Monday, 29 March 2021

Tom Holkenborg - REV 9 / Terminator

Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi - BIG FIRE WHEEL

I had thought that the bouncing, burning wheel - seen here at 14:15 - was the last boss in Mega Drive exclusive Shadow Dancer: The Secret of Shinobi, likely because it was as far as I ever got. Turns out there are several stages afterwards; remix encounters that take a short, basic, layout from the second level of the Shinobi coin-op then stuffs it with a barracks worth of enemies. Limp through these ambushes to face a seated final boss who summons even more minions. No idea why I had trouble with the orbiting fire hazard either. Looking at it with 2021 eyes, the pattern looks pretty straightforward, even if the windows for damage are pretty narrow. Probably, my pre-teen brain couldn't handle the idea that the tumbling rock arena didn't mean that the fight was on the clock, requiring a quick resolution. 

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Sucker Punch (Extended Cut)

For a film filled with almost nothing but young women dressed in various examples of fetish wear, Zack Snyder's Sucker Punch goes out of its way to needle viewers who expect an uninterrupted leer. Snyder's 2011 release, co-written with Steve Shibuya, tells the tale of Emily Browning's Babydoll, a waif committed to a mouldering mental institution following the death of her mother and the murder of her little sister by a salivating Stepfather. Hoping to net himself his ward's inheritance, this ogre schedules Babydoll for a lobotomy, bribing Oscar Isaac's hunched orderly to forge the necessary documents. Trapped and bereaved, Babydoll begins to disassociate from her grim surroundings, imagining herself first as a virginal prize in a burlesque brothel then as a sword-wielding hero, crashing through waves of mechanical, masculine, aggressors.

Seen here in an extended cut that runs eighteen minutes longer than the theatrical presentation, this home video re-issue restores a level of bite that the American ratings board felt strayed beyond the remit of the PG-13 certificate. One long song and dance sequence aside, the majority of these version longue additions are the opposite of titillation. Instead we have harsh, threatening moments or bitter dialogue tweaks that underline the lack of actual, real-world, power these dozing superheroines possess. The manipulative rhetoric of Isaac's Blue, elevated from creepy hospital attendant to a glittering mobster in Babydoll's delusions, strikes a nastier chord in this edit. The mealy-mouthed platitudes of an unsuccessful pimp are subbed out for statements that anchor his desire for these women in something genuinely sinister. He wants to dominate them; to hurt them and have them love him in spite of this violence. 

With days left before her frontal lobe is rendered dull, Babydoll enlists the other inmates to mount an escape, determining a list of keys that must be acquired - simple items like a kitchen knife or a lighter. These objects, lent scale by the sheer desperation felt by these women, are magnified into incredible treasures that form the basis of action interludes that break with an otherwise impoverished existence. Babydoll has something of the siren about her, able to command male attention then generate enormous, impenetrable, fictions with nothing but a listless swaying. The asylum's men are enraptured, their brains numbed, allowing Babydoll and her accomplices - Jena Malone's Rocket, Vanessa Hudgens' Blondie, Jamie Chung's Amber and Abbie Cornish's Sweet Pea - to slip away to their battlegrounds. Unencumbered by reality, Snyder is able to motor through his varied and fantastical influences, matching flying fortresses against dragons or firing schoolgirl assassins at undead, steam-powered Alleyman. Sucker Punch is a melting pot massacre; Métal hurlant by way of the copyright flouting Daicon Opening Animation shorts.  

God Ginrai by Geoff Senior

Mad Reflex - Oblivion

Saturday, 20 March 2021

Zack Snyder's Justice League

Upfront, Zack Snyder's Justice League offers a very clear demonstration of what the slighted director brings to this material, beyond a towering aspect ratio and a colour palette attuned to unyielding metals. In Snyder and screenwriters Chris Terrio and Will Beall's undiluted version, Batman's first meeting with Aquaman in a remote Icelandic outpost is presented as an incredible effort in of itself. Ben Affleck's Bruce Wayne has surmounted cracking glaciers and a storm that grounded all manner of aircraft just be in the same room as the rightful King of Atlantis. Their meeting concluded, Jason Momoa's regal roadie strides off to be in the ocean. Bruce and an awed village follow. Joss Whedon's Justice League presented this sequence as a bickering back-and-forth that concluded with a hero shot of Momoa smashing into the water then zipping away. Punctuation, essentially. 

