So having rewatched this film and the 2002 remake, I figured now would be a good time to compare the two (ie state why this film is better than the remake).
So first of all, right from the get-go, the protagonists have completely different motivations for going through time. In fact, both films have a different concept of time travel altogether. Regarding the former point, the protagonist in the 60s film (I’ll call him George) wants to see the future mainly for curiosity’s sake, for science. But he does have an implied personal reason. A feeling of being born in the wrong time period. Wanting to see how he would be in other periods of the future where there would be more like-minded scientists like himself. Hence a feeling of wanting to belong. Yet the ironic part is that he winds up in a place where he ends up in the same position. A time period where he isn’t surrounded by any like-minded individuals, though their reasonings for having not much interest in what he does and what he proposes are different from those from his time period (near the turn of the millennium, to 1900).
The 2012 protagonist (I’ll just call him Alexander), on the other hand, builds up this whole endeavor primarily just to get his girlfriend back, and is willing to ditch the machine (which is very impressive looking, I must say, especially compared to George’s machine) once he has accomplished that, in spite of all the potential that machine can carry, in spite of all it could do, what wonders it could show. It seems pretty fucking petty compared to its reason for existence in the 1960 film. And even going wit this, lame-ass Alexander only makes an attempt to alter the past to save his girlfriend’s life once, and only once, before throwing his hands up in the air (“Whyyyyyyyy!!!????”) and deciding that it’s impossible to change the past, so he must find out why it’s impossible by getting the answer from some intelligent mind in the future, when minds are supposed to be more advanced and intelligent. For fuck’s sake, he’s a fucking scientist! His experiments are supposed to be all about trial and error, making mistakes, analyzing what the mistake is, and retrying the experiment again while avoiding those mistakes. Haven’t these fuckers ever seen Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure?
And this isn’t even bringing up the time paradox factor, which we’ve been told ever since Metal Gear Solid 3 that we’ve got to be careful of (I don’t give a fuck if that was released a few years after the 2002 movie, it’s still a valid point, even if I have to utilize another fucking time paradox to make it!). Alexander goes back in time. So where the fuck is his double? Is no one going to make a big deal about the big fucking time machine device that just spontaneously appeared in his laboratory, in his house, with his maid?
Which brings me to the latter point I mentioned in the second paragraph, the concept of time travel. George expresses no interest in going back to the past outside of simply returning to his own time after visiting the future, and even then making sure it’s at a time after when he initially left. Even near the end of the film (or the very beginning, depending on how you want to look at it), he doesn’t say anything in the hopes of trying to change the future in a way directly affecting those in the present (thus allowing the film to avoid paradoxes altogether, without even needing a reason to bring them up). Allow me to clarify. Alexander goes back for the sole purpose of taking action to save the life of his girlfriend, and goes about trying to do it. George, on the other hand, knowing that his best friend is going to get killed in World War I doesn’t make any attempt to make this statement to his friend, encouraging him to avoid the war. Why is this?
To answer that, you’d have to go to the middle act of the 1960 film, where George becomes outraged at the state of society, how they show no interest in the past in the hopes of improving the future. They have no ambition, no sense of duty to their fellow man. And George states at the end of all this that he would rather be back in his own time to die alongside his fellow countrymen, who would at least be able to die with honor alongside one another, at least trying to protect one another, even if the effort would be in vain. Because he recognizes that valuable trait that is also a shared bond between soldiers in the army. They fight more for each other than anything else. Creating a strong bond. And that bond isn’t just broken in that futuristic time period, it is completely non-existent. Why try to take that away from his friend, even knowing what fate will befall him? Or worse yet, what are the odds of that somehow making the future worse?
None of that is in Alexander’s world. Rather his ideals are more selfish and personal. Everything else be damned, he wants to spend the rest of his time with the love of his life. As if his entire existence revolves around her and only her, even though just the opening act of the film indicates his own hypocrisy (too busy doodling on the chalkboard to prioritize thinking about his fiance-to-be). And there is no self-awareness of this hypocrisy present in the entire movie. The speech by Morlock Jeremy Irons during the last act doesn’t directly address this issue either, that covers a different aspect entirely.
Both films have a similar yet different take on the future. In regards to the near-future it’s either the Cold War, or science going too far and nearly destroying us all. Either way, the message is the same, that mankind will create the tools of its own destruction. In the 1960 film, it’s because we destroy each other. In the 2002 film, it’s because we overestimate ourselves with using technology responsibly. … Thinking about it, I guess it’s still not much different, just the context.
