen King books on my list).

36. Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

35. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick

34. The Long Walk by Richard Bachman (Stephen King)

33. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by J.K. Rowling

32. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

31. Outer Dark by Cormac McCarthy

30. The Dark Tower VI: Song of Susannah by Stephen King
One of the most riskiest books of any franchise due to a certain character . . .

29. The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla by Stephen King

28. No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

27. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

26. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

25. The Halloween Tree by Ray Bradbury

24. The Thief of Always by Clive Barker

23. The Shining by Stephen King

22. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin

21. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

20. The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands by Stephen King
This third entry in the series is when things start getting bizarre in terms of genre and pacing. If you read the entire franchise back to back, the beginning of this book will likely feel odd and out of place. And then when things start to make sense, the pacing shifts again and now you're back in 1999 in the perspective of Jake--who died in the first novel. The first half of this novel is about Jake trying to come back to Mid-World from New York. Essentially, due to an event from Drawing of the Three, Jake is reborn in another world. And both Roland and Jake know it.

The best way to describe this novel is "genre bending."

19. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

18. Danse Macabre by Stephen King
A companion piece to "On Writing." Do you want to write/film horror, science fiction, or fantasy? Don't think about it until you read Danse Macabre. It'll expand your mind a great deal.

17. On Writing by Stephen King
If you want to be a writer, then this is the must-read book; and it should be your "guideline" to your mentality in daily writing and long-term writing.

16. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling
This was the turnaround point in the HP series; this was when the series really got dark. And for that, this deserves to be as high on the list for its pivotal role in the series as a dark catalyst.

15. Swan Song by Robert McCammon
This is the novel that rivals Stephen King's The Stand as the greatest post-apocalyptic horror epic. A lot of people verteran horror readers will say Swan Song has more "heart" than The Stand, and I would agree to a point. In truth, there are more gut-wrenching moments in Swan Song than there are in The Stand. This book is for those who want to read a post-apocalyptic with a supernatural twist and it's a little bit shorter than The Stand. It's highly recommending for those who enjoy the horror genre or the post-apocalyptic genre.

14. Night Shift by Stephen King

13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows by J.K. Rowling

12. The Dark Tower: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

11. It by Stephen King
It is a very strange metaphor for sex; like the saying “doing it”; it’s also about a shape shifting clown that kills children. Everyone knows the story because Pennywise the clown (from the bad movie) is really the mascot for spooky clowns, right? But, Stephen King’s It is really a deep, spooky, epic of oddity.

10. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

9. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin

8. The Lord of the Flies by William Golding

7. The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker

6. The Stand by Stephen King

5. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
The Road is the greatest, simplest Post-Apocalypse story ever written. There's no plot, other than following the road. But it's the story that makes it emotional and powerful. If drinking a stale can of Coke (or was it Pepsi?) is one of the best moments in the boy's life, you know that this world is bleak. I dare you not to cry by the end of this book.

4. Boy's Life by Robert McCammon
One of the most bizarre books ever. It's Wonder Years meets a murder mystery meets adult versions of disney cartoons meets J.J. Abrams' Super 8. It's hard to put a label on this book in terms of genre. It's about a boy and father who witness a truck being pushed into deep lake; the father--who's a milk man--rushes into the lake and he sees that a man is inside, but the man is already dead. The boy sees a cloaked figure off the side of the lake in a shaded area. And from there on, it's about the father's nightmares of the man in the truck, it's about the boy's friends, the boy's bullies, a monster in the river in a community of African Americans feed an animal to every so often (but does it really exist?), it's about music, movies, death, rabid monkeys and dinosaurs and love-triangles and a dead dog that's really alive but should be dead (think Frankenweenie), it's about criminal legends and tales of heroes; it's about a boy's life. Simple enough.

3. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
In my opinion, this is the best book in the franchise because it is the darkest and it's the shortest (that's not to say I don't like long novels--but this novel cuts out all the fat and hits the nail on the head). It's a shame that the film strayed so far from what made this book so endearing.

