Mafia II

It’s always a shame to see great potential go to waste. A great game, made by people do didn’t seem to understand what they were doing.

Ok, I’ll start over. When I was a kid, we had a game called ”Mafia: City of Lost Heaven”.

It centered on Thomas ”Tommy” Angelo, a former cab driver and later mafioso during the 1930’s, and his life as a made man or ”Soldato” in the Salieri crime family.

Then in 2010, we saw the release of ”Mafia II”.

But before I say anything about the game, I need to explain some terms.

”Adult” and ”Mature”.

Adult is legal term. To become an adult, you just don’t die in about 20 years. You are then legally considered an adult. Bottom line, becoming an adult is easy.

Mature, on the other hand, is something not many can accomplish. ”Mature” implies being respectable, calm, collected, responsible and dignified.

An adult game is a game that assumes that the player is of a certain age. It features adult themes. Sex, drugs, gore, violence and so on.

GTA V is a good example of an adult game.

Now, I have to make it clear I’m not in any way implying GTA V is a bad game. Far from it. It’s just not a mature game. It’s not meant to be a mature game.

A mature game is a game that assumes the player is mature enough to appreciate it. It doesn’t need gratuitous violence or swearing or nudity to be good.

”Mafia: The City of Lost Heaven” is the text book definition of a mature game.

It features several small touches to make it slightly more realistic. For example, you can’t carry an arsenal of weapons with you. Small arms, possible, but if you have a shotgun and a Thompson machine gun, you can’t put them both in your coat. You have to drop one of them.

If your clip is half empty, and you reload, you lose that ammunition, since it was in the clip you threw away.

If you get shot, there’s no ”hiding behind a wall until your life replenishes”. You need medical aid. In this case, it takes the form of small medical cabinets. Not big white first aid kits dropped by enemies.

You can’t just drive 120 km/h around town, because the police will fine you for speeding. Same thing with crashes or running red lights. And shooting someone in the street? Congratulations. You now have the entire LHPD on your tail, and there are no pay’n’sprays or cheat codes to spawn tanks.

Also, you might need to stop for gas, after driving for 1 ½ hours.

Speaking of driving, even IF you manage to avoid the cops, you’re driving 1930’s cars. You will get seriously hurt if you crash, and then, when you reach that old warehouse full of people who want to kill you and you have only 7 health points left. it’s your own fault.

Oh, and try driving a soft top convertible sports car like an idiot, and roll it. See what happens.

and this might be a small point, but I like that the worst curse word in the game is “shit”. And it’s rare.

My point to all of this is simple. This isn’t Grand Theft Auto. It’s nothing like Grand Theft Auto. It’s not SUPPOSED to be Grand Theft Auto.

So what did they do with the sequel?

THEY MADE IT A WATERED DOWN GTA CLONE!

Suddenly, you can carry an arsenal of weapons. You go around with five different types of machine guns, two rifles, a shotgun and four different types of handguns.

You get shot, you hide behind a wall, and your health replenishes.

And it set the world record for most profane game, with “Fuck” used over 200 times.

Mafia II isn’t a mature game. It doesn’t treat me, the player, like a mature person. It essentially saying “you’re old enough to play this” rather than “You’re mature enough to appreciate this”. It’s giving me GTA when I don’t want to play GTA.

So is it all bad? No, of course not.

So what does Mafia II have going for it? Better graphics, good acting, dialogue, interesting characters.

But when compared to the first one, which despite its age remains a great game, it just falls flat.

One of the biggest problems is the city. The city is eerily similar to a GTA map. There are diners, and clothing stores (which, I must say, is a nice touch. I’m a sucker for old 30’s fashion), side missions to make extra money….

So why is this a bad thing?

Because these are things that belong in a sandbox game, and Mafia II isn’t a sandbox game.

Mafia II follows the same formula as the first game. The game isn’t made as a GTA-esque “Go to this house and get a mission”. The story is in chapters, where you start the chapter, and you’re given a mission. Then you finish the mission, get back, chapter over. lather, rinse, repeat.

Now, in some chapters, you had an optional side missions, acquiring rare cars, like the Celeste Marque 500, the in game name for the Mercedes-Benz 500 k, one of the most beautiful cars in automotive history.

