Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to the Chatroom

Over the past couple of months I have gotten exceedingly bored with all the "mainstream" cinema.

Shiny CGI, 3D, everything in slow motion, erm, I mean, bullet time, prequels and sequels and remakes, fantasy, superheroes, comic book adaptations, Science Fiction (don't get me wrong, I love all these genres), and worst of all: happy endings.

I was craving for something NEW, something DEPRESSING, something REAL!

So I searched the internet for something that would fit my criteria and it turned out, apparently I wasn't the only one who was bored out of their mind by the current cinema trend because all of a sudden, from everywhere, these new, depressing and "real" movies popped up.

I made a small selection based on storyline and actors/directors I already knew and liked (funny enough, a lot of these kind of movies are productions from the United Kingdom, by the way) and gleefully I rubbed my hands as I pressed the "buy" button and was excited like a child at christmas when the parcel from amazon arrived.

Three movies were in the box and three movies I will review, starting with the last one I watched: Chatroom.

First off, many of you will probably be surprised when I mention the director of this stunning piece because even though it is a UK production, the director is a very well known Japanese guy.

Let me just give you a couple of hints: He likes girls with long black hair who hang out in wells, weird things going on with video tapes and rings.

DING DING DING, yes, you got that right! Hideo Nakata, the director of the original Ringu
(why I find it totally ridiculous to call it "ringu" when in fact it is pronounced "ring" in Japanese, too, is a different topic... Just wanted to point that out. Grrr!) and the US remake of the second film, Ring 2, is responsible!

What an interesting surprise! Him being the director was one of the reasons I wanted to watch Chatroom.

Another good reason to watch it is the composer - yet another Japanese guy - the amazing Kenji Kawai, internationally possibly best known for his work on Ghost In The Shell (and again, the Ring movies), but he's generally a popular anime composer anyway, so, if that's your kind of thing, you'll probably know him.

The film is based on a play by the same name written by Irish playwrite Enda Walsh who also wrote the great Disco Pigs, which was turned into a great movie in 2001 and was kind of the stepping stone for Cillian Murphy, and the equally great and intense 2008 film Hunger about the imprisonment and death of IRA member Bobby Sands. Since I love both Disco Pigs and Hunger, him having provided the original idea was another reason I wanted to watch this film.

Now, the actors are - to me - all but one entirely unknown.

We have five main characters, five teenagers: William, Eva, Jim, Mo and Emily, played by Hannah Murray who some people may know as eating disordered Cassie from the first generation of the original UK series Skins.

William is played by Aaron Johnson who played the Character of Kick-Ass in the movie of the same name, but I have to admit, I still haven't seen that. My apologies. Hence, Aaron was previously unknown to me.

Eva is played by Imogen Poots who was in 28 Weeks Later (a sequel I REFUSE to watch, as 28 Days Later was way too amazing to be ruined by sequels) and young Valerie in V for Vendetta, but again, an actress I've never really paid any attention to. In V for Vendetta I was a bit preoccupied with Natalie Portman.

The character of Jim is given extraordinary life to by Matthew Beard who has so far only had roles in TV series but has just completed the movie Hippie Hippie Shake alongsiiiiide: Cillian Murphy! (and so, the circle closes)

And finally, Mo is portrayed by Daniel Kaluuya, also from Skins (since I've only managed to watch 5 episodes of that series yet I haven't seen him on screen so far, I think), and other popular UK tv series such as Psychoville and Doctor Who.

As you can see, a lot of promising young actors.

As much as I love watching movies by "old" actors I already know and love, it is always very exciting for me to watch new, young actors.

The story is set in London with outside shots filmed in North London, mainly in the popular shopping paradise Camden as well as Primrose Hill.

The rest of it takes place inside several "chatrooms", visualised by a long, slightly shabby looking corridor and individual rooms which the characters can create, decorate and secure to their liking, with chairs or beds or anything, really, on which the chatters sit and communicate with one another is if they actually were in an actual room together.

But not only the chatrooms are visualised in such a manner, everything that takes place on the internet, private messaging, online gaming, is shown as an individual room.

