Lucien’s Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Two great movies in one day.  I have the two DVDs at once plan with Netflix right now, so yeah.  That all worked out really nicely.  And man, what a movie this was.  Worth the wait, honestly.  I remember when all the reviews were coming out about this film, and everybody screaming its praises to the moon.  Having finally gotten a chance to see it, I can see why.  I have one major issue with the movie, but aside from that, it’s pretty great stuff.  Let’s talk about it.

The story goes that there is one Spider-Man.  Peter Parker.  However, when Miles Morales happens to gain him some spider powers, and then subsequently end up in a bad situation where he ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time, he figures out there are more Spider-Men.  A lot more.  In universes entangled with our own.  From there, he’s on a mission, both to come to terms with his powers, and to save the city and more importantly his family from annihilation.  As origin stories go, this one is definitely unique.

What I want to talk about first is the animation.  This film goes out of its way to be like a comic book, and it’s awesome!  It’s genuinely weird to me that this came from Sony Animation.  The same studio behind all kinds of cinematic abortions in the last few years.  This film looked and felt like a comic book.  The use of color in this film was absolutely out of control.  What’s more, because there wasn’t the limitation of a camera and a set, the film had some incredible shots that makes me realize that while I did love Spider-Man: Homecoming, the film really didn’t capture this character in a way where being this character feels vertical the way Sam Raimi’s and this film did.  I missed it.

Next up are the characters.  All the versions of Spider-Man in this movie had so much charm.  I love that they got Nicholas Cage to do the voice of Spider-Man Noir.  However, the thing that held this film together is the relationship between Miles and alternate universe Peter Parker.  The chemistry between these characters as a growing bond of mentor to student is believable and you feel for them by the end as they are saying their goodbyes.  But those weren’t the only good characters.  Miles’ dad and uncle both have so much presence.  You can feel the relationship between them and our main character.  With the dad it’s the fact that his son is growing up, and he wants to stay connected with him.  Then there is the uncle, who is something of a mentor to Miles and in the one scene we see of them bonding while engaging in some criminal activity, you buy it.

I will say that this movie is also one of those films where diversity works.  Instead of the unnecessary preaching of Spider-Man: Homecoming that comes from the character they got as the new Mary Jane, we have a character who has his own ethnic identity, but it’s also tied in with the New Yorker identity, and it feels genuine.  See, they did something in this movie that a lot of REALLY bad modern Disney diversity beating-you-over-the-head films don’t do – they made a character first.  Miles is a character, with his thoughts and struggles and personal life, with his identity being second.  That’s believable.  And it makes me like the character.  If only the rest of Hollywood would take a fucking hint.

The action in this movie is incredible.  I will say that the villains weren’t especially interesting to look at, but the action itself had this smooth, seamless quality.  I’m starting to realize that in animation, you can make fight sequences for this kind of movie work so much better.  In the MCU films, everything is so much CG that you start to think that you might as well just be watching something like this.  Since they’ve teased a sequel, here’s hoping that we get more interesting villains and can see more of these interesting fights.

Oh, and something else I want to mention is that while so many Disney films lately have a REALLY bad habit of having bad jokes intertwined with all their movies to diffuse any and all tension, this film doesn’t do that.  There is a LOT of self-referential humor, but it’s all done with some excellent timing.  Not to mention them poking fun at the concept of characters from various universes.  I realized watching this movie that Spider-Pig is by far the most dangerous of all these characters.  Since he comes from a universe with cartoon physics logic, still able to use that in a dimension where things that do that hurt a lot worse, there is really no limit to how much destruction he could cause.

So, what’s my beef with the film?  It’s simple – the ending.  I get that I’m not a kid, and these movies are primarily made for children, but the cynic in me found how utterly sappy the ending to this movie was kind of gag-inducing.  I don’t know, maybe I’m getting too old for this stuff.  I’m not saying everything has to be super dark.  Not at all.  But for the love of Groj, can you PLEASE stop ending movies with big hug sequences?  Just putting that out there?

Overall, this is a really good film.  It captures the character so well, and was a fun ride from start to finish.  That finish was a little weak, but nobody’s perfect.  Not even a film.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

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Lucien’s Review: Overlord

Let me take you all back to a magical world in cinema that we’ve been at several times.  It’s a place I like to call “great movies that nobody ever saw.”  See, modern Hollywood is out of ideas.  Definitively.  Between the sequels and remakes, movie theaters are filled with giant piles of shit.  Mostly.  There are the occasional diamonds in the rough, but overall, it’s a lot of cash-grabs, bland sequels, superhero movies, and straight-up shit from Sony Entertainment.  That company needs new management.  But then you get movies like this.  Genuinely good movies that nobody knows about, mostly because they had the unfortunate luck of coming out at the exact same time as some other movie that was popular, and shit.  Which brings us to the movie we’re talking about today – Overlord.  A movie that works as both a World War II film, and works as a zombie movie.  How they were able to do this without turning it into schlock, I don’t know.  Let’s talk about it.

