Doom 4 Review

Knee-deep in the dead, boot stuck in demon-skull mush, this constant flow of death and mayhem has only two possible outcomes: the demise of 50+ demons in a single room or the demise of the player. So it was back in 1993 with the original Doom game and so it is in 2017 (or 2016 if you played it back when it was first released) with Doom 4.

In the quest for an alternative energy source, humans screwed all of it up again. We opened a portal to Hell on Mars to extract so-called “argent energy” — the best alternative to whatever the hell it is we used to successfully colonize Mars in the first place, all while escaping the dreadful inevitability of global warming back on Earth. The year is … eh, who the hell knows? Who the hell cares about the story, really? It’s a Doom game — the only thing that really matters is that we know it’s now up to some voiceless guy dressed in green armor (what’s his name?) to save the day, yet again.

Diving right into the latest Doom game, vets of the previous games have at least one expectation for the impossible mission ahead — buckets of blood and mountains of gore shall be shed upon the battlefields of Hell. Oh, and we also expect to wield a “Big F***ing Gun” to help with the carnage.

Given that short list of expectations, Bethesda Studios certainly delivers the blood-soaked goods in devilishly impressive fashion with Doom 4.

A Bloody-Good Brew of Endless Destruction

A mixture of old and new, the gameplay in Doom 4 reigns supreme above all other modern shooters and even usurps many first-person shooters of old. After reading that, you might be surprised to hear that Doom 4 doesn’t do anything particularly innovative gameplay-wise. Instead, it’s the combination of preexisting gameplay styles from other shooters and genres that make the Doom 4 formula so damn unique and addictive.

The first hour of the game can be difficult to digest, even for those well-adjusted to old-school shooters. Amid the somewhat satiating pseudo-metal riffs blistering in the background and the cat-like agility of the Doom marine, dispatching the numerous enemies, which constantly spawn and attack from every direction, can be a nauseating affair. But after the initial shellshock (I’m playing a FPS game in 2017 that gets my blood pumping?!), and adjusting to the combination of RPG-upgrade, kill-everything-in-the-room-to-progress, and “glory kill”, smash-demons’-faces-with-your-fists styles of gameplay, this bloody-good brew of endless destruction becomes as smooth as a cold pint of Guinness on a dreary day.

Doom 4 brings the fun back into the FPS genre and abandons modern (e.g., player can only carry two weapons at a time/effortless health regeneration) gameplay elements for an emphasis on a brutal, take no-prisoners style of gameplay. Does it make sense that only when you chop a demon down with the chainsaw, a surplus of ammo spills from its mutilated corpse? No. Does it make sense that the demons drop health and armor after you kill them? No. Do these elements add a tactical layer to the seemingly straightforward mix of running and gunning? Yes.

More importantly, it’s a helluva lot of fun.

The game distinguishes itself from most modern and old-school FPS games by essentially forcing the player to use the melee aspect for survival. Near death? Throw a demon against the wall and see your health replenish as its guts slide to the floor. In this way, Doom 4’s gameplay not only develops a thin layer of strategy, but it simultaneously establishes a bone-shattering, relentless pace that few other shooters can replicate. The player needs to constantly kill things with skill in order to survive. This mechanic takes a whirling chainsaw blade to the health regeneration elements that are prominent in most other modern shooter games, as it embodies the pure-action essence of old.

There Are A Few Blemishes

However, to say that the game is perfect would be an exaggeration. Is this the most amped up I’ve been playing through a modern FPS game? Without a doubt. This was the first game I played in ages that I actually got lost for a bit while navigating the levels (much like you’d expect in older FPS games). Is this game insanely gorgeous and well optimized? Yes — it’s probably the best-looking game I’ve played on my new PC so far and it runs at 170 fps on Ultra at 1080p.

But, with all the visual, auditory and ultra-violent gameplay luster, there are a few blemishes on this otherwise immaculate game.

For example, despite all the fast-paced, demon-killing glory, there are some minor pacing issues scattered throughout. What’s to blame? Several short but sometimes annoying platforming sequences.

Although the platforming in the Hell-based missions feels natural (jumping from floating rock to floating rock is something you’d expect to do if you went to Hell, after all), in the human research labs, the platforming design often feels contrived and nonsensical. Instead of adding to the gameplay experience, these moments just make the overall flow stutter between the impressive, high-intensity action sequences.

Throwing a bit more salt in the wound, as fantastic as the gameplay is, some of the upgrades seem unnecessary and in ways, detrimental to the otherwise relentless gameplay.

For example, having to upgrade your ammo capacity as you progress rather than having all the ammo you need at the beginning seems counterintuitive to the balls-to-the-wall style of gameplay established in the first level. The running and gunning in Doom 4 is balanced well enough that it isn’t a true problem, but Bethesda’s design choice here likely molded the overall gameplay and level design in a way that could have prevented it from reaching its true and most ruthless potential.

Furthermore, although “Rune Trials” (sequences where the player is forced to complete an odd feat to unlock additional powers) are not an explicit hindrance to the gameplay experience because they are not required, they do feel contrived and unnecessary. Instead of adhering to a more old-school approach, forcing the player to discover these upgrades in a secret level or secret area, Bethesda decided to have us endure ridiculous shooting- and jumping-based challenges, which again, distort the congruence of the otherwise action-packed experience.

Finally, some of the boss fights are laughably bad and they also affect the pacing by forcing the player to try and dodge several progressively difficult but predictable attacks. Oddly, I found that it was easier to run up to some of the bosses and plant hundreds of rockets into their faces rather than try and dodge their attacks and adhere to “traditional” boss fight tactics. Perhaps this was Bethesda’s intention, but given the “video-gamey” aspects of the encounters, it makes for an odd match with the rest of the experience, which is seamless.

Bottom Line on Doom 4

Doom 4 is a game that both longtime FPS aficionados and genre newbies need to play. The game embodies a familiar, shoot-everything-that-moves-and-ask-no-questions style of action that made many old-school shooters timeless gems. It accomplishes this all while peppering the genre with its own fist-to-skull, in-your-face take on shooting. In this way, the game successfully meshes the old school with the new school, all while creating a fresh and seemingly unmatchable pace of destruction that all FPS gamers are likely to enjoy.