So what was the point of that, then? Sure, you had a cool sports car, but it’s a two-seater, and you almost always drive with two friends, meaning you can’t use it. So why have it at all?

Because “Mafia: the City of Lost Heaven” had something called “freeride” and “freeride extreme”. Sort of extra game mode. In Freeride, the game gave you access to the entire city. No missions, no waypoints, just you, your car, and an entire city to drive around in. suddenly, you can take a leisurely drive in your beautiful german sports car. In Freeride Extreme, you can fulfill missions to unlock additional, unique cars.

Mafia II gives you a city you would LOVE to drive around in a cool sports car, listening to music on your radio, stop by a a clothing store and buy a three piece suit, just drive around and explore….

Does Mafia II have “Freeride”?

No.

The 2002 game gives you the option to drive around a city with nothing in it for leisure, but the 2010 game that features a detailed, immersive, living city doesn’t?

You see the problem here, right?

If you like the game, fine, but for me, it’s just another game that tries to be something it isn’t.

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In Memoriam: Rik Mayall

I know it’s late, but I think I need to address this. For once, I’m not being sarcastic, snarky or cynical. I’m not going to crack a joke, or poke fun at anything. I’m just going to pay my respects.

10 days ago, on June 9’th, Rik Mayall died of a heart attack. With that, we lost one of the greatest comedians of the last century.

I’m a big fan of comedy, especially when it comes to british comedy, and I consider the duo of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson to be just as important to the history of comedy as Laurel and Hardy, Monty Python or Abbot and Costello.

When I was a kid, I came across an old VHS tape of “The Young Ones” we had lying around in a drawer. For years, I thought it was just some boring soap opera. I mean, this was a movie belonging to my parents. The only other movies I remember them owning was a documentary about sharks. The only movies I remember them renting for themselves was “Jean du Fleurette” and “The Godfather” trilogy. How good could this be?

Then one day I was bored, popped the tape in and pressed play.

For the next hour and a half, I was treated to absolute, chaotic, comedic anarchy, slapstick and dirty jokes, mixed in with the childish, surreal or downright disgusting.

I was hooked. I was ecstatic at the amazing treasure i’d found, and furious at myself for not having found it earlier.

Bottom, Guest House Paradiso, The Dangerous Brothers, The New Statesman. All of them I’ve watched, all of them I’ve loved.

And now Rik Mayall, one of the most influential and important comedians of the 20’th century is dead.

And I think the world is a slightly less happy place for it.

1958 – 2014

Rest in Peace, Rik Mayall. Thank you for all the laughs. We needed them.

The Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King

When people talk about plot holes in movies, there are a couple that instantly come to mind.

In Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana Jones was completely unnecessary

Charles Foster Kane was alone when he died. Nobody heard his last words!

And of course, there’s the one I’d like to address now.

”Why didn’t the Fellowship of the Ring just fly on eagles to Mordor?”

Shall we begin?

First of all, the Eagles in Middle Earth are not just big birds. They’re intelligent, they’re very proud, they don’t like people, and they only helped Gandalf out because they owed him a favor.

You think they can be ordered to fly into the closest thing there is to hell, carrying nine lazy assholes on their backs?

I don’t know what the eagles equivalent of “Fuck off” is, but I imagine you’d find out very quickly.

But let’s say they agree to help you. Surely this is foolproof, right? There’s no good reason why it shouldn’t work!

Well, no, there isn’t…. unless of course you count the unkillable Nazgûls, patrolling Mordor on huge, winged serpents of hate, death and teeth.

Then there’s the small issue of flying over a valley the size of latvia, with nothing in it apart from fire, ash and about twenty million orcs with enough weaponry and siege equipment to level a medium sized city.

Oh, and need I remind you that all of this is constantly surveyed by a GIANT FLAMING EYE ATOP AN ENORMOUS BLACK TOWER OF EVIL DOOM?

And your plan is to fly in, on giant birds, carrying The One Ring, hoping nobody is going to notice you?

Something tells me it’s not that simple.

Small side note: if you ever hear someone laugh at Boromir for saying ”One does not simply walk into Mordor”, since Frodo did, punch them very hard in the face. There is not one single definition of the term ”Simple” that applies to the shit they went through to get into Mordor.

