Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Superhero Media: Planet Hulk (2010)

I picked this up on DVD a number of years back, well before I read the comic of the same name, and I remember really enjoying it. When I got around to watching it again for "Superhero Media", I was actually a little excited, because sometimes it seems that all I'm doing is re-watching crap like Transformers Revenge of the Fallen and Green Lantern rather than anything good. So I put Planet Hulk in the DVD player and... was frankly disappointed. Maybe I've been spoiled by the MCU and DCAU, but Planet Hulk looks really crummy, the acting is barely passable and some of the best parts of the comic are glossed over. The most fun I had watching were all of the Guardians of the Galaxy cameos and the revised Korg backstory featuring Beta-Ray Bill, as Lionsgate didn't have the rights to Silver Surfer for the production. Though, why aren't Starlord, Adam Warlock and Gamora helping their old pal Hulk out of bondage? 

So let's talk about the gamma-irradiated elephant in the room, the fan "demand" for an MCU Planet Hulk film that pops up every now and then. Evidently, there was a "backlash" that portions of the Planet Hulk narrative and imagery found their way into Thor Ragnarok, rather than being its own film. Now, I wasn't regularly reading new comics when the Planet Hulk story-line was running, so I'm not sure how "big" it was, but it is certainly one of the classic Hulk stories and a really fun read. That said, I'm really not sure how well it would translate into a film. There's a reason the Iron Man film franchise didn't do direct adaptations of "Demon in a Bottle", "Extremis" and "Five Nightmares", but rather amalgamated the parts of the stories that worked in the MCU milieu to create interesting cinema. I really don't think that the MCU Hulk, as much fun as he is, could carry a film that would primarily be CGI and motion-capture, like Avatar, and have it be to the same level of Marvel Studios efforts like... pick anything from Civil War onward, really.

If you have to be a completionist, check out Planet Hulk, but I really don't recommend it over the comics or Thor Ragnarok, especially as both are now really easy to get your hands on. I can't even say that this works for children, as the amount of blood and fighting ups the rating to M 15+ here in Australia, so, again, you may as well slap Thor Ragnarok in the DVD player or cue it up on demand. Also, because I know someone's thinking it, Taika Waititi is the best Korg, don't even at me, nerds. Maybe one day, when the MCU has rebooted, we'll get a "proper" Planet Hulk film, but don't hold your breath for Mark Ruffalo to be signing up for it anytime soon. Also, Red King is just kind of a crummy villain, I think people forget that because the rest of the characters work so well. Food for thought.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Minitaures Finished: Latverian Paratroopers

I finally got around to digging out some of my Secrets of the Third Reich [SOTR] Latverians and finishing them off. Rumors of a 2nd edition of SOTR keep bubbling away, but even if this never happens, I'd like to get back to the game at some point. These units represent the basis of my "Drop Armour Platoon" a variation of the German list which relies heavily on power armour and paratroop deployment. 

 The "full" platoon (missing scouts and vehicle support), all miniatures modified Dust Americans. 

 Command Squad with Medic, Engineer and Lieutenant, according to the rules, the squad leaders have the radio in the squad. 

 Each squad has a mix of Packed LMGs and Anti-Tank Rifles. 

 Although the Dust minis came in boxes of three, it ended up working in my favour for the full platoon of fifteen. 

Once I get my Sci-Fi stuff ready for the upcoming club campaign, I should be able to finish up the Latverians and maybe even get a few games in. Stay tuned. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Superhero Media: Transformers Revenge of the Fallen

Is this the one everyone hates, or is that the next one? All I remembered was the giant Decepticon with the wrecking ball testicles, and that didn't bode well. I held out some hope during the first act of the film, as Revenge of the Fallen opens with a joint US Army/Autobot task force taking down Decepticons across the globe, which really should have been the entire damn film, as Josh Duhamel makes a much better protagonist than actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf. Before too long, Optimus Prime is dead, Megatron is alive and there's some kind of global chase for the Matrix of Leadership which can either destroy the planet or resurrect Optimus, or something like that, I wasn't really paying close attention. There's just something about Revenge of the Fallen that glosses past the mind's eye without really registering, like eating chips, you don't realise how much you've had until it's gone. 

