Friday, August 22, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Spider-Man: Edge of Time"

I've made it absolutely no secret that my favorite superhero in the entire world is Spider-Man.  You can take your Batman with his dead parents issues and ridiculous power set (seriously, you want to give Superman a hard time for that? Really?) and shove him.  The story of Peter Parker is a timeless one, one of a young boy who becomes a man learning that with great power comes great responsibility. With a set of powers granted him by the bite of a radioactive spider, Peter takes the mantel of Spider-Man and proceeds to learn from the death of his uncle in order to protect the people of New York from danger.  It's a timeless story and one that preaches the philosophy of might for right, that a person who has power should do good things because they're the right thing to do.

Which is why I get irritated at such things as One More Day or Superior Spider-Man which either completely ignore or invert that...but that's not why I'm here.

Spider-Man:  Edge of Time is technically a sequel to Shattered Dimensions, with a passing reference to it in the beginning as well as a nifty little addition to the game if you've played that game - unlocking several zippy cool alternate costumes (including the original Scarlet Spider, which was a big one for me).  So I began the adventures of Peter Parker (voiced by Josh Keaton of Ultimate Spider-Man fame) and Miguel O'Hara, the Spider-Man of the year 2099 (voiced by Christopher Daniel Barnes, who you may remember from the 90's Spider-Man animated series and the voice of Spider-Man Noir in Shattered Dimensions).

For those not familiar with Marvel's 2099 imprint, here's a quick crash course:  it's the Blade Runner future and everything kind of majorly sucks.  Okay, now you're familiar.

The game begins with Peter getting beaten down by the stupidly named "Anti-Venom" (Eddie Brock with a palette swap) and killed.  In the future of 2099, Miguel O'Hara uncovers a plot by Alchemax scientist Walker Sloan to go back in time and found the company years before it's actually founded (doing it in 2011 instead of in 2013...oops), and this somehow causes the future to start going screwy.  Stealing some of the Parker genetics from the laboratory, O'Hara makes a SCIENCE thing that allows him to communicate with Peter at the time of the distortion, because that's in any way how genetics work.  With this link established, the two can communicate across time and work to solve the problem of the screwy things going.

As far as the gameplay goes, it plays almost exactly like Shattered Dimensions' non-Noir sections.  You swing, you punch, you kick.  Fun times.  Added into this comes the unique powers that are added in for Spider-Man and his 2099 counterpart.  In addition with the Spider-Man traditional "Spider-Sense", the Amazing Spider-Man receives a "hyper sense" that allows him to move around enemies and giant laser beams without getting burned alive.  2099 trades in bullet time from Shattered Dimensions for the ability to create a "real-not real" clone of himself that enemies will temporary focus on, allowing him to counterattack or to move about the area unhindered for a short time.

Oh, and 2099 has the free fall sections again through a variety of dangers that make it ever so pleasant.  Have fun with that.

Both also get move sets for swinging around and/or beating down enemies into a fine paste that can be upgraded through the use of experience beaten out of enemies and collected from fragments of "portal energy" that can be found.  Health and stamina can also be upgraded through the use of golden spiders that are hidden throughout the levels.  There's no real strategy to pick out anything for success, since - like most beat 'em ups - the only real strategy here is to pummel them with your fists, feet, and webbing until they stop moving.

The entire game takes place within Alchemax, both in the "present" and in 2099. This allows for actually having a reason for the linear and self-contained levels, as opposed to Shattered Dimensions that decided giving us fantastic city-scapes that we could look at but not interact with in the 2099 sections was perfectly alright.  The change in Edge of Time is both a good and bad thing, giving us an actual reason for not having the wide areas that Spider-Man is most known for swinging around in...while not having the wide areas that Spider-Man is most known for swinging around in.  We don't have the wide cityscapes of New York like Spider-Man 2 or the newer The Amazing Spider-Man games have done, and I really think the game suffers from that.  In particular because the places within Alchemax really aren't all that interesting.  As on the nose as it may be to say it, the entire place looks like a dull version of a comic book mad science laboratory in the present, and a FUTURE! dull version of a comic book science laboratory in 2099.