Here, we instead focus on Affleck's despondent expression, his glance off this would be ally as it starts to snow and a group of women begin singing the kind of mournful, lilting, prayer you'd expect to hear at a monarch's funeral. Bruce worries that his words - his warning - has fallen on deaf ears. When he remembers to look back, Arthur has gone and gentle ripples are fading on the water. Whedon's reconfiguration of Justice League was arranged to access chummy sniping and casual success; earth-shattering powers portrayed as something easy or natural for a select few. Snyder and this project's editors, David Brenner and Dody Dorn, want you to feel the effort, to sink into these moments and experience them as enormous and transformative rather than simply exciting. It's a mode of communication that is rambling, episodic and, often, portentous, but it's also frequently magical. 

Four hours long and broken up into eight distinct movements, Snyder's League occupies a space outside of whichever continuity WarnerMedia are currently hurtling forward with. Affleck's stocky take on Batman has long since been replaced - Matt Reeves and men's magazine troll (not to mention generational acting talent) Robert Pattinson wrapped shooting on The Batman less than a week ago - while the story told here seems at least partially at odds with Aquaman's first solo foray and completely incompatible with Wonder Woman's 1980s set sequel. Zack Snyder's Justice League is already a document, a relic from a recent past that, despite an Epilogue prickling with several different flavours of promise, seems unlikely to be followed up on. In a way, this is the strength of DC's disparate platter, their continuity is so obviously broken that it allows each character to be the star of their own, ever-changing, micro-continuity.

Trapped in Snyder's pocket realm, these heroes are put to the test in ways that require genuine strain, one that is consistently amplified throughout by the piece's downcast tone and an editing style that rejects hurry. Although cities are not atomised the film establishes a genuine, and consistent, sense of danger. We are not watching a film that seeks to glibly reassure its audience that good will, inherently, triumph. Every action has a consequence. So whenever Ciarán Hinds' gigantic Steppenwolf - reimagined here as prehistoric musculature, resplendent in a chainmail armour that hums with machine life - bursts into the frame, slaughter quickly follows. The invader's assault on Themyscira, already a stand out sequence in the theatrical cut, is significantly extended here - trading quick, geographical, fixes and action movie editing for an assembly that submerges us in Queen Hippolyta (Connie Nielsen)'s fraying emotional state. 

We sit with the rage felt when a holy place is defiled; the despair as an enormous temple crumbles into the sea, ending umpteen lives. All this pain and confusion is expressed via image, space and sound rather than the crude, sex slavery invoking dialogue that Whedon brought to the table. Over and over we are forced to process the weight of these events and the effect they have on these characters. We are rarely thrown cold into an aftermath. This distended, atypical delivery works beautifully for a great deal of the film's other action sequences, especially those that felt perfunctory in their superheroics back in 2017. Gal Gadot's Diana / Wonder Woman foiling a London terror attack is elevated from a throw away scuffle to an act of Herculean expertise as Diana - in slow motion - struggles to place her bullet proof bracelets between Michael McElhatton's gun-wielding terrorist and several dozen innocent lives.  