The plot goes that the day before D-Day, there is a mission to destroy a German radio tower so their air power isn’t hindered in the attack.  Believe it or not, but the premise for this film is based on an actual mission that happened.  Needless to say, but things go south, and now those who are left have to finish the job.  But things are about to get a LOT more complicated, as it seems there is more to the village they are infiltrating than just soldiers and a radio tower.

When I told a coworker about this film when I saw it in theaters, he said “I’ve seen that Call of Duty game before.”  This premise had all the potential to be complete garbage.  See, when you make movies like this, where the concept is ridiculous, you have one of two choices.  Either you can acknowledge how silly it is and be schlock.  Or you can go all the way and take the ridiculousness seriously.  This film decided to do the latter.  It didn’t ride the line at all.  This is essentially Saving Private Ryan with zombies.  And it works!  This director has some real chops on him to actually make a premise this off the wall work.  Kudos.

This film has some great set design, good acting by some people I’ve never seen before, and excellent pacing.  The soldiers have the whole “we don’t like each other at the start but bond as brothers” concept, and they make it work.  You believe the chemistry that grows between them as the film goes on.  Our main character is Pvt. Boyce, a peaceful and very scared young man who has been thrown into not just war, but now a Lovecraftian nightmare.  As the film goes on, you see the transition where not just the reality of war, but what he is stuck in hardens him.  Then there’s Cpl. Ford, the leader of the crew who is a grizzled veteran, but he doesn’t appear to just be cold-blooded.  You can see that war has changed him, and there are moments where he does actually be a good leader.  Finally, there is our young French female lead, who ends up helping the Americans because she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Since this is a zombie movie, gotta talk about the creature effects.  The lab in this game is something straight out of a B-grade horror movie, but because this film just takes everything about the concept so seriously, it has this creepy charm.  What’s inside, however, is anything but charming.  There are some real monsters in there, but the film is genuinely smart about how they do it.  Pacing in this film is excellent, and the scene where Boyce is stealthily trying to escape after ending up there has some really great usage of audio and silence to lead in to some freaky shit.  But the film doesn’t hang on it all too long.  It’s not gore-porn.  There are genuinely grotesque things, but the movie has a plot that it doesn’t forget about.

That’s worth mentioning too – the great thing about this movie is that it’s not just a zombie movie.  Throughout the entirety of it, there is the objective of destroying the radio tower, and they have to get it done.  Even as everything is going to shit and the Americans feel they have no way out, the mission has to come first, no matter the cost.  What’s more, the weapons in this movie have that great World War II feel.  The guns here look and sound weighty.  You can see shells flying out.  When their carbine are empty and there’s the beautiful ping, it sounds right.  This film looks and sounds the part of its time period.  Little details like that go a long way for me.  Plus, when people get shot, it’s violent.

Overall, this is a genuinely good movie.  With all the endless crap that gets remade, there are some moments where you actually get to see something cool, and it’s pretty great.  This film had the unfortunate reality of coming out at the same time as the latest in the long, sad history of CG abortions related to Dr. Seuss movies.  It sucks that movies that are so mediocre get to detract from things that are worth people’s time, all because of fucking name recognition.  Oh well.  That’s Hollywood for ya.  Sucking the life out of all the cool shit, one big-budget cash-grab at a time.  But for real, now that it’s out on video, check it out.  Stream it, buy it, whatever you feel, but definitely check it out.  A good movie in two genres, that could have been complete shit.  Kudos.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Control – Official Gameplay Trailer

This year seems to be the year of things flying under my radar, in terms of gaming.  First there is gonna be A Plague Tale: Innocence.  Then I was stoked for another game from the team who made Until Dawn called Man of Medan.  A game that is in the same vein, and the first of an anthology of horror games.  A concept that has been tried in films and failed, but maybe can work in a digital medium.  Both of those games have flown incredibly under the radar.  The former is one I haven’t heard anyone talking about, and that depresses me.  Now another game has made its way into my scope, and it’s one that has a unique look and seems to play in a way all its own.  Just one trailer has gotten me hooked to see more.  It’s called Control.  They just released a gameplay trailer.  Let’s take a look and then talk about it.

We start with what I presume is our protagonist telling us that what we’re about to see is gonna be “weirder than usual.”  Okay.  So I take it that weird is pretty normal in this game’s universe.  We then see a montage of a lot of stuff that I would call weird.  There are people floating in mid-air.  Some very open and ominous areas.  A yellow room with a ton of blood on the floor.  That’s kinda creepy.  There’s a decent amount of atmosphere here.