Like Shattered Dimensions, this game isn't bad.  It's not really that great, but it's...alright.  Like I suggested with the previous game, if you're a diehard Spider-Man fan, go for it.  Otherwise, you're not going to be too hung up on missing it.

Spider-Man:  Edge of Time is now available from Beenox and Activision for Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo DS, Playstation 3, Wii, and Xbox 360.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Also, it's a week late, but Happy 52nd Birthday, Spider-Man!

Friday, August 15, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "DuckTales Remastered"

I wasn't old enough to be privvy to the Disney Afternoon at the height of its majestic power and grace (or so I'm told) no, sadly, I got the tail end of it (literally) with the Mighty Ducks and Bonkers cartoons.  However, thanks to reruns and the prevalence of this marvelous thing we have called the internet, I'm no stranger to Ducktales - the legend of Huey, Dewey, and Louie in the care of the gruff Scrooge McDuck as they seek out treasure to help the shining paragon of the one percent get even richer.  However, unlike the faceless corporate goons we're so happily quick to demonize nowadays, McDuck had a heart that was much like the coins in his money bin, and his good nature tended to win out more often than not...even as he managed to accumulate more wealth for his vast fortune.

So, naturally, at the height of the show's popularity, Disney decided to capitalize on the idea and had an NES game made.  It was a hit, much like the show itself, selling over a million copies and is still considered today to be one of the best games of the NES.  Last year, WayForward Technologies and Capcom released a fully remastered version of the game onto Xbox 360, Playstation 3, and the Wii U.  One would question the sudden want to do such a thing now, but that can largely be chalked up to nostalgia, which this game is more than happy to cart out.  Trading in 8-bit visuals and sound for 2.5D graphics and HD sound, the game is like a role call of all the show's heroes and villains (with their original voice actors providing voices, no less!) bringing in the likes of the Beagle Boys, Magica de Spell, and even McDuck's longtime rival Flintheart Glomgold (all of whom play major roles in the story).

The story begins in Duckberg (where life is like a hurricane), with Scrooge being alerted by an alarm to his famous Money Bin being robbed.  In a short tutorial level, we are introduced to the major mechaincs of the game.  Scrooge can leap onto enemies with the use of a pogo stick, which can also be used to destroy objects directly below him, or to activate switches.  With his cane, Scrooge can send certain objects flying in order to hit enemies that he otherwise cannot, or to knock down treasure chests from places he otherwise couldn't reach. Upon saving his nephews from certain peril, Scrooge defeats the leader of the Beagles and learns that they were not after his fortune, but instead a painting that was hanging on the wall.  Finding a strange cipher in it, Scrooge runs it through the computer and learns of the keys to a vast fortune hidden away.  All one has to do is gather certain items from all across the world.

The game is, from there, set up into various missions with Scrooge's office existing as a hub world (complete with a fully functioning Money Bin, which you can dive into for an achievement!) as Scrooge and the gang travel to the Himalayas, the Amazon, Transylvania, and even to the Moon in search of this elusive fortune. I will say one thing I enjoy about the game is that, while the enemies are often defeated in the same manner (i.e., jumping on their head), the levels themselves are all very nicely varied and have their own unique flavor and charm to them.  Quite frankly, it's just fun to play this game!  It tickles that little part of the gamer brain that craves exploration and finding secrets, something that it does reward you for when you do find said secrets.

Unlike many modern games, DuckTales: Remastered doesn't hold your hand.  You're free to explore and discover and fail at your own pace anywhere within the worlds that you can reach.  Not even a hand to point the way.  Scrooge is given an objective, you go and complete it - such as having to search for three pieces of a fuel regulator for Launchpad's plane in the Himalayas.  Really, the style puts me in mind of the old Mega Man games, a unique and different environment followed by a boss fight to cap it all off.

