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 "Mass Effect 3" (2012), non-gaming thoughts
Yi Lee
Posted: Mar 12 2012, 01:29 PM


Mobian


Group: Members
Posts: 873
Member No.: 71
Joined: 19-October 04



Hello everybody,

I'm not quite sure where to post this one since the topic in question is a video game and not a movie--though within the game, there seems to be about 90-minutes worth of "cinematics" that serve to flesh out the plot. Also of note, I'm not a gamer nor am I science fiction aficionado so I'm certainly not the core audience for such a work yet I am a keen listener of old radio dramas and instrumental music. It is in these two capacities that I approach "Mass Effect 3" (2012.)

I don't have the expertise or general fandom to discuss the game or franchise as either interactive entertainment or as specimens of genre storytelling but what I can say, in my capacity as a fan of immersive audio productions, is that a remarkable voice cast was assembled for this production as was the audio design team--who worked in tandem with the voice actors--to create an rich aural experience that presents a compelling game universe, which is used to explore a surprisingly nuanced dramatic scenario. Like I stated above, I don't game but I did familiarize myself with "Mass Effect 3" over the weekend on various Youtube walkthrough channels (gamers, like movie bloggers--and I'm sure there is a great deal of overlap between the two--love documenting their current viewing/playing.) Moreover, Clint Mansell's(!) evocate theme music is much too good to remain confined to the circle of game fans who will hear it during their various play-throughs (I wouldn't be surprised to hear a movie use it one day as part of its score.) Also, the pre-rendered and in-game graphics look sensational (it's amazing the leap in quality game visuals have undergone since my childhood in the 1980s) but that is of secondary importance to this discussion. Some reference material to pique one's interest:

"Mass Effect 3"
Clint Mansell's game theme: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ndENMzMBhWc
Pre-rendered trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eBktyyaV9LY
Trailer utilizing in game graphics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bG2mdZ23eP8
Voice acting promo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hfvo5ueKJY8&feature=relmfu

"Mass Effect 2"
Pre-rendered trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bIG2dWLHaYU
Voice acting promo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aC3jH7nBzg&feature=fvsr

Mass Effect 3 "literal trailer" that encapsulates my attitude toward mainstream gaming (ha!):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZ2ggklIfSY

Lastly, what's up with all the recent movies featuring powerful mechanical aliens coming to earth and wreaking havoc? Last year there were no less than five movies made within this vein: "Super 8," "Transformers 3," "Skyline," "Battle: Los Angeles," and "The Darkest Hour"--all unseen by this viewer so it's all still relatively fresh to me. "War of the Worlds" (2005) predates the Mass Effect Franchise (2007-present) but since that moment six+ years ago, audiences and gamers seem really keen on watching big machines imperil humanity. Sure, it's epic, apocalyptic, and plays well into CGI's rendering strengths but otherwise than that, anyone here have any idea why death my cyclopean bio-mechanical alien technology (as someone like HP Lovecraft might say) is so much in fashion nowadays?

Anyway, I think "Mass Effect 3" is worth a listen. Although largely dead as an entertainment platform in North America, I wish someone could put this much care into making a serialized radio drama unencumbered by the need to thrill with visual spectacle or to cast actors whose sole asset is telegenic good looks as opposed to, I dunno, actual acting ability (clear enunciation would also be a plus.)
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Yi Lee
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 04:52 AM


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Group: Members
Posts: 873
Member No.: 71
Joined: 19-October 04



Hola everybody,

Even though it's been out for just over a week here in North America, the game's WTF?! ending has generated over 425+ pages worth of responses on a so-called conspiracy ending thread hosted by the game designer's company:

http://social.bioware.com/forum/1/topic/355/index/9727423/1

425+ pages of responses at 25 posts per page in just 4+ days. And that's just the forum for English-language discussion(!)