The last act of Revenge of the Fallen is probably the most interesting to take a look at, with military forces and Autobots protecting the corpse of Optimus Prime whilst Sam races to them. The sequence is fun to watch, Bay can shoot the hell out of an action scene and has a particular eye for soldiers and military equipment, but there are some really distracting elements. Firstly, the USMC flies into Egyptian air-space without permission, shooting at an army of alien robots that have been covered up for years. When the Egyptians twig to what's happening, their own military flies in to "help", or presumably tell the Americans to get the fuck out of their national borders, but they get shot down by Decepticons so that the white people can save the day. Also, I swear Sam is running for a good forty minutes, the film just takes forever to end, I was sick of seeing Actual Cannibal Shia LaBeouf fall into the sand. 

Revenge of the Fallen is not a good film, but whereas the first Transformers was enjoyable despite it's flaws, this one is really hard to get anything out of. The only parts I can remember liking were the old Prime talking about the Autobot/Decepicon divide being a political one and Optimus rocking that sweet jetpack, but similar scenes in Transformers Prime are much better if that's what you're after. Despite the flaws, problematic characters and terrible dialogue, there is something to these films that makes them somewhat compelling; for me, I think it's how well they defy traditional analysis, but if they're really that bad, how are they still making more of them? I'm not sure why this series is a big as it is, but I will keep watching them, so long as I can do so without paying money.

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

MI:13 - Part X

The team is understandably anxious as they prepare for what could be their last mission, even the return of Purple Shadow (back from a dangerous real estate-related mission) is met more with grim determination than celebration. In short order, the teleportation ritual is completed by Pete Wisdom, Wizlord and Quincey Harker and the team step into the circle to face their destiny. In a flash of mystic light, the quartet of heroes find themselves on the deck of a gigantic sailing ship, far wider than even the Victory, with seven masts and traces of circuitry woven through the planks. Vampires of all forms surround our heroes, closing ranks quickly as they're spotted, protecting the poop deck where Lilith waits, standing by a ship's wheel manned by an incongruent pirate. Knowing where their target is, the team leap into action! 

Sandman changes into his sand form and slithers up the deck, only to be stopped in his tracks by a blast of magic from Lilith, knocking him out cold. Purple Shadow dives straight into the fight, battering her way through the vampire soldiers, though she suffers wounds of her own as she does so, Union Jack joins his comrade, but is intercepted by an elder vampire. The Medic heals Sandman back to consciousness as he passes his strength onto Purple Shadow, not wanting to almost die again, Sandman changes to his sand form and moves under the boards of the deck. Union Jack fends off multiple vampires, their bites and raking claws unable to penetrate his ridiculous defenses, as Purple Shadow finishes off the remaining vampire soldiers. With a clear line to their enemy, Purple Shadow and Union Jack charge at Captain Fate, but the mysterious pirate fends off their blows with his flashing, golden blade. 

Sandman and the Medic move up to support their teammates, the latter healing the sympathetic damage he took earlier, mystical blasts from Lilith scattering wide around them as they advance. Union Jack batters Captain Fate with his crushing fist, but the cursed pirate refuses to buckle; fortunately, Purple Shadow, wielding her mysterious aura like a blade, brings the villain down, proving herself the superior hero. As the magically-bound ship around them starts to break up, Union Jack and Purple Shadow find themselves drawn to the golden sword, still grasped by the unconscious Captain Fate; Union Jack reaches for the blade, but just as his fingers are about to brush the hilt, the crash of splintering wood fills the air. Dark energy swirling around him, Dracula himself strides onto the deck of the sip, roaring in rage as he realises that his plan is failing and he will soon burn up in the atmosphere of Earth. 

Before the team can react, Dracula has crossed to Purple Shadow and run her through with his broadsword, her limp body falls to the deck and blood pools around it. The Medic, sensing the immense power flowing through Dracula's form, attempts to drain his strength away, but receives only pain for his efforts. "Thinking" on his feet, Union Jack kicks the cursed sword of Captain Fate towards Dracula, who sneers and flicks it away with his own blade. Sandman is next to join the fight, stabbing with blades of hardened glass, but the weapons shatter on impact, Dracula's retaliation leaves the veteran hero fighting for life on the deck. Desperate for a weapon, Union Jack rips the ships wheel off its stand and swings wildly at Dracula, failing to connect with anything other than the deck. As Dracula rips shreds of flesh from Union Jack's bones, the Medic wonders how they can possibly survive the Lord of the Undead. 