The music and the voice acting also deserve some praise, both being excellent.  With the 8-bit sprites traded in for the hand drawn versions of the characters, it helps to make them mesh and make this game almost like an interactive episode (or, indeed, even an arc) of the show.  And, of course...that theme song.  Y'know, the one that is right up there with "Go! Go! Power Rangers!" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" in terms of "Dear God, Dear God! Please get it out of my head!". That one.  Yep, that's played loud and proud over the title screen and the end credits, as one might expect.

The game also has special features including character profiles that can be purchased with money from the Bin (scored from the levels by finding precious gems - I did mention this was about the one percent getting even richer, didn't I?), as well as other asides.  And what luck! The game locks levels upon completion in story mode, but unlocks them once you've completed them.  Perhaps a chance to fill up that money bin? Well, when I pick this up again, it'll be to enjoy the game further, not to go for the high score (seriously, who cares about scores anymore on consoles? Name three people).  In summation, to paraphrase Mr. McDuck himself, I wouldn't miss this game for all the scones in Scotland...and neither should you.

DuckTales: Remastered is now available from Wayforward Technologies, Capcom, and Disney Interactive Studios for Xbox 360, Playstation 3, Microsoft Windows, and the Wii U.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, August 8, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Super Scribblenauts"


"Words! Words! Words!" - Hamlet, Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2

And with that  quote from a far, far better writer than I, here's Super Scribblenauts.  Given to us by 5th Cell and WB Games, it's a game about a boy in a bizarrely phallic hat who uses a magic notepad in order to capture stars, because...I don't know, everybody needs a hobby, don't they?

Really, there's no real reason given for this within the narrative - what little of it there is - but still, we've had little plot or reason in so many other games throughout the years and so there's no reason to get hung up on this.  As stated before, Maxwell is a little man in a stupid hat that uses a magical notepad to create virtually anything the developers thought of...I mean, that your mind can conceive of.  Sadly, this is an area where - while I know the game is limited by how much it can store - the promise of "Create Anything" falls flat.  While, of course, you can't create anything racially insensitive, overly violent, or vulgar - you also have a selective group of things that you can create.

So, my dreams of creating a giant flaming black cock were realized as the magnificent black-feathered rooster on fire crushed the earth beneath its feet.

...yeah, I know what you were thinking.  Perverts.

Really, that's all there is to it.  Maxwell journeys along constellations to capture "Starites", which are granted upon the completion of a puzzles.  The puzzles can range from recreating the ending to the Wizard of Oz to having a Mission Impossible-style heist, and many, many things in between. Of course, some of the solutions to the puzzles are complete nonsense and counter-intuitive to how one might think.  Hints are buyable with "ollars" that are obtained within the levels, but sometimes they're either too vague or just plain unhelpful even after buying up all three tiers.

Still, it's very fun and the nice title screen section allows the player to move around in an environment that is completely their own and shape and destroy things to their will.  It's pretty fun, though, and enjoyable enough for a few hours.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to ride Shai-Hulud and avoid the rainclouds one more time!

Super Scribblenauts is now available from 5th Cell and WB Games on Nintendo DS.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

MadCap At the Movies - "Guardians of the Galaxy"

Marvel Studios has produced several films of high merit since their inception in 1993.  Before the surprise sleeper smash hit blockbuster that was Iron Man (which I've already covered here), they were mostly known for animation, in particular the 1990s animated X-Men and Spider-Man cartoon shows.  This review, however, has nothing to do with any of those (okay, maybe distantly with the Silver Surfer cartoon, but that's neither here nor there - Fox still has the rights to him). This review has to do with Marvel's other big team of a bunch of misfits and rogues who are banded together to do something good, something bad, and a little of both.