Solely by chance (and possibly boredom), five teenagers happen to log in to a chatroom called "Chelsea Teens!", created by one of them, William.
The initial conversation is light hearted and a bit chaotic but already after the first few minutes the five of them decide to meet again and chat on a regular basis.

The chat and general online sequences are interrupted to show the actual surroundings of the teens, sitting at home in their room on their laptops or out shopping, online with their cell phones, which gives a first insight into their individual characters and how they live, quickly making it clear that each of them uses the online world as a means to escape their otherwise troublesome lives in the real world, embracing the possibility to create new personas for themselves and live out different sides of their personality they can not really live out in their real lives.

Before long the audience realises that each of them have their own little "teenage problems" which at first don't seem to be all that serious, e.g. Emily, the smart, well educated, well mannered girl, is dying to break out of her all-too-perfect world with her high-achieving but emotionally distant parents, Mo is in love with his best friend's little sister, and even Jim's shyness and depression doesn't come as much of a surprise anymore in this day and age, but soon - as they say - shit starts to get real.

Over the next few weeks the five of them meet again often, either
all together or for smaller, more private talks, revealing more about their true selves as they start learning more about the others and, ultimately, bringing the worst out in each other, starting with harmless acts of vandalism, like Emily smearing dog poo on her mother's windscreen, to much, much more serious crimes.

What started off as simply helping one another by offering support and by giving advice to improve their idividual situations quickly spirals out of control, affecting the lives of all of them, especially Jim's and William's, who seems to be the most messed up of all of them and who's truly sick mind and malevolent nature leads the story to its tragic end.

Now, obviously I am NOT going to spoil the ending for everybody but let me tell you, it is definitely worth paying the 7 or 8 quid for.

What makes Chatroom and its characters so interesting is that it cleverly shows just how easy it is to manipulate people, especially hiding behind the anonymity of the internet (cyber mobbing, anyone?), the dangers and darker sides of the world wide web, how fragile minds can be and how soon - what started off as harmless fun - can turn into something deadly serious.

Interesting is especially the discrepancy between the written and the spoken word, the intention and the reception - something that has been bothering linguists for ages - the lack of intonation more often than not making it exceedingly difficult to see the true intentions of a "speaker" who writes something on the internet.

There is a scene between William and Jim which shows quite well just why this is a problem.

As the audience, seeing them interact with one another in the room, we can HEAR and SEE the way William - the sender - speaks, but at the same time we know that in reality, on the other side of the computer screen - as the reciever - Jim can only read the words but not hear the tone in which they were spoken, or see the body language of the sender in order to gather further information about the intention, thus understanding Williams words only in the (positive) way he wants to understand them as, but not in the (negative, sarcastic) way William meant them.

Obviously, the lack of face-to-face intimacy in the online communication process acts entirely in William's favour here as Jim's missunderstanding is exactly what he aims for.

Apart from that a couple of rather uncommon topics are dealt with in the movie e.g. Paedophilia in teenagers, (auto-)Agression and self mutilation, hacking/cyber terrorism/internet crime, possibly internet addiction and - majorly - Sensationalism/Voyeurism.

Concluding I would like to say that, apart from the highly interesting story, the cimenatic realisation of this former stage play is fantastic.
When you think about it, the idea of placing any and all online scenarios in actual rooms is most definitely something that Hideo Nakata borrowed from the good ol' stage productions.

Nonetheless, the film comes across as truly unique and intruiging from start to finish.
It definitely had me on the edge of my seat for the whole 90something minutes and if you are looking for something new, unique and visually appealing, click here.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Actually not so bad: Pirates of the Caribbean 4

I liked the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Maybe I watched the second one a bit too many times. I didn't even like it that much, I just happened to watch it an awful lot in cinemas, by chance! The third one was okay.

But when I heard there was going to be another one I really didn't like the idea. Why another one? What's there left to tell? Anything new about Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom? I thought I had definitely seen enough of their roles and their story was tied up neatly, so why have another movie? I largely ignored its whole production until the first trailer surfaced.

