If You Could Command Any Star Wars Army…

23 11 2016

Star Wars (Lucasfilm)

I used to like Star Wars, but I digress.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (LucasFilm - 2015

While riding on the train back home from a Wedding back in August, I asked my Friend Matt the question; if he could command any army in Star Wars, which would it be? It’s a bit of an out there question I know and one that I had in my head for a couple of months preceding that, which in turn developed from a few other questions that I will probably end up writing about in the future (which include but are not limited to such things as who would I pick to be in my ultimate superhero/villain team). Anyway I asked this question. Basically the question is in the circumstances that if you were given the power and choice to lead an entire army from the Star Wars Universe, which would it be?

I remember that his immediate answer was Ewoks. Good choice, as the Ewoks pretty much single handily did defeat the Empire intrusion on the Forest Moon of Endor. Personally that is not my choice, but I can see how that could be a good choice, as not only are they practical, but also very musical, as well as very cuddly. My answer though to the question I am asking, I immediately chose when I originally thought of the question. There are a lot of good armies to choose from (even when sticking just to the films), many of which garner a lot of variety in their arsenal as well as secret weapons that are entirely attributed to them only. But for me, there really is only one obvious choice, one that if put into battle with all the others would simply dominate. They are the one army that suggests anything army like, and have the weaponry and technology to back it up: The Galactic Republic.

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It would be a very short post if I just ended it there, but I feel like I should explain my reasoning and choice, so what follows is a brief but detailed post of why I would choose the Galactic Republic over all the others, and I will do that by stating where their strengths lie by going into the different elements of a Star Wars army and attempt to argue their strengths against those of the other armies.

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Infantry: Infantry/personnel units make the backbone of an army; without Infantry and Personnel there would be no army. No matter the ships, tanks, aerial units, without soldiers and personnel to use them or back them up and maintain them, all you will have is a load of machines that cannot be used. Infantry is the main force of an army, and while Tanks and other vehicles have a lot more firepower and are better armored, they can cost a lot to build and are not as practical as soldiers. Every army in Star Wars has their infantry, ranging from swamp dwelling frogmen, to cuddly teddy bears, to general foot soldiers and even robots. One of the most iconic units in Star Wars is of course the Stormtrooper, and Stormtroopers are a well-equipped fighting force, but given that the universe pretty much belongs to the Empire by the time the Stormtroopers are introduced, they are less infantry, more a peace keeping force. They are a tried and tested as well as disciplined fighting force of course, but they present themselves more as shock troopers rather than infantry, if not more like; well, police officers of the galaxy. They do not suggest themselves as being a fighting force that could work on a large scale battle front, their guns themselves look pretty small, and in the end, they’re probably about as much good as those white fellas from The Hunger Games. Now take the Republic Soldier (or Clone Trooper); the republican army is of course famously built from clones, under a strict regime program that turns them into an equipped and disciplined fighting force the second they step out of the factory. The best way I can describe them is during the Battle of Geonosis. The minute they arrive in the arena, they are perched on the edge of the LAAT gunships, and the second they land they are firing shots at a large fighting force of battle droids. They don’t wait, they know who the enemy is, they know how to attack and they have been well-trained enough to know that now is the time to attack. This is just basic infantry, there are other kinds of units, but as they are just the basic infantry in battle, to go in there, and get to work, plus cause as much damage in less than a minute, only to then join a much bigger fight, suggests a dedicated and effective fighting machine, not one that is unprepared for a larger fight.

clone-troopers

Infantry Specialists: Basic infantry units may be the backbone and largest part of a military fighting force; but every army should work at producing some specialist’s within the infantry division as to be able to deal with specific or certain situations on the battlefield. This can range of course from specialist infantry for certain weather conditions such as the Galactic Empire’s Snow Troopers, but by specialists I mean more in the form of weapon specialists to of course engineers and medics. In terms of weapon specialists, the Republic has shown a great level of degree of weapon specialists throughout their use. Some of these are designated by their role in the army, but unlike most armies in Star Wars, the Republic Army appears to be unique in their use of Snipers. I have never seen the Gungans, Ewoks, Rebel Alliance, Galactic Empire, Confederacy of Independent Systems or even the Trade Federation use Snipers. I like Snipers as it’s the idea of not being seen but picking off enemies from afar. Other unique soldiers in their arsenal include Medics, as most other armies (except maybe Ewoks) seem to work under the idea of if you are injured you are already Dead and it’s not worth bothering with. Two things may appear to be a little small in number of examples, but it’s still more than the others (at least from what I have seen).

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Ranks: On the battlefield, much like in other more modern (REAL!) day circumstances, it’s important to have a clue as to what on earth you are meant to be doing. This is where more experienced and well taught soldiers come in to play whose job it is rather to issue commands to the lower downs than fight up front. In the real army these are known as commanders or officers. Now, not all high level commanders are sat behind the army with their feet up, many have to be on the battlefield to direct soldiers in the heat of battle. All armies have ranked commanders, but the Republic better enhances the role of theses soldiers in a very obvious way, one that is actually used in the real world – using colour on uniform to point out who is in charge. It’s not just the Republic who uses this system in Star Wars of course as the Droids of the Trade Federation use a similar system. Now the colour for the most part in both armies is more of a designation as to their role in the army, but even when uniform and colour changes in role, Yellow has always stood out as some form of Commander. This use of colour is actually used in the real world; one example is in the uniforms of the Police in the United Kingdom. During big events, officers use coloured epaulettes to highlight their rank, as it stands out more than symbols. Examples of colour include White for Sergeants and Red for Commanders.