The film begins in 1988, with young Peter Quill at his mother's bedside as she dies.  Traumatized by this, Peter flees the hospital...and is immediately kidnapped by aliens.  Fast forward to the present, and he is now a roguish devil may care fella (Chris Pratt) who listens to the greatest pop hits of the 70s and 80s whilst wandering through some old ruins on an otherwise abandoned planet to obtain a mysterious Orb, in reality one of the six Infinity "Stones" (not gems, but "stones") that are to set up some later plotline involving Thanos (Josh Brolin), who is now more prominently featured than his post-credits cameo in The Avengers.

But now is a good time to talk about the character Peter Quill.  Raised by reavers, basically mercenaries who are more than happy to do any job for any price and with only a code of "steal from everyone" to guide them, he is more than happy to live up to his legendary reputation (be it real or, as the film suggests, imagined) as the "Star Lord".  He is cocky, hilarious, and absolutely brilliant. Beneath his hilarious 80s references (I mean, the guy uses the plot to Footloose as a pick up line, c'mon), somewhat devious nature (at one point suggests finding a nice person to sell a planet-destroying superweapon to) and his roguish ladies man qualities, there is a true hero here - a man with a heart of gold who will, when the chips are down, do the right thing.

Quill's theft of the Orb catches the attention of Ronan the Accuser (Lee Pace), in this version of things a Kree fanatic rather than having any affiliation with the Kree Empire itself (during the film, the Kree actually wash their hands of the guy), and he dispatches one of the daughters of Thanos, Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to retrieve the Orb, much to the chagrin of her adopted sister Nebula (Karen Gillan). At the same time, Quill's former employer (Michael Rooker) decides to put a bounty on him, resulting in Quill being pursued by Rocket Raccoon (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel).

Yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. It's a wise-cracking raccoon that deals in heavy artillery.  Do you need any further convincing to see this movie?!

Wacky hijinks follow that land the four in prison, where they meet the acquaintance of the muscle-bound, vengeance seeking, walking Thesaurus who takes everything literally, Drax the Destroyer (Dave Bautista), who joins their merry band.  At first motivated by profit, the group eventually begins to strengthen the bonds between one another and become...well...the Guardians of the Galaxy. And y'know what? They're pretty damn awesome, every one of them.  For a film like this, one would think that having so many characters thrown into one film without proper introduction through previous films (a la The Avengers) would fill too thinly spread and schizophrenic in jumping around between them all, but it all balances very well.  While Peter Quill is, of course, the main character and gets the most establishment and development in that regard, everyone on the team has their moment to shine.

And that's not even getting into the many, many moments of awesome...of which there are so many.

So...many...awesome...

James Gunn (who you might remember for such memorable things as the live-action Scooby Doo films and the always infamous Lollipop Chainsaw) really brings his talking dog and cheerleader killing zombies expertise into the fore here, getting an astounding performance for everyone involved, and in crafting and bringing to life not a single world but many worlds of interesting variety.  From the desolate wasteland world in the beginning to the Knowhere station to the planet Xandar, each world in the galaxy has its own energy and flavor to it.  Honestly, it's a universe I'd love to explore and live within.  From the gritty yet colorful spaceports to the dark and foreboding halls of Ronan's ship, the Dark Aster, everything has a tone set perfectly for its intended use.

It also feels like watching the older Star Wars movies. While Guardians certainly doesn't lack the sweeping visual scale of the prequel trilogy (while looking far, far better, by the way), the film knows who its supposed to have a tighter focus on, and it focuses.  Honestly, unlike some of the films that Marvel has produced, I could argue that every single scene belongs in this movie, and that anything that got cut from it will only add flavor to a meal that is already delicious.

I really can't stress enough, this film is amazing.  It is wonderful, great, well done and - while being connected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe - doesn't have the major problem I've been having with most post-The Avengers films, namely the "where is everyone else?" After all, they can't get into space...yet. But that'll be later down the road, surely.  This film itself, as its own entity, is utterly amazing.  Like with Thor before it, Marvel took a big gamble and it paid right off.  And a sequel announced already? I'm looking forward to it.

