It’s been harder than I expected to find the moments to play through The Last of Us Part 2. But from what I’ve played so far, opinions have already been forming regarding the game, the direction, and how people responded to the leaks.
In the meantime, have a small unboxing album of the Collector’s Edition I purchased for the game.
* * *
As collector’s editions go, I’d say it was about 7.5 / 10.
The art book is average to a little lackluster. It’s what you’d typically find even in cheaper collector’s editions of games. Nothing really interesting to point out from it. I personally think the steel case is one of the better ones that I have. The art is printed on there vibrantly and thoughtfully, and the art itself is quite pleasant to look at.
The thank you card is… a nice thought but I guess the execution feels a bit like an afterthought. It might have been better if it just said “thank you” and maybe had signatures from the team. In some sense, the thank you card kind of had spoilers for those who really don’t want to have any sort of insight before diving into a story.
Stickers and pins are… also nice (especially the pins since they seem a little more unique and meaningful than the stickers that you imagine companies handing out like candies at high school career days) but that may depend on the person. The bracelet is what-did-you-really-expect quality. But again, the value of it will depend on the person. At the very least, these are nice little souvenirs to have of the game. A nice little bonus as most people are probably paying the premium for the statue, art book, and the steel case.
Digital contents are welcome but, when paying a premium, physical contents are always better. I’ll welcome more for higher quality physical goodies even if it means not getting digital goodies. But the included digital contents are great for the fans to have (OST, Artbook, Avatars, and a dynamic theme)—especially since the dynamic themes for the PlayStation 4 can be collector’s items in their own right. Hopefully, the digital content will remain exclusive for a while, if not forever, to give the digital contents a nice little shine for those who decided to pay the premium for the collector’s edition.
The highlight of the purchase, the Ellie statue, grew on me even more as time passed. There are definitely details I didn’t notice and appreciate during my first few days with it. I’ve seen better and I’ve certainly seen worse quality for these sorts of statues at this price range (I’m giving it a value of ~$100 given that the game itself is ~$60), and given that it’s friggin’ 12 inches tall, I’d say it’s at least worth around its price.
That’s it for today. Stay safe and healthy out there.
Each week what the post would be about grew and mutated.
At first it was about frustrations regarding COVID19.
Then it was about the George Floyd and the BLM movement.
And then I added on about what happened at Lafayette Square and the complete disregard a President of United States had for not only the constitution but the fundamental ideals of the nation he was leading.
I hesitated on posting anything because I didn’t want to ride the coattails of politics and critically important social outrage if I felt like I had nothing really worthy to say.
But I also didn’t want to have said nothing about it all while having lived through these events.
I was mostly afraid that this post would end up becoming just a vomit of thoughts and outrage.
Then I saw that shirt.
What’s wrong with vomit of thoughts and outrage, really?
This one is more for me than for anyone who might end up reading this.
This is America.
This is America.
This is America.
At least, this is what America is right now.
It’s not what it was before. Not that it was necessarily better before.
It’s not what it may be in the future. Not that it’ll necessarily be better in the future.
What is America?
For me it was country I had no choice coming to. I came here because my family did.
I grew up in not the most ideal conditions.
I faced discrimination and bullying for my race, not being enough like my race, my assumed sexuality, my religion, and because I was generally different than others growing up.
I was bullied by Blacks, Latinos, and Asians and found help during the worst times my family faced from White people.
I was bullied by White people and found help during the worst times my family faced from Blacks, Latinos, and Asians.
I experienced first hand the corruption of the rich, the law enforcement, and the criminals who manipulated the law for their own advantage using those corruption as an excuse.
The country taught me what personal liberties mean and what it means to be equal.
It’s where I learned to fear the police and how much money can change the definition of what life means from person to person.
It’s the place I proudly call my home.
What is America?
It’s a country where everyone outside of it seems to think they’re experts of it even though there’s no other country like it.
It’s a country full of people who believe they’re the greatest in the world without never having stepped a foot into a different country.
It’s a country inescapable from diversity but full of people that’ll judge someone by their colors, uniforms, and professions.
It’s a country that’ll make most other countries seem far behind with their social issues.
It’s a country that’s unafraid to be critical of itself but blissfully unaware at times the wrongs it’s doing to other nations.
It’s a country where I can find a mosque, a Mormon church, and McDonalds all within 1 minute driving distance from one another.
And it’s a country that celebrates individual freedoms to a point where individuals will fight for their freedoms even if it means stomping over their fellow Americans.
This is my country. The country that made me who I am.
What is America?
It’s that Coke commercial. The one where a bunch of people gathered to represent diversity, sang kumbaya, and told the world they wanted to sell them a bottle of Coca-Cola. But despite that, the heartfelt message, the sincerity of it, is real.
America is a construct of convenience, of profit, of fidelity, and most importantly, of humanity.
It’s a paradoxical experiment but an experiment of hope. For something we couldn’t find elsewhere on this blue planet.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Cynics would say it was written to be self-evident because there simply wasn’t verifiable proof to justify their claims. It was a world of monarchy and slavery. How could it be self-evident when the world and its history blatantly demonstrated otherwise?
Optimists would say it is self-evident because the Founding Fathers believed in a world beyond the scope of reality. That there are certain truths, regardless to whether we’ve lived up to them yet or not, always remain true.
I’ve made my choice which I’d rather be a long time ago. What kind of American I wanted to be. What kind of America I wanted. You do you.
Happy fuckin’ 4th, America and my fellow Americans.
To not waste anyone’s time, this is not a review. That’ll probably come along next week.
This is a subject I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while and it was meant to be released in a different medium… but due to all that’s happening, I couldn’t get the other medium running in time to cover this topic as I wanted it.