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On the battlefield this would be very useful for an army, as if soldiers lose their place and need guidance or even assistance, being able to pin point a commander or someone in a similar position would be a lot easier if it was especially highlighted, rather than going round examining their shoulders.

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Tanks: Since World War One, Tanks have been an instrumental feature on the battlefields of the world; it’s the same with Star Wars (but as the film suggests it was a long time ago, the question has to be raised as to whether or not the films are set before or after World War One). Tanks play an important role on the battlefield, as they can do things infantry cannot do. They come with far superior forms of firepower, are a lot quicker and more mobile than infantry, can travel great distances, and can attack bigger and more armoured units as well as buildings from afar. Tanks have always been a key role to the battlefields of Star Wars and there are several unique and iconic tanks in the series, ranging from but not limiting to vehicles such as the AAT hover Battle tanks of the Trade Federation to the giant four-legged AT-AT’s of the Galactic Empire. While these vehicles are all well and good, the Republic’s AT-TE is a much more superior vehicle than both of these and more for some very simple reasons. Firstly, while it is a big and possibly sluggish vehicle, because it hugs the ground, it does not fall to the great weakness of the mighty AT-AT. While the AT-AT is a pretty good piece of equipment, due to its set of four legs to walk on carrying a heavy load, it makes the vehicle very unstable, and easy to be tripped up with something as easy as a cable. Once it hits the ground it’s less useful than paper weight. The AT-TE uses six legs, supporting and distributing the weight evenly across itself. Also, it does not fall under this trip up weakness either, as in order for that to work, the cable would need to intertwine and near shackle each leg, and would need to be done quickly. Another major gain for the AT-TE is that it has access to one main Big Gun. While it has access to smaller support guns, using a much bigger gun allows it to use the gun for close up attack but also far off artillery shots too. The gun itself also means it uses one main powerful shot rather than distributing its attack between several guns, and in the use of energy weapons which require fuel and power to use, a big shot would be a lot better than lots of small shots, plus would mean it could be used a lot more than others and would be more energy-efficient in the long run.

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The other advantage though the AT-TE has over its contemporary rivals is that it can be considered as being like what is known as an MBT or Main Battle Tank. During World War Two, lots of different kinds of tanks were made for various purposes and reasons and there was a lot of variety. Since then however it has become apparent that designing lots of Tanks for different purposes is sort of a long-winded strategy and in the end it would be a lot more efficient t design one vehicle that could suit most, if not all purposes than just a few, then support said vehicle with other support vehicles (or even infantry) in that vehicles (short) list of failings. Variations of MBT’s exist of course, but as they are based on a base vehicle, it actually makes designing variations a lot easier. The Galactic Empire utilities a lot of different walker based designs but very few of these are similar, which means, in similar fashion to Germany in WW2, they designed them for different situations in order to create as much power as possible from each vehicle, but in the process spread themselves rather thin. The Republic on the other hand, created a vehicle, and stuck with it. They adapted future designs and included features such as wheels and even made base troop carriers out of them, and in one case a two-legged version and sometimes carry even smaller weapons, but in the end, all variations were based on the same vehicle; one that was the real ground work horse of their arsenal. It’s similar to the UK’s use of the Challenger 2; it’s the base model for variations, but in the end is based on a workable design. In the end the AT-TE would probably be replaced for a more up to date advanced model, but it would still serve the Republic in a long-term purpose for a very long time.

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Artillery: Artillery is just as important as Tanks, as Artillery delivers greater levels of firepower to bring down much bigger obstacles such as buildings and fortifications. The Republic (as a going theme you may have cottoned on to) is possibly the only ones to show off a degree of artillery usage. The Empire and Trade Federation have only really used a tank’s superior firepower to one shot defences, but have not really experimented with using them to bring down buildings. The Republic however has presented their artillery in the past in the form of the self-propelled SPHA-T; most notably during the battle of Geonosis to bring down the Trade Federation star ships. These vehicles are very big, possibly bigger than AT-TE’s but use a very simple form of artillery to bring down the ships: that being an adjustable arm with a strong energy weapon on the end. Such vehicles are of course very slow, but on show they are very powerful and capable in the role. In comparison, well; no one has actually showed off a viable comparison, which is even weirder considering how basic these vehicles are.