It seems that the setting for this game is a place called The Oldest House.  There’s a narration in a different trailer by some other character that this place is in New York and it has a ton of history.  Strange things happen here, and the US government has gotten involved.  Uh-oh, I think I see where this is going.

We then see our protagonist wandering some of these weird areas, with no HUD and the only weapon in her arsenal being this weird-looking pistol.  Okay, I’m interested.  The game tells us that if we want to survive in this strange place, we have to be strange too.  There are some freaky looking enemies, and it then tells us we have to right.  Rock on!  Let’s see fighting.  From there is one of the things that got me hooked.  We see our girl running down a corridor, and then it cuts to her just deciding to start flying into the air.  That’s awesome!  Is levitation just something we can do?!  Please tell me yes.  Every kid dreams of having the power of flight, so playing as a character who can just do that on the fly sounds pretty great.

There’s also her using that power along with telekinesis.  Alright, so we have super-powers.  Super-powers mixed with gunplay.  I am totally down with that.  Some bits of her shooting, and then we see her throwing a ball of fire.  So is pyrokinesis one of the tricks in our arsenal too?  That sounds fun.  Are we able to mix and match powers, or do we have a power arsenal that just grows over time.  I also saw our weird gun shooting what appeared to be electric bullets.  Does that mean there’s weapon customization too?  This game is growing on me.

More abilities, like somehow being able to stop a character from moving with the power of our mind.  That’s pretty awesome.  Or there’s our girl being able to pick up debris and use that as a shield.  I also think that’s rad as fuck.  I couldn’t help but notice there how the destruction of her would-be shield is pretty meticulous.  This game looks pretty damn amazing, graphically.  She can also dive-bomb an area with her levitation power.  Pretty cool.  Then there’s her picking up random things and showing how that power works, along with the destructability of the environments.  Loving this game more and more.

It seems that the weird gun we have is customizable.  I love that.  I guess that instead of getting other weapons, we can simply turn this gun into whatever we want.  From the research I did, you can do this with some kind of looting mechanic as well.  Alright, game.  I’m interested.

Finally, we get a montage of the various parts of The Oldest House.  Place looks pretty damn trippy.  I love a world that has visual flare.  Can’t wait to do some exploring.  We then see some kind of strange, enormous creature.  So this game also has trippy boss fights.  Down with that as well!  The trailer concludes with one of the strangest yet still interesting things – our character using her telekinesis on a film projector and smashing it into a wall filled with journals.  They crash to the floor and you can see and hear the details.  It really looks and sounds like a ton of journals are crashing to the floor.  This game is marketing on this aspect hard, and I have no problems with that.  Destructable environments is a lost art in gaming, as of late.

This game has captured my attention, and I am gonna be seeing what it is come August 27th.  Yet-another game this year that came out of nowhere, and got my attention immediately.  Hopefully it isn’t like Remedy’s last game.  We all know how that turned out.

Initial Verdict
You have my attention, game

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Borderlands 3 Official Reveal Trailer

I’ve only just discovered the Borderlands franchise a couple months ago with The Handsome Collection.  It featured the best game in the franchise, Borderlands 2.  That game is just awesome.  My favorite character to play as is Gaige.  Her death robot was so OP.  At first it’s just a good diversion, but once it’s leveled up enough, between it and me, we mopped the floor pretty hard with all the enemies we came into contact with.  Even ones higher leveled wasn’t that big a threat.  With all the fun DLC included and New Game Plus for even better loot, it just got better and better.  With hints of a new game coming, everyone had been chomping at the bits for something concrete.  It’s finally dropped.  A sequel is coming, and now we’ve gotten our first look.  Let’s see the trailer, then we can talk about it.

Oh boy.  I cannot express how excited I am.  This trailer felt Borderlands as fuck!  It had that signature sass that the best game in the franchise is known for.  We start out with the perfect hook – the psycho mask.  Get us all in the mood.  Then it switches over to a ominous thing – a sign for what appears to be a cult – the Children of the Vault.  Oh dear.  Then we see some nameless baddies looking ominous.  Finally, we get our girl who was leading the Crimson Raiders at the end of the previous game, Lilith.  Great way to start.  Got me hooked!

We cut to what I’m going to assume are our four main vault hunters of the game.  Okay.  this crew looks pretty ominous.  Was kinda hoping we could pick up where we left off.  I was REALLY hoping to see Gaige come back.  She was my favorite character from the last game, and I wanted to see what kind of trouble we could get her and Deathtrap into now.  Not to mention Zer0.  Where’s he?  Still, gonna give this crew a chance.  Let’s see what they got.