Then, I don't know why, but I did feel intrigued by it. Especially since they didn't continue a storyline that they had just neatly tied up into a bow just for the sake of having a sequel. They made up a new story (which, granted, was already hinted at at the end of the last movie). So in the end I went into the cinema with an open mind and thought I might actually enjoy it.

It is an enjoyable little movie, closer to the first one in its sense of a shortish adventure. I'm not sure you could describe it entirely as "carefree" and "light" but it surely weighed lighter than that whole selling your soul to Davey Jones or becoming Captain of the Flying Dutchman and thus being doomed to step onto land only once every 10 years. Dead Man's Chest and especially At World's End had very grave themes, resolutions that were extremely final and consequences that were extremely dire for some of the main characters.

On Strager Tides, even though it has its very serious moments as well, doesn't feel nearly as grave as its two predecessors and instead feels a bit more like the first movie again. One adventure at whose end none of our beloved main characters is really doomed. I think that was the movie's strong point.

Now when it comes to the weak points... I thought some elements were a bit badly worked out. What about this whole zombie issue? I guess they were voodoo cultish zombies but the movie could have made a bit more out of that. That love story with the missionary and the mermaid wasn't very inspiring. But the fact that they had mermaids were cool. I've never seen mermaids like those before and I thought they pulled off that idea well.

So finally, when I saw the credits roll and stayed until the very end so I could catch the little clip that always comes after the credits for these movies, I found myself hoping that they'd make another one. Which is really strange as I was against having a fourth one in the first place. I think Captain Jack Sparrow, Captain Barbossa and Mr. Gibbs have started to become characters that seem like old friends to the audience. Usually you have these kinds of parasocial relationships to characters mainly when it comes to TV series. But since Pirates of the Caribbean have gone on for more than a trilogy now there's a different kind of fondness you develope concerning their stories.

I hope they do make another one. It is great to have a nice pirate story once in a while and that universe seem so rich, they could think up a lot more nice stuff. On Stranger Tides won me over, maybe because I didn't expect too much in the first place and also didn't follow the production and the critical reaction closely. Sometimes this may be the best way to approach movies.

Friday, April 8, 2011

What could have been At the Mountains of Madness

One of the sadder news this year so far was the cancellation of production on Guillermo del Toro's At the Mountains of Madness. Since I am very much a fan of his work on Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth I had been looking forward to this movie quite a bit. It was much more than just a consolation prize for Del Toro not directing The Hobbit anymore and it seems that the project meant a lot to him as well.

However, since we have such amazing things as the internet these days, production hell now no longer means that nobody will ever get to see any of the hard work that has already been done. That way fans might at least get a faint impression of what the movie could have been like.

A thing that bothered me was that Tom Cruise's name seemed to be fastly attached to the project. This may be disconnected from his acting abilities but I prefer to not feed a crazy scientologist if I can avoid it. Thus the project being stuck in production hell also frees me from this moral question.

On the other hand I can't really picture Tom Cruise as Dyer. Especially with Dyer being depicted as a young (25, wasn't he older in the book?) father-to-be, who is seduced into going onto the dangerous expedition even though he knows he should probably have stayed at home with his dear wife, I can't quite put Tom Cruise into this role. There are many younger actors who would be great for the part I'd imagine.

Another thing that might work against the production is its closeness to a well-known movie, which is "The Thing from Another World" (1951) and John Carpenter's "The Thing" (1982). Even moreso because, as far as I can tell, there's a prequel to "The Thing" planned for release in 2011.

The closeness between the two stories those movies are based on has already been pointed out many times before. The "Thing" movies are all based on John W. Campbell Jr.'s novella "Who Goes There?", which was first published in 1938. However, Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" was written in 1931 and published in 1936. Since Campbell was a science fiction fan and also an editor of a science fiction magazine, I think it's very likely that Campbell had read At the Mountains of Madness and took his inspiration from there.