laat

Aerial Vehicles: This being Star Wars, this could probably be put in two different parts, so for now we will consider those on the battlefield, not necessarily for use in non-air space. When it comes to use on the battlefield, aircraft serve mainly the use of transportation in Star Wars. In the real world aircraft are better used for support craft and can be used to bomb enemy positions from afar and more importantly be used for reconnaissance. In Star Wars it appears armies decide to just jump into battle full force with no dedicated planning, so reconnaissance is not really required. In Star Wars, battles take up quite a bit of the screen as well as scene, but in order for anyone to actually get there; they have two options, either walk, or get some Transport. In terms of practicality; the Republic is very practical in their designs. Armies like the Trade Federation use transport vehicles to move troops around, but are susceptible to attack as the troops need unfolding and then turning on. Empire transports such as the Lambda-class T-4a shuttle and it’s larger variants are less than practical also, as while they can disembark from the front, the access is very limited, and only really practical when allowing two people off at a time, but then the ramp is very narrow and can be a bit of a squeeze. For the most part Storm Troopers usually depart from the back, which is protective, but makes them prone to attack from the enemy as they run around and set up, meaning they could be picked off with ease before they fire a single shot. The Low Altitude Assault Transport (LAAT) used by the republic army is a gunship aerial vehicle, which comes packed to the teeth with a variety of advanced weaponry. These range from standard light laser cannons, to focus beams and cluster missiles. It is a powerful and fearsome vehicle in its own right; however it is also a very useful ship for the transporting of infantry across the battlefield. Once again, the battle of Geonosis proves their practicality and efficiency, as the vehicle allowed soldiers to sit off the side of the ship on both sides, fire from the ships openings, and as soon as it landed, could safely and effectively deploy troops into the battlefield. It allowed and carried defensive capabilities, plus carried offensive abilities too, while also providing an effective launch pad for a quick infantry deployment and attack. Much like the AT-TE too, it was such a well-designed vehicle, that it allowed itself to be customized into other varieties including a vehicle carrier which could carry good heavy loads including the likes of the AT-TE.

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Ships: As stated in the last section, aerial vehicles provide two purposes in Star Wars, because you could not have a war in the stars if you did not have vehicles that could compete in the stars. So to this end, huge capital ships become an integral part of the arsenal for any Star Wars Army wishing to compete on a Galactic Scale. Now, while the Republic could be considered weak in context – just bear with me for a moment. If this question was simply about star/space ships, I would have chosen the Empire. I love Star Destroyers, and the Galactic Empire has the awesome power of the Executor. However I would not consider the Republic weak in this department, as they have a superb collection of small fighter/bomber craft ranging from Jedi Starfighters, to X-Wing like designed aircraft in the form of the ARC-170 space fighter. But when it comes to Capitol carrier ships, these Acclamator-class Assault ships are well designed as carrier transports, but in the form of space conflicts, they can still bring a level of broadside firepower. Their shape allows them to sort of glide through the stars, and their light size in comparison to others should give them a speed and maneuverability bonus, but if you think about it, a fleet of these things are less like capitol ships, and more like mini sized battleships, and there are entire fleets of them. Just imagine that. Less a capitol/command ships, but more a proper battle ship. In Earth terms it would be like having an entire fleet of Yamato or Iowa Class Battleships, and who doesn’t want that? Yes, they could look a little weaker to the might of the Star Destroyer, but in Firepower, they could still deliver a punishing.

yamato

Well I hope that wasn’t too boring of a read, but I wanted to cover the reasoning of my choice. Anyway the chances of me being given the keys to the Republic Army Arsenal is very slim, probably more like impossible as Star Wars isn’t real, but I suppose it’s just good fun. Anyway, that is why; given the power and choice I would choose to command the Republic Army. Yes, the other armies have their own strengths as well that should (and need to) be considered, but as a good all-rounder, there can’t be any better than the Republic, as for one thing, they are at least consistent in their designs and are a very efficient machine. That is my choice, who would you pick to command?

GENEPOOL

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The Lost Reviews – Infested Planet

20 10 2016

Infested Planet (Rocket Bear Games - 2014)

If Alien movies have taught us anything, it’s that guns do not work against Aliens! That statement has been proved over and over again from films such as Aliens (where an elite team of Marines were wiped out in near seconds), Starship Troopers (where legions of soldiers were killed in less than an hour) and Independence Day (where the human race was nearly wiped out in 3 days). So, with this knowledge in hand we know for sure that if Aliens invade Earth, we should not use guns in any shape or form as they simply do not work; it seems however that some people have to learn the hard way.

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Infested Planet (produced by Rocket Bear Games) is a game about a squad of soldiers invading a planet infested with an alien species, and whose job it is to try and wipe them out. Each level begins with your elite team of soldiers landing in an area, with a small base set up. From here it is your duty to guide them through a maze of tunnels in the hope of destroying all enemy bases to win the level. As soon as you land however, the Aliens are on top of you and you will need to plan wisely and prioritize where you can as the aliens descend in swarms around your base.

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Each level is set in a nicely rendered 2D plan view map, and there are no tricky images to understand as everything is nice and clear. The games visuals remind me of one of those planet invasion flash games. You know the ones that feel more like a maths exam, where there is a planet with a value of 10, and so you need to send an army with a value of 11 to conquer it. Well, the maps look like that, with nice near circular bases for both you and the aliens, and as the swarms of alien monsters begin to descend on your bases and men, they even begin to look like those sorts of games. The aliens and soldiers feature a wonderful colour palette, with your soldiers changing colour as they upgrade and even the aliens get a nice patchwork of colouring too.

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The main way you play is by guiding your soldiers around the map, attacking bases and taking them over, bit by bit extending your reach. You will be offered times to upgrade while in the battlefield, upgrading your soldiers to different classes, while also being offered opportunities to drop supplies in and even call in helicopter strikes. It’s kind of similar to opportunities offered in Enemy Territory: Quake Wars (which I have still yet to play). These upgrades however do not make the game any easier as the aliens can mutate as their bases get destroyed, and just because you have claimed a base does not make it safe, as the aliens can and will attack them, destroying them and converting the land back to their side. They will even take control of you gun turrets given half the chance.