Gadot's agog face fills the 1.33:1 frame, the first bullet traveling much faster than she can react. Through sheer will she gets her arm where it needs to be, interceding just in the nick of time. That's one bullet though. When the madman switches his rifle to fully-automatic then takes aim at a class of schoolgirls, Wonder Woman follows his line of fire, crouched and exerting; zipping inhumanly fast to put her gauntlets and, in one instance, her body between this outrage and these children. The film no longer rushes through these movements - perhaps previously unsure of how these staccato, obviously artificial, lunges would be received by an audience - we linger and examine now, cutting back and forth between the hammering gun and a dashing Diana. The effect is explosive, delirious even, precisely because the scene is unselfconsciously structured to cater to this idea of a body in the midst of a prolonged physical struggle. 

This Justice League is not summery or obviously celebratory then. Tonally speaking, we're not hanging out with our superpowered pals as they quarrel and pinball between disasters. Snyder's take is closer to a war film, one with a fantastical scope that reaches into our world's distant, unrecorded, past to tell of the day when a barbaric New God touched down on Earth and battled a who's who of human myth. Zeus and the Greek pantheon fought alongside an alien Green Lantern, Atlanteans, an Amazonian cavalry, and man's armies - including bearded Hun - against the being who would be master of the universe. The attempt, although unsuccessful, left both a mark on our planet and three living machines that can be combined to trigger an instantaneous apocalypse. Steppenwolf, the demonic agent gathering these devices, exudes the anxious presence of a toady. Although indescribably powerful when compared to mere mortals, he is, at heart, a needy middle-manager hoping to curry favour with his boss by wrapping up a noted loose end. 

Thanks to Marvel's trendsetting credit teasers this ruler, Jack Kirby's Darkseid, was beaten to the cinematic punch by Jim Starlin's deliberately similar cosmic bruiser Thanos. Elevated to chief threat in his universe, Josh Brolin's take on the Mad Titan even got to headline his own film, Avengers: Infinity War as well as a feature role in its sequel, Avengers: Endgame. That intergalactic plunderer, although brusque and all-powerful, was afforded a human dimension - a daughter he loved; a bizarre pursuit he, on some level, believed to be altruistic. Comparatively, Darkseid is portrayed with the kind of awe usually reserved for religious revelation. His introduction is that of an unholy visitation, a rippling God of militarised industry first seen silhouetted like John Wayne at the close of The Searchers before Snyder and cinematographer Fabian Wagner begin appraising this menace vertically. His figure is massive and granite; a wave of destruction about to fall. 

This nascent form - identified in pre-release press as Uxas, the identity the God wore before taking command of the Omega Effect in John Byrne's Jack Kirby's Fourth World comics - is a ravenous, youthful, behemoth in search of an outlet. The Darkseid we see later in the film, primed for a starring role in a sequel that will likely never come, is this same being matured; skewing closest to the character's taciturn portrayal in Superman: The Animated Series and the subsequent Justice League and Justice League Unlimited television series. Voiced by Michael Ironside, that interpretation is, fundamentally, Satan ruling from his Church in Hell. Actor Ray Porter imbues this computer generated tyrant with similar gravelly malice; his voice a grim-dark growl that issues from a pit then carries through halls filled with conquered, mutated, subjects. 

Darkseid's screentime may be slight, especially when weighed against a 242 minute running time but every interlude counts - we see him batter through armies, felled only by the combined efforts of a Green Lantern, a legendary king and three Olympians; we watch the almighty Steppenwolf cower in fear when his master's image exerts itself on a slab of fissile ore. Darkseid's technology, the three Mother Boxes he abandons to Earth - depicted as desiccated hags in the apocalyptic visions of Ray Fisher's Cyborg - are a profane take on the act of creation itself. This God's Genesis is a wave of destruction that picks the flesh from Kryptonian bones and sets the world ablaze. Kirby's character, wholly new to this version of the film, makes such an obvious and immediate impact that the other sequel teases embedded in this film's Epilogue - Jesse Eisenberg's Luthor and Joe Manganiello's Slade Wilson laying the foundations for The Legion of Doom and an abandoned Batman film - seem positively tiny by comparison. 