The stories actually don't have so many things in common. The main things being: An expedition to antarctica, the finding of a being from outer space under the ice, the alien being attacking the expedition crew. There, that's about it. But At the Mountains of Madness goes further and puts this whole plot into the context of the Cthulhu mythos and sets the stage for a showdown between Elder Things and Shoggoths. And super creepy six foot tall albino penguins. One must of course keep in mind that the movie would have probably included more monsters than the original plot, which most likely won't sit well with the Lovecraft purists. Especially the mutating and shape-shifting Shoggoths have been expanded upon, which puts this incarnation of At the Mountains of Madness closer to The Thing than the original text.

Since Guillermo del Toro is extremely good at creating creatures for his movies I think he's as close as it gets for a "perfect" choice for this movie. His way of avoiding CGI as much as possible and often relying on prosthetics, masks or even full bodysuits for his actors to squeeze in create timeless movies that are still impressive years later. I have observed this in Lord of the Rings already, where a lot of work was done with miniatures and costumes. These scenes don't age as much as the CGI ones. Del Toro would have done a great unforgettable work and I would very much have liked to see Doug Jones as one of the creepy towering Elder Things.

The next project that del Toro seems to be doing now is a PG-13 monster movie named Pacific Rim. Even though I am happy that he is doing something, this sounds like a bad consolation prize, especially considering that del Toro wanted to cut no corners and make a good R-rated monster movie out of At the Mountains of Madness. I don't think we have had any like these in a while.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Pixar's Up - A bit too conceptual?

For some reason I wasn't exactly sold on the critically acclaimed Pixar movie Up. Yes, you can hardly find more emotionally engaging first 10 or so minutes of movies that function completely without dialogue. And I think the first ten minutes of Up in which we get to know Mr. Fredericksen's whole life story are maybe on their own worth all the praise that this movie is getting.

However, when the movie progressed I couldn't help but feel like everything was just a little bit random. Colourful rare birds? Okay. But talking dogs? Cooking dogs? Dogs flying airplanes? That really felt a bit much. I've waited quite a while to get Up on DVD but when the Limited Edition was released over here just a month ago I thought I'd finally get it and listen to the audio commentary and watch all the bonus features.

I really have to commend Pixar on their efforts to create the wonderful wilderness of South America. They actually went there, went onto these huge stone monoliths to experience it all themselves. And their attention to detail and their inspiration really translates well onto the screen. But we are used to getting that from Pixar, so where did Up go slightly off?

When I watched the audio commentary I heard a lot of "We always wanted to put [this] or [that] into a movie...". I realised above all Up seemed a little bit too conceptual maybe to engage me as much as some of Pixar's other productions. It felt like it was a movie that is certainly based on a great and innovative idea but nevertheless a bit cluttered by things that Pixar had wanted to do for ages and ended up putting it into this movie.

Nevertheless, of course there are great things about Pixar. I find that Russel's character is extremely intriguing. The way his dialogue flows just feels natural and authentic for a kid his age. His family situation, which is only touched upon briefly also seems interesting. While Andy's father was away for all of Toy Story we at least hear about Russel's father existing and Russel missing him. All this gets resolved in Mr. Fredericksen being the one who is there for Russel in the end. And finally, Russel being an Asian-American main character for a kid's movie isn't the least part of why I think he's an awesome choice.

Also having Mr. Fredericksen as a main character for a quite action-laden movie is a nice step against the growing ageism that we have been facing for decades. The resolution of the feeling of loss that Russel and Mr. Fredericksen share when it comes to their family members is resolved beautifully by showing once more that unconventional models of families may be just as functional in providing nurturance for their family members.

Up remains a very innovative and thoughtful movie, even though it's execution might appear cluttered to some people. In the light of recent announcements, being Cars 2 as well as a Monster's Inc prequel I hope that Pixar continues trying to bring forth original scripts. Even though I did enjoy the Toy Story trilogy immensely I feel like the whole film industry has had too many sequels in recent years.

Thus, I also have really high hopes for Brave, Pixar's new movie featuring - finally - a female main character. Don't mess this up, guys.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Anticipation for Sucker Punch as a Popcultural Database Movie

Being swamped with a bit of university work at the end of the semester I (noticably) didn't have much time and muse for writing about movies and videogames on here.