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The AI in this game is brilliant. The aliens attack in well-designed swarms, and don’t just rely on being small, because as the game progresses, and bases mutate, other larger and more fearsome species come out to play. It’s actually kind of fun, yet stimulating-ly terrifying as you see these swarms just appear and attack out of nowhere. Yes, you can put up defenses, but spots can be over run and you can’t help but look back at your bases, just to check if they are safe for the time being. Meanwhile, you have to keep a sharp eye on your team as they come under attack, and have to defend themselves not just from aliens, but the alien’s own defensive capabilities also.

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What this game provides at its core details plus in game specialties is really nice, and it’s good to see a game that even when it does provide you with upgrades, it does not necessarily mean that it gets any easier. It does not necessarily have a learning curve, more a steady playing field, and one that requires you to strategize rather than burst in all guns blaring. The game though for all its wonderful inclusions does have some short comings. There is an in game shop system which allows you to purchase new items and upgrades from cash you receive from winning (and even surrendering) a level. When you go into the shop though hoping to get much-needed upgrades, you discover that most of them (although at a fair price) are temporary and are only really available for no more than the next three levels. That is pretty annoying especially as some of them can be pretty expensive. You would think that something that cost that much, you would get keep wouldn’t you? The story does not really seem to be needed either. The game’s plot is provided in a similar form to an old shoot-em up game, where there is a lot of written text, no voice over dialogue and when it actually comes to a level, you don’t really know why they gave you any plot. But then things get weird as the game provides you with random missions and the story just appears to well: disappear…altogether. But the crazy thing is, is that you don’t really care about the plot, as there is so much fun in its gameplay you just want to get past the written word and just start shooting aliens. It’s a bit wasted if I’m to be honest.

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Altogether I think this is a fun game. Yes its shop is convoluted and un-usable and its story is pretty much not wanted and at least a bit wasted; but everything else that this game provides is on the surface near perfect. It’s not overly long, you can play it in long and short bursts, it’s relatively easy to pick up and play, and its design is really nice and colourful (compared to say a mysteriously abandoned ship in space lacking a carpet). Overall I would say this is just a nice little game if you fancy a break from a heavy laden triple A game or if you just have a little time to play something diverse, in-depth, but also very light.

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GENEPOOL





The Lost Reviews – oO

15 06 2016

oO4

I don’t know if you have ever seen The Cube on ITV; well if you haven’t, The Cube is a game show presented by Philip Schofield where contestants enter a small plastic/glass cube and have to complete skills based challenges in the hope of winning some cash. The only problem is that all the tasks are really hard (except to this strange faceless woman who is somehow able to complete all the tasks no problem). Most of us probably would never think or consider (or get round to) appearing on a show like that; but I think I have found a video game that works just as well.

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oO is a game about travelling through circles, what this has to do with large Perspex boxes is about to be explained. Basically, you have been put in a large box and have been given the duty of ensuring that a small white dot safely makes it through several circles of different shapes and sizes without getting hurt by either nasty looking spikes or getting crushed between the circles. There’s no real story to this game, it’s a simple puzzle game involving circles, spikes and dots all situated inside a large box with no windows.

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oO is as it comes really. Controls are pretty simple; you can press either the space key or left mouse clicker to cause the transition of the small white dot from inside the circle to outside the circle, and when directly next to a circle into that circle. It’s pretty simple to begin with. All you need to do is get the dot through the circles to the end of the level. There are safe points in the system of circles as you transition from one to another, if your little dot gets destroyed, it goes back to the last safe circle, once you make it to the next safe circle, you don’t need to worry about going back. As the circles continue, it gets harder to transition through them. Some of the circles are smaller than the others and so transitioning between them can create near misses and fatalities. But that’s not all; many of the circles contain spikes. Some of these are static and don’t move, while others can move, disappear, come back, can cause difficult patterns, the lot (well as far as the lot as they possibly can go). Some levels even change and disorientate you as the circles are now jelly like objects. These though are more bonus levels than anything else.

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The game has a nice simple interface as all you are really doing is clicking or tapping. The graphics are nice and simple, a 2D interface of white circles with the occasional vanishing and reappearing red spikes. The background of the big cube is nice and presents a different colour per level. This though I find a little bit wasteful as you are concentrating more on the circles, not just the weird cube in the background sometimes with other floating cubes inside it. I feel like this game could be improved in its look by being on a completely flat background colour. That though is fairly minor an issue as compared to a couple of other things. The levels feel overly too long. It feels and plays like there is no end in sight and you begin to wonder what on earth you are doing. It gets boring in this aspect very quickly. Also the lack of a life system means that your little dot just constantly keeps on dying and dying with no end in-sight. If there was a cut-off point, at least then there may be some replay value for those situations as well as a sense of achievement. Also, the controls are rather fidgety and unresponsive. Imagine the scene; when you have finally figured out your timings, and are ready to get the circle from this one solitary sphere to the next; you click the button, and…..nothing. So you wait for it to come round again, but still nothing. This can continue a lot, and when it finally goes in, your timings have gone completely awry and it quickly dies due to a miss click.

oO is overly long, can quickly get boring and some of its graphics just seem like a waste. On the plus side however; it’s easy to pick up, play and looks nice. While it is a hard game, it is still relatively simple for most people to simply give it a go. It’s the kind of game that you need to really try out to see what you think, but generally it’s alright.