Darkseid isn't the only character to receive reappraisal. Whereas this version of the film delves much deeper with the newer members of this Justice League, Whedon's theatrical cut seemed more of a feature length attempt to resuscitate Superman as a future tentpole prospect. Scenes were added and subtracted around Snyder's ticking time bomb - an effort undermined by computer assisted reshoot footage that, often, looked confrontationally bad - until Henry Cavill was behaving with the tranquil assurance of a Christopher Reeve. Snyder's assembly is a completely different story, doggedly sticking to Batman's Knightmare visions from Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice as an eventual destination for the hero. The disorientated Superman who violently reacts to his resurrection doesn't instantly fade as soon as an action sequence has been ticked off here either. 

Kent's pain lingers, expressed in his choice of suit - a funeral draft of his usual costume that recalls everything from Spider-Man's Secret Wars symbiote and Jon Bogdanove's Recovery Suit to the evil Kryptonians of the Reeve films and the rogue Superman seen in the cyberpunk future of the Batman Beyond animated series. This clouded, post-death perspective allows Superman to register as something other than a pat obstacle in a genre rehash. In Snyder's cut it's clear he carries real pain at having been unnaturally returned to life. Mothers and fathers, both living and dead, flock to him, talking this superbeing out of his fog by reminding him of his emotional and physical connections to this world - Amy Adams' seemingly pregnant Lois Lane and his patient, hardscrabble mother, Diane Lane's Martha Kent. Russell Crowe's Jor-El and Kevin Costner's Jonathan Kent join the chorus, recounting the spiritual quest they imparted to him in the language of Gods and men. 

In action, this Superman is different too. His understanding of stakes and pressure rendered off-kilter by his all-powerful nature. So while his teammates battle through a tumorous, irradiated, gauntlet, Kent remains in Kansas to get his head right. This pronounced contrast between an absent, healing, hero and a squad of allies flogging their hearts out against a terrifying extra-terrestrial threat - especially when played at this kind of length - is a fight blueprint straight out of Akira Toriyama's Dragon Ball, a hugely successful multimedia series that plays with the myth of Moses and The Exodus in a similar way to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster's Superman comics. Toriyama's interpretation takes a more hysterical, comedic bent with a central character whose might is so massively out of whack with his contemporaries that all of the manga's plot contrivances are about placing successive hurdles between its hero, Son Goku, and any unfolding battles. 

As if to underline this structural note, Snyder's film tweaks Wonder Woman to be Superman's violent near-equal, an accomplice who isn't content to simply batter their enemies into submission. She's basically Superman's Vegeta - the displaced alien prince who works twice as hard to keep up with the savant Goku. Diana's similar insistence that Kal-El should only be referred to by the name given to him on his home planet is just the cherry on top. When Snyder's Superman does finally engage Steppenwolf, his hovering blows are unforgiving - the same brutal strikes he aimed at the Justice League seconds after they reawakened him - reminding us that this Superman remains at least slightly abstracted and perhaps not even the exact same man we saw in Man of Steel or Dawn of Justice. Death has altered the Kryptonian, there's a sense he isn't a complete person anymore, instead he's a wraith anchored to a previous life only by his Lois. 

That it requires such a massive intervention by his loved ones to even access his previous persona (his return to the life he had only possible because of their memories) tallies with Bruce Wayne's recurring fear that the Sun God who fell from the sky could become poisoned by dark rhetoric and take up the position of general in an army of annihilation. Finally, there's Fisher's Cyborg, a superhero instantly course-corrected in the theatrical cut to resemble the comedic, braggadocios, sidekick familiar to fans of Teen Titans Go!. Cyborg isn't simply re-evaluated here, his contribution to the overall shape of this film is seismic, far bigger than scene tweaks or costume corrections. In Snyder's version of Justice League Cyborg is a significant dramatic axis, one told with the anguish of a dead child forced back to life by a guilt-ridden father, Joe Morton's Silas Stone. Cyborg's story is one of halting reconciliation, not just with the parent who repeatedly chose work over his family, but with his own self-image. 