Oh, and I know someone is going to want me to mention a particular cameo (voiced by Seth Green).  I don't really understand it.  I find it rather fowl at best...

Guardians of the Galaxy is now in theaters from Marvel Studios and Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Friday, August 1, 2014

MadCap's Game Review - "Yoshi's New Island"


Before we get into the review proper, you all get to learn a little bit of the history of MadCap. One of my first outings in gaming was a little Super Nintendo game known as Super Mario World 2:  Yoshi's Island.  When I was but a wee Munchkin, my mother and I (my mother more than I, as I had - as a youth - not quite developed the satisfying motor skills necessary to game with any sort of efficiency) would spend many an hour playing this game, taking the form of a dinosaur with a horrifically frightening digestive system trying to save an absurdly whiny infant from a witch with Bottles-eyes.

...video games are weird.

Unlike most of the then-previous Mario games, which focused on repeating the same "hero rescues princess" formula, this was the first entry in the series that did something different well.  Besides certain other endeavors before that point that were met with mixed success, this was one of the first major deviations from the formula...and it worked phenomenally well.  Yoshi provided a different angle to come at things as the player character, while still keeping the same platforming feel of the original games whilst playing as Mario.

But now, it seems, Yoshi's Island has been remade.  Now it's the Yoshi's NEW Island in spite of the fact that it follows the same basic plot as the original.  Mario and Luigi, being delivered to their parents in the Mushroom Kingdom (which is odd, didn't know the Mushroom Kingdom was in Italy), have their stork accosted and Mario falls from an impossible to survive height only to survive...and be worshiped by a tribe of Yoshis who decide to aid him on his quest to rescue Luigi and finally get home to their parents in order to begin the long tradition of recycling the exact same game over nine thousand times to date.

Getting to the game itself, it's very enjoyable.  Enough of a look back on what had come before without basically copy-pasting the same formula from the original game.  While the original made me rather frightened of the Yoshis with their odd ability to eat seemingly anything and poop it out as an egg-shaped death projectile, Yoshi's New Island (and yes, I will not be typing New in that context any other way) further has body horror with Yoshi being able to pass a specific type of enemy that is literally five or six times his size in order to produce a metallic egg, which is used to weigh Yoshi down for underwater sections or to break through barriers that are otherwise unbreakable through the use of conventional eggs.

In an item recycled from the previous game, we have the sections where Yoshi must polymorph into an object or vehicle in order to complete and objective.  While this meshed in with the previous game (more or less), it is brought through now as a mini-game section that is sometimes necessary in order to complete the level. These all incorporate the 3DS's (or 2DS, in my case) motion controls by forcing the player to rotate the device to the left and the right in order to control direction - such as maneuvering a submarine through a long, narrow corridor underwater.  While I'm all for advances in gaming, motion controls aren't one of them and Nintendo really should have gotten this by now.  However, failing that, it's really just something that breaks immersion and - especially considering I've not seen it used anywhere besides the mini-game sections- the transformations really could have just been regulated in the main game world as they were in the original game, used to navigate dangerous areas or to solve puzzles.

Did it make sense that Yoshi would turn into a helicopter in a jungle setting? Nope.

Did that even matter? Nope.

This minor issue considered, however, the game is playable and even enjoyable.  It homages the feeling of the old whilst trying something new.  Even if the new isn't great, it's at least an attempting.  Considering how Nintendo has had at least two of its franchises re-purposing everything and changing nothing but the aesthetics for nearly thirty years now, we should take what we can get.

Yoshi's New Island is now available from Arzest and Nintendo for Nintendo 3DS.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin

Friday, July 25, 2014

MadCap's Game Reviews - "Yu-Gi-Oh! Millennium Duels"


Merciful god, please! No! Wasn't the last time enough for you maniacs?! I don't want to play any more children's card games! I just don't! Please!