Now we see that the trailer is really about to get started.  We got a guitar, some crazy imagery, and people with guns.  Shit’s about to get real!  There’s a montage of our hunters being badasses.  It seems the new Siren of the game can summon six energy arms to help her in battle.  That’s pretty cool.  The vehicle combat is back.  That was probably the least interesting element of the previous game, but it seems they have upped their effort here, with floating cars and all sorts of crazy weapons.  Okay.  You got my attention.

A screen tells us we can become a vault hunter.  Alright!  Please, do tell me how this works.  In the montage that follows, I notice that our girl Maya is back.  That’s pretty rad!  I liked her in the last game.  She was the first character I played through it as.  So at least she hasn’t been abandoned by the franchise.  REALLY hoping Gaige and Zer0 haven’t been either.  Seems one of our characters is either a robot himself or has a head like a robot.  That looks cool too.  Seems the Commando class of this game is a blonde dude with robots doing his dirty work.  It would be cool if they are expanding on the turret concept of Axton.  That was lacking in a lot of ways.

The title screen tells us to explore the “worlds.”  This means we have more than one?!  Oh baby!  That makes my mouth water.  Among the montage of places, we see a REALLY cool cyberpunk kinda world.  Then there’s a jungle sorta place that brings back bad memories of Sir Hammerlock’s DLC in the last game.  That was the worst of the ones in that game.  And probably my favorite moment of such wonderfully sassy humor – a sign for Ellie’s Scrap, but with how the S is hanging off, it looks like Ellie’s Crap.  I love it!  Puts a smile on my face.  A sign that this game isn’t forgetting about the roots where it came from.  I’m so glad to hear that.

We then get introduced to the villains.  It’s the same duo from earlier.  And at least one of them is a Siren.  But wait, I thought only chicks could be Sirens.  The mythos of this game is deepening.  I can dig it.  Granted, I don’t know if any sequel can capture the absolute majesty that is Handsome Jack and the utter hate-ability of him.  You just loved to hate that guy.  He was such an asshole, but you loved him all the same.  Part of me hopes this game doesn’t try, and just does its own thing.  I think that would be better.  There are also fire-breathing dinosaurs, giant mech robots, oh, and a Brick Sax Solo.  I love this trailer.

And Tiny Tina is back!  She was my favorite character in the last game.  I was dead-certain that she was voiced by Lori Petty, but it seems I was dead-wrong.  She’s voiced by Ashly Burch.  A woman whose talent is becoming more and more known to me as time goes on.  My opinions about her views outside of her work aside, she has some real talent and I am DESPERATELY hoping they keep the obscene but lovable nature of her character in this one.  It makes me happy that she’s back.  There’s also Mordecai, who I’m glad to see as well.  He seemed like a cool bro.  We also have Sir Hammerlock and Claptrap.  Glad to see their faces as well.

Finally, this game decided to sell its most touted feature in one of the best bits of marketing that keeps with the tone of this franchise – Over 1 billion guns!  What a way to tell everyone that loot is making a massive splash.  We have guns with legs.  If what I’m seeing is correct, maybe we can even get mech suits?  A guy can hope.  They know to have a big finish of damage and carnage.  Glad to see Claptrap didn’t let his dreams of being a dancer die.

The next question is – when is it coming out?!  Thankfully, it doesn’t look like we’ll have to wait long to find out.  They say at the end of the trailer that on April 3rd, we will get more info.  Until then, I’m hyped.  One thing that people are worried about is if this game is gonna embrace the “live services” mentality that has infected far too much of the gaming sphere.  That’s legit.  Randy Pitchford even made a joke about this game not having a “battle royale” mode or anything like that.  Makes me unbelievably happy.  If this game goes the live services route, I’m gonna be pissed.  Not even kidding.  We’ll see.

Initial Verdict
I want my LOOT!

Peace out,

Maverick

The Martian and the Desperate Hope For Smart Science Fiction

Have I told any of you how much I love The Martian?  It’s a fantastic movie.  Every performance in there is utterly perfect in every conceivable way.  It’s incredibly well shot.  The CG is incredible, the set designs are used perfectly.  I love this film so much.  But another thing I like about it is the fact that it is smart science fiction.  A horrifically lost art that hurts me inside to see what it’s become.  When I look at the big-budget Hollywood movies in the genre now, it’s typically either mediocre movies like J.J. Abrams remake of Star Trek and the abysmal sequel.  Or it’s absolute trash like the new Star Wars films.  But hope may be out there.  It’s small, but it’s there.  Let’s talk about smart science fiction.

Plenty of movies have stupid science fiction.  Like the aforementioned Star Trek remake, where Spock has this black hole machine that doesn’t work like an actual black hole does.  Or you get shit like any of the science fiction films of the 90’s and early 2000’s.  All of the alien invasion movies are the ones that rub me raw the most.  I mean, really?  Why is alien life always defeated by the lamest shit?