Random Ramblings About Brutal Doom

A dark brew coupled with heavy metal and an ultra-violent video game is a marriage of destruction and overwhelming adrenaline that cannot be matched. One of my favorite combinations is Brutal Doom with some kind of Doom Metal (surprise, surprise!), and a stout or porter beer. Doom metal embodies skull-splitting riffage along with occult themes and blood-soaked gems like Brutal Doom — a modification for the original Doom game released in 1993 — take the ultra-violence of Arnold Schwarzenegger-esque action films and amplify it by 11 in the already notoriously ferocious video game space. Combine that with a hard-hitting, imperial stout or robust porter, and you have a recipe for uninhibited sadistic pleasure.

brutal-doom

However, dark music and dark beer aside, in this case, I really want to focus on the game: Brutal Doom. Sure, the music and beer amplify the experience, but Brutal Doom itself stands tall on its own (aural and alcoholic supplements or not).

In Brutal Doom, the blood flows freely, dribbling upon the player from the ceiling after he plants two shotgun shells into whatever vicious demon that stands before him. Flying limbs aplenty, demon intestines askew, eternally knee-deep in gore, this modification takes old-school shooting into the next-generation of action gaming (aka a place we have never been before). Amid wannabe, vanilla wafer yawn-fests like any Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (or Future Warfare or whatever Call of Duty, Halo 50  lame piece of **** you want to list off), this mod returns the player to the old-school age of gaming: a time of plot-less mayhem that focused solely on out-of-this-world running and gunning alongside alter-realities and the decimation of inhuman foes.

With varying levels of intensity, the violence options in Brutal Doom offer the player a variety of cinematic experiences. Feeling in the mood for something more representative of Japanese cinema and anime (over-the-top violence over 9,000)? There’s a setting for that. Want something less ridiculous? There’s also an option for you to choose. But regardless of your choice, the brutality is at least tenfold that of which is seen in the original game (hence the “Brutal” naming of the mod).

Varying levels of violence aside, the gameplay itself is as solid as ever. Brutal Doom‘s slew of new missions represent the adrenaline-inducing level design and challenges of old-school shooters well. It’s clear that each mission has been carefully crafted with cinematic experiences in mind. The kill-count is mind-boggling and the challenges are fierce, but the player will never find himself lost amid the constantly piling demon corpses. In this regard, the modification represents an evolution from the shooters of the early 90’s. Although the levels retain complexity in their intricate, non-linear design, they are never structured in a way that the player will spend long periods of time back-tracking, trying to figure out whether they’ve followed the right steps (for example, the first time you play through shooters like Duke Nukem 3D or Unreal, you will often find yourself lost).

Along with completely new missions, Brutal Doom also offers the player an option to choose between classic weapon designs and more “modernized” options such as an assault rifle. There are also several new gameplay mechanics such as a 3rd-person melee aspect, but these elements are not forced upon the player (sadly, old-school vets like myself have no idea how to implement these mechanics, but I can still progress through the levels just fine).

Ultimately, Brutal Doom represents the best of both the modern shooter and old-school shooter game worlds. It combines that which made old-school shooters great (the wanton violence, intricate level design, and frenetic pace) and takes it into a modern but unique space (the mod provides an unmatched action-movie experience that no other next-generation shooter has been able to emulate). In this way, Brutal Doom – a mere modification of a game released in the early 1990’s – represents one of the greatest evolutions in modern shooters. For that reason, it is a must-play game for Doom aficionados and “new” modern gamers alike.

Analysis: The Film Adaptation of Watchmen

An Extended Look at Watchmen and its Film Adaptation

Graphic Novel

Watchmen (1986, 1987), written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons, is one of the most well-known and celebrated American graphic novels. The story follows the lives and adventures of a group of real-life superheroes in an alternate 1985, where their influence has changed the course of the world: among these significant differences, the United States wins the Vietnam War and Richard Nixon is re-elected for more than two terms. However, that is not the primary focus of the story—the focus lies in how these heroes are picked off one-by-one by an unknown threat, while the larger threat of a nuclear Armageddon, the result of a conflict between the US and Russia, brews in the background. The story begins with the death of The Comedian, an old-school super hero with nihilistic tendencies; Rorschach, a man of unwavering philosophy in his quest for justice, investigates his death, leading to the unveiling of a grand conspiracy to achieve world peace by means of mass destruction.

Throughout Rorschach’s investigation, the rich history of the Watchmen is uncovered. From their origins in the late 1930’s (the original group was known as the Minutemen) to their ban in the 1970’s, the lives and deaths of these “real-life” heroes are explored. With the exception of Dr. Manhattan (the bi-product of a science accident), all of the heroes within the story are completely human and are without true superpowers. In this way, a different approach to the superhero, one that delves deep into his or her psyche, arises. Rather than situate itself in a clear good-versus-evil moral landscape, as is typically done with most superhero stories, Watchmen places itself in a plane of moral ambiguity. As Rjurik Davidson points out in his analysis of the graphic novel (based on Moore’s own explanation), “Watchmen’s attitude to the superhero is not one of approval but of critique” ( 21). By humanizing his protagonists, Moore exposes the sexuality of the heroes; expresses their political beliefs; and examines their social (non-crime fighting) interactions with one another. Rather than come off as flawless men and women, who only do good in the world, Moore makes his heroes complex, sometimes even despicable: the Comedian, for example, rapes a fellow heroine (the Silk Spectre) and later kills a woman who was pregnant with his child; he is a relentless warmonger. Yet, even with this moral plight, Moore manages to develop depth—and perhaps sympathy—towards this character. This is accomplished through the Comedian’s complex relationship with the Silk Spectre (his victim), whom we later discover, gives birth to his daughter. Even Dr. Manhattan, the one superhero who truly is superhuman, is more complex than most other heroes are, as his struggles revolve around his (in)ability to sympathize with humanity. All of the characters throughout Watchmen are given this attention to detail as well as their own unique philosophies on life. However, even while following these serious storylines, Watchmen is not without humor: since it brings the existence of superheroes to a sense of reality, “[t]he graphic novel… is thus filled with jokes about the kinds of problems these superheroes have, and the kinds of world views they need to sustain them” (Davidson 21).

