A Big Red Right Hand – Hellboy

7 09 2016

Hellboy (Revolution Studios - 2004)

A few weeks ago while dining at a church fellowship meal, someone on the table remarked at how everything on TV and at the Cinema all involved Super Heroes. Now while this is something more of a cliché possibly or more likely an over exaggerated statement, there is a lot to be said about the number of Super Hero based things on TV and at the Cinema at the moment. Things like Supergirl, The Flash and Arrow on TV, whereas cinema this year has had several comic book related films like Captain America: Civil War, Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice, X-Men Apocalypse and of course Deadpool. The reason for all of these of course is that right now they are very popular franchises, plus more importantly..…they make money. Super hero/comic book/graphic novel based movies are nothing new, they have been around for a while, its only in the last 8 years or so that they have really gained much in the way of traction; however, it should be noted that not all comic book/graphic novel interpretations are about super heroes, I mean, would you call V for Vendetta a Super Hero Movie?

V for Vendetta (Warner Bros. - 2006)

Released in 2004 by Revolution Studios, Produced by Lawrence Gordon and Directed by Guillermo Del Toro; Hellboy is a comic book adapted movie based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name by Mike Mignola and released by Dark Horse Comics. This is by no mean Del Toro’s first foray into making movies based on comics, as 2 years previously he directed Blade II.

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In 1944, The Nazi’s with the help of Grigori Rasputin (Karel Roden), build a machine off the coast of Scotland to create a portal in the hope of releasing a group of monstrosities called the Ogdru Jahad to aid them in winning the war. Rasputin opens the portal with help from Ilsa Von Haupstein (Biddy Hodson) and Thule Society member Obersturmbannführer Karl Ruprecht Kroenen (Ladislav Beran), who is also Hitler’s top assassin. A group of allied soldiers arrive just in time guided by Trevor Bruttenholm. The German team is defeated and the portal is closed, sucking Rasputin in, in the process. As the allied soldiers search the grounds however, they discover that an infant demon with a big right hand-made of stone did travel through the portal. Bruttenholm decides to adopt him, and the soldiers call him Hellboy. Sixty years later, in the mountains of Moldova, Kroenen and Ilsa resurrect Rasputin, while in America, young FBI agent John Myers (Rupert Evans) is transferred to the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense (BPRD) at the request of Bruttenholm (John Hurt), where he meets the amphibious humanoid Abe Sapien (Doug Jones) and the now grown up adult Hellboy (Ron Perlman), who has grounded off his horns. As soon as he meets Hellboy though, they get a shout that something is going on at a local Museum. Inside the Museum, Rasputin has unleashed the monstrous Sammael (Brian Steele) and bestowed upon him the power of reincarnation. Hellboy fights with Sammael, defeating him after a long lengthy fight, before then disappearing to see Liz Sherman (Selma Blair), a former BPRD member who is now residing in a mental hospital hoping to gain more control of her pyrokinetic abilities. After Hellboy is gone however, Rasputin visits, and mentally activates her powers which in turn burns down the hospital.

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Back at the BPRD HQ, the team discovers that a creature from Sammael laid eggs into Hellboy while it was attached to his arm. Whilst John goes off to visit Liz and encourage her to return to the BPRD, Hellboy, Abe and a team of guards including Agent Clay (Corey Johnson), head to the subways to find and destroy a nest of eggs belonging to Sammael, into which Hellboy discovers has come back to life, while Abe fights with another. Abe is severally injured in the fight while Hellboy dispatches with the other. Several BPRD Agents are killed however by Kroenen, who then shuts down his clockwork body so he can be taken into BPRD HQ. FBI Director Tom Manning (Jeffrey Tambor) is not too pleased with Hellboy’s actions. John takes Liz out for Coffee, while Hellboy who has romantic feelings for her, stalks them. In the Bureau HQ, Kroenen re-animate himself, and both he and Rasputin make themselves known to Bruttenholm. Rasputin reveals to him, that Hellboy is the agent that will reopen the portals and destroy the world. Bruttenholm who is dying of Cancer, and who has raised Hellboy like a son, believes that Hellboy in the end will make the right choice, and Kroenen stabs him in the neck.

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Manning takes over the BPRD after Bruttenholm’s funeral, and leads a team consisting of agents, John, Liz and Hellboy to Russia in hope of finding Rasputin’s Mausoleum. With help from a local cemetery corpse resident Ivan (Guillermo Del Toro), they find the mausoleum, but get separated once inside. Hellboy and Manning find the lair of Kroenen and quickly defeat him, while Liz and John find Sammael’s eggs, where there are no quite a few of them. Hellboy arrives and does battle, but its Liz who saves them as she sets fire to the lair, killing all of the Sammael’s and his eggs, meaning he can no longer be resurrected. The group though is captured by Ilsa and Rasputin. Using Liz’s soul as a bargaining chip, Hellboy reveals his true power as Anung un Rama, with his horns growing back and begins the ceremony to release the Ogdru Jahad. Myers quickly breaks from his restraints and reminds Hellboy of what Bruttenholm brought him up to be. As such Hellboy breaks his horns, and kills Rasputin before the creatures could be finally released. Rasputin, revealing to have had one of the Ogdru Jahad possessing him, releases the tentacled monster. Hellboy defeats the creature by blowing it up from the inside. He then returns to Liz, whispering into her ear, threatens to go to the other side unless her soul is returned to her, as such Liz is revived instantly and the two share a kiss.