Through the impending concussion, Union Jack hears the squelch of his radio, and the voice of Pete Wisdom tells him to stand clear. With a flash of light, another magic portal opens and through it steps the might of MI-13, including not only Wisdom and Psylocke, but also Manchester Black, Spitfire, Thin Man, Black Knight, UNIT soldiers and their scientific advisor. Dracula laughs and mocks the heroes for thinking this will be enough to stop him, but his gloating is cut short by a loud booming sound and a second portal opening. Yes, it is a Boom Tube and the Champions of the Omniverse have arrived! Union Jack takes a moment to note that the skull-masked Ulysses is not among the Champions, but now is not the time for reflection. UNIT open up with blessed silver bullets, keeping Dracula pinned in place long enough for the heroes with long-range powers to provide a more powerful blast, staggering the monster. 

Union Jack, Manzilla and Thin Man go in next, pinning down their target as the ranged attacks break off. The magically-powered heroes, including Pete Wisdom and Black Knight drive their weapons into the writhing form of Dracula, who staggers under the combined assault. Knowing that this is the best chance the heroes are likely to get, Koga activates the Motherboxx, opening several Boom Tubes at once, sending the British heroes back to England, giving an escape route to the Champions and transporting the all-but-helpless Dracula straight into the Sun. Our heroes watch a spectacular light show from a hill in Devon as Fate's ship burns up in the atmosphere; the Medic heals any injured he finds whilst the Gregarious Gigawatt draws Purple Shadow, Sandman, Union Jack and Psylocke aside. The Champion asks what happened to the Motherboxx they left the Crooked World with. Purple Shadow explains the encounter with Ulysses and Gigawatt pales; that was a grave mistake, Ulysses is one of the Champion's most dangerous foes...

To be continued? 

A big thanks to Liam, Carol, Nim, Jacob and Ryan for playing my campaign and putting up with my lack of interest in the latter half. SuperSystem's RPG addition is adequate, but I think I still prefer the TSR Marvel Super Heroes game for this particular genre. SuperSystem, despite being one of my favourite miniatures game, is pretty open to abuse and power gaming if that kind of mindset is something your players bring in. So with that in mind, I can't really recommend it as an RPG, though I may give it another go in the future. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Superhero Media: Wonder Woman (2017)

It's really interesting to be able to see a film like Wonder Woman and the impact that it's had in real time, rather than learning about it in a lecture like Star Wars or Thelma and Louise. For most of this review, I'm going to be focusing on the broader implications of the film and the film as an individual piece of art, but let's get the bit you want to see out of the way first. Wonder Woman is, at the time of writing (May 2018) the best film that the DCU has produced in its current format, though I will admit to actually enjoying Justice League on its own merits. More importantly, Wonder Woman is the first major cinema release to be a solo outing for a female superhero. I'm not going to get too heavily into the feminism on this one, (see my Tank Girl review for that sort of thing), but I really think it's great that so many girls and young women have gravitated towards this character, especially this version. 

 (Good to see that Diana's leaned a thing or two from Captain Falcon)

So here we are, in this interesting space where Wonder Woman is something of a classic, without nesescarily being a particularly good film. Yes, Wonder Woman is very watchable, Gal Gadot is a brilliant actor in her own right and perfect for the role and despite still being too CGI-heavy, the film looks better than any of the other DCU efforts. On the other hand, the narrative runs out of steam before the third act, the villains are pretty forgettable, Diana is far too naive for how smart she's supposed to be and the Great War setting still really irks me on a number of levels. The decision behind the setting is obvious, Wonder Woman needed to be differentiated from Captain America - The First Avenger, so World War 2 was out, but the Great War doesn't make much sense, especially if we're to believe the "Evil Germans" aspect; yeah, a country with a decaying government and collapsing economy are a real Wonder Woman level threat. Even if it invited the Marvel comparison, WWII would just have been a better fit, or hell, be gutsy and do the American Civil War, Spanish Civil War or Vietnam.