But as most people reading this may already know, The Last of Us: Part 2, the highly anticipated sequel to the widely acclaimed PlayStation 3 title, The Last of Us, was extensively leaked last month.
Following the leak there were lawsuits filed, quarantined fans pickling in their homes going into panic mode, and the creators of the game engaging in full damage control.
If you missed it, you missed a great little internet fiesta full of unreasonably vitriolic rage by those who hated what they saw and painstaking shielding by emotionally distressed die-hard fans who did their darnedest to cover their ears and eyes from the leaks.
I ended up basically seeing the leaks thanks to the magic of YouTube algorithm recommending it to me… because I had searched for The Last of Us: Part 2 in the past.
But you know what?
I didn’t really care. And this post, which isn’t going to be very long, is going to try to explain why.
A video game as a storytelling device differentiates itself from other devices by having incorporating game play as part of how it tells its stories.
Obviously, some games do it better than others, but with how video games have developed through the years it’s becoming more and more of a common place to see what players do is integral part of the video game’s story telling experience.
That’s why, TheLast of Us, the original game impressed me so much and I still consider it one of the best video game storytelling experiences I’ve ever had.
Having to scrape for scarce resources made me feel the desperation of the characters and the world I was in. Making the choice to either take the violent path or the more pacifistic path made me feel like I had some control over the morality of the circumstances I was given. The brutality of some killings I had to do made me feel the weight of the choices I’ve made. And, most importantly to the plot, having to guide and protect my teen compatriot, Ellie, not only made me feel more attached to the character but at times made those brutal killings feel completely guilt-free and justified.
I was just protecting a young girl from an insane world.
When a game is done right, it’s gameplay doesn’t tell you how the gameplay is telling you the story but makes you feel it, control it—directly experience it. That’s something movies and books cannot do.
NaughtyDog, the company behind, The Last of Us, proved to me that they were masters in utilizing video games to tell a story.
Did it have its flaws? Of course.
But was it the closest I felt to feeling like a game using its identity to the fullest to tell a story? Absolutely.
So what did the leaks do exactly?
Far as I’m concerned, it told me only the half of the story. Maybe even less than that of experiencing the story. And given the achievement NaughtyDog has made with the previous title, I’m willing to pay the ticket of admission to see the other half.
I want to see how the story goes from A to B to C and how I’ll experience it getting to those junctures.
Lets see the rest of the story. Let me experience it the way it was supposed to be experienced.
Not watched via YouTube.
Not read on an internet forum.
But played. With the choices made by me, as a player.
But at the end of the day, it’s tough times. It’s your money. Do what feels right for you. I just wanted to point out I don’t think the leaks discredited The Last of Us: Part 2‘s entire experience nor even its storytelling.
I do have some reservations about The Last of Us: Part 2 but it’s the same reservations I had since I saw the first trailers for it.
It feels like the theme and the tone of the game will be much darker and much more violent than before.
And given the current climate, I’m not sure if that’s how I want to spend my free time.
(And I hope if they did go that route, the story and experience will justify all of it. Otherwise, that kind of direction tend to come off teenage-y at worst and distasteful at its best)
I’ve recently got a Nintendo Switch and played a Pokemon game for the first time in many, many years.
It was simple, childish, clean, and a lot of fun.
There was that ever-so-nice romanticized brightness to life found in kids-oriented-media in the game where everything ends up working out and no matter how dark things get, there’s still some sort of warmth to the world because it’s coded with the idea that “it’ll never get that bad“.
And you know what? That was nice. It was a nice break. Sue me.
By the time this goes live, I’ll probably be on my way to pick up my iced Americano, a sandwich, and The Last of Us: Part 2 from my local game store.
I hope NaughtyDog won’t let me down but I don’t think I’ll regret having given them a shot. They’ve earned it.
…Did… did you guys think this would end with Pokemon? Because I sure as hell didn’t.
When I like a film, I find it difficult to say much with these posts.
I just want to say: “Go watch it. Have a good time.”
I like this film.
But this film is a bit different than the usual.
And it’s not just because it’s a Star Wars film.
And it’s also not because it’s the long-awaited conclusion to the new Star Wars trilogy after a controversial second film (The LastJedi) that left many wondering if there could be a decent ending at all to the new saga.
But if you’re a fan of Star Wars, I’ll cut to the chase and highly recommend you to go watch the film to have a fun time.
There. That’s the score I would give… if you’re a Star Wars fan (yes, that’s indeed a foreshadowing) for just a fun time.
Just make it through the first 20 minutes or so. As I’ll discuss a bit later, the first act of the film is a mess and absolutely boggles one’s mind how it made past the editing and the test audience. Perhaps it’s due to the unexpected passing of Carrie Fisher but it unfortunately still doesn’t change the fact that the first act of the film is chaos.
And if you’re not the biggest fan of Star Wars? You’re probably safe waiting to see the film whenever it’s convenient for you.
This film may be difficult to really appreciate or sit through at times for even the casual fans of Star Wars.
Something about the film will feel off. As a Star Wars film and as a film in general.
Most of the payoffs of watching this film feels like they were intended for the more fervent fans of the franchise and felt like many elements of it were concocted purposefully for those avid fans who were really upset with how the new trilogy developed.
But those fan services made me feel… dirty and cheap. Like I just ate a bag of chips from the gas station as my dinner even though I had stuff in the fridge for a proper meal.
I feel full and satisfied but I hate myself for it. I enjoyed the gluttonous devouring of the cheaply fried thinly sliced suds… but I’m pretty sure I had a USDA prime steak in the fridge.
Before I ramble on too much longer…
5.25 / 10
If you’re not the biggest fan of Star Wars.