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GENEPOOL





I’m Asking You, Just One More MINUTE! – Armageddon

23 03 2016

Armageddon (Touchstone Pictures - 1998)

Throughout the pages of history, there have always been beliefs as to how the world might end. Many of these beliefs come down to religious or cultural beliefs, while there is also the more popular forms of the world ending ranging from the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to historical suggestions such as a meteorite similar to the one believed to have killed the dinosaurs, to ones presented in media forms of recent years suggesting anything from Giant Monsters to freak levels of nature to calendar’s. The thing is, unless founded by a religious belief (like I am), there is no telling what will end the world as we know it, but thanks to many movies over the last 20 years or so, at least we have found a way to entertain these ideas by producing many films that go on to suggest ways as to how it will happen.

Released in 1998 by Touchstone Pictures, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer and directed by Michael Bay; Armageddon is an action/disaster movie depicting a possible end to planet Earth by throwing a massive pebble at it. Funnily enough, Armageddon was not the only film to be released in 1998 depicting the end of the world by a giant meteorite, as Deep Impact was released only 2 and half months before Armageddon, but Armageddon fared much better at the box office even surpassing Saving Private Ryan to become the highest grossing film of 1998.

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During a routine space mission, a space shuttle crew are attacked by a group of rogue meteors. The meteors rain down on New York causing city-wide damage. Under further investigation, NASA discovers that a rogue meteorite is heading to earth. The Meteorite dubbed a World Killer is so big that no matter where it lands will destroy all life on Earth. NASA director Dan Truman (Billy Bob Thornton) and Dr. Ronald Quincy (Jason Isaacs) come up with a plan to blow up the meteorite from the inside. On an oil rig, Oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), considered the best of his profession is busy dealing with his mini protégé A. J. (Ben Affleck) who he finds having a fling with his daughter Grace (Liv Tyler). Harry is asked to go to NASA with his Daughter where they discover what is going on, he is asked to go to the Meteorite with a crew, and drill inside to drop a nuclear bomb in it. Unwilling to go with untrained NASA drillers, Harry demands that he takes his own un-trained astronaut crew of drillers. These include Bear (Michael Clarke Duncan), Chick (Will Patton), Rockhound (Steve Buscemi), Oscar (Owen Wilson), Max (Ken Hudson Campbell), Noonan (Clarke Heathcliff Brolly) and A. J.

Harry’s team is put through the ringer by NASA under the guidance of NASA Pilot Watts (Jessica Steen) and Colonel Sharpe (William Fichtner). It’s an uphill battle of wills as between NASA crews and General Kimsey (Keith David) against the oil drilling crew. While on Base, A. J. and Grace’s relationship heats up; rather annoying Harry in the process. As time goes by, the crews get into shape for the flight, but not before time. With just a few days left to go, a rogue projectile from the Meteorite crashes into the South Asia Sea, killing thousands. With the truth out, NASA prepare to launch. The plan is to send up 2 crews in highly modified shuttles, Harry leading the Shuttle Freedom, and A. J. leading the Shuttle Independence. The crews launch and dock with a Russian satellite to refuel, meeting Russian Cosmonaut Lev (Peter Stormare). The refuelling operation goes haywire, with the two vehicles departing as the station explodes, with Lev joining the crew of Independence. The two shuttles, having slingshot around the moon, converge behind the meteorite, however the Independence crash lands with most of the crew dying except for A. J., Bear and Lev. Freedom lands successfully, but miles off course however.

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The Freedom crew begin drilling into the meteorite but already encounter problems as the surface is made out of iron, and the machine is being run by a badly designed drilling program. Harry confronts Sharpe, but their exchange is seen by everyone at NASA who begins to worry that they might fail. Kimsey is ordered by the President (Stanley Anderson) to override the system and to detonate the nuclear weapons even though the hole has not been drilled yet. Truman orders his men to stop Kimsey, but it’s met with unsuccessful results. With the bomb ticking, Harry convinces Sharpe to turn off the weapon. Drilling recommences and gets off to a good start, however Rockhound having gone insane causes yet more problems that lead to the drilling operation failing, meaning that the team has failed overall. In the nick of time, A. J. and his team, having drove the Armadillo drilling vehicle from their crash site to the Freedom drilling site arrive and get back to work. With less than 2 hours remaining, the teams manage to drill the hole.

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With 30 minutes remaining, the team are attacked by a meteor storm, which causes detonation problems for the bomb. The team draws straws to decide who stays on the meteorite to detonate the bomb, with A. J. drawing the short straw. When he goes outside however, Harry pushes him back on the shuttle, taking up the job of staying to detonate the bomb. Harry makes a final tearful farewell to his daughter and says how proud he is of her and his crew, especially A. J. with less than 5 minutes remaining, the Shuttle has problems launching off the Meteorite, but thanks to some quick bodging from Lev, manages to take off. With less than 1 minute to go, Harry slips up, but manages to detonate the bomb with only seconds remaining. The Meteorite explodes into two pieces, which fly and miss earth by miles with the crew back on Earth being hailed as heroes.