2. A Storm of Swords by George R.R. Martin
Let me begin by saying that this is a landmark in dark fantasy. A Game of Thrones and Clash of Kings--no matter how intense you think they are--is nothing compared to A Storm of Swords. You could say that the entire series is one long novel and that this part of that really long novel is when the rope really starts to get tight with tension. It takes about two hundred pages or so until the pacing picks up . . . and then you won't want to stop. I guarentee you that.

1. The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King
Wizard and Glass is not a conventional entry in a series. We completely take a rest from our journey to the dark tower, and we listen to Roland of Gilead tell a story of his youth. Are we getting closer to the dark tower when he tells his tale which takes up about seventy percent of the novel? No, but perhaps we're getting closer to his redemption.

It's hard to put a finger on why this book is so good; perhaps it's because at the beginning they killed a villainous train AI by telling it dead baby jokes; or perhaps it's the pause in the quest that we've been earning for. Also, aside from the first book in the series, Wizard and Glass is the best written--there's a Cormac McCarthy poetic feel to it.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ways to Improve The Walking Dead (Season Three)

I would like to say they need to bring Frank Darabont (Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile, The Mist) back as lead Producer, and occasional director (wouldn't it be nice to see him direct the first episode of every season?); but it's unrealistic to hope for such things, because it must have been a pretty good reason for him to leave. Maybe he disagreed with them trying to stretch the season into twelve episodes instead of six episodes, like season one. That doesn't necessarily matter whether he disagreed with it or not (which he probably did), but what matters is that I* disagree with it (I wanted to say fans, but I can't speak for them, I can only speak for me), because stretching out a season also means a lesser budget for each episode (and less zombies for you hardcore zombie fans), and it usually will mean the season will be slower--unless, of course, a lot of ground is traveled within the twelve episodes--but with The Walking Dead (Season 2), that's not the case because they've stayed on the farm for the entire season and the first half of the season was incredibly slow paced. So, the point is: yes, stretching out six episodes to twleve episodes has its flaws, but we don't know if it's the reason Frank left the show.

Wiith that being said, these are some things that could help the show:

1. Writing

During Comic-Con 2011, Joe Hill (while promoting his own Graphic Novel series called Locke & Key) talked about his and his father Stephen King's interest in writing for the third season of The Walking Dead. And if Glen Mazzara wants to at least fill halfway into Frank Darabont's shoes, he needs to take the father and son up on their interest in writing for the show. Not only would it be ideal in writing Rick and Carl's relationship better, but it's because Joe Hill is experienced in writing graphic novels, and therefore he has a respect and insight for The Walking Dead's source material: a graphic novel. Also, The Walking Dead, being a Western with zombies, is right up Stephen King's alley. And I'm referring to The Dark Tower series which effortlessly blends the Western genre with horror, science fiction, fantasy, crime, mystery, etc.. I don't care if they need to give Stephen King his biggest paycheck yet, but they need to get him any way they can. And besides, the writers during this season definitely know how to create tension (a very, very slow burning tension I might add), but they riddled The Walking Dead with too many soap opera elements. It's become a soap opera with zombies; and not the other way around.

If the same group of writers write Season 3 with the same slow pace, I don't care how nicely it wraps up at the end--or how grand the finale is--I won't be satisfied, and that's that. It's not even necessarily about how many zombies are in the show, it's about a vibe. Frank got it (The Mist wasn't a zombie movie, but it had a zombie vibe--and a sort of Survival Horror that Season 2 of The Walking Dead doesn't even come close to having); and Glen, he doesn't understand it (or if he does, he doesn't understand how to obtain that Survival Horror vibe).

2. Chandler Riggs

The way Tom Hardy trained for The Dark Knight Rises, that's how the Producers of The Walking Dead needs to treat Chandler Riggs, the boy who plays Carl. I think all the fans of the show feel the same way; a lot of his dialogue is too forced; he tries to talk in a deeper voice than he has (and therefore hinders his acting ability); he doesn't know how to realistically act in front of Rick and Lori. Part of the problem is the writers of the show giving him lines that they should have realized that Chandler couldn't deliver.