It’s a fun summer action film during winter. It’s flashy, a bit dumb, and a lot of fun. But it’s also not without some glaring flaws and unapologetically tries to mend those flaws and gaps with fan services.
That was the quick version of the review for those of you who are not interested in the more nitty-gritty thoughts I had of the film.
Most of these thoughts were thoughts I jotted down as soon as I walked out of the movie theater with my date who subsequently suffered from me sharing these thoughts for the next half-an-hour until she escaped. But she may or may not have received a phone call so that I could continue talking to her about Star Wars at 1 am.
When there are problems with a film, I feel like there are certain moments within the film that captures the problems like a metaphor. It’s the spirit of those flaws that echoes through the hours until the end credits begin to roll.
With this film, there were three such moments.
1. The Lightsaber Came Back The Very Next Day Scene
2. The Necklace Heist
3. The Rise of the Fan Service
SPOILER ALERT FROM HERE ON
The Lightsaber Came Back The Very Next Day Scene
“That’s the weirdest crawl for a Star Wars film that I’ve ever seen.”
…Was the first thought that crossed my mind as soon as the familiar theme’s bombastic fanfare blasted through the IMAX speakers and the golden texts, as-in-tradition, begin to scroll across the stars.
It’s not just the odd wording in the first couple of sentences but the entire spirit of it that felt like it was against the grain of the usual Star Wars crawl.
Why did the crawl tell us about Palpatine’s voicemail being sent out across the galaxy instead of the film showing us it? With all the resources they had, did they really not figure out a way to actually fit that into the film?
The title of this section comes from the first few minutes of the film where we are reintroduced to our protagonist, Rey. After some mishaps during her Jedi training, Rey finds herself lacking the merit the carry the lightsaber passed onto her by the late legendary Jedi, Luke Skywalker.
She gives up the saber and hands it over to General Leia. It feels like a significant and an emotional moment where it’s telling the audience that we will see Rey receive the saber when she’s “earned it.” There’s a definite sense of character arc developing with the saber.
But just a minute or two later, the saber is tossed back to Rey as if she’s suddenly earned it because the situation called for it. There’s a real-life like awkwardness in their air akin to The Office.
As the audience, there’s a jarring feeling of something went wrong.
Either they had to make last-minute changes or didn’t really have time to polish up the script. Whatever happened, it resulted with a plot with what seemed like a lot of throw-away, lazy, and thoughtless plot points.
Many moments like the “saber being returned” are peppered throughout the film and especially concentrated within the first act of the film.
Characters like Zorii and Jannah feel like they’re just plot progression devices or plot padding devices.
There doesn’t feel like there’s a real meaning behind Kylo putting on the mask again (contrast to the short but poignant scene he had in getting rid of it) other than to sell toys.
Han Solo reappearing feels cheap and non-sensical and he, himself, has to explain why and how he’s showing up.
How did Palpatine develop such a massive army out of nowhere?
How does he have such a huge following without anyone noticing for decades?
Why were Rey’s parents not subjected to becoming new vessels?
How did Leia know of Rey’s origins and why didn’t she say anything?
When did the Force start to become magic solutions to every problem? (more on that later)
Why would you inscribe directions onto a dagger? Why make a custom dagger?
Oh, the little droid happened to have the coordinates to the mystery planet?
One of the few validly poignant scenes of C3PO choosing to have his memory wiped for his friends end up meaning nothing as nothing meaningful was really lost. What was the point of that little venture other than to cheaply invoke something from the audience?
Just like Chewbacca “dying” only to relieve us from that loss just minutes later. At least draw it out so that little ‘prank’ of sort towards the audience doesn’t mean completely frivolous.
And Palpatine being the final villain of the trilogy also feels like another symptom of either lazy or desperate writing that didn’t really care to develop anything. A clone Darth Vader would have made more sense and would have had a more build-up with the last two films than Palpatine.
Have Kylo Ren face the clone Vader only to be guided to light by ghost Anakin.
Or have Kylo Ren be thwarted in some sense by clone Vader when realizes that Vader isn’t what he thought he was.
Also, while we’re on the subject of Palpatine…
…Why didn’t he just conquer the galaxy first and then find Rey/Kylo later when his army is obviously so overwhelmingly large that it threatens the entire galaxy?
Why warn the galaxy at all before using a fleet of planet busters?
Didn’t we need a planet-size facility before to do that by the way? Literally just a year or two ago?
From a writing perspective isn’t a fleet of planet busters just way harder to believe than a planet being carved into a weapon without anyone noticing?
Am I really resorted to comparing what breaks the sense of believability between a planet being carved into a weapon and fleet of starships that are each capable of destroying planets that went under the radar?
Why did he need First Order again?
How did he afford to pay for all this? The Final Order has even more confounding logistics problems within the story than the First Order did… given that it seemed all those small country-sized ships were fully staffed.
Does Palpatine enjoy getting electrocuted?
Why not just stop shooting lighting bolts for a moment and come up with something else real quick? Push her away?
Did he not learn from the first time when he got his face all burnt off?
At least in the first incident, he had few excuses for why he had to keep using those lightning blasts that were ripping off his own flesh.
But against Rey, it just seemed like he can recover fingers but not his brain cells. She was so far away, he had so much power, and he could have done so many other things like—”Hey, thousands of you chanting. Pick up a rock or something and throw it at her.”
Also. Why revive yourself with the same scars? For the scare factor?
The power creep of the Force that happened with this film also makes you question how did the Jedis get wiped out in the first place?
If Palpatine can just zap space ships left and right with his full power does he really even need an armada?
All these things. All these choices made with the writing. Just makes one wonder… are we stupid? Do they think we’re stupid? Is it both?