But in the last few years, always flying under the radar, are some really fantastic examples of science fiction.  Naturally, pretty much all of them fall into the category of great movies that nobody saw.  Just in the last couple years there have been some incredible examples.  First, we have the movie that this post ostensibly is talking about, The Martian.  Based off of an equally-great book (one of the few movies that stacks up to the book it’s based on), it tells the story of an astronaut stranded on Mars and his mission to stay alive.  Listening to Damon’s character talk about the science involved makes me think of one of my favorite authors.

Next, we have my favorite film of 2016, Arrival.  In that movie, aliens come to Earth and the first people who can actually communicate with them is a language expert and a mathematician.  The process of deciphering the alien language and then being able to communicate with them on our own terms is pretty amazing.  Plus, Amy Adams is phenomenal in the performance.  She speaks like someone who knows her shit, as opposed to someone who is just acting like it.  I have the same opinion of Damon in The Martian.

Last year, we got to see the most recent – Annihilation.  That film struck such a chord with me.  You ever notice in movies that pretty much all aliens, they seem to be easily understood to humanity.  Star Trek was this way, of course.  But in this film, the aliens are something unknowable.  Telling the story of a woman whose husband is military and was deployed to an unknown location, he comes back as something else.  Now, she is on a mission to figure out what happened.  It’s one of the most intense and dark science fiction films I have ever seen, but it works.  There is also one of the scariest horror film sequences of all time that still haunts me.

With more and more of what’s made being creatively-bankrupt dreck, such as the endless sequels, reboots, superhero films, and other mindless nonsense, the future for science fiction may be bleak.  But there is hope.  Several films that have really showed off the medium have been made over the last few years.  It may not be too late to save this genre from utter obliteration.  Or maybe it’s too late for Hollywood.  I see that Disney has bought 20th Century Fox.  Another studio whose good ideas they can take and drive into the ground.  I fear for film as a medium.  I fear for a lot of creative endeavors.  But films like these give me hope for at least one medium.  We’ll see what happens next.

Until next time, a quote,

“In the face of overwhelming odds, I’m left with only one option. I’m gonna have to science the shit out of this.” – Mark Watney, The Martian

Peace out,

Maverick

Saying Goodbye to Her

All I could do is stare at her.  That perfect face that I remember so well.  The long, flowing brown hair.  Still wanted to play with it.  Run my hands through it.  In those cute PJ’s with the flannel pattern.
“You’re finally up!” she said.
All I could do was stare.
“Never thought the day would come when my wife wouldn’t have any words for me.”
My mind was struggling to make sense of it.
“You’re here!” I finally managed to get out.
Her smile deepened.  “Yup.  I’m right here.”
“But, why?  How?  I don’t understand…”  The rational part of my brain was struggling to make sense of it, but couldn’t.  Like a piece of a puzzle that I was missing.  It bothered me just as much as that would.
The smile was fading.  “Aren’t you happy to see me?”
How she said that tore at my heart-strings.  Started shaking.  Tears welling up.
“Of course I’m happy to see you!  All I’ve wanted for what feels like an eternity is to see you.”
In a flash she was standing in front of me, pulling me into her arms.  Even with the height difference between us, never have I felt smaller.
“Quinn, I’ve wanted to see you too.  I’ve missed you so much.”
“I’ve missed you too.  Every day without you, I felt like I was there a little less than the day before.”
“I know.  And it’s been breaking my heart to see you this way.”
I pulled back, looking into her eyes.  Now she looked like tears were eating at her.
“Why?”
“I don’t want you to be unhappy, Quinn!  Why would I want that?!  I love you!  Just because I can’t be with you anymore doesn’t mean I want you to be unhappy!  Do you really think I’m that kind of person?!”  The insistence there.  It wasn’t accusatory.  It was begging.  Trying to reach that deep part inside.
“I…I thought you would have blamed me.  It’s my fault you died.”
Now she had that look that only a mother can have.  “I made the choice to go on deployment early, Quinn.  Not you.  I have to own that.”
“I would give anything for it to be me and not you.”
She grabbed my arm roughly.  “Don’t you say that!  You hear me?!  Don’t you ever say you’d rather be dead.”  Voice cracking.  “Seeing how much risk you put yourself in, the lengths you have gone to, what you’ve done to yourself, it hurts me so much.  And I couldn’t say anything to you.  Screaming, beating on the glass from this side, but all I could do is see you hurt yourself more and more.”
Tears were openly flowing down my face now.
“But then you found this new person in your life.  That sweet kid who looks up to you like a big sister.”
I chuckled.  Laughter while crying.  Looked like a mess, I’m sure.  “I’m old enough to be her mom.”
“Well, she hasn’t treated you like one yet.  And she’s been good for you.  Seeing how far you’ve come, it made me think that maybe you’d be okay.”
Even more tears.  Red faced, just a big blubbering kid.  This was not a dignified look.
“I tried to make it work, Jean.  I really did.  But it all fell apart.”
“You haven’t lost your friend yet.”
“But if I’m here, and we’re talking, that means I’m dead.  So I have lost her.”
She shook her head.  “You’re dead, but not permanently.”
Immediately I looked up, scared to death.  “No!  Please, don’t tell me I have to leave!”
A sullen expression.  “Yeah, you do.  You’ve lost a lot of blood, but you’re not dead yet.”
“I can’t do this alone!  I don’t want to leave you!”
A moment passed between us.
“We have some time, sweetie.”
“How long?!”  I couldn’t do losing her again.
“At least the rest of today.  Like I said, you lost a lot of blood.  We can talk, eat, whatever you want.  Okay?”
Nodding like a little kid who had to accept a bad situation.  “Okay…”
“So, what do you wanna do?”
Looking at my face in the reflection of my oven door, I giggled.  “Well, for starters, clean myself up a bit.  I look like shit.”
“Yeah, you do.  So, a shower?”  That little hint of hopefulness in her voice.
Now I was smiling.  “I’d like that.”