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Upon thinking of how Armageddon stands out on its own compared to other Disaster films of its kind, it’s really hard to start off. Compared to many other disaster movies of its kind such as the aforementioned Deep Impact, it seems nearly the same. Meteorite comes towards earth, and people go out to destroy it, sounds very similar doesn’t it? Well yes, and it is easier to compare the film to Deep Impact in comparison to the load of straight to DVD releases from companies like The Asylum and many other, cheap knock offs of films like this which attempt to do the same thing. However, Armageddon stands out more. Yes, it is a story of a Meteorite coming to Earth. Yes it will Destroy Earth if it gets here. Yes a Space Agency of particular mention send out a team to destroy it before it gets here. It all sounds like same formula used over and over again, however in the meantime, Armageddon does something different. Usually with science fiction films like this, there is great need for scientists and specialists in astrophysics to do the job, but it’s the case here, that the people asked to do the job instead are blue-collar working class men. People who aren’t geniuses at school, but people who know what good solid hard work is and how well it pays off when done well and right. These guys are not your average heroes, but from their way of life are people to look up to. Armageddon therefore does 2 sort of things at the same time to stand out more. One, it takes real people, real underdogs and puts them in a terrifying situation which they are not trained for to use their craft to save the world. And two, it takes space travel, out of the hands of the experts who started and hogged it for their own needs, and gives it back into the hands of those who on any other occasion would never go up in a shuttle, but provides them with the ultimate dream. It sets up the ground work quite well, and maintains that while the Earth is coming to an end, these working class heroes need to be trained up. It doesn’t ignore the issue; it keeps it in mind to prepare those who are going to solve the issue to be able to do it. It’s sort of like The Hunger Games, the training up of contestants to fight in a horrific battle, but doesn’t automatically start there, first they have to train.

A11

However this is a film; and films are never that simple. This is a full powered, 2+ hour film, and they are not going to fill it with an easy fix. So, things are added to spice up the plot. You have an unapproved relationship taking off; you have the animosity between the trained NASA crews who believe hiring the crew is a mistake, while the crew more sort of admire them, but don’t respect the treatment. Things then just get worse. From this I have this sort of belief as to how Michael Bay makes these films, and it all stems from this film: the idea that things just keep getting worse. This does not really spark until the crews finally go into space, where the space station blows up, one shuttle crashes, the drilling equipment has problems, a platoon of soldiers try to take over the operation in a mindless act, the equipment fails, a storm happens which causes problems for more equipment, someone then has to stay behind to blow up the bomb, and then the shuttle doesn’t take off. It makes everything that happened in the first hour seem easy in comparison. But all of these things, are directed in such a magnificent way that they cause real feelings to the Death of characters, the mindless act of a country leader thinking he owns the world into jeopardising the mission, trying to dig a hole in space (which turns out to be quite suspenseful), to both launching off a rock and then detonating a bomb in space with only seconds left. This film’s synopsis, setting and direction is done with such fluidity that there is always something going on that grabs you by the throat and pulls you ever closer to the screen as the film reaches its ever building climax, even if it’s still 30 minutes away.

A10

Armageddon’s stellar cast of characters carry a lot of the film’s tension and motion too, it’s not just down to the directors action/disaster talent. Some of these though are rather hit and miss. Now I don’t want to necessarily compare the works/talent of Michael Bay with that of Roland Emmerich, that fight will require some real thought. No, all I meant was how much difference there is in the choice of acting talent as to who gets bigger roles than others. With Armageddon though, there is a lot of room for comedy given its early premise and into this fold we do get some comedy acting from people like Owen Wilson delivering some punchy one liners, Michael Clarke Duncan being a real softy despite his size, Ken Hudson Campbell showing how hard he is despite being more of a big teddy bear, and Steve Buscemi being rather daft in a sexual innuendo way. These guys do serve the film’s wit and comedy section while also providing time to show off a more serious and poignant side, however, despite being pretty good at the end, I feel Michael Clarke Duncan could have delivered more early on. Wilson and Campbell I thought were more like comedy fillers, but Duncan was only briefly shown early on, and doesn’t really show much throughout this film until the Shuttle crashes, which think is a shame because he was pretty good in my opinion. But this is a very serious situation, and to this end we need people who are deadpan serious and in no way funny; which we do. This is what I meant when I mentioned Emmerich above.

A2

Disaster movies carry a lot of characters because big disasters affect a lot of people; and while the big stars get the big roles, you also get lesser known actors (or at least of the time) who become stars in their own right, despite that here they fill rather small roles. For starters there is someone like Quincy played by Jason Isaacs. A competent scientist who for most of the film acts like a bumbling fool, but given a shot gives off his own small but still powerful performance not as an expert or fool, but as a very serious and intelligent specialist. We then have Jessica Sheen as Jennifer Watts. Watts acts like a trainer before doing a more pilot role later in the film. She shares very little dialogue compared to those around her, however she is a very strong and likeable character. She is very serious about her job and works hard, but she is not bullish like Sharp or Kimsey, she is rather likeable on the whole suggesting a nice person deep down if it wasn’t for her job. Keith David meanwhile plays something of a secondary antagonist as Kimsey, someone who doesn’t believe in the plan and wants to be as bullish as possible. He talks like a man without a conscious and thinks the way he talks and acts, in the process becoming someone who is very unlikable. This comfortably leads onto Sharp. Sharp is something of a side antagonist until the later parts of the film. Much like Kimsey he is rather bullish and believes he can do anything by himself and his own techniques. He is rather miserable to watch as he feels more like a hindrance than a help, but deep down he has genuine worry and feelings towards the mission, and it’s not simply through being a grunt that he acts this way, but from his own personal worry. In the third act he comes out as a really likeable character as he comes to trust those around him instead of trusting just himself. Even in the last few moments, he worry’s but has more faith in someone who began as his enemy.