The can of worms that’s been unleashed by having the Force users be so powerful… hell everything being so powerful makes me wonder how the future Star Wars films will deal with… anything.
Everything feels played out. How do we ever genuinely feel that our Force using protagonists are in danger other than them being grossly incompetent or just because the plot wanted them to be?
The Necklace Heist
Look. I understand we’re talking about a franchise here that made its bones by having a young man shoot 90 degrees turning proton torpedos into a tiny hole of a death machine that’s size of a star via channeling a magical doopitydoo guided by a ghost of his dead old neighbor.
(Oh, WOW. Is that why the Death Star is called a Death Star?)
Empire PR Team: “And we want to call it what sir?”
Emperor Palpatine: “The Death Star. It’s a bit on the nose but… but it feels right.”
Empire PR Team:
Even then, there are still rules to the fantasy that the story laid out for the audience so that we understand when up is up, down is down, problems are real problems, and which dangers are real dangers.
The title of this chapter comes from the scene where Rey and Kylo are doing their Force telepathy Skype chat and Kylo manages to essentially reach across the screen and grab Rey’s necklace.
This changes everything about the Star Wars universe.
Even Kylo gave a little shrug to his foes near the climax of the film when he pulled out a lightsaber out of thin air thanks to Rey… which allowed him to decimate his enemies and save himself from the life-or-death situation.
Look, this isn’t just me nerding out about some lore discrepancies within Star Wars. Though, again, there is something to be said about suddenly changing the rules established within an established universe. It almost feels like the writers are cheating to get out of problems.
There are generally two camps of dealing with magic when it comes to fantasy in writing.
There’s no system to it. Magic is magic. The story will use it as it sees fit.
There are established rules and systems behind the magic.
The former is Gandalf from Lord of the Rings. He waves his staff, bright light, and boom— The problem is solved.
The latter is what’s more popular these days where the readers are generally made clear how the magic works and what the limitations of it are within the story’s universe.
The former makes magic unpredictable and often a cheat code for characters to get out of sticky situations. Unless done well, it cheapens the experience for the audience as any build-up of conflict is always at risk of vaporizing into bubbles by the shake of a magic wand.
The latter makes magic easier to measure and gives the audience a way of holding the story accountable. It makes conflicts feel like conflicts in fantasy and even when magic is used to solve them, if done right, the solution feels earned.
Star Wars, within the films at least, was always generally leaning towards the systematic magic where at least it seemed certain limitations were established.
George Lucas, the creator of original Star Wars, made it very clear that the force users were tempered and grounded to reality as much as they could be while still being magic knights with laser swords— even when other iterations of the franchise often took the magical elements dialed up to eleven.
It kept the films suspenseful as it kept our heroes feel vulnerable and more human than not.
We got time and space bending telepathy and object transportation.
Force users holding rocket ships in the air and destroying a fleet of them with lightning bolts out of their fingers.
Sucking the life out of one another to cure mortal wounds and amputations.
Where do we go from here?
Not only did the power creep feel jarring for long-time fans but using the sudden change of rules to solve the major conflicts developed through not only this film but the past two films felt… distasteful.
It also just creates problems of its own as mentioned in the previous section where the audience can’t help but ask the question of, “If you can/had [x] then why did / didn’t you [y]”.
To cover these moments, whether it be from good intentions or just thinking the viewers are idiots who’ll salivate over things like Chewbacca finally receiving a medal, the movie didn’t hesitate to just senselessly shove in fan service whenever and wherever it damn could.
Kind of like a Christmas special episode of TV programs where old characters and celebrities from different shows come out of nowhere for no good reason just to make you go feel good about your nerdy self that you understand the references and your getting your nostalgia massaged in all the right places.
The Rise of the Fan Service
I’m going to put that image up again.
Because it just fits.
Let’s talk about the Chewbacca scene mentioned earlier.
I’m sure many of you felt elated or maybe even cheered out loud when our favorite Wookie received his overdue medal.
It happened so quick and so out of the blue with such a vague reason for happening at that moment that probably by now you start to understand why some of the people in the theater might have been bewildered that the nerds were cheering over that small moment.
And when you think about it a bit more you’ll be left with the profound sentiment of:
“What the fxxx?”
It’s a powerful and universal feeling that your subconscious has finally begun to grasp what you’ve processed somewhere in the back of your mind. Let the initial bang and awe wash away. And let the logic and reason sink in.
That medal scene was so nonsensical and executed for such cheap thrills, that I feel icky that I started the domino of claps in my theater.
It’s like I spread herpes through the room and forgot to put on a proverbial condom on over my nerd excitement to prevent letting it think instead of using my head.
Let me put this way.
If you really cared about Chewie never receiving a medal before… is it really okay that he received what could be a random piece of replica, from a random person, as he’s just getting out of his ship?
Or would it have been more appropriate if it was at least a bit more formal and a bit more ceremonial?
The scene meant nothing but to serve as a (insert various sexual acts) to please the long-time fans… but by them being satisfied by it also means they’re just utterly stupid.
It’s like we’re monkeys who are just happy to receive a banana being thrown our way without wondering why we’re even getting the banana. The context doesn’t matter (we’re strapped onto a metal table) and the consequence doesn’t matter (the banana was to calm us down before our cranium is cut open and rods are shoved into our brains).
And I don’t mean that for just that one moment. I mean it for most of the fanservice.
It feels like a lot of the fanservice is an aftereffect of the previous film, The Last Jedi. Sort of a “here’s a bone” move after complaints people had of the previous film and the new trilogy without actually solving much of anything.
The plot of TheRise of Skywalker is painfully predictable even to the death of Kylo not because the plot itself had nowhere to go but to be simple, but because it felt like a lazy and safe attempt to appease the fans to ensure that Star Wars remains a valuable IP for Disney.