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Hellboy isn’t what you would exactly call a Super Hero Movie. It definitely shares traits and themes to films of this Calibre, but in all perfect honesty, Hellboy is not really a Super Hero, he is more an Anti-hero. He saves the day and the world on a regular basis from threats and monsters from the other side, but when he goes back home, he doesn’t live a life of obscurity or simply puts some glasses on, he returns home and does what he wants when he wants. In a way, he is more a mirror image of the human condition and what most of us are likely to do if we were super heroes, and want we would want out of it, not what is right, but what is desire. He wants fame, he wants fortune, he wants food, he wants love, don’t we all deep down? Yes, he is a super natural force from a world that is not this one and is employed to defeat the forces from beyond, to protect this world from the greatest threats not of this world or even this reality, but he is given a pampered life to make up for the life he simply cannot have as to who he is. If you look at other super heroes (except for maybe Deadpool), and what they do, and how it drives them, Hellboy is not in it for that, and when he does go in for a fight, he makes it as big, as loud and as exciting as possible, just because it allows him to go outside once in a while. He is less a Super Hero, more just like you or me, in it for a kick, but secretly desiring more.

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As a film, the tone and ideas are a little bit off-putting, there is no middle ground in explaining, this film is based on subjects about the dark arts, and the grim dark and horrid after life that is in the lead’s name. But through all that though, comes this incredibly well thought out and well created mythology and ethos surrounding the characters, what they do and who they fight. It’s very similar I think to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, as it’s setting and mythologies are all based on well documented ideas and beliefs, but brings them into the here and now rather than through some old age orientated may centuries ago fantasy world. This is the kind of Fantasy that should be explored more often, because it makes it more apparent, believable and interesting to a more modern culture and audience. I can see why Del Toro did this film in the end, it works perfectly to the style of films he started out doing and continues to create (Fantasy Horror). The setting is of course our world, but it goes on to suggest a dark uncertain future, including the possible apocalypse, and through its ideas creates some visually stunning moments. We are not talking Independence Day like scenes here; we are only talking a small fraction of visuals, but still aesthetically pleasing to the eye, but also amazing and horrifying to believe. It all works well into this well created and wonderfully designed setting while also providing everything else a film needs to grab the attention of the audience. It’s visually stunning, with grips of an enchanting and horrifying storyline while also adding a well-researched and believable mythos.

BPRD logo

It’s interesting to note the strong calibre of movie industry veterans cast in major roles in what is really such a small comic book movie, but I bet that comes more from the established director. Jeffrey Tambor is someone I have had little exposure to in the past and before seeing this, the only role I have seen in him was Muppets from Space. In that he had a high seniority role which came with a lot of pressure and a lot of stress, but overall was an incredibly funny role. Here we have something somewhat similar minus the comedy. He comes in as something of a corporate/political nemesis whose only concern is really himself and his position and finds that while the BPRD has its uses, he considers them overall a joke and a waste of resources. From his first appearance onwards he presents himself as someone who does not at all care for Hellboy, and his immediate introduction is shown of someone with a lot of power and whom carries a large level of intimidation. This carries on, showing his more demanding, not necessarily selfish side, but one who wants and demands respect; although how he reached his position could be questionable. He however, like a good scripted character, does show his uses and redeems himself in a flat second by showing his thanks to Hellboy for saving his life, and shows him how to light a cigar. Similarly there is of course John Hurt playing the adoptive father of Hellboy and head of the BPRD. He presents himself on a more caring but still serious note and overall rather than being a head of section comes more across as that chemistry/history teacher that we all come to be fond of and respect. His father figure like stance has its moments and the story of him dying ensures to enrich the plot and reason for Myers existence in the film, all which leads to a revelation point as to the true meaning for Hellboy, but still his ensured faith as to that Hellboy will make the right choice.

Jeffrey Tambor and Ron Perlman

While this film is primarily about creatures/monsters, there is of course a lot of human interaction. Some of these have been allowed very little screen time but are presented enough and are performed brilliantly enough for them to remain a key part. Characters like Ilsa are a good show for this. Someone who is a high officer in the Nazi Party and the key love interest for Rasputin, who, slowly but surely begins to reveal a sort of near psychopathic and heretic side, someone who believes in the cause no matter how it comes. She is very old-fashioned and also en-richly disciplined given her growing up and position, and keeps to this even after 60 years have passed by. Kroenen meanwhile is more a Monster than a human, and becomes a key villain from start to finish, even if he is just a puppet in the end. He too shows an incredible dark side, killing without mercy and has even showed some remains of being human showing traits such as laughing; however his body is less the case. Rasputin is something of a cross between Dracula and Darth Vader I find. He is presented more as a prophet and is unwieldy fiendish, but for him it’s all been planned out, and if it’s not part of the plan, he has no motive for it and will either order it dead, or just not think about it. He uses as much as he can to get what he desires and will maintain a level of control to keep the plan ripe and eventually fruitful at all costs. He is an interesting villain, but you get this feeling though that he is not the puppet master either, like there is someone else pulling the strings, but it’s never really shown (also, he has this weird change of voice before he turns into the monster).

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Myers comes across though as a young man in his prime excelling and desiring to do what is right in what is already a stressful job. He does not get on too well with Hellboy, and it feels like he is side-lining himself just so he can work on/with Liz, either because working with her feels more normal, or because of another reason. He continues to try and work with Hellboy, but while he is supposedly the lead human in this film, it feels like his point or part just gets more and more obscure and less needed other than to help Hellboy make the right decision. Other than that, he has almost served his purpose already. Maybe he is just an Introduction to the world of the BPRD, for the sake of the audience, as while he is a key feature for the first act, and a bit of the second, by the third, it feels like he is not even there. Agent Clay I find is a lot more of an interesting character than Myers, as he comes off a lot more strongly to begin with, and his compatibility with Hellboy comes off immediately as the two respect and care for each other even if their position does not require it. He shares very few scenes, but when he is in them, it feels like he is a much stronger lead in comparison to Myers, and that deep down, Clay should be the lead, but I don’t see how that could work either, as it’s clear he has been around a while.