A8

Armageddon does also carry a lot of tertiary characters who only get a few fleeting appearances, but who’s acting in their self is still pretty good fun to watch. You have people like the NASA flight director (Chris Ellis), the bloke at the end saying “1 Minute” as he watches the meteorite coming ever closer to earth (unfortunately could not find out what he is actually called), then there is people genuinely on the mission and more upfront with the cast like Noonan, and the NASA communications guy (Matt Malloy). To this we get someone like Lev. Lev is more of a comedy character but with a serious bite. He is more human than anyone else in the film and serves as both light relief and a human connection to the audience creating terrific moments such as how an ordinary person would react up in space, and how too they would fix a busted space shuttle.

A5

I don’t really know what to think about Willis in this film. He lays a working class hero and is obviously a man to respect, it’s just he seems not to be in the depth of his more action based roles. Here he plays something specialist and organiser, but still with the vocal range of an action star. He definitely carries that level of respect the role carries, and also the commanding presence, but for me just doesn’t feel like it works, or at least stand out enough. He does of course make the final stand and ultimate sacrifice, but I just don’t know what to really say about him (sorry Bruce). Billy Bob Thornton stands out a little more as he is both a very respectful guy and is something like Bruce’s equal in an opposite way of life. He however carries something of a burden on his shoulders, as he is a man who has worked hard to get where he is, but at the same time regrets the direction he has taken, and so feels the need to work harder to prove that his chosen direction is as worth it, but more for him than anything else. As a role, he was one to look out for and enjoy, not necessarily a man of action, but more a man with a brain to bring it. Ben Affleck is in a similar situation to Willis I think. He stands out as being more of a rogue or maverick, to Willis’s tough but serious and professional way. But much like Willis, I just don’t find that he stands out all that greatly to be enjoyed fully. It’s probably more the dynamics and confrontations between the two that really make both parts work and the earlier situations between the two are really funny. However, it’s more of a father son relationship story, with the Son seeking guidance and acceptance from the father who considers him something of a disappointment, but then grows to liken him, and accepts as well as love him, and the same the other way round, with the son, showing a higher level of faith in the dad upon his acceptance. Liv Tyler meanwhile plays a more adult based role compared to the two people flanking her. She plays a more professional, more knowledgeable based role to that of Willis, while also having a rebellious youthful side to allow her to fall for Affleck. Her moods change quite a bit though. Sometimes she can be very feisty, and angry, while others are very emotional. It’s hard therefore to recognise what age she is supposed to be playing as she seems to get younger and older consistently in different scenes throughout. This constant change can be quite annoying as you see someone’s character change; however her emotions and strength are what really make her.

A6

For me however, the film’s best character is that of Chick played by Will Patton. I have seen Patton in a variety of TV shows, but for me, this is his best performance. He plays something of a sidekick and loyal worker/companion to Willis throughout, and would be fair to say would probably even die for him. Patton though has a different backstory compared to everyone else. He has a major gambling addiction which has completely separated him from his wife, to whom he feels eternally guilty, and still loves and cares for as well as his son. Out of everyone, he receives the higher redemption, doing something which gives him a second chance at his family. He delivers strength, he delivers wit, he delivers emotion, he carries more than anyone in this film and has some of the film’s best lines, including the high-powered one which I used for this review’s title. A fantastic actor and an incredible performance.

Will Patton

Like many science fiction disaster movies that have come before and after; Armageddon boasts an incredible level of special effects. Effects ranging from the Meteorite, shots in space, explosions, the lot. There’s not much that can be said much than that, given the level of reality that the film is set in and the low-level of need for space based science fiction. Well, if you are going to have scenes on the ground you may as well use real stuff. However, for the lack of special effects other than the use of space, Armageddon does great work in all forms of its effects, and in particular creates one of the best pieces of movie magic in the history of cinema. Space based movies have been made before of course, however not many of these films have really shown the launch of a space ship. The only one previous I can think of is Apollo 11, and that Launch is pretty cool, but what Armageddon does has not been done before or since. The space program has always been seen as something special and exciting, and the space shuttle’s none-the-less. The point of this film is that ordinary blue-collar working class hero types go into space to save the world, but right now they are on the ground, so eventually, they will need to actually go into space, and so, to mark this moment, the film goes all out to capture the moment, to capture the feeling, to capture the excitement of both being there, watching it, and being in the space shuttle. Using great levels of effects that are either models or real shuttles, combined with camera cuts or repositioning’s it makes the launch themselves something proud to behold. But then, the launch is not enough, the ships then need to actually get into space. This is the moment when the shuttle’s become CGI models, but made with such great detail that they look near copies of the models used during the actual take-off moment. But it’s not just the special effects; Music plays a great detail in the scene. It begins with a sort of operatic vocal back track and a tune of awe and wonder, slow, like the initial launch. This then cuts just as it builds to go slow again just to show the significance of the opening launch. The music then builds one more time into a very patriotic, and heart wrenching guitar solo that just takes over from the start. It really does make you feel emotional, because you are witnessing a great moment here, one that is really hard to explain if you have not seen it before. Then as the tone changes from the launch to the flight, the guitar and mixers take over to produce less a slow operatic performance, to something more modern, but still delivering power. It sounds less like a wonder, and more like a mission. It still drives the tension and worry, but still packs in a level of action and power that on the one hand still brings a near tear to your eye, while also just enjoying the spectacle of a space shuttle launching. The Space Shuttle program may be over, but it has given us one pure moment of Movie Magic that will be cherished for decades to come.