At least, in that sense, The Last Jedi tried something new and attempted a direction that took courage. TheRise of Skywalker, on the other hand, threw in the towel, committed as big of damage to the lore as The Last Jedi, and just twerked its glittery fanservice ass in front of us hoping that we won’t notice or won’t care.
In many ways, Palpatine being the final villain and Snoke being his little test tube baby feels like the ultimate fan service for the new trilogy. And a great demonstration of how much this film lacked in courage and lacked in respect for the previous stories… even the just last one.
There may be split opinion regarding The Last Jedi, but nevertheless, the film happened. It established that the new baddie for the trilogy, Snoke, was at the end a nobody.
Instead of sticking to their guns and sticking by their work, this film decided to just completely toss aside any value to Snoke and his identity of being just a random evil guy by turning him into a Palpatine’s lab rat. It’s not covering for what could be the mistakes of The Last Jedi, rather, making the whole experience of the new trilogy feel like a joke. Like nothing matters.
Was it so hard to keep Snoke a nobody and still develop a better transition to having Palpatine as the grand villain?
Couldn’t it have been as simple as Snoke was somehow keeping the weakened Palpatine at bay and now that he’s gone Palpatine was able to rise?
And what was the point of “Dark Rey” other than to mislead the viewers in the trailer, giving them a little peek of “what if” costume change for Rey and a new lightsaber toy for the kids nerds? There was no substance to her appearance at all. It didn’t develop into anything and the way it was presented wasn’t particularly thoughtful in regards to the narrative they were trying to build.
That’s it isn’t it?
The biggest problem with the fan service is that not only does it highlight a lot of the film’s lack of substance but they also act as a vacuum for whatever substance is left.
And just on that note…
..Why did Kylo/Ben die at the end?
It feels so lazy and cliche.
I was secretly hoping that the movie would surprise me and keep him alive. Send him to jail. Come up with a mature and complex plotline that leaves the audience guessing how Rey and Ben will continue their love.
All that bullshit with Force mumbojumbo to fix all of their difficult conflicts and they still chose a cliche way to answer the question: “What now for Ben Solo?”
There are so many more things I could talk about.
Regarding how awkward it feels that the fruition of our journey was Rey becoming the new Skywalker.
Regarding other aspects during the film where it felt too strongly that J. J. Abrams cared even less about Star Wars and more about doing whatever he wants as a filmmaker compared to Rian Johson. And how his stance feels like, “It’s just a dumb movie. Get over it. Here’s some fanservice that you can suckle on to keep quiet.”
Regarding how the word “inconsistent and careless” can be applied in so many different ways to the new trilogy.
And finally, regarding what the new trilogy may mean for the future.
The new trilogy overall reminded me of a lot of the second half of the second season of Twin Peaks.
To those unfamiliar with the series, it was David Lynch’s TV series in the 90s that was a mix of an investigative crime thriller, paranormal, and a good dose of odd beat humor.
It was a global phenomenon with still a huge cult following that produced a feature film, a few books, and a third season by popular demand that released in 2017—nearly 30 years after the original series ended with its two seasons.
But during what should have been its legendary first two seasons, it’s tarnished by the odd second half of the second season when David Lynch left the series for a while to pursue other projects.
It’s universally panned and took a lot of power away from series. For the fans of Twin Peaks it’s an interesting experience to watch those episodes because they obviously understood what made Lynch’s formula for the show so entertaining, powerful, and popular… but they could never really capture the essence of it.
It’s like a cheap cologne or a fast-food burger.
The new trilogy never really felt like Star Wars to me after The Force Awakens. Each one of them felt like imitations and vessels for new creatives to do whatever they want to make names for themselves by using the name of the franchise.
As problematic the prequels by George Lucas were, there was still a sense of cohesiveness and innate understanding and care for the Star Wars universe.
The prequels at least built and organically expanded the lore of Star Wars instead of becoming pickled and shriveled into itself.
And whether the new creators like it or not, Star Wars is much bigger than any of them, bigger than almost all of the other modern film franchises, and its massive reach is a legacy of its own.
Not even the Marvel Cinematic Universe is at the level of Star Wars until it can demonstrate that it can also survive and thrive after 50 years.
And given that fact, I don’t think it’s unfair to ask the franchise to be treated with a bit more care, thought, and respect.
Even if it’s just a film franchise, it’s a fantasy that’s enjoyed and means something to millions of people across generations.
Let’s grasp that for a moment.
Millions of people, across generations, throughout this little blue planet of ours.
We all enjoy this silly space opera. We all feel something together as we watch it. We’re not just mindless wallets to be opened by studios.
And if we don’t see some inherent and self-evident worth and value to be respected from a franchise like that, then we need to accept that everything that’s just meant for entertainment is also meaningless and pointless. Whether it’s some scribbles on paper, some noise we make through instruments, or throwing balls across fields… they are all pointless.
They only have meaning because we give them meaning.
But there’s a meaning to the fact that we humans decided to give those things meaning.
Art and Entertainment are what ultimately make humans—humans. And it is also what makes their experience in life beyond the capacity of what should have been. Beyond the limits what only could have been.
We are more and we can do more because we imagined it so.
Our ability to think kept us alive and our ability to dream kept us free.
So, I hope if they make Star Wars again, I hope they’ll do it with a bit more love and at least a bit more respect for those who love it and have loved it.
If they don’t, that’s just a message being sent to the millions of fans that their time and devotion are only worth the amount of cash they can bring in.
Final Score: 7.5 / 10 or 5.25 / 10. Depending on how much you like Star Wars.