...oh, fine.  Let's get this over with.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Millennium Duels is another of the many, many simulators of the wildly-popular anime series known as Yu-Gi-Oh! More specifically, it's a simulator of the card game based from the widely-popular anime series known as Yu-Gi-Oh! Unlike...certain...other games, this one actually follows the set standard of rules put forth by Konami...at least at the time that this game came out.  So, those of you who aren't at all familiar with the rules of Yu-Gi-Oh! by this point, the line starts here!

Luckily, there's a tutorial to give you some insight and then you're let loose into either the Single Player or Multiplayer mode depending on preference.  As I didn't play the Multiplayer (because anyone who's not in the same room with me is not bound by the most basic rules of social etiquette), the Single Player is split up into four categories - one for each of the main series of Yu-Gi-Oh! (that is to say, the classic, the one everyone hates, the one everyone thought was stupid until it aired and it was actually kind of awesome, and the one that's EXTREMEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!) - where you battle five duelists with a pre-made deck that's handed to you from the jump.

Like other Yu-Gi-Oh! games, you get a premade deck from the beginning that you can edit with cards you win from booster packs and from your opponents.  Unlike other Yu-Gi-Oh! games, you don't have the option of being able to enter the code on the bottom of cards to receive said card in-game.  In older games, you could do this but the code would only work once - hence you only received one copy per code.  Here, I assume the feature is absent to help balance the online gameplay...which, knowing the MMO mentality will mean next to nothing so, good job there, Konami!

Just to tell you how hilariously dated my knowledge of Yu-Gi-Oh! really is (the actual game, that is), I was completely confounded by the Synchro and XYZ monsters.  Just goes to show how different it is from the anime, particularly the first season when the rules were just sort of a vague notion of a suggestion than any actual guidelines to be followed.  At the very least, however, this game isn't misleading.  Unlike The Sacred Cards, this game doesn't make anyone who buys this think they're getting anything less than the legitimate Yu-Gi-Oh! experience.  However, like Eternal Duelist Soul, it's nothing more than that.  It's a simulator of the game with CPU opponents that have the faces of characters from the anime slapped over them.

It's appropriate that the first character you encounter is a computer simulator set up for teaching you the basics, because that's what this game feels like on the whole.  It is the bare basics - a computer program made for a task, with some garish paint smeared all over it in an attempt to connect it to something.   It's an obvious tie in and it really seems pointless to bring it up, but it has no soul.  Forbidden Memories might have had a system I violently disagreed with, but at least there was a point to it all.  It wasn't just a card game sim, there was a reason for all of it.  Even The Sacred Cards, as much as I've ragged on it, had a plot and a reason for doing what we were doing...even if it was just Battle City Fanfiction edition.

This, though? Good as a simulator of the game, but 0/10, would not duel again.

Yu-Gi-Oh! Millennium Duels is now available from Konami for Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

For the latest from the MadCapMunchkin, follow him on Twitter @MadCapMunchkin.

Monday, July 14, 2014

MadCap's Reel Thoughts - "Metallica Through the Never" (2013)

Let me go ahead and start this one off by saying I'm a fan of Metallica.  Yes, even when Jason Newstead took over as bassist and the band "sold out" with the Black Album.  And, yes, even further on into the present, where they're apparently a bunch of talentless, money-grubbing assholes if the internet is to be believed.  I've listened to every Metallica album to date and found at least one song on every album I could enjoy - minus St. Anger and Lulu (sorry, guys, can't win 'em all).  I'm also not a music critic, I'm just a big fan of the band.  However, that doesn't mean I'm willing to follow them blindly and not point out when a short coming (the aforementioned two albums ought to prove that) is reached.  Case in point, and I already know that I'm not going to win any friends for saying it, Metallica Through the Never.