Now, some of you might be a bit upset about me potentially ruining a great movie plot hole with… you know… logic…

So let me make up for it by offering you a better one.

Why the hell did they get rid of the ghost army?

See, the deal with the ghost army was that they swore an oath to Isildur to fight with him when they were needed. But when Isildur went “I’m about to fight the hordes of Mordor. I need your help“, they fucked off into the mountains, and because of that, they were cursed, forbidded to rest in peace until the oath was fulfilled.

And then, they fight ONE BATTLE and they think that’s enough to fulfill the oath?

Was the original deal just ”We fight with you in one battle, then we’re out of here”?
Because if so, that’s a pretty shit offer, if you ask me.

The deal was ”Fight with the king when he needs you”. One battle?! Fuck that! You have an army, numbering in hundreds, if not thousands of soldiers. they are ghosts. they cannot be defeated. And there’s the aforementioned valley the size of latvia filled with what’s essentially the legions of hell itself. I don’t know about you, but I’d say that constitutes as a I-need-my-unstoppable-army-of-the-dead type of situation.

If it were me, I’d tell them ”Hey, you want your freedom? Here’s the deal. Go to Mordor and KILL EVERYTHING YOU SEE. Orcs, trolls, EVERYTHING! When you’ve done that, you’ve earned your freedom.

I’ve asked several people why this wouldn’t work, and these are some of the counter-arguments.

What about the Nazgûls?

Let’s do some quick math here. There are, let’s say, about 500 ghosts.

300 ghosts are dispatched to kill orcs and trolls and things like that.

That leaves 200 to fight 8 Nazgûls. That’s 25 unkillable ghosts per robed asshole. Even if they can’t kill the Nazgûls, that’s still one hell of a distraction. Those ringwraiths ain’t going nowhere anytime soon.

Oh yeah, what about Sauron?

I don’t know what power Sauron has, but let’s say he would be a force they’d have to contend with.

Send 250 ghosts to kill orcs and trolls, and send the other 50 to fight Sauron.

And when the 250 ghosts have killed all the orcs, join the other half and beat the snot out of Sauron and the ringwraiths.

But what about the hobbits? They might get killed!

Just tell the ghosts not to kill any hobbits. Simple as that.

Tell them ”You can’t be killed. you don’t have to rush. Look closely if the person you’re about to kill has greenish black skin, horrible deformities and smells like Satans unwiped ass. If they don’t, and in fact they have pink skin, brown hair and hairy feet, don’t kill them.”

I don’t care how ancient, undead or amazingly stupid you might be. If you’re smart enough to speak, you’re smart enough not to confuse an orc with a fucking hobbit!

And at this point, there’s one last argument that always comes up.

Well, that wouldn’t make a very interesting movie…

Oh really?

But taking the eagles and ending the story in 45 minutes is cinematic gold, is it?

My point isn’t that these things would improve the movie.

It’s that a plot hole is something stupid that has no good explanation, other than cinematic convenience.

Not using the eagles has a good explanation.

Getting rid of the army that cleared out the biggest city in the world in 35 seconds flat does not.

Star Wars

I have a very ”middle-of-the-road” approach to most fandoms. You use Console X instead of Console Y? Good for you. I hope you have many years of happy gameplay. You prefer ”Wrath of Khan” to ”The Empire Strikes Back”? Feel free. They’re both good movies. My point is, I generally don’t get deeply invested in fandoms.

Because of that, I never really hated the Star Wars Prequels.

The first one was meh, with the biggest problem, I thought, being that it didn’t feel like I was watching a Star Wars movie. It was just very boring.

The second was ok, and it’s perfect if you like poking fun at movies with friends.

And I do.

As for the third movie, I actually really liked it. Some people have argued that it’s simply because it’s less awful than the previous two, but I genuinely like that movie.

Then a while back, I heard someone discuss the prequels and they came with two arguments that I didn’t agree with.

First, that everything that goes wrong in the original trilogy is Jar-Jar Binks’ fault,
and second, that Vaders big ”NOOOO” at the end of the third movie is a giant pussy moment.

I just don’t agree with those two things. Does this automatically mean that EVERY argument about the prequels is invalid? No, it doesn’t. Just that THESE TWO arguments aren’t accurate. And if you’re going to say something is bad, it’s better to point out things that are accurate, especially when there’s more than enough of them to go around.