The rest of the soundtrack (composed by Trevor Rabin) delivers quite well too. Yes while the film is known for the inclusion of the Aerosmith song I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing, I think it is over used a little bit. I like Aerosmith, but this is not a favourite of mine, although that could be me preferring more a form of heavy rock than melody. There is another track of theirs in this film that I do like and does sort of prove the above point, but it’s nice to see Aerosmith in film form either way. Their song sort of provides a backbone however to most of the films melodious moments. My joy with the soundtrack (other than the above mentioned launch scene) though comes in the form of the films way of delivering a scene in the right way, by building huge levels of tension in strong tense scenes. The one that stands out is the last scene where the final few seconds tick by, and Harry Stamper tries to reach for the bomb detonator with very little time left. Yes there are other good pieces of soundtrack, including the scene at the Armadillo Testing area, the recruitment scene (which also happens to be another piece by Aerosmith), and the inclusion of the ZZ Top song La Grange; but simply picking up the score is hard to do, and can only be achieved through the really memorable moments, and this is one of those scenes.

Armageddon is a power packed Disaster movie that really works hard to put you in the situation and works hard to make it apply to you as much as possible. It delivers a realistic and believable setting for an end of the world scenario, and works really closely to the time limit to make it as tense and as action packed as possible. It features scenes of beauty and scenes that you will not be able or want to forget. It provides a cast of minor’s, majors and absolute stand outs and comes with effects and sound to boot. While maybe not likely to win awards despite being more popular at the cinema than those that do, Armageddon is in no way bad, rubbish or pants. It is an incredibly enjoyable film that packs a consistent punch that will have you gagging for more and more while also hoping for a breath of fresh air. Armageddon is as powerful as the name suggests and deserves a spot in the Disaster Movie Hall of Fame (if one exists?) as much as its peers and contemporaries.

GENEPOOL





I Am Not Cut Out For Space Exploration

1 04 2015

Space Planet

Recently I have been playing FTL: Faster Than Light on Steam. It is a rather fun game. It’s sort of a cross between a puzzle game and an RTS (Real Time Strategy) intermixed with the subject of space exploration. I quite like it and continue to play it, but it has taught me one important thing; and that is that I am not cut out for space exploration (even though the likelihood of me receiving the opportunity of going up into space in the first place is very unlikely).

FTL

Now basing such a statement on a video game could be seen as something of a rash statement, but here is why I think that. When I got it; it made me think of games like Evil Genius in terms of its internal look, as in the ships in FTL looks like the lair design in Evil Genius. I liked the idea of doing something similar to Star Trek or possibly Firefly (Even though I have not seen Firefly and do not consider myself a Star Trek Fan, even though I have watched the occasional episode of Next Generation and occasionally Voyager). Just the idea of going through space, exploring it and controlling the aspects of my ship while engaged in specific situations.

Space Shuttle

The thing is, for many years I have calculated that I would more than likely go insane if I went into space. Just the idea of being somewhere that I would not exactly consider safe, but also being left to drift in space, even if I was in a ship or station. But it’s from playing FTL that I came to the conclusion of the earlier statement. While I have begun to improve through understandings of previous missions that have all gone belly up, even so much to the point of me having yet to clear the first stage of galaxies (I have unlocked the second ship; The Torus, even though it is a pretty pointless ship) my planning and reactions in the heat of the situation usually lead me to defeat. Some of these though can come down to me causing the issues from bad planning and excessively opening the doors. When an intruder is on board, or in more common occurrences, a fire breaks out, my first plan is to cordon off the areas where my ship’s crew are, and then open the doors into space to suck out the oxygen. It works mostly, but eventually people break through the doors. When an intruder is on board though, I usually stick as much of my crew as I can, in the medical bay so that when the intruders get there, my crew get healed quickly. These ideas though don’t work all the time and sometimes my crew will die trying to put the fire out as the doors are broken and me having to regularly send them to the medical bay before they die. Unless of course the medical bay is damaged and needs fixing, or the oxygen is cut off.

Kestrel

Other cases though include my willingness to fight ships to gain resources off them and denying them surrender in the hope of getting more resources off them. Eventually this has led to complete destruction, uncontrollable fires, intruders on board and oxygen leaks. The number of dead Kestrel spaceships that must be floating through space thanks to me must be astronomical. While my learning of these situations has led me to the point that I need to upgrade what systems I can to expect these situations, I need to show restraint when given the opportunity to fight, as well as let them surrender every now and then.

Kestrel In Space

I don’t know if FTL is how space exploration works or not, but given that I am playing it on easy mode and I have met failure on several occasions, I can quite confidently say; that I am not cut out for Space Exploration.

Space Planets

GENEPOOL








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