Also, the DCU music problem raises its ugly head again; "Is She With You?" is the only iconic piece of music produced for any of these films, and although it's from Batman V Superman, I thought we'd get it here as well. No such luck, though we do get a few not quite as good "versions" of the theme. C'mon DC/WB, pull your fingers out and do the damn score properly. Although I did really enjoy this film both times I've watched it, I probably won't be revisiting it again any time soon. This version of Wonder Woman is brilliant and I hope she survives whatever Flashpoint turns out to be and maybe gets the script she deserves in any sequels. If you love this film to bits, great! I like the Tom Jane The The Punisher and Affleck Daredevil, but don't think they're necessarily "good" films. Wonder Woman may not reach the heights of Superman - The Movie, The Incredibles or Black Panther, but it is a milestone that has inspired a generation of women to pick up comic books and I don't think that's ever a bad thing.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

MI:13 - Part IX

As Pete Wisdom and the team return to MI:13 HQ, Quincey Harker requests that the trusted members of the team are brought into a meeting separate from the rest of the Ministry to start the investigation. With a returned Sandman, the Medic, Union Jack and Wisdom gathered around Harker who mumbles something about vampire spies before splashing the quartet of superheroes with water from a bottle hidden in his shawl. Harker explains that it is probable that Vampires have infiltrated MI:13 and the first order is to discover how many spies are in the ranks. The Medic, Union Jack and Sandman are handed UV torches and told to look for people's reactions, Vampires will begin to sweat and panic under the light. The heroes are sent to the main MI:13 office, several floors down, told to keep things quiet so as to not cause a panic and let any vampires slip away. 

Being subtle and clever have never been strong suits for the team, so it takes the trio a while to get the hang of looking through the office workers for any signs of vampire infiltrators. Quite by accident, Union Jack uncovers a vampire in an office and, reacting in panic, punches the undead square in the face. In panic at being uncovered, the vampire turns to mist and starts to flee; all of this supernatural activity starts a panic and the remaining office workers begin to flee for an exit. Leaping into the fray, The Medic uses his power to drain off the abilities of others to remove the vampiric talent of turning into mist, leaving the panicking vampire defenseless. To cut off the monster's escape, Union Jack throws Sandman towards it, luckily, Sandman lands safely and is able to use his gas gun to knock the creature out and trap it. Acting in the best interests of Occupational Health and Safety, The Medic convinces the fleeing workers to take the stairs rather than the lift. 

Charging into the fight, Union Jack fails somehow to hit the sleeping vampire, so withdraws and places himself in front of the fire exit. Seeing that the vampires are vulnerable to his sleeping gas, Sandman begins to dose the fleeing workers and search them, finding that one was, indeed, a vampire. Whilst Sandman and the Medic continue to check the officer workers for signs of vampirism, Union Jack proceeds to beat the vampires into unconsciousness with a combination of his fists and nearby cubicle walls. As the remaining workers stampede towards the blocked fire exit, Sandman spays his gas once more to keep them from escaping. After missing a sleeping vampire for the second time, Union Jack finally connects and takes another monster out of the fight. As some of the workers come to, they run back towards the lift, only to find that the Medic is blocking their path.

Quite by chance, Sandman uncovers another Vampire, which immediately turns into a pall of mist and attempts to escape the rampaging superheroes, but only gets a few meters before the Medic deactivates its powers. As the workers panic around him, Union Jack grabs the vampire, running around the room for no discernible reason. The Medic sabotages the lift to prevent any health and safety violations before charging towards Union Jack and his captive. Between the three heroes, short work is made of the last Vampire. Taking the three captives to Harker, MI:13 soon learn that Dracula is planning to attack an enchantment that is keeping him out of England. Harker explains that in 1941, a coven of witches cast a spell to deny Hitler and the Axis forces access to the British Isle, which, as the Axis included Dracula at the time, also prevents Vampires from crossing the channel. Dracula's Forces are planning to attack the magical circle in New Forest and dispel the enchantment. 

