Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Micro Reviews: Final Fantasy XV, Justice League the New Frontier, Black Mirror, Suicide Squad

This is an exercise in concision. I am going to sum up my views on four works of art across four different mediums. I grant myself only one (long) paragraph for each.

Final Fantasy XV

A memorable if flawed entry in the illustrious Final Fantasy franchise. Though occasionally wonky and buggy, the game plays great, and is an enjoyable open world adventure with combat that grows on you. The story feels like something that was rewritten several times over 10 years, roughly this game's development time. There is this strong sense that everything could have been better executed had the game not undergone so much reworking. The story's pacing is awful, and it is rather bleak in its later acts. Still, the ending stays with you. It is an uncompromising story with a very human center thanks to its four protagonists. A solid soundtrack and great graphics add to the experience. Overall, not the series' best entry, but still a fun and memorable experience. 

Justice League: The New Frontier

This is almost a must-own for DC fans. The art alone is worth the price. The gorgeous, classic imagery transports you to middle 20th century America. In particular I loved the costumes - The Flash's red pajamas, the black 'S' for Superman, and Wonder Woman's romantic design. The story is grand and fun, though it falls short in some of its ambitions. Darwyn Cooke's story is clearly meant to transcend contemporary politics and encourage us to come together as Americans. Unfortunately he cannot help but be unnecessarily partisan in some moments. I think it is reductive to paint the 1960's as an era of enlightenment triumphing over all the evil racism / sexism / whateverism of prior eras. I also wish the story had focused on different characters at different moments, though that may just be fanboyism speaking. Ultimately it is a cool story with great art. Very much worth getting if you are a JL fan.

Black Mirror

Written by the always fun Charlie Brooker, Black Mirror is an engrossing examination of technology and its social implications. Each show presents a different vision of the future usually from the perspective of a single character and their daily struggles. As you would expect from this formula it is an uneven show but never boring. As a software engineer naturally there are some episodes I found more interesting / realistic than others. All are worthwhile, but my top three are 'The Entire History of You', ' 'White Christmas', and 'San Junipero'. The first of these three is great because of its plausibility and the details of the technology itself, especially the UI. The second features the delightful John Hamm. Always a treat. The third is easily the best episode of the series. Nothing more need be said about it.

Suicide Squad

I saw this in theaters and immediately forgot about it. It had so few redeeming qualities that I figured it was best to put it out of my mind. Then I was dragged into seeing the extended cut a few days ago, and I remembered just how insufferable this film is. The story is beyond ridiculous. It doesn't even try to get you to suspend disbelief. The script is a disjointed mess of ad hoc plot hooks stitched together with an omnipresent 'am I cool yet?' soundtrack and crappy action scenes. None of the characters are done well, though Will Smith and Margot Robbie at least get enough screen time to have some good moments. Worst of all: It's not even funny. Formulaic MCU movies at least get that right most of the time. It is frustrating because this could have been great. A more down to Earth plot, better character development, and snappier dialogue could have made this DC's answer to Guardians of the Galaxy. Instead we have the third dead on arrival DC universe movie. If Justice League and Wonder Woman can't turn things around next year, they need to scrap this whole experiment. It is getting embarrassing.