Returning to the primary narrative focus of the graphic novel, the “Masked-Killer” investigation by Rorschach, questions of morality present themselves yet again. At the story’s conclusion, we discover that Ozymandias (the smartest man on Earth), is responsible for the death of the Comedian and the disappearance of Dr. Manhattan, which has enabled him to take advantage of the rising tensions between the United States and Russia. Rather than permit nuclear Armageddon, Ozymandias organizes a fake alien invasion, which in turn, unifies the world against an inhuman threat, presumably leading to world peace. In this process, he kills millions; he claims to have done it for the greater good – did he do the right thing? Or are those who are aware of his role (Rorschach, Laurie, and Daniel), responsible for bringing him to justice? Wherever the graphic novel goes, questions of morality always present themselves, and the answers are never easy.

The Film

Like the graphic novel, the film Watchmen (2009), directed by Zack Snyder, manages to ask some very difficult questions; however, this questioning comes less from deep characterization—as done with the novel—and more from the complex situations of the base narrative (Rorschach’s investigation) alone. Rather than present the superheroes in a satirical and self-aware manner, Snyder presents them in a very serious manner. This “serious” effect is partly sourced in the lack of detailed back-stories for the heroes who are still alive, as well as a lack of history behind the heroes who have died. For example, rather than detail the origins of Hollis Mason’s (the first Nite Owl) costume, as done in the graphic novel, where he explains how ridiculous he and the other Minutemen seemed to the criminals, there is simply a quick flash back to his exploits and a short conversation with Daniel Dreiberg (the new Nite Owl). Rather than focus on the finer details, the film focuses on action – the heroes within Watchmen (2009) all seem legitimate, and none of the civilians or police officers they encounter question their sanity or make jokes on how ridiculous they appear.

This focus on action, rather than character building is evident in not only the more “serious” tone and lack of back-stories, but also, the addition of action sequences that are not in the graphic novel. For example, in the scene where Nite Owl and Silk Specter break Rorschach out of prison, the heroes beat several prisoners and corrections officers, while attempting to locate Rorschach. Within the graphic novel, Nite Owl simply uses the sonic features of Archimedes (his vehicle) to disable the police officers rather than actually fight anyone to the death. Although Rorschach’s actions in the film are consistent with the graphic novel, the extended action involving Nite Owl and Silk Specter is not. Again, this combat legitimizes the heroes rather than portray them as heroes who are past their prime, questioning their past efforts.

However, despite this lack of deep characterization, as accomplished within the graphic novel, the film closely resembles the visual presentation of its original source material. As academic critic, Stuart Moulthrop asserts in his essay, “Watchmen Meets The Aristocrats“, “[the film’s] general design and visual texture are remarkably faithful to the graphic novel. Time and again, key panels from the comic are reproduced with apparently obsessive precision.” Although some of the finer visual accomplishments may be lost within the film, many of the same sequences are visualized directly from the graphic novel (Molthrop). In this way, the film remains a fairly faithful adaptation of the original.

The Adaptation

While considering the distinct differences between Watchmen the graphic novel, and Watchmen the film, several explanations arise for why the film has been adapted differently. As my previous comparison between the graphic novel and the film suggests, the film fails to maintain an equally deep back-story with particularly complex characterization; instead, the overall narrative becomes the driving force of the film. As Rjurik Davidson points out in his essay, “Fighting the Good Fight?: Watching the Watchmen”: “some of the film’s weaknesses can be drawn back to this faithfulness, for the graphic novel form is closer to a television series than a film. Usually a graphic novel is composed of chapters that are published monthly and which each tell a ‘short story’ while maintaining a broader story arc that develops over time. With its origins in a twelve-part comic, the film of Watchmen manages to reproduce the complex plot and backstory by extending to over two and a half hours, and still it shows the strain” (19). Taking this observation further, not only does the periodic structure of the graphic novel present problems in adaptation, but also the novel format itself. As Davidson asserts, the periodic format allows for a significantly longer storyline than can be accomplished with an assessable film length, but the problem doesn’t lie in the length of the story alone: many of the back-stories (which add significant depth to the characters, and thus develop our emotions towards them) come through in a completely textual format. After each chapter of Watchmen, a few written pages of additional information follow. It is nearly impossible to present this content on film without creating many more scenes or introducing lengthy voice-overs and, therefore, adding significant length.

Although the visual aspects of the graphic novel transfer accurately to the film medium, the textual content provides a much greater challenge. Some of the back-stories make their way into the film through flashbacks, but they fail to develop the same significance as they do within the graphic novel; as a result, the structure of the film comes off as choppy and confusing, and many of the secondary characters lose their relevance. Furthermore, the film’s reliance on dialogue that comes directly from the graphic novel falls flat when the actors fail to execute their lines in a believable manner (many of them simply sound like they are reading lines from the graphic novel rather than “performing” the lines).

However, this lack of story depth is not the only significant difference: one of the most profound differences is in the ending. In the film, rather than create a false extraterrestrial force to unite the world, Ozymandias places blame on Dr. Manhattan, and New York is not the only location to suffer from mass destruction, but many other important areas throughout the world are also destroyed in his plot. Bob Rehak claims that this change is sourced in the fact that the film was made in a post 9/11 world. Since one of the primary aspects of the graphic novel is its alternate reality, which involves cold-war fears (relevant at the time of the novel’s publication), Snyder had to decide whether to follow the story’s historical impact directly, or take it into contemporary times. As Rehak asserts, citing the inclusion of the Twin Towers at two points throughout the film, “The post-9/11 change… to one involving New York’s destruction suggests an attempt to bring the ending more in line with contemporary reality” (Rehak 156). Although Rehak goes on to say that the destruction of many other locations, not just New York, suggest a hesitance on Snyder’s part to go all the way with this 9/11 connection, as does his reluctance to adhere to the original ending, which resembles the  9/11 reality more closely, only “in metaphorical form” (157), the presence of the Twin Towers undoubtedly changes the audience’s perspective on the story and brings its element of terror into contemporary times.