Watching her put her hair up in a towel.  My hair had gotten a bit longer.  Enough that now it was rubbing on my neck, but not long enough that I couldn’t just air dry it.  That had been so magical.  The longest shower I’ve ever taken, but whatever.  Worth every second.  Now I was just laying on the bed, staring at her putting her hair in a towel and then looking back at me.
“What?”
“Nothing.  Just admiring the view.”
She winked at me.  “It gets better.”
“Oh really?”
Getting on top of me, rubbing her nose against mine.  “I’ve missed this so much.  Even if it’s just for a little while, having you like this is so perfect.”
Looked away.  “Don’t talk about it ending.”
“Sorry, love.” She leaned in closer, the tenderness of her lips was breathing life back into me.  A pause.  “But you know what else I’ve missed?”
“Hm?”
“Your cooking!  You have to make me something amazing!  You got this amazing kitchen in this rad as fuck house.  Show me what you can do, wonder woman!”
Now we were talking!  Kissing her, I then pushed her off and got up.  Best to get dressed.  DIdn’t want to be making something that could potentially spill on me with next to nothing protecting the skin.
As I took off the towel and got into my dresser, now I could see her staring.
Seeing me give her a look, she shrugged.  “Just admiring the view myself.”

The rest of the morning was the two of us in my kitchen.  She sat at the stool by the counter, while I was all over the place.  My first big idea was something from my Midwestern heritage – fried cheese curds.  So unhealthy, but dammit, it was delicious!  Another Midwest dish that I made up for dessert was cream puffs.  Used to have these at the state fair when I was little.  Never got around to making them for us.  But now I was making up for lost time.  She helped me prep them.  Could hear her stomach growling to consume from where I was.
Put the puffs in the fridge, and we eat fried curds on the veranda.  Sat at the table, eating from a large plate I piled them onto.  White cheddar was my base for these things.  So fucking tasty!  The two of us talked about old stories.  The party after the ceremony of my wedding.  How drunk Rodriguez got, throwing up in the coat room.  Our days on deployment back when she was still one of my COs.  That was so damn long ago.  Not half a life-time, but closer to it than I’d like.  That time when Bethke had to make a stink with LT to cover us when Jean had stayed in me and Rodriguez’s quarters.  We really were family.  Or when I came home from a deployment of several months and the pupper and kitty damn-near attacked me with love.  Then me having to go over the uniform for an hour to get all the hair off.  So many good memories.
Finally, we got to the cream puffs.  Holy fuck!  I always knew that my cooking skills were boss as fuck, but damn!  Never did I think that I would be this good in a pinch.  Sudden inspiration was a powerful thing.  Saw some cream on the edge of my wife’s lip, so I licked it off.  This led to some kissing.  No complaints.  Felt so good.

After eating, we decided to digest on the lawn.  The sun was out and the wind was blowing.  Time to be women and get a tan while enjoying each other’s company.  Was no noise of the neighbors, so we spread a blanket, got naked, and took in the rays.  A growing part of me was desperately wishing this day never had to end.  You ever have someone who you can just be quiet with and it’s alright?  Feeling their love right next to you, and that’s all you need.  That’s how this was.  No words, just soft emotions and closeness.  This led that same part of me to think about how this could all be a dream.  I mean, the afterlife is just a myth, right?  Everything in your body is connected to your sensations.  So none of this is real, right?  Whatever.
“Does it feel real?” she asked.
Weird!  Like she’s in my head.  “What?”
“What we’re sharing right now.  Does it feel real?”
“More than anything ever has before!”
“Then it is.  Maybe the conscious mind doesn’t get it, but if you feel it, then there it is.”
How did I get so lucky with this woman?
Snuggled in closer, pulling her into my arms.  Tanning was about to go to a much more fun place.