But they also have something to highlight about society’s evolution. Naturally, the 2002 film has an advantage over the 1960 film in this regard. George notes the changing of clothing styles, yet for the most part they don’t change all that much. Alexander notes something more relevant and accurate. How women’s clothing became more and more revealing, with dresses that once went down to the ankles, now are up above the knees. How modesty fades away. Of course, that could change if muslims take over, then that’s going to bring modesty back with vengeance overkill. We’ll see if a 3rd major Time Machine movie has something to say about that (considering Hollywood’s lack of ambition and churning out of uninspired remakes, I’d say that’s as inevitable as the Home Alone reboot).
Clothing aside, George’s observance of the future is considerably more subtle (likely for budget constraints). Only in the background, if you squint to look, do you see structures that look somewhat futuristic (at least by 1960 standards). Alexander has the privilege of seeing credit swipe bicycles (either that or the card acts as a key; cool either way). And then there’s the library. There are some physical books, but it all seems mostly digital. With a black AI librarian who has a slightly pompous attitude, even going so far as to roll its eyes at the white time traveler for asking reasonable questions that it deems ridiculous (someone programmed this AI to be this way). And no access to any data from any scientists, not even ones who would’ve made public records/articles, of even the theory and concept of time travel, not even on a quantum physics level, even though some of those concepts exist today (not that they can be applied in a working-fashion in the way these films allege mind-you, but they’re there). Seems like this digital library is holding some information back, or is intentionally deprived of this sort of information, which may have been available in physical form at one point in time. Actually seems like a fairly accurate depiction of 2030 to me. Rather funny to see how many films at and before 2002 had a more ambitious future in mind for mankind’s progress, only to miscalculate that we would focus our progress more in the digital realm rather than in the physical realm.
Then we get to the future itself, after all the destruction caused from either nuclear war or the shattering of the moon (the latter of which I sure would’ve resulted in Earth being obliterated, especially after about 800,000 years; but whatever). George observes an all-white society has managed to survive. Alexander observes an all-brown society. Homogeneous either way. But the society Alexander witnesses has also accomplished setting up homes attached to the side of cliffs, accompanied by some uplifting tribal music sung by a choir of kids or something. Because it has to be blunt about this society being grand and great, without any downsides whatsoever aside from independent forces external to this society.
Here is another instance where both films try to tell something similar in a different way, yet the 2002 flick shoots itself in the foot as a result. The society in George’s timeline is so passive and uncaring and unambitious because they were bred that way. The Morlocks breed and raise the very society they will eventually consume; rinse and repeat. So the society is raised to be like this, to allow history and knowledge of the past to wither away to nothing, to have the achievements made by those in the past come to nothing. And to respond to certain sounds automatically as if they were hypnotized/brainwashed into doing so. Thus they were not only bred to be incapable of fighting back against their oppressors, but to not even comprehend that they are even being oppressed. After all, their oppressors provide them what they need, food and a shelter (and I presume clothing).
The society in Alexander’s timeline, on the other hand, is more independent and yet more stupid at the same time. They’re not bred and raised by the Morlocks, they can do that on their own. They can build on their own, acquire food on their own (though we never actually see what they eat; not that this is a fault in the film, I’m just curious about what the 2002 film would show a society like this eating as opposed to oversized pears in the 1960 film). There’s no air-raid sound (or anything like that) to lead any of them to their doom. Nope. The Morlocks just raid them whenever these people go off and, uh, spend time at a place dedicated to their ancestors (as opposed to scavenging for food in gardens or something). And they don’t fight back, they just flee, not even fighting back as a last resort. Why? Because they say they take the ones who fight back first. That’s just dumb.
Both films have the protagonist fighting back against the Morlocks, and thus inspiring the people to also fight back by following his example. But it’s carried out far better in the 1960 film because there’s a more logical reason as to why they needed George to inspire them to fight. Just the concept of fighting never occurred to them, no more than the concept of “stealing” seems to occur to these perfectly peaceful cabbages in the 2002 film. In the 2002 film, they know what fighting is, they just choose not to do it, until some schmuk shows up to remind them that it’s more logical to do so. Stupid.