Coincidentally I came across trailers for the new Zack Snyder movie Sucker Punch. Previously I had just seen teaser posters, snippets and stuff like that and couldn't help but scoff a little bit at the character designs. Babydoll? That isn't a person, she is a synthetic comic book character.

But finally watching the trailer it became apparent to me that this was no overworked design, this was not "too much", it was simply an artful expression and reflection of popular culture and the way we consume it today.

Every still frame of the trailer is a panel in a comic book. Every scenario in the movie is a videogame. Instead of products of popular culture being created in the image of real life, it is real life that we translate into scenarios and entries in the popcultural database.

My first action after watching the trailer was doing an amazon search for the comic book that Sucker Punch is based on. But my impression was confirmed in the fact that there is no single source material.

Sucker Punch is synthetically created out of our common database of popcultural elements. The first few moments we watch the trailer we begin to wonder "Is this the film adaption of one of the games that I played but forgot about?" It could very well be. But Sucker Punch is probably even more than that. It consciously references and plays with the age of database consumption that we are in now.

The title "Otaku: Japan's Database Animals" suggests that Azuma Hiroki was dealing with a distinctly Japanese phenomenon when he wrote about the shift in the way of consumption of popular culture that happened in the Otaku world roughly from the early 1990s until today and the underlying theoretical and philosophical reasons for it. But reading his text I found myself coming up with all kinds of details from the western world of popular culture as well that were conform with this theory.

Since the grand narrative of organised religion was declared dysfunctional, cults like Aum Shinrikyo could thrive and gain power. But in that context shouldn't it also be mentioned that it was no coincidence that the founder of Scientology was a science fiction writer? The decline of the grand narrative is of course also apparent in the western world and thus I think that the model of database consumption can be evidenced in western geek culture and Japanese otaku culture alike.

Hence we have movies like Sucker Punch coming out. Sucker Punch is not the first product that is consciously constructed this way. Tarantino has always been a filmmaker that made a lot of references and drew on a catalogue of settings, characters and plots that had in some way been established before and gave them his own twist. But Sucker Punch goes one step further. Sucker Punch does not explicitly reference works like Lady Snowblood, instead it uses the archetype of the girl wearing a Japanese school uniform. A girl wearing a Japanese school uniform and wielding a Katana.

So essentially archetypes, settings, plot structures and all these things have become entries in the popcultural database. While some creators tell stories in the supposedly traditional way, more and more creators become conscious of the popcultural database and start using the elements consciously and without shame. When copy and original have the same value there is no shame in being a "copycat".

I am very much looking forward to the movie and while I think it might be a little bit silly in itself its construction is extremely interesting and might even change the way people look at movies just a tiny bit.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Looking Back at The Fellowship of the Ring

Can you even believe it? This year The Fellowship of the Ring will be ten years old! Ten years always seem to be a milestone for a movie. And me, being now somewhere between young and old, I don't have a whole lot of movies that I have consumed in a really aware way that are now ten years old. I remember that it blew my mind a little when I realised a while ago that The Matrix is now twelve years old. Little by little our beloved movies become movie-legends. And looking back at The Fellowship of the Ring one can definitely say that this movie has become a legend among movies!

It was only last week that I finally got the Special Extended Edition of The Fellowship of the Ring on DVD. I had never seen it before but since I have become a real fan of audio commentaries and Behind the Scenes features, I thought a big 4 DVD bundle was just the thing I needed. Watching the bonus stuff really is amazing. The Behind the Scenes features of The Fellowship of the Ring give you EVERYTHING! For example I really enjoyed the feature about the costumes since they actually showed you everything, every layer, every detail of the outfits! That's the kind of stuff that a costumer wants to see and they are just handing it to you on a silver platter. The bonus features of the DVD are really made for fans. They know what fans want and they are giving us exactly that.

