Rise

If you fear plot spoilers for The Dark Knight Rises, and yes there is quite a plot to spoil, begone.

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Life Story? Meh

"He is NOT Judge Judy and Executioner!" -Nick Frost

“He is NOT Judge Judy and Executioner!” -Nick Frost

Are origin stories necessary?

A number of critics have been asking this question after the recent movie, The Amazing Spider-Man. I absolutely appreciate how much different this origin story was from the last. But there were still the tedious elements they felt they had to addressed. 

I’m going to skip the long debate and reach for the nuclear device. Episodes I thru III of the Star Wars trilogy. It’s true. Pretty much the first three movies revolve around the origin of the Empire (which was interesting) and the origin of Darth Vader. And while the third movie was a bit redemptive, it was still not a pleasing experience.

Origin stories often followed a similar pattern: A tragic incident, usually involving one’s parents, “drives the hero to good”. It’s been done with Spider-Man, Daredevil, a bit of it was touched upon in Hulk. As much as I love his work, it was reused in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins.

It’s also kind of why the origin of Iron Man was so mentionable different than most. Forget the cliched “reason for being a super hero”, Stark had his reason when someone stuck a gun in his face and put shrapnel in his heart. When one becomes a victim of their own carelessness, a dawning sense of responsibility can sometimes take over. Both Iron Man movies were more about Stark cleaning up the results, both indirect and not, of his actions.

Why am I bringing this up? Probably because of the upcoming Dredd movie, a reboot of the terrible Judge Dredd from 1995. According to many critics who have already viewed it, the movie is not an origin story. And so far, their reviews have been pretty good. Another example to chew on is The Dark Knight. Not only did we know nothing of the Joker’s origin, but we were likely fed lies.

You mean, you can make a great comicbook movie without addressing where the hero came from? This concept can be explained through a very simple analogy. Imagine if a stranger came up to you and introduced themself with, “Hello! I’m John Smith.”

Chances are, you’ll forget his name in no time.

Now suppose you see the guy do something more interesting before he introduces himself. Say, he stops a mugger from stealing a lady’s purse. Or he does something impossible, like web slinging his way across the city or turning into a giant green monsters. All of a sudden, the whole question of “Who is this guy?” is way more interesting.

Trust me. Strike up a conversation with a stranger, but don’t tell them your name. If you hit it off, then they’ll be way more interested in knowing who you are.

That’s why there’s a strange, lasting appeal about Judge Dredd. In the comics, he never takes his helmet off, maintaining a mystique about him. They broke that rule in 1995 with Stallone and that didn’t work well for them. But my understanding is that they DON’T break that rule with this upcoming movie.

Imagine that! A movie where you never see the hero’s face. Ever. I have to give Karl Urban kudos for his willingness to stay true to the character. I’d also imagine that, if Peter Jackson ever got the green light for the Halo movie, there would have been Hollywood executives pressuring him to have the Master Chief remove his helmet.  

“The hero needs to be sexy!” Some of these guys claim. It’s high time we start asking, “Why? Why do we always need origin stories? Why does the hero have to be sexy?”

And after decades of story writing, comics and development, I’d say time and history are on our side. Maybe it’s time to challenge the status quo a bit. Maybe they don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.

I’ll be seeing The Dark Knight Rises tomorrow… looking incredibly forward to it.

Brink and Writing

Safety cop says wear your kevlar, or I'll pistol whip you for your own good!

Safety cop says wear your kevlar, or I'll pistol whip you for your own good!

So a lightning sale put Brink and all the DLC for it onto my Steam cloud.

I’ve coveted Brink since its release, but held back because I purchased Fallout: New Vegas about the time it became available. Mindful of my budget, I decided to wait. Now it’s mine for less than $7.

Of course, I don’t even know if people still play it. The servers could very well be dead.

For those of you who don’t know, Brink is a game set on the Ark, a futuristic city in the ocean that was made to be totally self sustaining. However, the theory of climate change rings true and the sea levels rises, damaging much of the rest of the world. The Ark soon swells with refugees, overburdening the system. Frustrated and angry with their living conditions, a resistance faction brews within the Ark’s slums. The security forces cannot allow cannot allow this resistance to inflict harm on the public. The rest of the game is about that conflict, told on both sides.

I only played a few moments on a single player challenge before I had to head out. The controls weren’t as intuitive as I thought they’d be. I switched crouching/sliding from the C key to left-shift and am still deciding how I’d like to change a few other buttons. I also want to switch the iron-sights to another key and put melee on the mouse-2.

However, I really like the S.M.A.R.T. system, a feature that makes the environment highly interactive. I spent some time running towards boxes and letting my character parkour his way up. A lot of games just don’t make the environment as useful as this, and when they do it’s only for the sake of cover. Although the game isn’t as amazing as this, here’s a video of some of the action so you can at least see the developer’s vision.

But playing the game is only half the reason I wanted Brink.

In truth, ever since I watched the back story to Brink, I saw huge potential for writing. Despite the relatively small scale of Brink‘s world, what struck me was its very fertile background. The setting is in the future, but there are still a lot of modern urban-cultural roots there, even if they’ve blended somewhat. I look at this and say, “I can make a great story with this.”

As I parsed through the customization options for my character, I noticed something. A guy in a creepy, sack cloth mask like the Scarecrow from Batman Begins probably isn’t fighting for justice and freedom. When a character wears tattoos and face paint of skulls, they’re probably looking for a fight. The so called good guys and bad guys aren’t necessarily all on just one side.

On the outside, the Resistance and Security forces probably look like idealistically driven factions with some semblance of honor to their objectives. But on the inside, there has to be tons of infighting and self-absorbed characters, ranging from gangs and posses who are looking out for their own, conflict-strained family relations perhaps caught on both sides, and psychopaths (on both sides) who really just enjoy hurting people.

History might paint civil wars as romantic struggles between opposing philosophies. Reality reminds us that revolutions are the fruits of unhappy people unimpressed with their government, and with a lot of bad blood to spill. But of course, the victors write history.

Brink is, on many levels, ahead of its time. It maybe speculative sci-fi, but it draws its roots from urban culture and struggle, such as the Occupy Wall Street movement. It’s S.M.A.R.T. system can revolutionize the FPS genre with more work. And there are fertile grounds for more story to develop. I think it would be great to write a comic series or novel about Brink someday.

Someday soon.