3. Peer Pressure from AMC's Other Shows

I think this is a very subtle, almost impossible to prove theory, but it makes sense. Mad Men thrives off from its relationship drama; Breaking Bad thrives from its intense dialogue and emotional cliff hangers; The Killing thrives (well, it does have a second season) from being a mystery: therefore most of the audience, who are primarily women, who watch the show are pleased, because they want to be fooled over and over and over again. The formula is simple:

the killer who they thought was the killer wasn't the killer so there's another killer = The Killing (S2)

And The Walking Dead looks to its counterparts and . . . it tries to be like them, instead of being what it should be. Look at it this way, Rubicon (a fantistic, compelling show with rich characters, an innovative plot, and was exactly what it needed to be) got cancelled after one season, and the release date on the DVD/Blu-Ray? Your guess is as good as mine. This is what happens to shows that don't comform to the norm: they are assassinated. Maybe it's fear that is holding The Walking Dead back from being what it truly needs to be. In the entire second season of The Walking Dead, there are only two episodes that I thought were pure genius and fit the zombie "vibe." Only two out of twelve. So much of the first half of the second season was trying to build soap opera elements instead of zombie folklore/Survival Horror elements. The fall of Rubicon might have been an element in Season 2's inability to take risks. Although, like I said, it's hard to prove.

4. Location, Location, Location

Season One was half-urban, half-woods. But, really, they weren't in the city for that long. Besides, it was a very short season: only six episodes. Either way, it didn't show enough of either location where you got sick and tired. The writers changed it up per episode. Season Two, on the other hand, will have a unifying effect on most of the fans of the series: GET OFF THE FARM; WE'RE SICK OF IT! The funny thing is, at the end of the season, I almost want them to stay. But it took the writers of the show way too long for this emotional epiphany that was induced when we find out that Hershel is more of a Rambo than we originally had thought (but they should have shown that earlier in the season).

With that being said, it's time to get off the farm. And when I say get off the farm, I mean: if I see as much as one barn in Season 3--uh, let's just say, I might get a bad migrane and puke out blood. Season 3 needs to be almost completely urban because Season 2 has used up the rural setting to the point of depletion; Season 2 is to rural settings as Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood is to oil.

I'm not a fan of the graphic novel series, but I think the escaped prisoner story arc could be interesting. And then I keep hearing something about a character called The Governor. Either way, Season 3 needs a setting that we won't get sick of, and it needs to have quicker pacing. We already know the characters, so we don't need an entire episode of character "A" stuck in location "B" and having him talk to imaginary friend "C"--we just need the show going back to its zombie roots using a good location to its utmost usage.

And weather. Maybe some snow wouldn't be such a bad thing.

5. This and That

Essentially Season Three could be something compelling. And in all honestly, the second season of most TV shows are usually kind of weak, because it's the "in-between" season. Almost always Season's three and four are really when it picks up. So hopefully The Walking Dead follows that trend. But it can't if it continues the way it's going. Even cinematic elements like cinematography have sort of sat in the back seat this season. There were really none of the "awe" moments that the first season had; and back to the my third point, if The Walking Dead should take tips from any show, it should be Breaking Bad in terms of the cinematography.

Last but not least, if Frank can't come back to direct the first episode of next season, why don't they try to find another A-List director? David Fincher, anyone? Or maybe someone completely qualified but unlikely, like Christopher Nolan's brother Jonathon? Jonathon has shown interest in television with Person of Interest. So is it that unrealistic that they would be able to have Nolan co-write and direct the pilot episode? Not at all. In all honesty, I'd love to see Zach Snyder direct the first episode for Season Three, too. I mean, Dawn of the Dead (2004) has been the only good zombie film in the last couple decades (28 Days Later doesn't have zombies in it, so it doesn't count, remember? They're infected with rage; they're not dead and you can kill them in ways other than damage to the brain--ergo, not zombies--but it's still a great film); in fact, the remake of Dawn of the Dead has been the greatest zombie movie since the original Dawn of the Dead . . . that's three decades!

6. In Conclusion: What They Should Do From Now On

If they can't get Frank back, they need to find a special guest director for episode one (some other good ideas: David Cronenburg, Neill Blomkamp, Guillermo del Toro, heck, even Eli Roth if they make sure he doesn't add a million F*** bombs in the script).

And Stephen King is a must-have on the writing staff. He's the most successful horror writer of All Time; they need to have him. Pay the man and his son whatever they ask for (which probably won't be that much) and have them work on the story for Season Three.