Honestly, the only interesting thing about the 2002 film is when Alexander meets Jeremy Irons. The speech Irons makes, the philosophical points being stated, about the harshness of how a species evolves in relation to the environment, about the nature of existence and non-existence in relation to events of the past. It was the most investing part of the entire movie. But then the movie reminded everyone that it’s designed to be a dumb B action movie for dumb B audiences, and then a fight ensues along with a chase and an explosion, and then it lost any goodwill it gained from Jeremy Irons, which faded away about as quickly as he did.
Lastly, how each film ends. The 2002 film ends with Alexander’s BFF tossing his hat into the air, making a callback to the line of Alexander stating he wants a generation of students to go against the norm and offer some diversity of style and thought in a plain mundane society. This seems to go against his BFF’s attitude and character, what little there was, setup during the first act of the film, not to mention goes against the fact that there were a ton of great scientific minds during that time period who would end up changing society at one point or another with their inventions (they mention that hack Albert Einstein, don’t mention Nikola Tesla). Yet this doesn’t leave the viewer to ponder anything, to even encourage them to act independently against the norm for progress.
The 1960 film on the other hand, has George go back to the future (heheh), to that age where society has regressed in terms of knowledge, to where it has practically reset without any of the knowledge to be had from their distant ancestors. But he doesn’t go back with nothing. He takes a few books with him to help society grow. Which books did he take? The film doesn’t say. We are left to ponder with this question:
“Which three books would you have taken?”
It encourages the audience to ask themselves the question as to what limited sources of information would they utilize to make the best society they could? What should we be teaching our children in the hopes that they too will make society better for them, and their children, and their children’s children? When was the last time a film was made that posed an open-ended question like that which makes the viewer think critically?
At least the 1960 film poses a question that could be utilized somewhere along the lines of, “What would you do if you had a time machine?” The 2002 film, all it says is, “It’s just a machine.” As if technology should be tossed aside for a more simplified way of living, ala some shitty episode or film of Star Trek: The Next Generation. The 2002 film exists only as a statement at best. The 1960 film exists as both a statement, and as a question to the viewer as how to take that statement (ie the statement is made for the sake of leading up to the big question at the end).
So despite the superior looking time machine, and the impressive-looking Morlocks the 2002 film provides, the 1960 film is ultimately superior with its themes and ideas, and even warning of the future, which are still relevant today.
PS: Oh, right. And the 2002 film ends by showing the next generation in this future society being taught the the AI librarian. That’s taking the easy way out, and not even addressing the set of problems even that could bring (that hard drives could last that long, that data wouldn’t be corrupted, that a power source could last that long, it’s information that is selected by a corporation that deems it worthy of the public to access, etc). Besides, that doesn’t include those bitchin’ spinning ring devices from the 1960 film. Seriously, what other movie did something as awesome as that? Seems like a great concept that no one else has ripped off yet, even if it is a bit impractical.
PPS: The Morlocks were built up far better in the original than in the remake. Always just a brief glimpse of them through some bushes, or out of the corner of your eye, dashing from one corner to the other, through the light back into the shadow, building the suspense until they are finally encountered. In the remake, they are named once, and then they just show up.
So this documentary series was recommended by a reviewer or two after watching the Ken Burns and Lynn Novack PBS documentary from 2017 (which left me wanting, and feeling cheated, by the end). When I found out that this documentary series was censored via its 2004 DVD release (compared to it’s 1987 VHS release), that sealed the deal. I would watch this, but not before tracking down the original VHS set, which I acquired on eBay for about as much as I payed for the Blu-Ray Ken Burns documentary. Watched it in its original VHS glory, then burned them onto my computer, and later compared and contrasted the VHS versions with the DVD version (the latter of which are currently available on youtube; only a couple of the VHS episode versions are on youtube as of this writing). And unfortunate to say, I’m seeing a pattern here with documentaries of old compared to documentaries of new, and revised versions of documentaries of old. But either way, I can definitively say this, Vietnam – A Television History is a far better documentary on Vietnam than the 2017 PBS version is. While the PBS version spent a respectable 18 hours on the subject spanning over 10 episodes, the VHS version spends 13 hours over a span of 13 episodes (while the DVD version only has 11 episodes, thus only 11 hours), and still manages to provide a better understanding of it all.