Corey Johnson

The one theme this film tries to tell and thoroughly resonates, is what it takes for someone to become a Man. It gets mentioned start to finish and in the end becomes the story. This theme though really does work well for Hellboy. You need to remember that Ron Perlman is playing a very demanding and physical role, but in reality is the only real actor who could play the part, as the character needed someone physically big but also who could act, not like hiring an actor who is big but is only hired for physical capability. But despite the experience and wisdom of Perlman, it should be noted that Hellboy is actually a much younger character than Perlman is. In reality, Hellboy is actually very childish; a spoiled brat who gets more than he deserves but still demands more. He is like an over pampered cat, receiving so much food and attention, but still desires and believes he needs more. He is also something of a smitten lover, desiring Liz, even though she would rather lead a more normal life. He shows this by endlessly talking about her and trying to visit her/bring her back to the BPRD then eventually stalk her when she goes out with Myers. Like the average action hero, he does in the end ‘get the girl’, but it’s not through his childish ways, it’s when he grows up, becomes more respectful, and then threatens to fight tooth and nail for how much he loves her, therefore going from a childish brat, to a man, even if he is not human.

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Abe Sapien I find is something like a rabbit in a field of cats. This film’s ideas and premise surrounds a demonic identity, then in the meantime there is this character who is not that in anyway shape or form. He is less an alien, nor a demon, he is more in fact a natural mutation with a human life. He is more a book work than a man of action, less likely to get into a fight and more read his way out of a battle than throw a fist. He however though carries the trait of a group counsellor. He carries a lot of wisdom even if he could be considered a little young; he comes packed with knowledge, but still packs a little attitude. But in the end knows his place and where he belongs and knows the importance and vitality of the groups function and works to act as a mediator in-between the heat. He may feel less than respected or a part of the group, but he believes in it. Liz Sherman for me though is the one who stands out the most. She comes across as this shy, and vulnerable character, who is scared as to who she is and what she can do. She carries a real fear for it, and though while not a monster in appearance, feels on equal footing to the others in what she is. She desires a more normal human life, feeling more like an outcast in all walks of life. She has power but looks human. She wants to be human, but knows that humanity won’t give her credit as to what she looks like given as to what she can do. I do feel this really affection for the character, and really come to know who she is and how that affects what she desires. She then starts to build confidence thanks to Myers and receives the opportunity to lead a more normal life thanks to him, but then, upon the death of Bruttenholm comes to the knowledge that the ‘freaks’ need to stick together, and that Hellboy needs her support in what is a hard time for him. She grows and grows, becoming a tough fighter in the final battle escapades and even something of a leader, showing great deals of professionalism while also still coming to terms with whom she is and what she can do, which she then discovers, and comes to less fear it, more embrace it. Selma Blair plays what is for me, a very identifiable role and one whom I somewhat can’t get enough of, and come to anticipate with joy her next appearance.

Selma Blair (I know it's from Hellboy 2)

The film being one that is filled with many marvellous and very imaginative creatures will of course come packed with the not so original assortment of special effects to make these things come to life. It should be noted however that a great deal of special effects in this film are not necessarily the work of CGI or Computer Generated Imagery, in fact for the most degree, many of the needed special effects more take the form of make-up, masks and costumes. It should be noted that in his early life, Del Toro actually studied and worked for 10 years in special effects and even started his own company. It is obvious to note then that when it came to Special Effects needed for this film, that he already had it planned out early one. For the actual shoot and filming of scenes, Hellboy, Abe, Sammael and Kroenen are actually costumes and or models when needed. CGI is only brought in when they needed to use them for a scene that would require CGI and when a Suit/Mask/Makeup would not work. Scenes such as creatures in Water, Sammael’s resurrecting, and the giant portals and monsters. This allowance but also reduced requirement for Computer Graphics means that there is a lot more involvement between characters in certain scenes, and makes the fighting look more fluid and dynamic, because the fighting is real. The other thing is though, that you can actually see the difference, as when the costumes are in shot, because the physical entity is living you can see it interact, but also, it looks fresher. When the computer animated imagery is in place, there is a feel that some of it is rather unfinished. Don’t know if you saw my review on the film Mimic (also by Del Toro), but in that the CGI was easy to be seen as not good or possibly unfinished, there was a direct correlation between real life and fake quality. In this you get a similar feeling, and it only really works for the CGI when things are happening quickly, like a fight scene or a chase as it blurs in and you don’t spot it, but then when you get it standing still, it’s very noticeable, that more could have been done in that department.

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Special effects are not everything in a film like this, because in order to convey the right feel to such an imaginative thing, you need a good quality soundtrack (composed by Marco Beltrami) to back it up. Hellboy does have a sort of strange mix of pieces of music, ranging from the dark and mystical, to the old-fashioned with a bit of attitude. Pieces of music in those areas include when the portal is opening near the end, when Liz’s power is awakened in the hospital, to pieces like the BPRD theme when Myers turns up, Bruttenholm’s funeral, to the more modern sounding music as Myers and Liz go for a ride, then intermixed you also have the one of piece that sounds just sort of added and silly, but not in a bad way. But for me I want to highlight 3 distinct pieces of music. Now the third one I should note is only available really with the Director’s Cut of this film, but I would like to point out here and now (if I have not already) that this film’s Director’s Cut is where this film is at. It really enhances and includes and builds on from the original cut and though while its original cut is pretty good; to get the full experience, watch the DC. Anyway; the first piece is really this film’s main theme and you hear it the minute the credits are about to roll. It’s sort of twisted and sinister, that’s how it comes across anyway; and intermixed has a romantic track line, but for the most part is this dark and twisted tone that really sets up what you have been watching for the last 2+ hours and sort of puts it into a level of context, while also providing a mystical identity.