Hours went by.  Went back inside, snuggled up and took in the view of the ocean.  Hours on the clock flew by and before I knew it, I was making dinner.  Old fashioned Jambalaya.  So damn tasty.  We saw in front of the TV watching a forgotten hilarious comedy called Top Secret and laughed until we cried.  How this movie, made by the same guys who made Airplane was forgotten baffled me.
Then I saw the clock.  It was getting late.  Really, really late.  No!  Why?!
“I’m not leaving,” I told her.
She gave me a sad look.  “You can’t stay, Quinn.  Your body is recovering.”
“I’ll find a way to stay here.  I can’t go back.  What’s waiting for me out there?  The empty bed.  The lonely fridge.  The work that’s killing me inside.  I can’t go back to that.”
“What about the friend you made?  Her dad?  They’re family to you now, right?  And our puppy and cat.  You gonna leave them to fend for themselves?  I don’t think you can be that cruel.  I know you better than that.”
Tears again.  Dammit!  “I can’t do this, Jean!  I leave you now, and it’s forever.  I can’t lose you again!”
She put her hand on my face.  “Baby, you aren’t losing me.  Not forever.  A whole bunch of years down the line, when you’ve lived a full life, and I’m gonna be right here, waiting for you.”
Bawling.  “So what, I just say goodbye?!  Like ‘see ya, honey!’?  Like I’m going on some long-ass deployment?!”
“Not in so many words.”  A deep breath.  “When I was on that ship, and we had taken damage.  When we were sinking and there was no way out, the thing that hurt me more than anything was the fact that I’d never get to say goodbye to you.  But I’m here, now.  I have you here.  I want to be able to say goodbye and know that you’re gonna be okay.  You know?”
No words.  Just incomprehensible noise amidst crying.  Finally, words came.  “I do this, then what?  Find some other person?  Forget about you?”
A stern look.  “You really believe you’re gonna forget about me?”
“I never could.”
“Then there you go.  But yeah, you move forward.  Maybe you don’t start dating, but you at least start living.  Spending time with your new family.  Looking after my family.  Taking care of the fur babies.  Seeing some fun places.  Your new little sister will need a guide if she ever gets into the Navy to be a pilot, you know?”  She took my hands in hers.  “It’s not saying you’re gonna forget about me.  It’s saying you’re gonna move forward and have a life.  A full life.  Then, when it’s done, and we meet again, you can tell me all about it.  I love your stories.”
I looked right into her eyes.  “You promise, you’ll be here waiting for me?”
“I promise.  I love you, Quinn.”
“I love you too, Jean.  With all my heart.”
We hugged tightly.  Never wanted to let her go.
“Let’s get to bed.  I wanna go to sleep in your arms again.  At least give me that.”
“Aye-aye.”
“There’s my woman!”
Smiled at her.  The perfect wife.

Soft skin, in my arms.  Felt consciousness drifting away.  Sleep was coming in.  Couldn’t help it.  She’s so warm and soft.  Running my fingers through her hair.  Would play with it for hours, if I could.  Then sleep came upon me.
“Goodbye, Jean.”
“See you later, Quinn.”

The sound of beeping.  My eyes opened.  For the first time, in what felt like a million fucking years, my eyes were opening.  There, sitting in a chair, was John.
“Hi.”

Until next time, a quote,

“Don’t forget about me.” – Chloe Price, Life is Strange

Peace out,

Maverick

Critical Examination: Games With Good Characters

I’ve recently been playing Borderlands 2 for the first time on my PS4.  I got the Handsome Collection, but in those there is only one that I really love.  The one I’ve been playing.  The Pre-Sequel isn’t bad, but it just doesn’t hit the same high notes that 2 does.  And holy fuck, this game is addicting!  Sniffing through hordes of loot to see what stuff is worth my time, facing down a villain who is so fun to hate, and all the stuff there is to do with both the main campaign and all the DLC that’s downloaded, it’s a ton of stuff, and I love it to death.  But the thing that really keeps me wanting to play are the characters.

One thing I’ve talked about is that the reason I game is for stories.  But it isn’t so much the stories themselves that keep me coming back.  It’s the characters in those stories.  Some of my favorite narratives are plot-driven, and some are character-driven.  The ones that really stuck with me are character driven.  It’s why the end of Mass Effect 3 pisses me off so much.  I was hoping for something like the Suicide Mission from Mass Effect 2, except bigger.  In the end I wanted for me to get to high-five my team after saving the galaxy.  Or if I REALLY fucked things up (which wouldn’t have happened because I’m awesome like that), to get to see the ultimate failure that I represent.  To get to have the ending to the best DLC in the series, Citadel, except more personal.  To have the ultimate conflict in the galaxy ended by my hand.  It almost would have been better if the Citadel DLC would have been after the game.  Like, you save the universe, only to have to face down your clone.  It would have made the humor in the game so much better.