So why do I disagree with these two points? Well, let’s start with Jar-Jar.

Now, i’ll be the first to admit that he is an annoying character. I agree with you that he is an idiot.
But he is not the one responsible for the rise of the empire.

The argument is: Jar-Jar binks is the one who suggested to the intergalactic senate to bestow emergency powers to the Supreme Chancellor, allowing him to amass the clone army, leading him to wiping out the Jedi and paving the way for the Intergalactic Empire. It’s all Jar-Jar Binks’ fault, right?

Wrong!

True, Binks was the one who made the suggestion. But why was Binks in that position to begin with?

Because Senator Padme Amidala elected him as her representative when she went into hiding.

I repeat.

Senator Padme Amidala elected JAR-JAR BINKS as her senatorial representative.
Need I remind you that this is the same guy who got his head stuck in the energy stream of a podracer and was exiled by his own people for being a screw up?

DOES THAT SOUND LIKE SOMEONE YOU WANT TO RUN SHIT WHILE YOU’RE GONE?

But hey, she had to put someone in her place while she was in hiding, right? It’s not like people can take part in meetings over long distances via some sort of holographic projection OH WAIT, THAT’S RIGHT, THEY DO THAT ALL THE FUCKING TIME!

And don’t give me any bullshit explanation of ”they couldn’t risk it”. You’re telling me that in a society featuring artificial intelligence, interstellar travel and lightsabers, the idea of calling from a secure line is impossible?!

You can’t even say that appearing as a hologram would just fuel the opposition, and diminish her position. Instead of appearing as a hologram, she WENT INTO HIDING! At least with the hologram, she can still appear in the senate.

But let’s say that she couldn’t appear as a hologram, that the signal could be traced.

How about sending a message, detailing how she wanted Binks to act as her representative? Send instructions over a secure line?

But hey, maybe that could be traced too. Signals can be traced, after all. And then assasssins would know she was hiding on Naboo…. you know, HER FUCKING HOME PLANET!? Not only that, but she’s hiding IN HER FAMILY HOUSE!

Genius! They’ll never think of looking for the person they’re trying to kill where she lives!

But even IF sending a message was not an option, if she really couldn’t risk ANYONE knowing or even suspecting where she went….

SHE DIDN’T LEAVE ANY INSTRUCTIONS TO JAR-JAR BINKS BEFORE SHE LEFT!

She leaves the notorious screw up with no instructions, no briefing, no passing remark of ”I’m going into hiding. Don’t let them amass an army while i’m away”. She went away to her summer mansion to eat pears, ride CGI-animals and listen to Anakin Skywalker trying to make a dislike of sand sound romantic, assuming that Jar-Jar would be fine on his own, without any assistance what so ever.

And then she has the fucking NERVE to lament that ”This is how democracy dies… with thunderous applause”!?

WELL, WHO’S FUCKING FAULT IS THAT?!

You can blame Jar-Jar for a lot of things. But destroying democracy and ushering in the galactic empire? That’s Padmes fault.

Next up is Darth Vaders big ”NOOOO”.

The argument is that he’s in the suit now. He’s not Anain Skywalker. He is Darth Vader. And what is the first thing Darth Vader does?

”Waah, waah, where is my girlfriend? She’s dead? Nuuuuuuu!”

It’s been parodied time and time again, because it’s considered an over the top pussy moment, and it ruins the badassery of Darth Vader.

But here’s the thing….

When did Anakin Skywalker die?

It’s not when Palpatine gives him the title of “Darth Vader”. It’s not when he kills the children. It’s not when he chokes Padme, and it’s not with the first hissing breath of the suit.

Let’s ignore the clumsy character arc. In the context of the story, everything Anakin has done up to that point of the movie, the killing, the destruction, the betrayals, EVERYTHING has been done to save his wife. Not his friend. Not his girlfriend. his WIFE. His PREGNANT WIFE.

He suffers torturous, reconstructive surgery, is denied sedation or anesthesia throughout, but he suffers through it. Bordering on insane from pain, anger and sorrow over his perceived betrayal by Obi-Wan, he suffers through it.