The next two pieces are more sort of added as to enrich the soundtrack but by adding pieces that were already made but not necessarily for this film. The first is Red Right Hand (I wonder why) by Nick Cave and the Dark Seeds. It only gets played after Hellboy’s introduction to Myers as the gang go to the museum in a bin lorry. However, well in the film plays as a really groovy soundtrack that just dominates most of the sound and works well to present the scene as best it can, especially when you see the agents marching in front of the bin lorry as the doors open. It’s a dark, twisted tune, but comes with a sort of light listening punch that you can’t help but sing a long too (much like the third song). The piece is actually very different in presentation to how the film puts it in, but either way, it’s still good.

Then you have this song by a band called Forseps. It’s just called Hellboy, but that is something of a lyric. It’s very different to everything else as it’s more heavy rock with a twist of a groove packing mystery and excitement as the song builds, explaining who Hellboy is, but then it hits this Lyric ‘HELLBOY’ and into that we get a lashing of attitude, the attitude this film has included, but only really feels now is the time to unleash. It’s mainly just a nice, interesting, but also levelly piece of fun on which to end the film on.

I really like Hellboy, both as a film and as an idea, especially the character. I consider him definitely worthy of equal footing in comparison to the other big super hero movie boys out there, if not a greater footing than them, it’s definitely more interesting and fun than the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here you have very human like characters, even if some of them aren’t. You have these well thought out and researched ideas, enriching a really cool but also big plot and it comes packed with everything in between to male what is a very enjoyable film. While its mythos and ideas will put some people off, for everyone who does (‘dare’) to see it, there is a lot to like and a lot to enjoy, and in the end while such ideas are present, they are not the be all and end all of the tale, in fact it sort of goes beyond that and goes into other ideas and mythology, springing out-of-bounds to other locations and interests. Packed up with an incredible cast, touch-able-worthy special effects, and a mystically dark soundtrack that packs a punch, altogether Hellboy is a very magical film, and while I would not necessarily consider it a Super Hero Movie like the other adaptations of this sort, when you do think about it in league with those films and series: While it may currently only have 2 films in a potential trilogy, it still packs more and is generally more entertaining than many others. Yes, there are a lot of Super Hero Movies and TV Shows right now, but spare a quick thought for those that dare to do something different.

GENEPOOL (Also, quick shout out to Ivan).

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King of Tokyo

10 06 2015

King of Tokyo box

King of Tokyo is a dice rolling game for up to 6 players released by IELLO and designed by Magic: The Gathering creator Richard Garfield. In King of Tokyo, players take on the role of one of several giant monsters (who happen to not look like any other monsters in particular) who are fighting for ultimate control of Movie Monster paradise; Tokyo City. The first monster to reach 20 points, or alternatively, be the only one with any remaining health, wins to become the true king of Tokyo (but not King of the Monsters, that title has already been claimed).

King of Tokyo bits and bobs

The game comes with a large collection of components including a small board, power cards, character cards, character pieces, stands, tokens and little green cubes. The game is set up with the small board (a picture of Tokyo with the locations Tokyo and Tokyo Bay on it) placed in the middle. Players then choose which monster they want to be: Giga Zaur, The King, Cyber Bunny, Meka Dragon, Kraken, Alienoid, and take the corresponding character card/board, piece and stand. The character boards themselves have two rotating dials on them. One representing health (starting at 10) and the other representing point score (starting at 0). Players then put their character pieces in the stands and place them near the board. The way the game works is mainly through its dice. 6 black ones with green symbols on them (and 2 extra green ones with black symbols on them). On a players turn, they roll all 6 dice, and compare the results. If they want to they can re-roll any number of dice, if still not happy, they can re-roll one more time. After that, they are stuck with what they whether they like them or not. If players roll a claw, this counts for an attack. If a player is the first one to roll a claw, they take Tokyo. If players roll a heart, they can heal themselves. If they roll a lightning bolt, they get some energy. If they roll 3 of any number, they score points equal to that number (so 3 3’s equals 3 points), plus any extra of that number equals one extra (so 4 2’s equals 3 points). Simple right, well yes in theory, but it’s a little bit trickier than that.

King of Tokyo dice

You see, when a player’s monster is in Tokyo, they can’t heal, so rolling hearts is pretty pointless. Also, when someone is in Tokyo, if they roll a claw or any number of claws, then they deal that much damage to every monster outside of Tokyo, however, monsters not in Tokyo that roll claws, only deal damage to the monster currently in Tokyo; so if you are in Tokyo and are taking too much damage, you might want to yield Tokyo to the monster currently attacking you. If you decide to do so, you still take that damage. Yielding Tokyo though presents another problem. When you take Tokyo you get a point, and every time it comes round to your turn, you get an additional 2 points if you are still there. So players (or monsters) will have to decide when they have taken enough damage to yield or to hold Tokyo for a bit longer to attain more points.