As mentioned, if you’re a fan of the Star Wars franchise, this is a no-brainer. Just turn off your brain and go watch it. Have fun. At least we got an acceptable ending.
Alright. Here we go. Just saw the film and going to jot some thoughts down (note: though I’m finally posting this about a month after writing this).
One time viewing.
Yes SPOILER ALERT
There’s a dance to the film, Joker.
Get it? Those of you who’ve seen the film?
Was that parallel a bit obnoxious?
That ultimately, even though you “get it”, the decisions made still feel a bit derivative and slightly awkward?
It’s as if I’m self-aware but not self-aware enough to see the big picture of what I’m doing. Not able to see truly outside of myself.
And, obviously, that’s essentially what the movie felt like to me.
It reminded me of that ice cream shop in town.
They had weird flavors like pickle and jalapeno.
The idea was that they had goofy flavors.
The result was that they closed in a year.
So the question becomes clear:
What flavor did JOKER want to be?
As an acting piece for Joaquin Phoenix, it’s wonderful.
As a character piece as a film, it’s alright. But because it’s still ultimately tied to a comic book character, it ends up feeling forced and cheesy because it’s inevitably trying to explain and establish a well-known character.
There was an elegant dance that Christopher Nolan’s adaptation of the Joker character did that this film couldn’t. There was an understanding of give-and-take in Nolan’s vision and also an understanding of the film he was creating (and also a better understanding of the character and the appeals of the character. But that’s for another time). There was a sense of relief to the breath of fresh air that Nolan’s writing brought that this film did quite the opposite of.
It shoved down my throat it’s own “cleverness” behind the “purposefully” blatant imagery and narrative until I chocked on it and died.
It believed that it exculpated itself by being self-evident that it’s the audience’s job to get the film.
We got it just fine. But it’s as if you imagined your highly promoted rated R rating was going to only be viewed by a bunch of ninth graders.
That Looney Tunes like ending was just the kick in my liver even though the film was, with all intent and purpose, going for my nuts. And as I’m groaning in pain on the ground—puking—the film didn’t even know why that kick worked. And it doesn’t care. It’s just happy that it did. It has faith that my nuts are right around my ribcage.
The thing is, even if we understand why we’re given every explanation for every quirk this famous comic book character has, that doesn’t mean it’s any less cliche or felt any less lazy and ridiculous.
Oh, he has a mental condition so he’s forced to laugh. I got it.
Oh, he had a terrible parent and childhood. Of course, what self-respecting villain doesn’t. Check.
Oh, everything went wrong for him with his life choices until he became the villain. Right. Manifest that destiny, my friend. Check.
Ah, the whole plot seeming almost comically tragic is the point. How clever. That’s the joke. As if the tone of the film was any different, it’d be a black comedy.
WE GOT IT. HA.
But dare I say that the actual joke is that the film might have been cleverer, braver, and just better had it just gone strictly that route of being a comedy instead? Turn the whole film into a Wes Anderson-esque film or a Coen Brothers-esque film as if we’re experiencing the world as this mad man is experiencing it.
Just let us actually laugh and feel terrible about it.
When the tone of the film expects us to take it seriously, it forces us to observe it and take it in with a lens and stomach fitting that tone. So the at times beyond non-sensical and lazy plot points feel less justified and feel more half-assed.
And that feeling has a poignant exclamation near the end of the film when Joker, the character, himself doesn’t seem to know what the hell he is.
Is he a tragic man haunted by the demons beyond his control?
Or is he suddenly a political representation of an oppressed economic class in our society?
Why did that become a thing? Why was that necessary?
You were doing so well of carrying on your various plot points with some consistency. That was one decent thing you were doing in your writing.
Sure. The whole economic inequality and social turbulence serve as a backdrop but the whole character of Joker felt like he was developing into someone who was a victim of it but not really part of its evolution nor revolution—at least not by choice.
He was developing as someone whose madness and downfall into darkness was a machination of his own inner chaos. That the poverty was just one of many items on the long, screwed up list of what made his life go wrong. Especially by the way he seems to see it until that point in the film. Unaware of the greater effect he had on the Gotham’s economic revolt and generally uncaring of the revolution beyond the fact that it put him on the news.
Keeping that would have kept the character of Joker as a self-absorbed mad men who was like a sponge to his own psychosis and that ultimately led to his downfall. Which is what the movie was setting up the whole time.
His rise to becoming the leader of the disgruntled parts of society seemed like it should have been purely coincidental, accidental, and tragically—and unintentionally—opportunistic.
As if he was Forrest Gump who had different kinds of mental problems.
But that gets all thrown out the window in his surprisingly lucid rant about social inequality during his meltdown.
Fine. In some sense, the film could be trying to show us that as the “Joker”, Arthur (Joaquin Phoenix) finally got the courage to speak his mind and stand up to/for society. That as the “Joker” he actually sees things clearer.
But that still feels like an injustice to what the narrative was building towards.
And why is anyone in this universe taking Joker/Arthur seriously? How did the film justify that? Y’all were just laughing at this failed comedian days ago, brought him onto a talk show to mock him, and now after he commits a few murders on TV after going on a middle-schooler rant about societal injustice he suddenly inspires enough people to become the defacto figurehead and spark a revolt?
We’re just supposed to go, “yeah that’s how screwed up Gotham is”?
The pill is just too damn big, Morpheus. At least lubricate it first or give us a glass of water.
Again, this is probably due to the tone the film sets for itself that it’s asking for a higher standard from its audience than it’s ready to take on.
At this point, I should mention that I sound like I hated the film but I actually enjoyed a lot of it. The film is not without its merits.