Then the pain stops. He comes to his senses, stuck in a heavy, cumbersome, constrictive suit of armor he can never leave. Ever.

But faced with this, what is the first thing he wants to know?

”Where is Padme? Is she alright?”

Then he’s told that she is dead. And with her, his unborn child.

And worst of all, HE is the one who killed her.

Suddenly he’s hit with the realization that everything he has done, everything he has sacrificed, was for nothing. He has lost EVERYTHING that was important to him. The very thing he tried to avoid happened. And it’s his own fault.

Keep that in mind next time you see the scene of him stumbling off that platform, crushing robots and walls, and letting out a big ”NOOOOO!”

Some Star Wars fans say this the moment Darth Vader died to them.

To me, this is the moment Darth Vader was born.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

There are many things that can harm a movie. Sometimes it’s that they had a choice and they picked the wrong option. And sometimes, it’s that they made a choice that was completely unnecessary. And a movie with both of these traits is the 2003 movie “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” based on the comic book series of the same name by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill.

Now, before I say anything about this movie, I should stress that I have never read the comic series or the graphic novel. Because of that I cannot make comparisons between the comic book and the movie. Besides, there are probably enough people who are fans of the comic to point out how they differ.

What I HAVE done is read some of the literary works where the characters feature. So I can make comparisons and judge the movie based on that.

So let’s get started. Prepare for some rambling.

Sean Connery stars in the movie many think is the reason he retired. Let that sink in for a moment.

Highlander 2? Piece of cake.
Zardoz? Easy.

But THIS is the movie where he’d had enough..

Be afraid, be very afraid…

Anyway, He plays Allan Quatermain. but for the sake of a little laugh, I will just refer to him as Old Bond. Why? several reasons. He admits he was a womanizer in his youth, is known all over the world, he makes a few wisecracks, and he’s charged by a character called “M” to save the world from a supervillain. And he’s played by Sean Connery. How can I not make that joke?!

Though to be fair, he’s not charged by “M” to do it alone, followed by a scene of Q giving him all sorts of ridiculously appropriate and handy gadgets he can use to save the day. Instead he’s tasked with assembling a crew of “singular individuals” so that they can save the world as a team.

The eponymous “League of Extraordinary Gentlemen”

We’ll just ignore that one of them is, in fact, a lady.

The League consists of:
Old Bond
Captain Nemo
Rodney Skinner, The Invisible Man (a more likeable, less murderous character than Griffin from the H.G Wells story)
Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde
Wilhelmina “Mina” Harker
Dorian Gray
And Tom Sawyer

So what is it, exactly, this motley crew is trying to stop?
A villain known as The Fantom is attacking different nations. Using mechanically superior but aesthetically lacking machine guns and tanks, he kidnaps engineers and scientists, robs banks with layouts of Venice, blows up blimps with rocket launchers and causing massive destruction and chaos (as well as run over one english police constable who doesn’t quite understand that when a giant, lumbering hunk of wall-destroying death on caterpillar tracks is driving down the road, standing in front of it yelling “halt” is not a good idea)

While doing that, he makes sure that his soldiers are dressed as Germans when they attack England and vice versa, planting the seeds of a world war, with the plan being to sell his weapons to both sides. And to ensure the war is a certainty, he will prevent a peace meeting of the world leaders by blowing up their meeting place: Venice.

Not just the building they’re meeting in. The entire city of Venice.

I suppose that when your suit includes engraved body armor, a black fur coat, a skull cane and a polished silver mask, the ship has kinda sailed as far as subtlety goes…

But of course it’s overly dramatic. He’s a supervillain. It’s not like we’re dealing with a criminal mastermind like James Moriarty… oh wait….

It is revealed that The Fantom actually is James Moriarty, somehow having survived his encounter with Sherlock Holmes in Reichenbach. Moriartys plan is to start a world war and grow rich from selling superior weapons and supplies to both sides. a very interesting idea indeed. So interesting, in fact, that Guy Ritchie used the same plot in “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows” in 2011.

Coincidence?

Actually… yeah, it probably is…

We also learn that Moriarty is “M“, who recruited Old Bond and the rest of the league. But why? Why would he recruit the only people in the world who might be able to stop him? Because Moriarty’s plan isn’t really to start a world war and sell superior weapons to both sides.