The film adaptation of Watchmen fails to capture the multiple story layers of the graphic novel, and instead, places its emphasis on the action (likely to satisfy a wider audience who is unfamiliar with the graphic novel). But despite this failure, it is still successful in emulating the visual dimensions of its source material; it is also somewhat successful in creating a story that has cultural significance in the time of its release, much as Watchmen (1986, 1987), the graphic novel, achieved with its Cold War centered narrative.

 

Works Cited

Davidson, Rjurick. “Fighting the Good Fight?: Watching the Watchmen.” Screen Education 54 (2009): 18-23. Academic Search Complete. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Moulthrop, Stuart. “Watchmen Meets The Aristocrats.” Postmodern Culture 19.1 (2008): n. pag. Project Muse. Web. 19 Jan. 2013.

Rehak, Bob. “Adapting Watchmen after 9/11.” Cinema Journal 51.1 (2011): 154-59. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Jan. 2013.

 

Watchmen

1. Watchmen written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Dave Gibbons is a story about superheroes in an alternate Cold War reality. Although the story involves a grand investigation by Rorschach (one of the primary heroes within the text) it is ultimately a story about what it means to be human. This emphasis on humanity is expressed not only in the fact that Moore exposes the internal flaws and limitations of his superheroes, but also the “lesser” characters that surround them. The lives of many secondary characters are explored throughout the graphic novel, and when these characters reach their demise by the story’s finale, there is a substantial impact. Furthermore, the decay of society is examined both in the character Rorschach’s perspective on the world as well as in the story’s conclusion (which involves obtaining world peace through great destruction).

2. Zack Snyder’s film adaptation of Watchmen follows the premise of Rorschach’s investigation as its narrative foundation, and abandons the deeper exploration of the characters throughout. Rather than present complex characters, they are simplified and made much more brutal to emphasize the hero’s legitimacy as something more than human. By the film’s conclusion, a primary theme develops: the notion that humanity is obsessed with violence to a point where only mass destruction and the death of millions can prevent complete human annihilation. Throughout, the film question’s society and its ability to refrain from self-destruction.

3. The film is successful—for the most part—in emulating the visual effects created by Dave Gibbons in the original, graphic novel. But as far as story-telling goes, the film deviates substantially. Where the novel is able to go in many different directions: various time-lines, realities (the graphic novel within a graphic novel), and follow the lives of many different characters (for example, the live of Rorschach’s psychologist is examined in the graphic novel), all while forming legitimate connections between the two, the film is incapable of developing a similar smoothness. This rests in the limitations set by the target audience. In order to even attempt a similar level of depth, the film would require substantial length, and in order to be considered a success, it would require an audience that is willing to endure such a lengthy feature (in general, an audience would not be willing to sit through a very lengthy film). Given the limitations of his audience, Snyder was forced to consider what he found most valuable within the story and present that within an “ideal” time-frame; accordingly, the story loses its depth and many characters and scenarios are altered.

4.

Alan Moore talks Watchmen

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKebCtCTbCA

In this video, Alan Moore discusses what distinguishes his story from other superhero stories. Specifically, he explains how these heroes are giving political, emotional, and sexual contexts that most other heroes are not – he also explains how the graphic novel asks the question, what would it be like if heroes really did live among us? It is a valuable source in thinking about the film because it demonstrates what is lost in the adaptation.

Has Watchmen Killed ‘Comic Book Movies?’

http://screenrant.com/watchmen-killed-comic-book-movies-kofi-6133/

This article provides insight into the potential significance of Watchmen‘s box-office short comings, as well as an explanation for why many studios avoided it (it was too odd and complex for a wide audience).

Watchmen Panel, Comic Con 2008

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FwCMwqCCZI0

Interviews with several people involved in the Watchmen film; they discuss their experiences in bringing the graphic novel to life.

5. In the book after Dan and Laurie beat up the muggers in the alley they are remorseful. In the film, they are exultant. Why the change? Did Snyder “sell out” by playing up the violence?

The excessive violence within Snyder’s Watchmen detracts from the overall focus on humanity in the graphic novel. Throughout the film, Snyder presents the superheroes in dangerous situations, where they stylistically dispatch groups of thugs in horribly violent ways – rather than show them simply incapacitate the criminals with their fists (as is done in the graphic novel), the heroes often deal death blows or bone-bursting attacks. This shifts the focus from the heroes reactions to the encounter to a focus on pure action-packed entertainment. Even where the violence is accurate in its brutality, as with the portrayal of the Comedian, the lack of scenes to humanize him make him a one-dimensional killing machine. On the other hand, in the graphic novel, there are scenes, where despite his horrible character, he is shown or described as a very sad man (for example the scene where he encounters his daughter Laurie for the first time). By emphasizing violence, Snyder’s film adaptation loses the graphic novel’s focus on humanity.

 

 

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

1. The novel Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban written by J.K. Rowling follows the continued adventures of Harry Potter, a young wizard who constantly finds himself in danger. Throughout the story, Harry Potter must escape the wrath of an evil wizard named Sirius Black; however, as the story progresses, Potter discovers that this man was wrongfully accused, and did not help murder his parents. Instead, he is actually the godfather of Potter. A major theme within this story is dealing with outsiderness; Potter is an outsider amongst his Muggle (non-magic people) family, but also amongst his peers who do not suffer the same constant threats as he does. Furthermore, Sirius Black is also an outcast, as he is seen by most as an evil wizard who must be feared rather than seen as a great friend to Potter’s family.

2. The film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban directed by Alfonso Cuarón follows the same narrative as the novel: Harry must escape the wrath of Sirius Black, whom he ultimately discovers is not a threat to him. In following this narrative, coping with “outsiderness” remains a common theme; however, this sense is expressed further through a dark visual tone (a tone that goes against the two films before it). Rather than develop a feel-good vibe, Cuarón develops a depressing feeling that goes along with the story’s initial sense of doom. This shift in visual tone goes along with the maturity shift in the stories, as Prisoner of Azkaban  follows Potter’s veering towards puberty.