King of Tokyo energy cubes

Monsters though do have options and opportunities. When a player rolls a lightning bolt they get a little green cube. These can they be used to buy power cards. Power cards have special abilities, some more complicated than others which can help you, or hinder you if someone else buys them. Some cards are permanent, while others are one use only. These power cards range from things like dealing additional damage, poisoning, growing an extra head, getting bigger, get bonus health, reduce other player’s points, coming back to life and deciding to become an omnivore. Alternatively, players have the option to spend 2 energy to wipe out the current selection of three cards to reveal three new ones and then choose from them.

King of Tokyo power cards

King of Tokyo is a nicely designed game. The monster character cards deliver a nice way to keep both score and keep an eye on the health statistics. The use of dials is also more aesthetically pleasing and easier to use rather than having a card and using a small wooden cube. The artwork for Tokyo and the Monster characters is simple but effective. The little cubes are a wonderful addition. Their clear plastic see-through look makes them that little bit more special and thanks to them being all the same, there is no need to worry about general currency values. The power cards are also cheap which means they can be bought relatively quickly if the right dice are being rolled. The power cards also deliver an extra dimension to the game meaning that those who want to bide their time to get stronger can, while those who just want to roll point numbers and claws can too. It is also very easy to understand and does not rely on confusion between hit points and defence points when rolling claws, instead just saying you get hit, and how much health you subsequently lose. Additionally, I also like the many references to Monster Movies, many a time I have played this and have gotten into noting the references from the creatures and power cards and just enjoy reliving the memories of watching them. I am also always discovering new things. The power card deck is so big and has so many different cards in it, that every time I play it I am discovering new powers and abilities. I like that.

King of Tokyo monsters

The game though I find does have one little disadvantage. It’s more of a rule that I still don’t understand no matter how many times I have played it; that being the area of Tokyo Bay. Tokyo Bay is used when playing with between 5 and 6 players. The idea is that there is another area of Tokyo, but I don’t understand why it is there, what the advantage of it is, how you get there and how you stay there. I can see the advantage of having two monsters in Tokyo, but this just leads to which monster attacks who when rolling dice. Having a second monster in with more players would also mean two monsters gaining points, but then how does one remain in Tokyo Bay if they are ousted by someone fleeing Tokyo. I just don’t understand the point of having it on the board, and subsequently since, don’t include it when I play it. I also find it hard to understand the part of the rules booklet that explains it.

King of Tokyo board

While I do find the inclusion of Tokyo Bay confusing and or somewhat disappointing, it is a minor glitch in what is generally an easy, and very fun game. I just like the idea of being a Giant Monster and fighting for control of Tokyo (like a certain Giant Monster of whom I am a massive fan of). The game’s mechanics of dice rolling are nice and easy to just pick up and play, the character/monster cards are very easy to use and the addition of power cards are easy to understand and acquire (except for the batteries one). The artwork is terrific and the use of the monster stands are brilliant. The designer could have just used the cards as counters, but instead provides the stands to give a third dimension to both look and gameplay. When added to the board the monsters look huge. King of Tokyo is a game I rank among my favourite board games and is one I feel that everyone should try at least once. It’s not just its theme, but also how easy it is to play and how much enjoyment I have always managed to get out of it. I just can’t get enough out of being a Giant Monster and thrashing Tokyo, it’s so much fun.

Cyber Bunny vs Giga Zaur

GENEPOOL





I Have Finally Gotten Round To Playing Demigod, And I Have No Idea What I’m Doing

24 09 2014

Demigod2

Back in 2007 when I first got my Computer, it was not long until I had bought Supreme Commander for it, a game which quickly became my Favourite Game and today is still one of my all-time favourites, mostly because I don’t know what my favourite game is at the moment. A few months later when I found out that Gas Powered Games, Supreme Commander’s developer was producing a sequel I kept up to date with the company, and still do.

Supreme Commander1

Before they released Supreme Commander 2 though, they released another game called Demigod which I had a look into. From first glance I liked the look of it, the monsters, the giant creatures, the armies. It looked to me like an army orientated Real Time Strategy (RTS) Game, the kind of games I like. So, I kept a look out for it, but I did not buy it when it first came out in 2009. I don’t know why, I just didn’t. A year later Supreme Commander 2 was released at that was that but still I had not bought Demigod. In fact, it has only been very recently when it was on Sale on Steam that I finally bought it, over 5 years later. So with it finally bought, and then with some time spare after completing Borderlands 2 I decided to download it and give it a go. When I played it for the first time though, I discovered a problem.

Demigod1

I went into a little skirmish game, just to have a quick go and try it out, and I was surprised to see that there wasn’t a tutorial mode, I discovered this the moment the battle begun and I had a character and task bar but had no idea of what to do with them. There are options, but as to what to do with them as well as how I am supposed to play this game at all was a sheer mystery.

Demigod3

The idea behind this game is that there are two main gameplay mechanics:

“There are two distinct types of Demigod: Assassins and Generals. Assassins rely on their varied combat abilities in a direct fight to kill other Demigods. Generals are a hybrid Demigod that create and support their own minions and other Demigods.”

Wikipedia Demigod Article

So in theory, Assassins can fight who legions on their own, while Generals use armies to fight for them. I played as a General the first time but had no idea how to build or create an army and for the most part seemed to just appear of their own fruition. I then played as an Assassin, but just kept on dying the whole time.

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It may be the case that there is a Tutorial in the game somewhere, maybe in the tournament mode, but I thought that would have been in the main menu if there was one. I might have another go at the game and see if I get anywhere, and if I don’t I could just go back to playing Supreme Commander 2, but seeing as 2 is not as good as 1, I might just play that one instead and wait and see if Gas Powered Games makes another Supreme Commander one day, who knows.