Cyborg's story is so thoroughly threaded into this king-sized Director's Cut that it's obvious why Fisher was protective of the role and then so bitterly disappointed when very little of it was released in 2017. Victor Stone is a multifaceted character that allows the actor to play two completely distinct personas - the confident, letter jacket wearing human half that keeps himself connected to the rest of mankind with bursts of online altruism and a mechanical aspect that Stone believes to be unnatural and damned. The latter gives Fisher the opportunity to play several different classic monsters - when he first meets Wonder Woman he's Quasimodo, hunched and evasive but taking a certain delight in his expertise; later he's Frankenstein's Monster, a resentful son committed to concealing or outright destroying his father's work. A metronome score carries us into an interior life where Stone is a God of human data, so powerful that he could end all life on Earth in an instant. 

Cyborg is a Dr Manhattan who hasn't become bored with the people around him. On the contrary, he wants to use his incalculable powers to help but sees no possibility for integration into wider society. He's hung up on the manufactured organs and arteries that maintain what's left of his shattered body. The shame he feels for this mechanism traps him, creating a wider context of internalised monstrosity that sours his outlook. It's clear that he abhors his physical identity, retreating into vast digital head spaces where he can stride around in the broad flesh and bone body he's all but lost. Cyborg's story, unlike his Watchmen counterpart, tracks towards an acceptance though - one facilitated by the precious knowledge that he isn't alone in this universe, that there are other people who share similar burdens to his own. It feels conceptually significant that it is Diana who reaches out to this metal man - in certain versions of her origin story she is an artificial construct herself, moulded from clay then imbued with life by a loving parent. 

None of this is to say that Zack Snyder's Justice League doesn't have its flaws, there are more than a couple of computer generated effects that, quite apparently, haven't received the fullest of attention. When suited up, Affleck's Batman, particularly in the tunnels fight, looks stodgy rather than brawny. And - despite an introductory accident that finds absurd, Richard Lester style humour in a moment of blind panic - Ezra Miller's Flash, when babbling in repose, often works against the film's mood in a glaring rather than playful way. There are perplexing additions too, the worst of which is a heartfelt conversation between Martha Kent and Lois Lane that tours the crater that Clark's loss has left in their lives before suddenly terminating with a needless superhero cameo that thoroughly undermines the moment. At its best though, this version of Justice League stresses stakes in a way that consistently feels just out of our heroes' control. Instead of clattering through danger, the film gives its set-pieces enough space for logistical appraisal. Threat waxes and wanes, allowing a genuine sense of wonder to take hold then flourish. Again and again we are assured that these heroes will have to break their bodies and work in the moments between seconds to accomplish the impossible. 

Tom Holkenborg - Wonder Woman Defending & What Rough Beast

Wednesday, 17 March 2021

Highlander III: The Sorcerer

Lacking both the confused audacity present in any version of The Quickening as well as the pure, kinetic, energy of the original Highlander, Andrew Morahan's Highlander III: The Sorcerer (viewed here in a European theatrical cut, also known as Highlander 3: Die Legende, that includes a number of expanded sex scenes when compared to the US cinema release) settles for the dilatory pace of a televised police procedural. Although Sorcerer, like the two films before it, delves into the memories of these battling immortals, these recollections are used to prop up present-day elements rather than delve into the private mental space of someone who, despite living for centuries, hasn't yet been able to die. Sorcerer is a much more ordinary film then, one built out of pure exposition. Building blocks are dutifully doled out alongside handsome music video imagery to serve a wistful, erotic thriller level, plot. It's an approach distinct from (but inferior to) the frazzled, kaleidoscopic, fragments that electrified Russell Mulcahy's swaggering rock operas. 