I actually appreciated the poetic nature of Batman being born on the same day as the Joker. They built that up surprisingly well even when Bruce was a very minor character. To those who don’t know what Batman’s origin story is, the scene might have even been more poignant as they could see it as a boy losing his parents instead of seeing it as a famous comic book hero being born.
It was impressive that we got to see the full arc to the story of Thomas Wayne and those who are unfamiliar with the Batman lore could still appreciate the character for what he was in the film.
The way they balanced all the story arcs felt generally quite organic. That part of the writing was generally solid.
Not to mention, as I’m sure everyone has heard by now, there are breathtaking and captivating scenes and cinematography.
And Joaquin Phoenix did what Jared Leto wanted to do. Joaquin’s Joker felt so right as a version of the Joker and yet also added such meaningful flair of his own that his performance was as memorable as Heath Ledger’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s film. Unlike Jared Leto’s performance that felt like a teenager trying to do what he thinks makes the Joker cool and neat.
Leto’s performance felt like a parody of Ledger’s performance.
Phoenix’s performance felt like theater. It just felt like we were witnessing some good-ass acting and we were absorbed by it.
It’s unfortunate that this is another DC film that gets bogged down by not understanding its own tone and by trying to do too much without the finesse to pull it off.
But it’s also the second DC film that felt like a proper film experience (the other being Wonder Woman). However, I realized as I was watching it that I had a different opinion of the film if I was thinking of it as a Batman fan instead of just being a filmgoer. That review will be coming in the near future.
Thanks for reading you beautiful monsters.
Remember to eat your vegetables and Epstein didn’t kill himself.
Want to just start writing and figure out as you go? Pantsing!
Want to plan out every detail and then write? Plotting!
Quest 2: Finish First Draft.
Figure out a writing schedule.
Stick to your writing schedule.
???(usually sweat, tears, and self-hate)
Quest 3: Don’t share your first draft.
Thinking about giving these out to beta readers? NO.
Thinking about querying agents? NO.
Thinking about having your dying grandmother read this? NO.
Quest 4: Start your second draft.
Optional Sub-Quest: Give yourself some distance between you and your manuscript.
Read through your first draft.
Make the necessary corrections and changes.
Quest 5: Repeat Quest 4 until you feel it’s ready.
Repeat Quest 4 until you feel it’s ready.
Quest 6: Beta Readers
Find other heroes to join your quest.
Hopefully, they are those who you can trust to be honest with you and give you a variety of insights.
Tip:If they’re people you know, they should be people who are comfortable enough to call you a moron if the need arises and have strong enough bond with you to tell you to not waste any more time on your manuscript if it’s horseshit.
Listen to their judgments and insights.
Quest 7: Another day, Another draft.
Compile all the notes you’ve gathered from your beta readers.
Make a new draft of your manuscript based on the notes.
Quest 8: Choose your class.
Self-Publishing or Traditional
High risk, high reward.
With all the freedom comes with it the burden of fugue
Even the risks are up to the players to decide depending on their goals and investment.
While it’s true that this can be a low-investment, non-pay-2-win class, most experienced players would say otherwise.
Or as Michael J. Sullivan, a notable self-published player, said recently to the question what if you don’t have a day job that you can balance to support this class,
A personal note from the scribe of this quest is that he wished he had around 3500 USD to invest in his first book before starting out. 1500 USD minimum.
The general rules of thumbs are:
Don’t expect to make much money.
No one will find your book until you shove it into their hands.
Write at least three before expecting a profit.
Relatively low risk but still grind-heavy.
The well-established, longest enduring class. That being the case, the progression for this class is clearly mapped out for those who want to go down this path.
Finish manuscript -> Get an Agent -> Get a Publisher.
While the steps seem simple, it can be a grueling and even a life-long task for many to complete the second step of this journey.
As in the name of this class, this is still what the most of the public traditionally consider as a writer and hence comes with it the prestige and network that most self-published authors will not be able to enjoy.
Even the upfront payment by the publisher is probably more money than most self-published authors will ever see with their work.
However, while it is a bragging-right of sorts, often the writers themselves will realize that the payoff of the class is more-or-less may be the same as most of their self-published authors in the long run—if not worse.
Not to mention that more often than not, most writers with publishers will not enjoy a lot of the luxuries that writers assume that they’d receive.
The general rules of thumb are:
Don’t expect to make much money.
No one will find your book until you shove it into their hands.
Your manuscript should be at a point of you not being embarrassed if that gets leaked to the public before you start querying agents.
HERE COMES A NEW CHALLENGER!
Self-Pub, Trad, they do it all. Their success entirely in their hands.
No balance patch will be applied.
Tip: The author mentioned previously, Michael J. Sullivan, always shares his wealth of knowledge having experienced all three classes.
I’m hoping that showed up. You can click on it to see the discussions that ensued.
The reason I decided to write that post is clear. I don’t have any content right now for the blog that’s ready to ship and I need to drive traffic to keep the webpage alive. It’s like finding a dead rodent and tying some strings on it to make it move around as if it’s alive.
But it’s also clear that I wrote that because maybe it’s good to let some people know that writing requires some legwork at times.
It’s a creative endeavor.
You can do whatever the hell you want.
You can do it however the hell you want.
But others will have an opinion about it.
To the extent how much you care about that depends on your goals as the creator.
To the extent how much you want to shape their experience depends on your goals as the creator.
If you need to be factually accurate or have some honesty to the experience you’re trying to portray then maybe you need to do your homework.
We’ll make mistakes.
But it’s better to get a C+ than a F.
Unless you’re Asian.
Then you f$%cked up when you go home with a C+.
“Maybe you shouldn’t make a joke that stereotypes a certain racial group”
Maybe you should shut the f#$* up and learn to take a bad joke. Because life’s full of them and learning to differentiate malice from humor is probably a better way of accepting the world as the way it is, a more decent way to get along with others from all walks of life, trying to not be a control freak to fit the world to your narrative, and overall just keepin’ things more chill and fun.