I think back to all the games that I love recently, and why I love them.  I loved Life is Strange, despite the shit-tastic ending (seriously, it was worse than Mass Effect 3.  At least there you get three stupid choices), I still loved it.  I liked the romance I was brewing between Max and Chloe.  I liked Warren who was a pretty okay bro.  In the final episode I didn’t just shrug him off.  While I couldn’t be who he wanted, I still gave him a hug and let him know that I care.  It was touching.  Even at the end, he was doing his best to be a good person.  Not one of the so-called “nice guys.”  A genuinely decent person.

Or I think about my favorite JRPG ever – Persona 5.  The characters in that game are just the best.  I could have been friends with any or all of them.  Mona being such a superior asshole, Ryuji being a complete bro in the high school sense of the word.  Futaba being a nerdy bookworm.  Makoto being the mom of the group.  Being the silent protagonist, it kinda feels like I’m making friends with that group.  Developing the relationships with the tons of people I come to know and like was the best part.  In the end, having to leave all that behind sucks.

In all the games that I really love, the things that keep me coming back are the characters who I come to know.  Maybe it’s because of how socially awkward I am, and the fact that I’m not good at making new friends.  But they enrich narratives.  I wouldn’t have cared about saving geth if Legion wasn’t one of my crew and it gave some closure to old prejudices with Tali.  I wouldn’t have cared about avenging Roland if I didn’t see the reaction Mordecai had, along with the fact that Jack was such a prick and needed to die.  I wouldn’t have felt the need to bond with all my Confidants if each of them didn’t give me some fascinating and touching relationships that I feel I can always come back to.

Let’s look at it from another angle.  I’m in a minority when I say that I totally understand why Joel sold humanity up the river in The Last of Us.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Why?  Because of how much I come to know and understand the character of Joel.  There’s a reason why you see his daughter die in his arms at the beginning of the game.  It sets up the effect that had on him and slowly unraveling the person that he let himself become.  He saw how humanity decayed and why it wasn’t worth saving.  But then he meets this one person, this one little life, and the humanity he threw away starts coming back.

Then Joel realizes that to save humanity, this one person who is his link to the human condition, has to die.  I understand why he was willing to go as far as he did to save her.  The last part of him realized that humanity wasn’t worth saving.  It was over for us anyway.  But she was.  This one life was worth saving.  So many pretentious game critics were all “he felt as a man he had to protect her.”  Bull-shit!  Listen to the words he says to her as he’s carrying her out.  They are beat-for-beat what he said to his daughter as he was carrying her.  She’s become a surrogate daughter for him, and he’s a surrogate father to her.  It’s why the words we never heard at the restaurant are so important.  Whatever words passed between them was enough to open his heart, and have her ready to die at the end.

Good characters made better narratives.  It’s just a fact.  As it is in video games, it is in movies, books, TV shows, anime, whatever the medium of stories I take in.  Jack’s struggle in Prey is made all the more poignant because he knows the stakes and knows that he has to protect his children.  If he fails, they die.  Or worse.  Spike getting personal closure by confronting Vicious one last time, knowing he is probably going to die, is what makes his last conversation with Fey so powerful in Cowboy Bebop.

When I look at the gameplay footage of Cyberpunk 2077, I see that this game has the chance to not only have the same shooting mechanics of the Borderlands games, but also have some fun characters.  Jackie is such a bro.  Feels like a big brother to V.  The ripper-doc was pretty great too.  I know that CD Projekt Red knows their stuff, but for me it will all comes down to the characters.  Thus far, I am beyond hopeful.  The world of that game has so much personality, and I genuinely want to see more of it and get to know all the players in it.  Hopefully I can build all kinds of relationships of my own.

So as I see that Borderlands 3 is on the cusp of being announced, I think to myself – they better have some damn cool characters and be about more than just all the loot.  Though the loot is cool.  And for Groj sake, DON’T be some SJW-tastic game.  Be the edgy comedic romp Borderlands 2 is.  That game was able to poke fun at both sides without coming off as preachy.  Please let us do that again.  Wouldn’t mind getting to have Zer0, Maya, and Gaige out again.  Or Axton.  That guy is fun, in his own way.  Oh, and please keep the “games as a service” mantra out and just give us a good story with all the loot inside as well.

Who are the characters in games that stick with all of you?  Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“Part of why I started the lab is because I could never invent new friends.” – Okabe, Steins;Gate

Peace out,

Maverick