I’ll be referencing the uncut VHS edition from here on (at least up until the end). If you want to see how badly the DVD version fucked things up, I uploaded several youtube videos (and 1 bitchute video, because fuck youtube and its censorship bullshit) highlighting the differences between the VHS and DVD versions, mainly showing what was left out (not in any stylish way, I decided to keep it simple and therebye subtly encourage those who are interested to track down the VHS editions to get the full experience if they’re interested). You can see them here (though the last episode is missing simply because the DVD version left out the last episode entirely):
Jumanji is one of my favorite films from the 90s. It’s not just a good kid-flick, but a good film in general. So when I heard they were making a sequel to it, all I could think was, “Why?” Then I saw the trailer, and I thought, “WHY!?!?!?”
My second thought was, “So this is what it feels like to have your childhood raped.” So I expected this to be terrible going in to see it. That probably should’ve worried me, because setting expectations so low provided a decent chance for the film to rise above them. Which is ultimately what happened, and that pisses me off even more.
I wanted a film that gives me plenty to rant and rave about damnit! It’s supposed to be worse than Star Wars: The Last Jedi! In all fairness, The Last Jedi is a better film than this one, but that’s only because this film is simple mediocrity, with no aspirations whatsoever (make the movie, have fun, cash out) where as at least The Last Jedi at least strives to be more than that. And for that matter, so did the original Jumanji movie. From here on out, when referring to the 1995 film, I’m just going to call it Jumanji, while this new one I’ll call WttJ (Welcome to the Jungle).
Rated: 4 / 5
Welcome to the jungle, we’ve got fun and games!
When watching Jumanji, I admire several things about it. This film is a drama, with some adventure and comedy thrown in. At its core, it’s a film about taking responsibility and facing your fears, and the consequences of not doing so. It takes a long while before this becomes evident, as the film does a somewhat unique style on how it introduces our main characters. I haven’t seen very many films that pull this off successfully. First we’re introduced to Allen, a young boy who doesn’t want to live a life his father wants for him, and wishes to run away rather than face his father on the issue (at least not too much). His girlfriend is introduced more slowly, first by dialogue discussions between Allen and the bullies, and then she is revealed later on. Then they (unintentionally) play the game, a mystical board game that looks too well-made from a wooden design standpoint for something that isn’t well known (thus helping with that mystic aura it gives off, sound effects and musical complimentary notes aside). An accidental play, much like how life throws unexpected surprises (some good some bad) at us. Allen is sucked in, and disappears, much as how he intended to run away and disappear. And his girlfriend, Sarah, runs away rather than tries to help him get out of the game (but, in all fairness, she was just a girl at the time, and was scarred emotionally by the whole ordeal, so it’s easy to sympathize with her, just as it’s easy to sympathize with Allen).
Then we are introduced to 2 other characters, Peter and Judy, who we become acquainted with and spend more time with than we did with Allen and Sarah. These two kids also desire an escape from their current lives, which have gone downhill ever since their parents’ unfortunate death via an airplane crash, while on their way to a ski vacation. It’s not until far later in the film that Allen appears again, due to the 2 new kids playing the game. And even later on, Sarah finally re-enters the film. The main characters aren’t firmly established until the film is practically halfway over. Have to admit, when taking it in that context, this film seems rather daring. Having the main protagonists appear early on, then disappear for a good portion of the first hour, and then re-appear to continue the story. The film eases its way into allowing the viewers to be familiar with the main protagonists. And it works.
As the film goes on, Allen, now an adult played by Robin Williams in one of his best roles, eventually comes to realize not just how much his father loved him despite the fight they had, but also what can happen when he runs from his fears. When he visits the old shoe factory, after going through his old town and seeing how terrible it has become compared to what it once was (think Detroit before and after the 60s), he meets a homeless man who is familiar with the town’s history, who must’ve been associated with it to some extent in the past before becoming how he is now. His speech to Allen about how the town became how it is now, how the Shoe Factory went out of business, how it was all because Allen’s father searched for Allen endlessly after Allen disappeared, no longer caring about anything else but finding himself. Likely blaming himself for Allen’s disappearance, thinking he ran away because of him (which is true, but under a different context). It’s such a tear-jerking moment, especially seeing this realization wash across Allen’s face, realizing not just how much his father loved him, but how much damage his running away has caused (metaphorically speaking, as his disappearance was caused against his will, though he did intend to run away prior to that).