Demigod5

GENEPOOL





They Were Trying To Kill It (Part 1) – Godzilla 2014

25 06 2014

Godzilla 2014 Poster

Back in 2010 when I was researching the Godzilla franchise on Wikipedia, I found a piece of very interesting information. Back in 2004 I remembered that it was announced that there would be no more Godzilla films after the release of Godzilla: Final Wars for a period of 10 years, just to give it a break and renew interest. It is hard though to keep an icon down. In 2008 I remembered reading about an upcoming film to be released in 2009 which was to be a 3D movie for IMAX cinemas starring the title monster and called Godzilla 3D to the Max. This idea though did not get off the ground. Also in 2008, for the film Always Zoku Sanchōme no Yūhi (Always Sunset on Third Street 2) Godzilla himself makes a brief, but terrific appearance very early on. Then comes 2010. It was announced that Legendary Pictures, the studio behind Inception and The Dark Knight were interested in attaining the American movie rights to Godzilla in the hope of doing a complete reboot of a series that was initially planned around about 1995/1996 that sadly did not really work out by all counts. Well, Legendary were successful and during the time between then and May 2014 had been hard at work with director Gareth Edwards (and several writers including David S. Goyer, Frank Darabont, David Callaham and Max Borenstein) wanting to produce an Americanised Godzilla film which was by all counts faithful to the iconic Giant Force of Nature that has entertained and inspired millions including myself all over the world for nearly 60 years. Well, I can say that they have achieved this in such a way that it is not only a proper Godzilla film, but also one of the best.

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The film begins with an opening montage showing reports made by sailors over the centuries of encountering colossal sea monsters. The video then moves to 1954 showing footage of what appears to be giant spines on the surface of the water, like the dorsal fin of a shark. The footage continues to show this but no details as to what it is before concluding with a nuclear bomb detonation. The scene then moves to 1999 where Dr. Serizawa (Ken Watanabe) and his assistant Dr. Graham (Sally Hawkins) investigate a pit at a mine in the Philippines, discovering a giant skeleton and a couple of pods. In Janjira, Japan meanwhile, Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston), a nuclear physicist is examining a set of tremors at a nuclear power plant. Suddenly there is a reactor breach and his wife Sandra (Juliette Binoche) who was in the bowels of the plant is unable to escape and the whole plant collapses. 15 years later, Joe’s son Ford Brody (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), an EOD technician returns home after 14 months away to his son Sam (Carson Bolde) and wife Elle (Elizabeth Olsen). He then gets a call from Japan saying that his father has been arrested again for breaching the quarantine zone.

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Ford heads for Japan where his father has become almost a complete crackpot after what happened and Ford tells him to come home. Joe though persuades Ford to help him go back to their old house to retrieve his discs. After this they spot the site of the old plant which appears to be being rebuilt. They are then arrested and taken there. Joe tries to tell the authorities there about who he is and what he thinks is happening, which gains the attention of Serizawa and Graham. Something at the plant then begins to stir and Serizawa orders they kill it, but instead it wakes up. A giant bat like creature which causes a lot of havoc before taking off killing Joe in the process. The military, overseen on the USS Saratoga commanded by Rear Admiral William Stenz (David Strathairn) takes over the operation to track the creature and Ford is briefed by Serizawa that the creature that attacked the plant is called a MUTO (Massive Unidentified Terrestrial Organism) which is an ancient creature that feeds on nuclear energy. The creature in turn is hunted by a much larger and ancient alpha-predator discovered by a deep-sea exploration in 1954 after the first Nuclear Submarine woke it up. The discovery of this creature led to multiple cover-ups as several nuclear weapon tests in the 1950’s were in fact an attempt at killing it. Serizawa heads up the division known as Monarch whose job it is to track the MUTO’s and possibly this other creature who is named by Serizawa as GODZILLA. Ford tells the team that his father mentioned something about the creature at the plant talking to something. Ford goes to Hawaii to catch a plane back home to San Francisco.

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News of a Nuclear Submarine disappearing is reported and a team of marines investigates in an Hawaiian Jungle where they find the Submarine being fed on by the creature. The military sends in fighters but are disabled by an EMP blast from the creature. Reports then come in of a second creature approaching the Island. Serizawa stands on the deck of the carrier and sees three dorsal spines running through the water. On the island, Ford looks after a boy split up from his parents when the lights go out. On the island, the sea regresses as a giant figure makes land. The power returns to the train, but the line is attacked by the MUTO. All of a sudden, the Giant figure appears on the scene in full view; a Giant lizard like creature that lets out a resplendent roar and attacks the MUTO. In San Francisco, Elle sees the footage of this battle live.  The following day Ford returns the boy to his parents at the city is in ruins. He manages to hook up with an army battalion while near Las Vegas, the other MUTO pod from the Philippines, has fed on Nuclear Waste and has escaped. It is determined that his one is a Female which cannot fly and the other a Male. Out at sea, a navy convoy holds a perimeter around the dorsal spines of the creature now confirmed as Godzilla.