3. Although the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban follows the general narrative of the novel fairly accurately, there are still some significant differences throughout. These differences are mainly within the level of detail achieved through the narrative. For example, in the beginning scene of the film, all of the focus is on how horrible Potter’s non-wizard family is towards him – this immediately creates sympathy within the audience as well as develops a comedic affect when Potter decides to punish one of his relatives. The same happens within the novel; however, there are much finer details before the entertaining chaos: what Harry reads, what he writes, how his family has prohibited him from practicing his wizardry, his family history – these details are missing within the film. An explanation for this absence of detail could be that Cuarón assumes that it being the third addition to a widely popular literature and film series, his audience already knows these beginning facts, and therefore, the focus can be placed elsewhere. But through eliminating these smaller details, the fantasy world loses some of its complexity. In this way, the film sacrifices the complexity of Potter’s world for story-telling purposes.

4.

Harry Potter: A Film Analysis

http://www.mugglenet.com/editorials/seriesfilmreview.shtml

Jeffery Tucker analyzes Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (and the other Harry Potter films) on its merits as a film without considering its faithfulness to the original text. In this process, he observes the artistic superiority of Cuarón’s direction over the previous two films, but also critiques the performances of some of the actors, as well as the cinematic execution of the humor. His analysis is valuable in understanding the film because he demonstrates how, even though the film was a big hit, there is still artistic value within.

Music within Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

http://www.filmtracks.com/titles/prisoner_azkaban.html

This article offers a discussion on how the music of the series shifts with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, as well as the affects the tracks have on the audience while viewing the film.

Rewatching the Potter Films: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

http://www.tor.com/blogs/2011/06/rewatching-the-potter-films-harry-potter-and-the-prisoner-of-azkaban

Danny Bowes offers a reflection on the film Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: throughout, he compares the film to the novel, as well as examines the performances of the actors.

5. To many critics, Alfonso Cuarón did a good job in the film in steering the Harry Potter series in a darker direction. How is Prisoner of Azkaban “dark”? And how does this relate to the growing maturity of both the main characters and the actors?

Compared to the previous films, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban takes a particularly dark turn: this darkness is a reflection of the characters’ rise to maturity and the loss of innocence. The story of the film begins in darkness – an evil wizard has escaped an inescapable prison, and his sole mission is to kill Harry Potter. Of course, as the narrative plays out, things actually become much more complicated (and, ultimately, less severe), but in beginning with this immediate threat, the film eliminates the initial sense of wonder—established in the former films—and brings the audience to less sunny and much more clouded “reality.” Harry Potter can die, and he is afraid of this. Throughout, the reality of death is expressed through dementors, essentially grim reapers who destroy people with using their greatest fears. Likewise, as a result of these fears (an encounter with a demntor), Potter suffers his first defeat at Quidditch (a sport for broom-riding wizards). Normally shown in a bright and sunny arena, Cuarón details these events under murky rainfall. Not only must Harry Potter learn to face his fears of death, but he must also learn that he cannot always win, and the harshness of these facts of life are supported through Cuarón’s dark visual supplementation. In this way, the film takes the series into a much more mature realm through its darkness.

A Scanner Darkly

1. A Scanner Darkly, written by Philip K. Dick explores a drug-infested, alternate-reality 1970s California, where Substance D (a mind-altering drug) has consumed the masses, and law enforcement seeks to put an end to its distribution. The story follows Bob Arctor, a man of multiple personalities – he is both a Narc (code-named Fred), and a drug dealer. Which identity truly encompasses him is unknown. From this lack of “self-knowing” comes the overall theme of questionable realities throughout the book. This questioning is sourced in drug-induced hallucinations (typically thought of as false realities) as well as the role of the government in the production of Substance D (what is typically thought of as real… it isn’t what it seems).

2. Richard Linklater’s film adaptation, A Scanner Darkly, follows the same narrative as its original source; accordingly, many of the themes remain – the questioning of reality; the subversive intent of the government; and the role drugs play with both of these subjects are all addressed throughout the film. And where the film cannot replicate Dick’s literary style completely, it makes up for it by using a unique animation style, which enhances the questioning of reality (the animation relies on real performances and then transforms them into a cartoonish appearance).

3. Philip K. Dick’s A Scanner Darkly forces its readers to question reality; throughout, the protagonist, Bob Arctor fights to find his true self amidst all of his drug use and the influence of a questionable government (whom he serves as an authority for), which ultimately turns against him to satisfy its own agenda. The film adaptation, directed by Richard Linklater, is successful in emulating this premise. However, despite this success, each version has differing affects on its audience. Although the film captures the ideas established in the novel, it does not capture the same level of internal reflection. For example, in the conclusion of the novel, Bob, now Bruce (as established through the text itself, not just the dialogue between him and the farmer) is in a field where he discovers the blue flowers, which when broken down, form Substance D (death). The dialogue between him, a farmer, and a New Path director all point him to being oblivious of what he has seen, but through the description of his thoughts, the readers learn that Bob (or Bruce) is aware of the flowers and their ability to create Substance D. With the film, this internal awareness is absent, instead Bob speaks some of the lines of internal dialogue from the book – this does not eliminate Bob’s potential awareness of what the flowers are, but it does diminish it, more so than the book, which through Bob’s internal revelation (as well his longer conversation with the New Path director) makes his awareness of Substance D and its relationship to the blue flowers certain. This is one of the primary struggles of the adaptation – how can the director capture the affect of the internal thoughts of the characters without relying too heavily on voice-over narration (something that is generally avoided in film)? There is voice-over narration present, but its absence in certain scenes ultimately creates a different tone than the novel.

4.

A Scanner Darkly

http://www.shaviro.com/Blog/?p=507

Throughout this analysis of both the book and the film versions of A Scanner Darkly, the importance of rotoscope animation is explored: according to the author, not only does this effect illuminate the questioning of reality within Dick’s original story, but it also helps express the theme of surveillance that is more profound within the film adaptation. This article is valuable in understanding the adaptation because it provides an explanation for why the rotoscope technique is much more than a gimmick, as well as an explanation for how the book and film deviate from each other.

Neuropsychology and Psychosis in ‘A Scanner Darkly’

http://mindhacks.com/2006/08/14/neuropsychology-and-psychosis-in-a-scanner-darkly/

This article involves the psychological validity of Philip K. Dick’s story, A Scanner Darkly – it points out that the ideas within the novel are founded on psychological research on the brain.