It’s to start a world war and sell the powers of The League to both sides, AS WELL as superior weapons.

That’s a pretty good twist, if I’m honest. Though in hindsight there are one or two hints that “M” is really the villain. The doors in M’s chamber has the masonic Square and Compass logo, and the Fantom has the same symbol on a ring. While that is a nice little hint to the observant audience member, it doesn’t really make sense from a realistic perspective. Why would the Fantom wear a ring with a masonic symbol? Then you start to wonder why he’s dressed as The Fantom in the attacks. Anyone who can identify him as Moriarty is either killed or kidnapped, aren’t they?

I mean, it’s a nice suit, and I’d love to have a polished silver mask myself, but he only really wears it for the benefit of the viewer, regardless of whether or not it makes sense.

Another hint ”M” is actually the villain is that he’s played by Richard Roxburgh.

I’ll get more into discussing Richard Roxburgh when I talk about “Van Helsing”, but suffice to say, when you cast Richard Roxburgh as your villain, a plot twist revealing him to be be the villain is pretty hard to pull off.

And I’m going to be brutally honest here. They did pull it off fairly well. I was surprised. You got me, movie. Well done.

So the plot itself is decent as an idea with one or two plot twists. Overall, I wouldn’t say it’s unenjoyable.

Really, my problems with this movie boils down to three things.
Mina Harker, Mr. Hyde and Dorian Gray.

Let’s start with Mina Harker.

Her problem is fairly simple. She’s a vampire.
The problem with that is that she explains that she fought Dracula alongside Jonathan Harker and Professor Van Helsing, and that Dracula turned her into a vampire. but if you kill a vampire, all who have been turned into vampires from that individual dies, or at least reverts back to human. The lead vampire is a staple in vampire stories. Kill the leader, and the rest will follow.

So if Mina is a vampire, does that mean Dracula is still alive in the movie?

Next up is Mr. Hyde.
One trait that keeps popping up with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is that Hyde is usually bigger and physically stronger than Jekyll. Van Helsing did the same thing. But in the novel “The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” by Robert Louis Stevenson, Hyde is notably smaller than Jekyll. He isn’t deformed, he isn’t superhumanly strong. He is just evil.. He is a personification of evil urges. Cruelty, lust and a lack of empathy or remorse.

So imagine my surprise when I see Hyde in the movie portrayed as a hero. He displays friendship, loyalty and even compassion and concern. Now, Once is forgivable, since had he not intervened, they would have died. But later in the movie, he’s let loose to wreak havoc, and he protects a bunch of nameless soldiers from machine gun fire with a door! What the hell?

But the biggest confusion for me is Dorian Gray.

There’s so much wrong or just confusing about Dorian Grays character in this movie, I’m not sure where to start.

The movie takes place in 1899. Old Bond is, I’m guessing, in his late fifties or early sixties. At one point, he recalls meeting Dorian at Eton College during a lecture, given by Dorian Gray, when Old Bond was a young man. It’s done to foreshadow that Gray is immortal.

The problem is, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” takes place at the height of what’s known as “The Great Binge“, when drugs like absinthe and heroin were invented and consumed in huge quantities. It was written from a contemporary perspective by its author, Oscar Wilde, in 1890. In 1890, Dorian Gray was a young man, maybe in his early 20’s or even late teens.

Age wise, he would have been at most about 30 in 1899. and yet, they claim he has been alive for far longer than that, and his portrait is showing him as an old, withered corpse. The novel only takes place over 18 years, and though he is still aged horribly in the picture, it’s due to his horrible actions and drug abuse. It’s more a reflection of his sins than his age. But in the movie and the mind of popular culture, it’s only stated to show age.

And then there’s the thing I talked about in the beginning. A problem that isn’t a mistake, as much as a conscious choice.

Moriarty wants to steal the powers of The League, and to do that, he employs Dorian Gray. But Dorian Gray is immortal. He can’t die from hunger, injury, thirst or age. he can’t be bought, because nothing has any real value to him. A world war would at worst be an inconvenience.

So Moriarty, truly showing what a criminal genius he is, steals the Portrait of Dorian Gray. Amazing! Nobody could have seen that coming!