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A plan is put into place to lure the three creatures together and destroy them despite Serizawa’s objections. Two nuclear missiles are put on board a train which Ford joins, but when inspecting a bridge, the train is attacked and destroyed. The following morning Ford is rescued along with one remaining missile. In San Francisco the city is evacuated with Elle staying behind to help. On the bridge, a convoy of busses witness the arrival of Godzilla from the ocean as the Male MUTO steals the remaining warhead before taking it to the now arrived Female who uses it to make a nest. Elle manages to get into a secure bunker as Godzilla arrives to fight the creatures. Ford joins in a battalion to retrieve the warhead and flies into San Francisco via halo jump witnessing the creature’s titanic battle as he lands. The Battalion run to the nest where they manage to get the nuclear weapon. Ford stays behind briefly to destroy the nest. Godzilla is struggling to take on both MUTO’s but the distraction of the nests destruction gives him enough time to power up, and let out a furious blast of his Atomic Death Ray. Ford and his team return the warhead to a boat but are attacked by the female. The male is killed by Godzilla but a building collapses on him. Ford manages to get the boat into open water but is corned by the female, who, in turn is attacked and killed by Godzilla. Godzilla then seemingly dies upon collapsing in victory. Ford is rescued as the bomb detonates out at sea. Elle is rescued and she, Ford and their son reunite. People scramble on the corpse of Godzilla, which then snorts as it wakes up. Branded as King of the Monsters, Godzilla simply departs and swims out of sight under the calm, still water.

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Godzilla is a heart stopping intense film but also a tense thriller with moments of human hardship and questions about the use of nuclear weapons and man’s desire to control the earth any means necessary, particularly nature itself, but more on that later. For now let’s look at the cast. The cast is a mix of a great bunch of characters and actors. Bryan Cranston who from the trailers looks like the lead bloke plays a professional scientist who while knowing his job and believes he is doing the right thing and probably is does face the fierce competition of nay-sayers, but in between that he does show a more human caring side to him, and this is what makes him stay in Japan to work out what is going on at his former job, even if it makes him forget what made him stay there in the first place which strains his relationship with his son. While he may be later on be made to look like a crackpot mad scientist, he does still show his caring side and is now way a joke to those around him or to the screen. It is obvious though that he does have a strained relationship with his son Ford due to the accident and surprising that his attitude to the situation doesn’t help to inspire Ford along all that much and is a shame that their relationship couldn’t be explored further, however it is a good showing of how much family means to someone and how that guilt can quickly ruin someone, particularly if they see it as their fault. Juliette Binoche’s character meanwhile is more of a real parental figure to Ford and has more of an easy-going understanding of everything around her and tries to get the best out of Cranston’s character and tries to make him think more rationally and in many respects is the pivot as to why Cranston is still there.

Bryan Cranston and Juliette Binoche

Ken Watanabe as a scientist is a lot like Dr Yamane (played by Takashi Shimura) in the original film as he has an understanding of such creatures as there are in this film but wants to be able to preserve for the benefit of science yet he is able to distinguish when they are a threat or not. He is a man with a dark past as represented by his pocket watch and finds himself mystified by Godzilla and almost finds himself able to rely on such a creature when he feels that he follows after the Mutos. This mystery about himself allows him to play such a role and while his name in the film is that of the scientist in the 1954 film (played by Akihiko Hirata); Ken Watanabe is playing his part brilliantly and is rather enjoyable, but maybe it should have been more the case that his character should have been called Yamane rather than Serizawa. Sally Hawkins who plays his assistant, shown more so with her calling him Sensei, shares a lot of on-screen time with Watanabe but not enough (more in the sequel perhaps?) I think as the relationship between the two works well and I do feel like she should have more scenes, but for those that she does have, are really enjoyable and brings that needed human side of the scientist when discussing the discovery of the creatures but also in dealing with them and does have a very remorseful side about her.

Ken Watanabe and Sally Hawkins

Carson Bolde plays a very good part and almost has his own backstory in comparison to those around him and while for the most part he is himself quiet he does show a level of emotion during those scenes. I mean for the part of a child they could have just used any old stand in, but Carson shows a level of acting that if nurtured correctly, could lead to more big roles. Richard T Jones is also quite good as Stenz’s second in command and is as rational as his superior by also not underestimating the situation.

Carson Bolde and Richard T Jones

I do find myself really liking the David Strathairn character; Admiral William Stenz (a name which does make me think of Nimitz). What I like about him is that he is not a cowboy, he is in charge of this entire operation after the Janjira incident, and he follows the creatures, even surrounding Godzilla but acts rationally by not attacking. This shows that he is a rational man that also does not underestimate the situation and is in no way gun hoe about the situation and decides to make a plan before actually attacking anything at all. It shows an easier going thinking to a serious idea and like a detective would prefer to know all the facts before doing anything else. He is also understanding of other people’s ideas and history particularly when Serizawa shows him the watch his dad in Hiroshima when the bomb dropped, but instead of laying into Serizawa for not wanting to use the bomb, he takes a more firm and understanding approach showing the world has moved on and there are better understandings of how and when such a weapon is used if at all.

The on-screen relationship between Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen is well done and actually looks like a realistic relationship between the two instead of just a generic one for the sake of it. The need to return to Elle does play on ford’s mind throughout and is his main journey in this film, not to attack the monsters but to return to the one he loves feeding on a primal instinct of love which helps make his character realistic to everything he does throughout making him both believable and creates a connection for the audience, but I can’t help but notice that in the city scenes, when he Collapses, so does Godzilla. This could be a sense of trying to imply what he is going through, Godzilla is too and so that struggle is both shared by Humanity and Nature. So while the film on this part is stating that nature cannot be controlled, there is a human connection to it instead and they are both in and are the same thing, however, why didn’t try to swim away? I do think though that there could have been more drama on his part particularly when his father dies and the scientists say they are sorry. As an audience member it is easier to see but mostly thanks to hindsight that if the authorities did tell Joe what was going on, his death could have been averted and if anyone deserved to know what really happened at the plant 15 years previously, it was the families of those who lost people. So I am surprised that Ford did not lay into them for that, because that’s what your primal urge would want to do, instead he just listens to them quietly instead of trying to get some form of restitution from what’s happened so far. Elizabeth Olsen is one of the best characters in this film by far. Like how Ford wants to get back to her, she is trying to stay in the city for the benefit of waiting for him but also trying to get in contact with him. I really do think there could have been generally more of Olsen throughout this film (which allows room for her in the sequel) those moments that you do see her are some of the best on the human side of the film. While everyone else is looking at the situation from afar for the most part, she is the one who is really experiencing them and allows for all bases in such a film to coexist as well as given an insight to the situation and pay a s ort of homage to those scenes in the Japanese series of people running from the danger. But because those scenes are focused on somebody, it means the audience can connect with someone who is there and feel what the situation is like.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Elizabeth Olsen