The short of is this: the ending, which some interpret as a hallucination inside the player's head, seems to be deeply dissatisfying and divisive among various players. Some (cry baby?) gamers are calling foul since the developers didn't give them the rainbows, unicorns, and lollipops ending their hearts desire. Some who have an axe to grind with publisher Electronic Arts and are claiming that a rushed production schedule has lead to an adumbrated conclusion (or that a hasty script leak forced uninspired rewrites.) Realists, using Occam's Razor, contend "Yeah, the ending is weak but you know what, get a life and stop bitchin'! It's whiny jerks like you that ruin gaming for the rest of us." Still another group, in what historian Richard Hofstadter might characterize as the "paranoid style" in American thought, have read a conspiracy ending into the endgame sequence that sort of reminds me a little of the post-"Inception" (2010) chatter following that movie's release.

Like I've noted previously I don't game--I try not to stare at a display more than I absolutely have to--so I'm not some otaku naif who has poured hundreds of dollars and hundreds (thousands?) of hours into this thing. But from my novice eye, the game's concluding segment is seriously rocking a "Last Temptation of Christ" (more so the 1988 film adaptation than the Kazantzakis novel from the 1960s) meets "The Matrix Reloaded" (2003) vibe (where Keanu Reeves comes in contact with the "Architect" AI program and is faced with a grave decision "on the spot" without time to reason through his so-called choice[s].) Comparisons to "Jacob's Ladder" (1990) would also not be unwarranted nor the conversation sequence between Rufus Sewell and Kiefer Sutherland in the final reel of "Dark City" (1998.)

God only knows how subtle the game makers' storytelling ability is and depending on that critical point, "Mass Effect 3" features either A) one of the deftest mental judo flips in the history of video game denouement sequences or B) is such a massive flub (or "epic fail" in today's yoof parlance) that it has incited masses of disgruntled players, deeply invested into the series up until the controversial conclusion, to demand the devs create a new retconned ending post-release because, well, geek focus group power has become just that potent in an age of omni-present social media and always-on net access. As someone who hasn't been "indoctrinated" into gamer group-think and message board flaming, I can't see why the answer can't be both cases A and B combined (ha!). Even if one doesn't game, I think this Mass Effect franchise phenomenon is worth investigating--particularly for the superb voice acting, musical compositions, and sound design on display. And now added to that, perhaps subtlety of storytelling.

This post has been edited by Yi Lee on Mar 14 2012, 04:14 PM
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Chas Lindsay
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 09:11 AM


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Group: Members
Posts: 388
Member No.: 460
Joined: 11-November 04



"Lastly, what's up with all the recent movies featuring powerful mechanical aliens coming to earth and wreaking havoc? Last year there were no less than five movies made within this vein: "Super 8," "Transformers 3," "Skyline," "Battle: Los Angeles," and "The Darkest Hour"--all unseen by this viewer so it's all still relatively fresh to me. "War of the Worlds" (2005) predates the Mass Effect Franchise (2007-present) but since that moment six+ years ago, audiences and gamers seem really keen on watching big machines imperil humanity. Sure, it's epic, apocalyptic, and plays well into CGI's rendering strengths but otherwise than that, anyone here have any idea why death my cyclopean bio-mechanical alien technology (as someone like HP Lovecraft might say) is so much in fashion nowadays?"

Because no religious, national, or ethnic group will feel offended by mechanical aliens being destroyed.
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Yi Lee
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 04:41 PM


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Group: Members
Posts: 873
Member No.: 71
Joined: 19-October 04



QUOTE (Chas Lindsay @ Mar 14 2012, 09:11 AM)
"Lastly, what's up with all the recent movies featuring powerful mechanical aliens coming to earth and wreaking havoc? Last year there were no less than five movies made within this vein: "Super 8," "Transformers 3," "Skyline," "Battle: Los Angeles," and "The Darkest Hour"--all unseen by this viewer so it's all still relatively fresh to me. "War of the Worlds" (2005) predates the Mass Effect Franchise (2007-present) but since that moment six+ years ago, audiences and gamers seem really keen on watching big machines imperil humanity. Sure, it's epic, apocalyptic, and plays well into CGI's rendering strengths but otherwise than that, anyone here have any idea why death my cyclopean bio-mechanical alien technology (as someone like HP Lovecraft might say) is so much in fashion nowadays?"