Written by the band and director Nimr√≥d Antal, this film is absolutely just...weird.  Touted as a "thriller concert film", I can go ahead and tell everybody that the concert parts of the film are awesome, taken from a show in Vancouver, where the narrative of the film is also set.  Having actually been to a Metallica concert, I can tell you that it's a pretty good performance.  The band has high energy and they get the crowd into it as well, though not to the level of - say - Iron Maiden (also seen them in concert).  Where the film suffers is in the narrative that the band and Antal are trying to bring to the screen.  And, with that, let's begin.

And begin we do with the introduction of "Trip" (Dane DeHaan), one of the roadies (so named, I'm guessing, for a scene where he's skateboarding and wipes out onto the asphalt), arriving and getting cameos from the band before he gets an assignment from a manager to find a van stranded without gas that apparently was carrying something very important.  Before heading out, Trip decides to take a strange blue and red pill...and then things quickly go off the rails and firmly stay there.

Oh, and before you ask about the item on the van, we never find out exactly what it is.  Spoiler alert.

What follows is ninety-four minutes of trippy visuals set to, and interwoven with, the music of Metallica.  When it focuses on the concert, it's great! When it's focused back on the psychedelic journey of Trip, however, it's jarring, incoherent, and poses enough questions to have been written by J.J. Abrams...only for the disappointment of the un-reveals to happen several seasons early.  Trip makes a journey through Vancouver, which quickly turns more and more post-apocalyptic as time progresses, going from a full on riot in the streets, watched over by an enigmatic and frightening being known as Fallout Box Art...I mean, "the Rider".  Straddling a mighty steed and wearing a gas mask, he rides through Trip's drug-induced version of Vancouver with a penchant for hanging people.  Now, Trip must find a way to avoid the hangman and make his way back to the concert.

Now, the makings of an awesome narrative are here, I won't deny that.  But they're bogged down by several problems.  One, and probably the biggest of note here, is Trip.  Besides the fact that he's a roadie for Metallica, we know absolutely nothing about him.  Not his likes or dislikes or anything else that gives us insight into a character's mind.  Just throwing someone into a difficult or dangerous position doesn't immediately get us to sympathize and be interested.  We can surely empathize with Trip to a certain extent (after all, who wants to be hanged from a lamppost? Nobody, that's who), but as for getting invested? That's not quite enough.

The second problem is the item that Trip is sent to receive from the van.  We never find out what it is.  At all.  Whatever it is, it clearly has some great impact on Trip as he falls against the walls of the van in shock.  Shame that doesn't happen for the audience, who never gets to learn what is in the bag he finds there.  No, it's more concerned with showing the extensive visuals and glorifying the music of Metallica.  And those would be great, but here's my question - why? Why not just focus on making a great concert film or, if you want to go the artsy path, why not focus on the narrative and use the music of Metallica as a way to enhance the experience?

Either way, despite my gripes, apparently a lot of people seem to really enjoy this.   It made back its budget, plus a little extra, and was considered a success.  If you're a fan of the band and you're in for the music, enjoy it.  If you're of the artsy crowd and dig the visuals, go nuts. But I don't really think it's that great.  The entire film doesn't really make clear what it wants to do or what message its trying to bring across to us.  What was in the bag? Was it important? Evidently not, since Trip shows up with it after the show (or possibly before it, the film is rather confusing on that point).  But what's more annoying is that the bag that the item is in is prominently featured near the end...and yet we're not even given a hint as to what was within.

Pulp Fiction could get away with that, Metallica.  It had characters who were knew about and were invested in the story.  While the mystery of what was in Marcellus Wallace's briefcase is one that is debated to this very day, that wasn't Quentin Taratino's point in making the film.  He didn't put so much emphasis on such a thing that we were insulted that we didn't get an answer - because there were interesting characters and scenarios that had more focus put on them.  Here, in Through the Never, we have a character we don't really care about doing things that are better suited to a dark and gritty reboot version of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and it just doesn't come across the same way.  It's not bad, per se, but it really should have had the focus refined more.

Metallica Through the Never is now available from Blackened Records and Picturehouse.

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