A Scanner Darkly Video Interview

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZ1FONwWj-Q

This is a short video interview explaining the animation within A Scanner Darkly, as well as Richard Linklater’s opinion on Philip K. Dick’s relevance in the world today.

5. A central teaching of postmodernism is that there is no real distinction between reality and delusion, because reality is just a social construct. How is A Scanner Darkly a postmodern film in this sense?

Through its rotoscpoe animation, A Scanner Darkly brings its viewers into the film world, and in this process—by articulating the premise of the novel—the film supports the postmodern belief that there is no reality. The rotoscope animation of A Scanner Darkly is a unique effect not often found in film; it relies on live-action performances, which are then transformed into a more comic-like artistic effect. By using this technique, a mix of “real-life” and “artifice”, Linklater supports the notion within the novel that there is no true reality. Through visual means, not just narrative means, the film expresses this. However, this effect goes beyond this initial suggestion, as it also—from the very start—establishes that the audience is watching a film (the comic effect goes against what we accept as “real”). Accordingly, viewers may expect the content to be fictional, but since the themes (especially of government surveillance) hold relevance to contemporary times, this blurs the line between film and “reality.” And since the film never deviates in its visual presentation while visualizing “hallucinations”, it is impossible to distinguish what in the film world is “real” and what is not. By playing with our notions of reality through both narrative and visual means, A Scanner Darkly follows the postmodern assertion that there is no true definition of reality.

No Country for Old Men

1. In Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, Llewelyn Moss discovers a briefcase full of 2 million dollars. The story involves Moss’s attempt to escape the wrath of Anton Chigurh, a hitman, who was hired by a drug cartel to retrieve the briefcase; meanwhile, an aging Sheriff (Sheriff Ed Tom Bell) tires to save Moss and put an end to the rising body count that is a consequence of Moss’s reluctance to let go of the money. A major theme of the book is the varying philosophies on life and how they clash: Anton, the hitman, is a pure nihilist; the Sheriff has “traditional” values, and Moss is somewhere in between. Ultimately, the story demonstrates how times are changing (killers have become more brutal and morals more “flexible”), and Sheriff Bell is no longer fit for the job.

2. Directors Joel and Ethan Coen’s film adaptation of No Country for Old Men follows the same premise and storyline as the novel: Llewelyn Moss tries to escape the bullets of hitman Anton Chigurh, and Sheriff Bell tries to save him. In this process, the difference between traditional America and modern times becomes the primary theme of the film. Through the reflections and observations of Sheriff Bell, the fact that morality has declined becomes apparent.

3. Joel and Ethan Coen’s film stays true to McCarthy’s novel in most aspects. The style of the novel works well for film – the details are mainly visual rather than cerebral; accordingly, at their base, the characters seem barren at first, but gain depth through their actions and conversations with others. However, a primary difference between the two is that the film lacks many of Sheriff Bell’s internal reflections, which break apart the action, while giving greater purpose to his presence in the story, and ultimately enhancing the theme of corroding tradition throughout the novel. Although the lack of Sheriff Bell’s reflections may diminish the overall impact of the clash between tradition and modernity in the film, this places additional focus on Llewelyn Moss as the protagonist of the story. When Llewelyn dies in the film, the affect is more severe, which, in turn, amplifies the theme of changing levels of brutality.

4.

No Country for Old Men – The Ending Explained

http://arbitrarynonsense.wordpress.com/2012/08/08/no-country-for-old-men-ending-explanation/

With his analysis of the film, No Country for Old Men, Zetland argues that the film addresses multiple philosophies on life, but never actually makes a statement on any of them. He analyzes the title of the film and its spiritual/poetic connections, as well as the similarities between the three characters in their actions as well as their appearance on the camera. His analysis is valuable for understanding the film because it provides insight into how Llewelyn, Anton, and Sheriff relate to each other, even if their philosophies seemingly differ.

No Country for Old Men: The coin-toss scene, as seen by a linguist

http://goodreasonblog.blogspot.com/2010/01/no-country-for-old-men-coin-toss-scene.html

Daniel Midgley analyzes the initial coin-toss scene within No Country for Old Men; he asserts the importance of including all the dialogue in this scene and explains how it establishes Chigurh as an agent of fate in the “game” of death he plays with his victims.

Theodicy and No Country for Old Men

http://experimentaltheology.blogspot.com/2010/10/theodicy-and-no-country-for-old-men.html

Richard Beck analyzes the philosophical implications within No Country for Old Men; ultimately concluding, that although virtue fails within the film world, this failure asserts that there can be true virtue, and in this processes, a clash between good and evil arises in the film.

5.

No Country for Old Men is undeniably violent and yet it is somewhat reticent about two killings, that of Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean. Why would the film-makers decline to film their killings when so many other killings in the film are graphically shown?

Throughout No Country for Old Men, directed by Joel and Ethan Coen, the body count is high, and the audience is exposed to many of these deaths in all of their gory detail; however, the deaths of Llewelyn Moss and his wife Carla Jean, are not given the same attention – this lack of focus ultimately serves to enhance the theme of chaos throughout the film. Without the internal reflections of Sheriff Bell, the film adaptation of No Country for Old Men, seems to transfer its “protagonistic” focus onto Llewelyn, so when he dies in a seemingly random manner—his death is implied by drive-away gangsters and screams from pedestrians, then confirmed by Bell’s observations of his bullet-filled corpse—the audience is shocked. However, while considering all of the other carnage along with Llewelyn’s demise, this event actually becomes less surprising. The idea behind the story is that this is a harsh world to live in, and by having the character who seems to be the protagonist of the film die in a meaningless way (off camera), this “harsh” mentality of the world becomes even more powerful and real. Likewise, the death of Carla Jean, also implicit rather than explicit functions in a similar manner: only, in this case, the un-seen violence develops a sense of horror within the mind of the viewer. Rather than show us what happens, we must construct Carla Jean’s death within our own minds – we know that she is dead because Chigurh checks his shoes for blood as he exits her house, but we don’t know how she died. And since she is perhaps the most innocent character to die within the film, her implied demise becomes even more profound. By having two of their important characters die in implicit rather than explicit ways, the Coen brothers express the brutality of the world, that is seemingly no longer fit for “old men”.