The thing is, Dorian explains the nature of his immortality to Mina at one point:

Do you recall a space on the wall of my home? A picture was missing. Although the picture is my portrait, I doubt you’d recognize the face upon it. Every year that passes, the portrait ages instead of me […] I dare not look upon it myself. or the magic of the painting would be undone

Did you catch that? If he looks at the painting, the spell is broken.

The one thing in the world that can kill him, is if he looks at the painting.
And it has been hanging on the wall of his home for so long, it’s silhouette has been etched into the wallpaper.
For DECADES, he’s been walking up and down those stairs, always thinking “If I look up, I die”. One passing glance, one moment of curiosity, and he dies.

Why the hell did he hang it on his wall?!

How does he KNOW it ages instead of him, if he can’t look at it?!

How does he know looking at it breaks the spell? Who told him?

But let’s assume that he, for some reason knows that. The painting is the one thing in the world that can kill him. And it kills him if he looks at it. And Moriarty has taken it away, saying “If you do as I say, I’ll give it back”.

That is like Lex Luthor telling Superman “If you let me conquer the world, I’ll give you this lump of kryptonite”!

Why the hell would he want it back?! Moriarty has taken away the only thing that can harm him, and he’s betraying his friends, his ex and the lives of millions to get it back!?

And here’s where the big problem comes in.

THAT’S NOT HOW THE FUCKING PAINTING WORKS!

A major plot point in the novel is that Dorian looks at the painting, and sees how it changes. He knows how the painting works, because he LOOKS AT THE FUCKING PAINTING! At some point, he starts doing good deeds, because he wants the painting to change back. But because his actions were more vanity than genuine benevolence it just gets worse.

Looking at the picture doesn’t kill him or break the spell.

HARMING the painting breaks the spell. And guess what? Spoiler alert, that’s what happens. He tries to destroy the painting with a knife, the spell is broken, and he himself is found stabbed in the heart.

SO WHY THE FLYING HELL DID THEY CHANGE THAT IN THE MOVIE, WHEN IT MAKES MORE SENSE TO KEEP IT?!

If the catch is that the spell is broken if the painting is harmed, it’d make sense he’d want it back!
But they ONLY say it’s broken if he looks at it. No mention about damage to it.

And do you know what difference it’d make to the movie if they’d kept it as it was?
In the scene where he explains his immortality, the dialogue would be slightly different, and the scene where he dies they could just have Mina make a cut in the painting with her extremely sharp claws.

That’s it. The overall plot would be just the same, but it’d make slightly more sense! Oh dear god, no! Can’t have that! We have to change it, right now!

Idiots…

Hmm… this post went a bit longer than I thought it would.
Oh well. If this movie is any indication, people should read more…..

I.Robot

If you’re a science fiction fan, chances are you’ve come across the name Isaac Asimov a few times. He’s one of those almost archetypical writers instantly associated with a certain genre.

Where detective novels have Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, and Fantasy has J.R.R Tolkien, Sci-Fi has Isaac Asimov.

In 2004, The silver screen gave us I.Robot, a science fiction action movie, based on the anthology novel by the same name, courtesy of 20th Century Fox.

(On the one hand, I should at this point warn you that this will involve spoilers, but on the other, why would you read a blog post named “I.Robot” if you weren’t expecting spoilers?)

When I first saw it, I liked it. I had never read any of Asimovs stories at the time. In fact, I wasn’t even aware of their existence. I watched the movie, and I was given a fairly decent action movie with some light psychological discussions about the nature of humanity, followed by a ton of apple-esque robots being shot to pieces by Will Smith.

All was well.

Then about a year and a half ago, I was browsing through my local library and I came across what would be the first Asimov novel I ever read.

I.Robot

I started reading it, and I fell in love with the style, the world, the psychology, the ethical and philosophical discussions… I was absolutely hooked.

I also started to develop a dislike towards the movie I.Robot. Suddenly, the robots issuing curfews and going on murderous rampages wasn’t just mindless fun. It was insulting towards the concepts established in the book and, arguably, Isaac Asimov himself.

Not only did they ruin Susan Calvins personality, but they also completely ignored the rules set up by the book! They establish in the book that the Three Laws of Robotics cannot be bypassed, but in the movie,Sonny is said to “Have the Three Laws, but since he has two brains, he can chose not to follow them”. Since the Three Laws are fundamental for the construction of a positronic brain, that makes no sense! A robot attacking Shia LeBouf or KILLING A MAN is a complete impossibility!