Christopher Lambert's Connor MacLeod and Mario Van Peebles' Kane are arranged as competing monsters in an investigation that naturally centres - but doesn't delve too deeply into - Deborah Kara Unger's Dr Johnson, a famous archaeologist puzzling through the discovery of an obscure tartan pattern within a Japanese historical site. MacLeod maintains an amiable but strangely distant presence - essentially pottering around until he's able to re-forge his broken sword - while Peebles, despite his character's pointedly Biblical name and a look best described as bubble money barbarian, isn't asked to do much more than growl his way through a Clancy Brown impression. Neither competitor has much in the way of an interior motor then. This pervasive sense of detachment is exacerbated in MacLeod's case by the crude fixes employed to nudge him towards something recognisably human. As well as a supernatural connection to what we presume is one of Dr Johnson's previous lives, MacLeod now also has an adopted pre-teen son who, really, only makes us wonder whatever happened to Rachel, the little girl MacLeod rescued from occupied Europe who grew up to be the executor of his vast estate? 

Monday, 8 March 2021

Highlander II (Renegade Version)

Only available now in a reorganised edit called the Renegade Version, Russell Mulcahy's mid-90s director's cut (which was further tweaked with CG additions focused around the film's light palette and background plates in the early 2000s) of Highlander II seeks to mitigate the wilful damage perpetrated on the series by a bizarre theatrical release that - in a rough, up-front, spill of treacly exposition - demanded viewers now consider Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery's immortal swordsmen as deposed alien warlords, banished to our planet for the crime of mounting a deeply unsuccessful insurrection. Mulcahy's subsequent assemblies junk this intergalactic aspect, tweaking the story so the film's fallen future has roots in some long-forgotten, technologically advanced, Earth-based civilisation; one that apparently predates women (but not the Genbaku Dome). 

Although ill-considered these attempts to reframe Highlander in sweeping, science fiction, terms are at least audacious. They represents a colossal overhaul of expectation that, surely, tracks into an expanding, operatic, canvas? Not a bit of it. The distant past and Planet Zeist both serve the same mechanical function - they provide a separate location from which enemies with similar abilities to our heroes can invade from. Highlander II barely even plugs into the promise of further battles between semi-invincible swordsmen. Only three immortals cross over, two airborne splatter-punks (quickly dispatched) and Michael Ironside's cackling General Katana. Given that the film is set forty years after the first, trapped in a ruin organically connected to MacLeod's interpretation of The Prize, why not make Connor's foes a trio of immortals born (or realised through the kind of near death Connor suffered on a 16th century battlefield) too late to stake a claim on their birth right? 

Youth and bitterness could be stressed; a rootless fanaticism aimed directly at MacLeod, an ageing relic who, quite apparently, has sucked the life force out of countless rivals (and perhaps even the world itself) then squandered this unfathomable triumph by allowing himself to moulder. Unfortunately Highlander II betrays no such interest, battering through half-formed characters and orphaned scenes until it reaches a state of conceptual tedium. The film even in its longest, most complete form is clearly unfinished, lacking not just basic transitional and connective information but, obviously, entire episodes. It's a lumpen, discursive, film then but this misbegotten sequel is home to one genuinely spectacular sequence - a metamorphosis that sees a wheezing, decrepit, MacLeod see off multiple assassins to stand dead centre in a series of thunderous detonations that bestow upon him the smirking vigour he allowed to slip away. MacLeod immediately takes advantage of this rejuvenation to hurl himself, pelvis first, at Virginia Madsen's Louise Marcus, the beautiful (but completely underwritten) terrorist who had, just minutes earlier, been demanding that this shuffling old Highlander stand to attention. 

Thursday, 4 March 2021


Even in its longer, so-called International Cut, Russell Mulachy's Highlander is a fragmented experience. Characters - and their subplots - come and go, briefly touched upon but always just out of our reach. This structural collapse isn't a failure of plotting though, it's a mode of communication explicitly tied to the film's lead character: an immortal swordsman named Connor MacLeod. We meet MacLeod during a wrestling match in Madison Square Garden. The camera's viewpoint becomes untangled from the ground-level brawling, lifting into the air then surging upwards towards the balcony seats, before crashing into Christopher Lambert's lulled observer. While the in-ring action works an ugly Southern pride angle, MacLeod disassociates, dreaming of a youth spent fighting for a 16th century Scottish clan. 