Our trio of heroes camp for a couple of days near a stone circle in the New Forest, keeping an eye out for any vampiric action. In a flash of eldritch light, a seductive and demonic figure appears, with a bodyguard of vampires; wasting no time, she begins to weave her magic, spellfire blasting Union Jack. In return, Union Jack charges the demonic sorceress, who hardcore Marvel comics fans may recognise as Lilith, only to be immediately dog-piled by the vampires. The Vampire soldiers surround the Medic, keeping him pinned down. No one seems to be bothering with Sandman, who is throwing up in a nearby bush due to chemotherapy induced nausea. The trio of vampires sink their teeth deep into Union Jack's flesh and drink his blood, preventing him from closing on Lilith whilst she casts her spells. Things look bleak for a moment, as the Medic is unable to drain the magic from Lilith and Sandman finds he can't land an attack on the vampires. Thankfully, Union Jack's [slightly bullshit] powers enable him to walk straight out of combat with no damage and kick Lilith into unconsciousness in two quick rounds.

Harker does his best, but Lilith is such a powerful entity that she soon escapes, but not before MI:13 is able to extract Dracula's plans. Dracula has allied himself with Captain Fate, a mystical entity capable of creating magical ships that can travel through space and the air; together they have constructed a giant battleship, filled with vampires, on the moon. Soon, the ship will descend on the United Kingdom and the only hope our heroes have is to intercept it and try and eliminate Fate's control. The plan is to use magic provided by Wizlord and Pete Wisdom to teleport the team to Fate's ship, where they will engage in battle, hopefully preventing the attack and somehow surviving reentry. Desperate times call for desperate measures. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Superhero Media: Ratchet & Clank 3 - Up Your Arsenal

Best game in the series, hands down. Off the back of Going Commando, the adventure starts with a news report of planet Veldin being attacked by the alien Tyhrranoids and Ratchet loading up the ship for a return home. From the first landing, Ratchet and Clank are thrown into a Galaxy-wide war against Doctor Nefarious and his Tyhrranoid allies, fighting alongside the Galactic Rangers, a team of Robot soldiers. The whole game feels like a natural progression from the previous two, growing bigger without feeling bloated, building on the foundations set way back in the first game, but still being of something new and interesting. Despite the fact there are things that would be done better in the Future games on PS3, Up Your Arsenal still finds the high watermark of the series because it comes across as the most 'complete', with all of the elements being improved from the previous games, rather than introduced here. The weapon-leveling is better, though needing to get through 10 "levels" does make it feel more like a chore at times than a reward. The Skill Points also work really well here, fitting into the game organically and being fun to shoot for. 

Unlike a great many Sci-Fi/Fantasy games, the "battle" sections of Up Your Arsenal really create a hectic atmosphere and evoke the mood of being in the midst of a war, even if the Galactic Rangers rarely demonstrate a great deal of competence. The new villain, Doctor Nefarious, is used well, with a good balance of humour and menace that easily makes him the best antagonist in the series. Also not having anything tied in with Ratchet's origins really helps Nefarious as a character in his own right, especially retrospectively, when it will turn out that all of the Future antagonists have another piece of the puzzle that is the disappearance of the Lombax species. Nope, none of that, instead we get a building of the characters we've come to know and love, with Clank being the "breakout" character of the pair in their own setting and Captain Quark getting a close to his narrative arc. New characters like Laurence, the irreverent robot butler and Sasha, probably the only potential love interest for Ratchet that is also interesting in her own right, also bring up the overall quality. 

I will never get sick of playing this game, everything about it just works for me in a way most video games don't. Unlike the previous games, there's not too many sections of "busy work" and, unlike the next games, none of the weapons are functionally useless. I'm still not fond of Captain Quark, but he does reach a good character point here, just a pity he keeps coming back. There are so many little things I could list here that really stick in my mind, like the Swingshot and Dynamo becoming the one item, having multiple quick-select rings, ship upgrades only costing bolts rather than another resource and only one set of collectables that trade for cash. Not that I'm the kind of blogger inclined to do something like a "Top 10 Video Games" list, but if I were, Up Your Arsenal would be on there somewhere; I will keep playing this for as long as I can get something to run it. I really hope Insomniac do something good with the characters again at some point, but we'll get to that as we get to later games.