Adaptation

1. The Orchid Thief, written by Susan Orlean, explores the life story of a man named John Laroche, as well as Orlean’s own personal thoughts and experiences while investigating his life. Laroche is a man of many trades and interests, and as the story progresses, these interests become the story’s foundation. As the title suggests, Orchids are involved, but Laroche’s perspective on evolution and life in general are also themes within the story.

2. Adaptation, directed by Spike Jonze, is a film adaptation of Orlean’s The Orchid Thief. Rather than revolve around John Laroche’s life and Susan Orlean’s experiences with her investigation, Adaptation focuses on the difficulties faced by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman in adapting this story to film. Although events from The Orchid Thief are still present throughout, the themes mainly revolve around Kaufman’s experiences rather than Laroche/Orlean’s perspective. Not only are struggles of adaptation explored, but struggles between “high art” and “low art” in the film-making process are also detailed through the inclusion of Donald, Kaufman’s fictional twin. In this way, the film is more about filmmaking than it is a story about Laroche.

3. A struggle in adapting The Orchid Thief to film is that it lacks the narrative structure necessary for most “ideal” films: although it explores a character (Laroche), this exploration is not designed for dramatic purposes, but merely to inform – the interest in the book comes from Laroche himself, rather than how his life-story unfolds. Accordingly, Adaptation does not try to emulate the narrative within The Orchid Thief; instead, it uses the premise of the book and the request to have it adapted to film as a foundation for exploring another character than Laroche, Charlie Kaufman, the film’s screenwriter. In this way, the film emulates The Orchid Thief‘s creative non-fiction style (it examines the life experiences of a person), all while moving its focus towards the story writing process for film.

4.

“Adaptation ending”

http://forum.dvdtalk.com/movie-talk/261545-adaptation-ending-major-spoilers-2.html

This forum discussion on the film Adaptation involves the effectiveness of the third act of the film – was it smart or was it stupid? This is what the posters debate. Some argue that the Hollywood style of the ending wasn’t “clear” enough – it wasn’t clear enough to the viewers that Donald had taken over the script and so he was transforming the movie at the end. They argue that the original script idea to include a swamp monster rather than an alligator to kill off the evil-turned Laroche would be more effective; whereas, others argue that such an ending would be too obvious, and they claim that although the ending isn’t as satisfying as it possibly could be, it was still effective nonetheless. This discussion is important for understanding the film, because it gives readers insight into how the ending was originally intended (the inclusion of a swamp monster), but also demonstrates how a “simple,” Hollywood style ending can actually be more confusing than one might expect. On another, less “serious”, but equally interesting note, one of the posters points out how Donald’s script, The 3, was actually turned into a film, which is also an adaptation of another story.

“Great Characters: Charlie and Donald Kaufman”

http://gointothestory.blcklst.com/2011/07/great-character-charlie-and-donald.html

Scott Myers examines what Donald Kaufman brings to the film adaptation of The Orchid Thief, as well as how his character supplements Charlie Kaufman.

“Questioning the Story”

http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/adaptation.php

This article combines information and quotes from various interviews and reveals the “truth” behind the characters within Adaptation; mainly, the relationship between Susan Orlean and Laroche is explained.

5. Does the voice-over narration in Adaptation work in terms of presenting the interior lives of the characters? Or is it merely a gimmick, as screenwriting guru Robert McKee (a character in the film) suggests?

Throughout Adaptation, voice-over narration is used to detail the internal struggles of certain characters; although some may argue that this narration is gimmicky and hazardous to the film, it actually manages to enhance the audience’s relationship to the characters, all while mocking the “conventions” established by screenwriter Robert McKee (also a character within the film). The voice-over narration within Adaptation helps the audience identify with the characters more closely: for example, in the opening scene, where Charlie is eating dinner with a woman, he is sweating profusely, while an internal monologue plays in the background, detailing his anxieties. Without the voice-over narration, the audience will not completely understand why Charlie is sweating so nervously (at least at this beginning moment) – the narration helps the audience understand Charlie’s character more quickly but also more personally as well. This narration also adds comedic effect to his character, as his thoughts come out in an endless and rapid non-coherent stream. However, the greater function of the voice-over narration—what takes it beyond gimmickry, more so than the character/audience relationship—is its mocking of the screenwriting conventions set by screenwriter Robert McKee later on in the film. By using McKee’s conventions (in the end of the film), while simultaneously going against these conventions, screenwriter Charlie Kaufman asserts that there is no “right” way to write a film. For these reasons, the voice-over narration within Adaptation is more than a simple gimmick – it forces us to question the validity of screenwriting conventions, as well as consider whether or not there is a “correct” way to make a film adaptation of a novel.

The Hours

1. The Hours, written by Michael Cunningham, details the lives of three women living in different time-periods and locations: Virginia Woolf (England), Clarissa Vaughan (New York), and Mrs. Brown (California). A major theme of the book is internal suffering caused by love that is either addressed or unaddressed, as well as suffering caused by pressures to meet expectations of grandeur – all of which are sourced in social expectations.

2. The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry, follows the same premise as the book it is based on: it explores the lives of three women, Mrs. Woolf, Clarissa Vaughan, and Mrs. Brown. Throughout, suffering and suicide are major themes, which are again, sourced in relationship problems and the failure to meet expectations. Rather than focus on the internal struggles of the characters through internal dialogue (as accomplished in the book), the film relies on the performances of the actors to express this similar level of anguish.

3. As an adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel, The Hours, directed by Stephen Daldry, struggles to express the same level of internal detail as well as achieve the same depth with its characters. For example, in the novel, the relationship between Clarissa and Richard (who names her Mrs. Dalloway) is much more finely detailed through the narrator’s insights into Clarissa and Richard’s minds – the relationship between minor characters and major characters is also clearer in the novel than the film (for example, the interaction between Clarissa and Barbara, the one who sells her flowers). A potential reason for this limitation is the fact that the film covers three different women, and it does so in about two hours. Without additional screening, the length and detail of the novel cannot be fully replicated. Regardless, the film still manages to encompass the spirit of the novel, as well as express the same themes of internal disparity – this is accomplished by an intense focus, from the camera, on the actors and their performances.