Connor MacLeod has over four hundred years of memories behind him. Desperate battles on muddy fields mingle with a long, blissful, relationship with a woman who adored him. There's even a brief interlude in occupied Europe of the 1940s that sees MacLeod rescue a child then machinegun a Nazi officer to death. It makes sense that this immortal is untethered from this pantomime present and therefore a firm narrative procession. MacLeod's daydreaming overwhelms, not just him, but the film itself. Flashbacks are not only geared to dole out the exposition required to make sense of an apocalyptic battle of multinational immortals, they also put us in the headspace of someone grappling with their own massively extended lifespan - the friends and lovers that they have buried, the thwarted human connections that he hopelessly clings to. This sadness underlines Lambert's blurry-eyed performance. As the cosmic competition that he finds himself a part of begins to wrap up, what does he actually have left? 

MacLeod and the film's other undying swordsmen battle for a vague power known as The Prize. When one man fells another by decapitation the winner is consumed by light and fire; an ejaculatory possession that mingles the strain of crucifixion with an almighty, building-shaking, orgasm. Sean Connery's Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramirez, whose primary function in Highlander is that of a knowledgeable mentor, is a Christian despite the fact that his birth comfortably pre-dates that of the faith's founders. Run through and close to death, following a castle-toppling fight with Clancy Brown's unstoppable Kurgan, Ramirez drops to his knees and raises his hands in prayer. A supplication seemingly rooted in the only rule that all of the game's participants, good or irredeemably evil, will not break: battle cannot be joined on holy ground. 

These notes lend Highlander a strange, semi-religious aspect. MacLeod's declaration upon vanquishing his final enemy - that he not only knows and feels everything but that he actually is everything - positions the character as a kind of bloodied Messiah. This supernatural survival of the fittest has facilitated the rise of an all-knowing leader for mankind, one who has built himself out of centuries of toil and torment. It makes you wonder about what sort of Creator inhabits this universe? Certainly not a merciful one. The Prize was anyone's to claim. MacLeod's eventual victory was hard-fought rather than pre-ordained. Indeed at the moment of his ascension, MacLeod is lifted up and consumed not by heavenly apparitions but by smoking phantoms and regurgitating beasts; visions of rot that try to take hold of his body before they are, themselves, absorbed. This incredible power is portrayed as violent and ugly, a crashing wave to be tamed by someone worthy. In the film's epilogue MacLeod chats merrily with the spirits of his departed friends about his Godhood. He sits with his new love, Roxanne Hart's Brenda, on a Scottish hillside, finally at peace. This unshakable connection with the land that birthed him is deployed in the reassuring, picturesque, terms of a romantic picnic but it also underlines something human and imperfect about MacLeod: his greatest dream was to live in his memories. 

Wednesday, 3 March 2021

Aliens: Fireteam - KENNER

Whenever there's a new Alien video game I always find myself crawling through the trailer, looking to upset myself by spotting the double-jointed, digitigrade, creatures churned out by lube specialists Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. Which interpretation (or more accurately which instalment) are the developers taking their cues from this time? Rather than try and jumble the film series' various, clashing, aesthetics - hopelessly trying to establish a consensus take on the xenomorph - Aliens: Fireteam's devs, Cold Iron Studios, are following the pick n' mix examples set by the various Alien³ home console adaptations or Konami's Aliens arcade cab. The dog-burster (or Bambi-burster if you're a workprint fan) looks to be a basic, swarming, mob while Alien's Big Chap seems to be a stomping, mini-boss level, encounter. There are even medium-sized monsters, with mutated crests, that could be patterned after either 1990s toy lines or the extended monarchy introduced in Dark Horse's tie-in comics.