But another thing was conveyed in a great way in the bonus features of the DVD and that is the large scale of the project of Lord of the Rings. Nowadays, having been in the position of organising something, and the large amount of planning and paperwork behind virtually anything, I can really appreciate the effort that everyone involved put into this. It almost seems to me like a miracle that a huge project like that ever came into being. How many Hobbit ears and Hobbit feet were made, how many weapons and pieces of armour had to be crafted, how many miniatures were made, how many locations had to be prepared and then all the paperwork behind everything involved. When people think about Behind the Scenes features, they mainly think about the actors but I really appreciate that those bonus features show you a lot of the people who really work behind the scenes to bring a great project to life. And another thing that remains unbelievable to me to this day is the fact that a studio had enough faith in Peter Jackson to direct these three movies and make everything work out. This is why we don't get a masterpiece like the The Lord of the Rings trilogy every year or so, because studios tend to be highly distrustful. Many extraordinary projects might be too much of a gamble and thus we have to wade through the same dumb and annoying action/comedy/thriller movies every year, which will never become anything great but are at least trusted to gain back the production and advertising costs again. And then you have people like Shyamalan who gain the trust of a studio and a big budget and turn it into pure shit. You're making everyone look really bad here, Shyamalan!

Watching The Fellowship of the Ring now, ten years later does reveal some of the CGI effects that were used. CGI people in certain longshot scenes are easy to identify or for example the cave troll has lost some of its greatness. But considering the fact that this has been ten years, they still hold up amazingly. If you compare it to the CGI of for example Narnia today, it's masterfully done. Furthermore, The Fellowship of the Ring did really great in trying their best to only rely on CGI when it was necessary. The miniatures that they built and filmed still show up beautifully in the movie and shine as a light of quality. The false perspective shots were a great and timeless idea and naturally they still work perfectly in the movie today. And of course one has to respect all the marvellous work that was done with prosthetics and costumes. Those won't age over time, unlike maybe a Davey Jones that was completely created in CGI.

This is also something that still makes me wonder about my own perception as a viewer. When we first see these movies, we think their CGI effects are great! Same goes for games. I remember how Morrowind was a really beautiful looking game, or hell, Final Fantasy VII had the best graphics of its time. How does our perception change little by little so that we can make out the fakeness of the effects when we haven't been able to make it out before? It's still a bit of a mystery to me but due to that fact I think most movies do best not using excessive amounts of CGI.

The Fellowship of the Ring probably still remains my favourite from the trilogy until this day. It might be silly, but I prefer its largely warm beautiful colours to the bleak greys of the next two movies. I also prefer its little journey of adventure to the big battles that were fought in the last two movies. Of course those movies are good too, but for some reason I just like to rewatch the first movie the most. It seems that this is a sentiment shared by a lot of people. And having now finally watched the extended edition of it as well I can say that it really is better than the cinema version. It's sad that four hour movies are pretty much unmarketable but it's great that all the missing material is made available to us through DVD.

Even ten years down the road, The Fellowship of the Ring remains a really good movie. Rewatching it gives one a feeling of anticipation for The Hobbit movie(s) which will start filming next month!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Bulletstorm - Balm for the Wounded Hypermasculine Egos Out There or Just a Fun Game?

This entry will not contain any pictures. Most of you will know what it looks like anyway and I can't be arsed to dig through websites and trailers to grab pictures.

The first trailer of Bulletstorm that I was shown was the one where you blow the guy's asshole out. I felt a very strange sensation. Normally I absolutely relish in defending videogame designers' and developers' rights to practice their art and design whichever game they want to design. Every time an election draws near (and might it be just a small one) it is my favourite Saturday morning passtime to go up to the info stands of local politicians and start a little bit of hell there. Many of you may not know it but together with Australia Germany has the strictest standards when it comes to videogame violence in the whole world (at least out of the "democratic countries", I don't know if videogames are being censored in China, Afghanistan or the like). Even a lot of games that can only be sold to adults in the first place are only available in a censored version in Germany. I just don't think that is right (why the hell censor Portal??) but more on that later.