What am I on about.
As Eminem once said…
WILL SMITH DON’T GOTTA CUSS IN HIS RAPS TO SELL RECORDS. WELL, I DO, SO FUCK HIM AND FUCK YOU TOO!
No. I mean. Mr. Erik Johnson, my producer, did an amazing job and I was floored when I heard my book come to an audible life but SWEET BUDDHA do you know how many times I’ve listened to that damn thing?
Do you know how annoying it was to get every little thing right and you know damn well as I do there’s still going to be stuff that’s off.
It’s somehow worse than having to read your own book over and over.
I want to say like, “oh it was so fantastic that I didn’t mind having to listen to it like 20 times.”
But no. Let’s be real.
There I am jogging on the treadmill, wanting to forget the world, listening to my glorious mix of K-Pop, Eurobeats, and J-Rock…. then BAM
“THIS HAS BEEN CHRONICLES OF THE OTHERWORLD BY A. S. ARAMIRU”
I thought I got rid of all of you cockroaches off my playlist!
You know what?
I hate that guy.
Screw, A. S. Aramiru.
Screw him, his audiobook, and his writing career.
Don’t buy any of his–
“Hey, asshole. You’re supposed to sell your book. You owe me money. I’ll cut you with a f—in’ spoon. A. F@#$in. Spoon.” – MyFormer Editor
There’s a lot of moments when doing creative you wonder if you were honest with your work.
Did I do all I can?
Could I have done something better?
But you have to tap out at some point if you want to do create other things.
Like my imaginary therapist would tell me
“Learn to love yourself. Forgive who you were so that you can be who you are. Who you can be is someone strong enough to deal with everything done by who you once were. You have to believe that. Because you owe me money and I’ll cut you with a spoon. A fuckin’ spoon. Fuck censorship. I know where you live homeboy.” – My Imaginary Therapist
I think everyone should try to make an audiobook.
Leave me a comment if you have any questions, comments, or complaints.
Where I spill my thoughts almost right after seeing a film. Unedited, unresearched, and undeniably a bit lazy.
It’s been a long while since I’ve seen a movie where I was so impressed and fascinated by the characters, the lore, the actors, and… still be so disappointed by it.
The movie is incredibly frustrating because it feels like they had everything to make a great movie except for having a decent screenplay.
In fact, the plot (perhaps also the fault of the director or the editor) was such a mess during the second act and the third act that it completely ruined the film for me because the story just became incoherent.
It’s like a really bad episode of Scooby-Doo with wizards, melodrama, with a hint of daytime soap opera.
Am I the biggest fan of Harry Potter?
No. I just grew up with it. Forced to read the first one to learn English. Then enjoyed the rest as I got older with my friends.
But I shouldn’t have to be a Potterhead or even a lore-buff to enjoy a film. And to be frank, I’m not sure how even the most fervent fans could call this a decent movie when they are actually honest with themselves.
There are parts of this movie that are just factually bad. Poor editing, forced exposition, nonsensical plot points, literal plot devices, throwaway fan service characters, and etc.
Maybe the problem was that the movie just wasn’t long enough at little over 2 hours. The movie feels like a supercut of a miniseries. It feels like it never had enough time to fully tell us the story. Characters are underdeveloped… or suddenly overdeveloped. During the third act of the film, there are terrible jump cuts and sequence of events that just makes the movie feels like its riddled with plot holes at best and movie just realizing the mess it’s in and not giving a flying witch’s f@#$ at worst.
That Asian character (I purposefully do not mention her name in kind with how much the film valued her) does nothing but look sad. She just walks around with the aura of teenage-Evanescence-depression and fannnnnserrrrvice.
Y’all thought her turning into a snake was a bad thing?
Y’all too sensitive.
Y’know what I’m offended by? Just badly written characters that end up being an accessory. Accessory to the plot. Accessory to the future plans of the filmmakers and the studio. It’s just a little ironic that she’s an Asian character that feels as if she was added to make the cast even more diverse but as the only real Asian representation, she’s essentially the handbag to the white male.
Again, I don’t think it’s a racial issue but a poor writing issue. And just a bit exasperated by the fact that movie was very much attempting to be diverse and feeling that it’s failing an aspect of that in the most ironic way of deducing a particular race and gender combination to what it tends to be in film and TV.
It’s a bit sad that I have to clarify that.
And the worst part of it all?
I feel like this could have been a spectacular adventure of a film.
The film starts like a modern action flick with Grindelwald bustin’ out.
Grindelwald is a compelling villain at his core. His ideas present some natural questions and problems we all had with the series.
Newt is a great protagonist that also balances well with Grindelwald and the world around him.
I found Jacob and Queenie’s dilemma compelling (and disappointed that after the setup of their plot, the script essentially puts them on autopilot).
But there’s no real pay off to any of this.
And for the great “mystery” the film was building up?
It ends with a “Scooby-Doo” moment where everything just told. With a bunch of super convenient plot devices (some of them literal devices and some of them out of nowhere) that tries to explain overly complicated tangled web of scenarios.
Look, I was really enjoying the movie for the first 10~15 min of it so it was just that much more disappointing when the rest of it sucked so much.
I give it:
It felt like a screenwriter for films, not TV miniseries or a novelist, should have written this.
A case of perhaps a lawyer who shouldn’t have defended himself. I have no doubts that if Ms. J. K. Rowling could be a fantastic screenwriter eventually as she is an incredible storyteller.
But, for me, undoubtedly, even with all of its other problems, nothing really broke the film as much as the screenplay did.