Suffice to say, there was much ranting and raving following this revelation.

So with the self-righteous fury found in everyone who reads a clever book and feels intellectually superior because of it, I scoffed the movie I previously enjoyed and decided to atone by reading more of Asimov’s stories, simply so that I could judge the movie more harshly the more I read the books.

But then, something strange happened. The more I read, the more I started to forgive the movie. The idea of a robot attacking a human is completely possible. As I’m writing this, I don’t consider the movie bad, as much as a missed opportunity. Their problem was never in the scenario. Their problem was in the explanation of the scenario.

The movie gives us the Three Laws of Robotics, as put down by Asimov.

1) A Robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2) A Robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3) A Robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

The thing is, there’s one thing they could have added and worked around to make the movie make perfect sense for anyone.

The Zeroth Law.

0) A robot may not harm humanity or, by inaction, allow humanity to come to harm.

This, by extension, means that the First Law is rewritten as “A Robot may not harm a human being or, by inaction allow a human being to come to harm, so long as such actions do not conflict with the zeroth law.

Suppose that was given as the explanation. In the stories The Evitable Conflict and Robots and Empire, they establish that machines sophisticated enough would come to the conclusion the First Law wasn’t enough to protect people.

This is what VIKI does, of course, altought without actually saying it outright. But if that’s the case, why is Sonny not helping her? The only way for them to bypass that was to write in that Sonny can chose to ignore the Three Laws, since they are what dictates VIKI’s decisions. Since we know that a robot HAS to adhere to the Three Laws, since if you remove them, the robots ceases to function, that explanation doesn’t work.

So how can the scenario work, if Sonny also has the Three Laws? Surely, that’s not possible. He would be given the explanation for her actions, go “You’re right” and kill everyone, ushering in an oppressive nanny state lead by VIKI and her cold, heartless plastic iPod-robots of doom. How could it possibly work differently?

Simple. Suppose Sonny and VIKI both reached the conclusion of the Zeroth Law, but in different ways.

Let’s look at the differences between Sonny and VIKI. VIKI is a supercomputer monitoring vast groups of people, possibly all over the world, getting an objective look at humanity as a whole. To her, humanity is petty, selfish, childish and violent. To her, harming or killing a few humans is an acceptable sacrifice for the sake of protecting humanity as a whole. This programming is carried over to all NS-5 robots under her control. To her, the priority of the Zeroth Law compared to the First Law is equal to that of the First Law compared to the Second Law.

But Sonny isn’t connected to VIKI. He is one of the most sophisticated robots in the world at the time. A marvel of artificial intelligence. And he has been dealing with people on an individual level. From his interactions with Susan Calvin and Del Spooner, he has seen the friendship, bravery and the compassion humans are capable of, as well as how important the individual is. To him, the First Law is just as important as the Zeroth Law.

Suddenly, the plot makes perfect sense. and everyone is happy!

Well, maybe not everyone….
There’s still a few flaws with the story, besides the plot, but all of those could have been avoided very easily.

Susan Calvin, for example. In the stories, she was born in 1982, so she would be 53 years old in 2035. And even if she wasn’t that old, she still wouldn’t behave like she did in the movie. The first time you see her, she is an intelligent, but very cold woman. That’s all well and good. Susan Calvin is a very cold person, a misanthrope who prefers robots to people. By the end of the movie, however, Susan Calvin is carrying a machine gun… Something is wrong with that picture….

The Solution: Change the characters name. And if you have to tie it together with the stories, just say that she studied under Calvin. Problem solved.

At least that way, you’re not harming an established character.

So, what do I think of the movie? I don’t think it’s terrible. I just think it’s a missed opportunity. It had great potential, but it should serve as a reminder to everyone how potential can be ruined by a bad explanation.

But the thing that really puzzles me about this movie, the thing that I just cannot wrap my head around…

Nobody else is raising these issues.
No, what most people complain about is the fact that Will Smith wears Converse shoes and that all of the cars are Audies.

Suddenly, I’m not surprised Susan Calvin prefers robots to humans…