Godzilla is beautifully produced and shot. Scenes involving running with humans and general drama scenes for one, but scenes including the halo jump as well as the human interactions with the monsters in the final act are beautifully done and represent very well what it is like being in that kind of situation. Even Janjira looks amazing. The overgrown deserted city which just happens to be there giving the impression of a city like Chernobyl is now and this is accomplished more brilliantly seeing as it doesn’t actually exist. The naval and military scenes show great uses of research as to how certain things would be done in a real life situation and in moments where the real thing could be used rather than a CGI model, like the ships, tanks and planes, they are used brilliantly. The film does actually work well as a thriller on its own when there is no monster in the scene. Take the bridge scene for example when the birds crash into the bus windows. This is almost like a true horror scene as you get the shock of your life only to discover its birds. During the monster scenes themselves great work has gone into close-up shots with the humans including the train bridge scenes and even in the final act. Along with that you have other scenes which plant ideas into your head of signs of the monsters, but don’t see them, and give an idea of how big they are and also what they are very much capable of. But it really comes down to how the monster scenes are done in tandem with the humans.  From the scenes on board with the aircraft carrier with Godzilla’s spines are protruding from the water, to the Hawaii airport when the water comes in around the man’s feet signifying the arrival of something big. It is down to the reactions of people seeing these things that are the true essence of how well such shots are done. Also I like the sense of scale that is shown. When Godzilla is first seen, you don’t see him in full, and even when you see him walking on land for the first time, the shots are restrained to eye level to show the true height and size of the creature and so you may only see arms and feet, and leave the reveal shots for later on when they are needed. Shots such as these and others help to show the human and audiences place in such a situation and allows the remain of a sense of awe altogether.

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The film’s soundtrack (produced by Alexandre Desplat) is amazing, and that is the quick way of describing it. The film’s score has elements of mystery, particularly in the Japanese scenes which while having a sense of suspense when the plant is crumbling, but also when Ford and Joe go to investigate. When you get past the opening introduction you have moments of awe from the scene in the Philippines to that of Ford and Joe entering the quarantine zone.  That piece in part is one of the best pieces in the film with moments of big drums signifying something big and catastrophic but not yet sure what and also give a more traditional Asian feel to the music. Other pieces earlier on have moments of a big reveal such as the film going to Janjira followed by a soundtrack that shows the early tension of escaping the power plant. Other pieces later on such as the reveal of the atomic breath, Godzilla’s victory and departure (and his own main theme) have connotations to old American monster movies and give that sense of awe as you gaze and what is happening. Godzilla’s victory piece does have a corny feel about it and feels more attributed to a character like King Kong, but works in the short-term and his departure also which I think helps to correct this, his victory piece though goes into a more sombre bit which relates to the cost and sacrifice endured to achieve victory. The monsters themselves do share quite a bit of the soundtrack too including the MUTO reveals and the moment Godzilla arrives at the Golden Gate Bridge. But sneaked in there is a small little horror piece which is used to great effect in scenes where the soldiers are approaching something, and it can be seen, but not clearly and is more like the calm before the storm, but gets you ready for it.

For me, the best thing about the soundtrack is Godzilla’s theme. While the soundtrack does not carry any themes produced by Akira Ifukube, they have taken great care in producing a soundtrack which works for the title character. You have that mystery there to begin with, just to begin with. Then hallway through, there is this grand scale of notes which reveal some form of terror which builds up inside you. It’s like your eyes have seen something that betrays you and now you’re by the foot of a great terror.

It’s like something relentless is coming to get you, you manage to spot it and your eyes can’t get away from it because it’s just unbelievable and you can’t run, you just can’t. Like a great abomination, like a werewolf or Frankenstein’s Monster, it’s running, rampaging towards you and then you trip trying to run. And it’s got you. Your Heart Stops. What next is up to him?

GENEPOOL (Click Here for Part 2).





Clash of Steel (Part 4)

25 07 2013

The Iron Giant

I was sitting down having a drink,

When a man burst in with his face all pink,

He tried to catch his breath,

Wheezing like the Black Death,

And what was that stink?

He said there was a man dripping in oil,

Outside and wearing a shiny suit of foil,

We ventured out of the club,

Leaving our portions of grub,

Looked up and saw the can beginning to boil.

The chap was right,

But the man was not all shiny and white,

He looked more like he was made of rust,

Almost ready to turn into dust,

It was like he had been bashed up in a bad fight.

What do we do with him?

This metal man all dim,

We could sell him for scrap,

Or turn him into a giant bear trap,

Anything else would have been done on a whim.

Then we looked across the yard,

Turning our eyes hard,

The last of four,

Let’s hope there is no more,

Then we turned around to see him put up his guard.

GENEPOOL








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