Because no religious, national, or ethnic group will feel offended by mechanical aliens being destroyed.

Hey Chas (and everybody else),

Good call. The point had never occurred to me. I wonder if this bespeaks of the stifling position identity politics occupies in the collective cultural imagination or whether contemporary audiences simply cannot stomach apocalyptic wartime spectacle that does not present unambiguously delineated sides ("us" vs "not us.")

(To everybody):

Also, could popular audiences ever embrace something like Aeschylus' "The Persians" after "300" (2007)? Who knows. Back to the shiny CGI (near) future where cars fly; all women have evolved totally unrealistic, top-heavy body shapes; the lingua franca of the age is North American English (Dude! Sweet!); the only socially acceptable form of homosexuality is between hot chics; and lastly, alien others speak in pidgin and other assorted topolects. Yay, the winner you [we] are!
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Shawn Garrett
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 05:56 PM


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Group: Members
Posts: 1,329
Member No.: 395
Joined: 6-November 04



Actually, I've got an even easier reason -

Because CGI has advanced to the point where it's essentially pretty easy to do (each movie leaves exploratory CGI models discarded behind them like so many toys, models that can be snapped up by lesser productions - these latter drift down in cost so that SYFY can suddenly afford to crank out Giant Snake movie now that the "Giant Snake" model has been perfected) and pushing the envelope of exploratory CGI is a great way to pad a budget (you know, so that even if the movie's a flop, it's never actually a "flop" for the out-of-pockets, just on the books - because that new and improved CGI snake didn't *really* cost 50 million to design) and giant, rotating, metallic weapons-bearing robots hit all the dumb Hollywood producer's idea of "instant audience" (loud, flashy, look cool appeal to kids, toys can be made from them, and cartoons) and so, hey presto...

I've got an even easier answer -

because TRANSFORMERS made an ass-load of money?

Both seem more likely than the "too PC for the room" theory, but then maybe that's just me... what the hell do I know? Hollywood seems more than willing to burn or insult any group if it means big profits (even potential big profits) - who was the Arabic guy they got for PRINCE OF PERSIA again? Oh, yeah, Jake Gyllenhaal.
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Yi Lee
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 08:47 PM


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Group: Members
Posts: 873
Member No.: 71
Joined: 19-October 04



Hey Shawn (and everybody else),

Thank you for another insightful application of Occam's Razor leading to yet another elegant solution. This too makes a lot of sense.

(To everybody): The amateur tech geek in me, though, is still not completely sure why people are so into death by malevolent extraterrestrial machines. As per being a tech geek, I follow things like Boston Dynamics' Youtube logs and don't recall any widespread revulsion at their real world experimentation. See:

BigDog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=cNZPRsrwumQ
Cheetah: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=83ULlgpT1UQ
Petman: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=mclbVTIYG8E
BigDog weaponized: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=ptyV1cpE14o

Or loopy DARPA research:

Cyborg beetles: http://www.physorg.com/news/2011-08-cyborg...wer-neural.html
Cyborg snails: http://www.nature.com/news/cyborg-snails-power-up-1.10210

Just waiting for somebody one to day proclaim--before it's too late--"Thou shalt not make a machine in the likeness of a human mind" (ha!) I mean, at the rate we're going, the extraterrestrials will find that the terrestrial machines have taken care of us by the time of historic first contact(!)
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Shawn Garrett
Posted: Mar 14 2012, 09:17 PM


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Group: Members
Posts: 1,329
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Joined: 6-November 04



Skynet vs. Colossus vs. Gog vs. W.O.P.R. = who will survive?
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