4.

Book and Film comparison by Ola Mik:

http://rhetoricalrepresentationsinbooksa.blogspot.com/2007/09/hours-book-vs-movie_07.html

Ola Mik compares the film adaptation of The Hours with its original source material. She points out the significance of eliminating one character from the movie, and how this absence diminishes our understanding of the relationship between Clarissa and her daughter.  For this reason, it is valuable – it helps one understand the impact a single character can have on an original piece or an adaptation.

Book/Film Comparison:

http://books.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977740669

With this comparison, the reviewer determines that the book is more effective in developing internal emotions; whereas, the film is more effective in generating drama.

Jill’s Thoughts While Re-viewing The Hours:

http://jaschmehl.wordpress.com/2012/12/02/rewatching-the-hours/

In her blog entry, Jill Schmehl records her thoughts and emotions while re-watching The Hours, these thoughts range from personal experiences as well as how the portrayal of New York City in films has changed post 9/11.

5.

What does the title of the film, The Hours, refer to? What is its significance and what theme or themes does it suggest?

The title of the film, The Hours, refers to the hours one spends living; this title ultimately supports the theme of self-doubt and suffering throughout the film. This “support” comes through Clarissa’s love interest, Richard. According to Richard, his only reason for living is to satisfy Clarissa – to give her life meaning; meanwhile, his own life is meaningless. When he reveals this thought to Clarissa, he claims that it’s the “hours” he has spent living for her that he is tired of, and he can no longer live for himself. But Richard is not the only character throughout the film, who is suffering – Virginia Woolf and Mrs. Brown also endure life to satisfy those who surround them. Both of these women want to kill themselves, but hold off because of their loved ones (for Woolf, it is her husband and for Brown, it is her son). Regardless, each character ultimately gives up, Woolf commits suicide and Mrs. Brown abandons her son, who the audience later discovers is Richard. In this way, the title, The Hours, helps support the theme of suffering throughout the film.

Tristram Shandy

1. Laurence Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman offers a hard-to-understand, yet humorous account (as well as some other random tidbits) of several characters and their awkward struggles in life; most of these characters share some sort of direct connection with the narrator, Tristram. Throughout, a major theme of the text is the manipulation of writing and its “conventions” – the narrative has no distinct structure and it contains grammatical oddities, as well as other distortions of the traditional novel. In this way, it is hard to classify Tristram’s life as cohesive, but this lack of cohesiveness also serves to develop an overall parody of the “traditional” novel, which typically details the lives of several characters in a linear and “logical” manner.

2. Like Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story provides its audience with an unconventional story – only the medium for this story is not literature, but film. Throughout the film, Winterbottom utilizes a self-aware storyline to emulate the breakdown of conventions found in Laurence Sterne’s story. This “self-awareness” comes through the film’s reflexivity, where the camera brings attention to the film’s own construction by exposing other camera operators and crew-members; furthermore, the narrative itself features several layers. A “traditional layer” following some of the basic events in The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, a self-aware layer, where the lead actor Steve Coogan (playing the role of Tristram within the film’s movie within a movie), narrates his experiences with and thoughts on the role, and another “dramatic” layer, where the life of Steve Coogan himself, as an actor is explored. Just as The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, was an unconventional story for its time, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story is an unconventional film. Through its reflexive layers, the film also manages to satirize the movie-making industry itself, in the same way that the original story satirizes the traditional novel.

3. One of the primary struggles in adapting Sterne’s The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman to film is the fact that what makes the story unique is its distortion of literary conventions. The conventions of literature and film are not entirely the same, so rather than try and replicate as many events from the story as possible, the adaptation, Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, distorts the conventions of the film medium. In this process, the film stays true to the spirit of the story, all while including some of the scenes of the original. Although it is not possible to copy some of the grammatical and narrative manipulations directly, Winterbottom does his best to distort the audience’s expectation of film, and sometimes, mock these expectations.

4.

Review by Stephanie Zacharek:

http://www.salon.com/2006/01/27/shandy/

Stephanie Zacharek’s review of Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, explores the film’s effectiveness as an adaptation. She claims that the film is a “failure”, at least in replicating Sterne’s story The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. However, despite, this failure as an adaptation, she goes on to describe how the film is successful in replicating the un-structured nature of the story, and in this way, she asserts that the film is a success. Her review is valuable for studying the film because it establishes how it is and is not an adaptation.

Review by Lewis Beale:

http://www.filmjournal.com/filmjournal/esearch/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1001264495

Writing for filmjournal.com, Lewis Beale offers a brief review of Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; his most interesting insights are in how the film emulates the Tristram Shandy story itself, but ventures further into an exposé of the film-making industry.

Interview by Rebecca Murray

http://movies.about.com/od/interviewswithactors/a/tristram011506.htm

Rebecca Murray interviews Steve Coogan on his thoughts on being a part of Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story; throughout, Coogan explains his experience with the reflexive elements of the film (struggles with the real film crew and the fake film crew), as well as how the film reflects the experiences of actors.

5.

The intern Jenny is a budding auteur (or film professor!) who cites renowned auteurs Bresson and Fassbinder. Is the viewer meant to admire her or find her pretentious? What evidence from the film leads you to your conclusion?

The character Jenny, a part of the film crew of the film within a film from Michael Winterbottom’s Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story, constantly expresses her intense passion for films as art, but her words always go unheard: this element of the film functions to enhance the audience’s admiration for her character, all while developing an additional level of irony to the film’s story. Throughout the film, Jenny is the only character who expresses her passion for film as an art form (she cites various works by auteurs and explains their cinematic significance); she is also the only character to express her awareness of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy – she is the only member of the “fake” film crew who has actually read the story. Through her random outbursts of cinema-related passion, it becomes clear to the audience that she genuinely cares about the film that is being made. When compared to her co-worker, Coogan, she is not blinded by her own ego when thinking of the film. This develops her “likeablity”.  Furthermore, by lacking the egotism of those who surround her, and expressing awareness (that no one else has), Jenny’s character exposes the “business” side of the film-making industry: the actors, have no true understanding of the story they are trying to adapt – they simply know that it is “important”. In this way, Winterbottom develops irony, as well as humor in his adaptation.