So with my mindset that you should never try to restrict the recreational media that any adult in any country would like to access in their freetime, I was suddenly faced with a very strange sensation when I witnessed the first trailer. I didn't like it at all. Something about the sexualised violence made me extremely uncomfortable, which did open up a deep conflict within myself. I guess this is what all the conservative people out there feel when they see pretty much any videogame. "I don't like it, I think it is harmful, it should be banned!" However, I'm too smart to come to that conclusion. And in a way it also relieves me a little bit that some form of videogame violence can still make me uncomfortable. That's good, right?

Anyway, I have been thinking about Bulletstorm. Something that I purposely haven't done was checking out the old media coverage of the game, since I know from countless instances in Germany that reports about videogames are routinely chock full of false facts. It is very noticable that the journalists themselves have apparently never touched the videogame they are talking about and are instead relying on some kind of contorted hearsay. But yeesh, to make it onto Fox News, I think Bulletstorm must have caused a kind of ruckus.

I did read some quotes from the developers of the game, talking about how it was just supposed to be a fun game and that they were in a situation where they could just make any game they wanted to make without much restrictions and this sounds great indeed. The mock-game Duty Calls, which is a parody on all kinds of military shooting games shows that they are really self-aware as videogame developers and that they have a great critical knowledge of the conventions of the genre. There is nothing about these guys that says "dumb" or "violent" to me.

However, what I have seen of the game so far reminds me a lot of one of my very first gaming experiences, which was Duke Nukem 3D. The hypermasculine protagonist that spews witty lines and taunts while killing enemies seems to be largely the same in the two games. Now where does hypermasculinity come from? Hypermasculinity that expresses itself through violence against other people is a sign for two things: 1) neurosis, 2) neurosis because of marginalised masculinity. Marginalised masculinity is what happens when a male gendered person realises that they do not fit the standards for what is in their society regarded as hegemonial masculinity, more often than not being 1) heterosexuality and reproduction, 2) strength to defend oneself and their family and 3) the ability to sustain a family as a breadwinner. It is often observed that male gendered people who do not fit these standards make up for this by making use of a hypermasculine image for themselves, which might in cases depend very much on the use of violence against other, weaker people to demonstrate strength. Now, choosing the protagonist for your new game as that kind of person can indeed be seen as a clever sarcastic element to the game that doesn't take itself seriously anyway.

On the other hand, I do know the gaming community. And this is where I get back to my purposely sensational title for this blog post, because I am trying to make a point here: Whether Bulletstorm is balm for the wounded hypermasculine egos of losers out there or just a fun game for a well-adjusted person is ultimately decided by every individual themselves. In a free society it is common to trust in adults to consume products of popular culture in a critical and aware way and I believe that the majority of people is absolutely capable of that. Thus I see next to no harmful content in Bulletstorm, provided it is consumed by people of legal age. However, I have also seen my fair share of dumb, misogynist and homophobic assholes in the gaming community, who will not consume the game in a critical way but instead enjoy the (sexualised) violence for what it is. "But it's just a gaaaame!" Come on, I always look at all kinds of media from a critical and also a gender viewpoint and it would be stupid to not do it for this game just because it is a videogame.

That does not mean I endorse censorship of games at all. But if I have come to the conclusion that I do not wish for a movie like A Serbian Film to be censored, even if I see no point in it and think the director might have done better by getting a deviantart account to convey his message through "art" instead of subjecting hundreds of unsuspecting festival goers to that, I of course also do not wish for Bulletstorm to be censored. Let's be frank here, that's not my choice at all and it will be censored in Germany anyway (if it even comes out). But that does not mean I have to like the game myself or personally see much of a merit in it. I don't even want to try playing it. Of course, the huge monster in the trailer looked really cool but the moments of violence just weren't my cup of tea. I am glad that games like Bulletstorm exist, so that even the more liberal people amongst ourselves might have to say "I don't like this, I think it might magnify harmful tendencies in some people, but I see no reason why this should be censored at all". We should all at some point be in that position, reviewing our positions and reevaluating our principles.

That still doesn't mean I won't give you the side-eye if you are one of those people who don't question the dimension of violence and the perpetuated gender images in media like this at all and are too dumb or lazy for critical thinking when it comes to their own free-time.