But the film doesn’t just settle for the character trying to right the wrongs of the past. It also shows how Allen’s character has evolved. Not just turning into a survivalist with his time in the jungle within the game, but also with how he has become like his father. He is still afraid, hates himself for not being more mature earlier on, but also becomes angry at Peter for wishing to continue playing the game. Because Allen knows what will happen if they do so, that more creatures, and individuals, and weather conditions will emerge from the game to make things worse. He warns Peter of this, but also knows that Peter is right. This doesn’t make him any less angry, and eventually tells Peter in his anger that he needs to man up and face all of this like a man, because it’s Peter’s doing for causing this to happen. Immediately after doing that, Allen realizes how he’s acting like his father in the past, and also realizes how he’s being hypocritical, and tries to comfort Peter after this.
Regarding the facing of fears and taking responsibility, the film handles it as it’s going to get worse before it gets better. And longer one runs from their own fears, the worse things will get. This is shown early on with Allen confronting these bullies after running from them earlier, the bullies chasing him because he went out with their leader’s girlfriend (Sarah). It results in him getting beat up, but then things more or less work out after that. With him running away from his father, and staying away for years (again, the film plays with this with him wanting to run away, and him escaping to Jumanji unintentionally and against his will), this causes consequences resulting in the town going bottom-up economically when the Shoe Factory shuts down due to his father searching for him. It’s also shown from a more metaphorical standpoint with them playing the game, something they must do to resolve everything, and it continually makes things worse not just for the main characters, but for the town around them. It’s not until near the end of the game when Allen finally conquers his fear, his primary fear being that of his own father. It’s some heavy-hitting metaphors, reminding me of Silent Hill 2 with how everything in that game is basically a projection of the protagonists own fears and desires. And yes, I just compared Jumanji to Silent Hill 2.
Jumanji being a 1995 film, two years after Jurassic Park hit theaters, CG is used, but it’s used along with practical effects. Granted, the film hasn’t aged THAT well, but it doesn’t look all that terrible either, all things considered. The CG is dated, but acceptable. Most of the practical effects work, but a couple are laughable (those spiders, I lose it every time they show up). Then there’s instances of blending CG with actual objects, which do a good job of making them seem more real.
So, yeah, a film that I still think is great today. It still works as a character drama mixed with a fun adventure film, with some decent comedy moments thrown in for good measure. Emotional, fun, all around solid even with the somewhat dated effects. As for the sequel…
Rated: 2 / 5
Welcome to the jungle, it gets worse here every day!
So like I said, I expected to despise this film. And it started off meeting those expectations. So some metal drummer punk finds the board game in the sands on the beach, more or less picking up where the last film left off. Except that the last film left off with the board game on some beach in Mexico, Puerto Rico, or some place where they speak Spanish. You know, it’s times like these that I think it might be a good idea for American film studios developing a temporary partnership with some foreign studio and allow them to take a jab at the property, whether it’s a remake or a sequel. Seriously, it might not be a bad idea, and a perfect way to inject a different and fresh style into the film. Granted, everyone will be of a different ethnicity and speaking a foreign language and viewers would have to read subtitles (unless they’re lazy assholes who refuse to watch any movie subtitled), but for those of us who care, it would be worth it.
But I digress. Ignoring where the board game wound up in the previous film, this metal dude gets the board game out of the beach sand, takes it to his home, and opens it up to see what it is. He sees it’s a board game, and says something along the lines of, “Who plays board games anymore?” before tossing it aside onto his stack of Playstation games.
Fuck you you fucking fucker! Board games are fucking awesome, even back in the 90s! What, cocksuckers like you never heard of Crossfire!?
How about Forbidden Bridge!?
Kiss my dick and suck my ass! You deserve whatever fate befalls you for pissing off the Jumanji game!
But rather than letting curiosity get the better of him to try out the game, you know, by hearing that drum beat or something (which doesn’t fucking happen!), the board game transforms into some Atari cartridge game or something so that he can play it. What the fuck!?
So that’s basically how they decided to make this into a sequel to Jumanji, by having the board game transform into a video game just for the fuck of it. And you know, from here on out, aside from this dumb fucking reference to the first film that happens in the middle of WttJ, this movie is completely different from Jumanji! They could’ve called this film ANYTHING else, anything not associated with Jumanji, and I wouldn’t be forced to do this comparison bullshit. It has more in common with Tron than it does Jumanji. Stop making half-assed sequels and remakes Hollywood! Do what Disney has been doing since the 90s, ripping off stories and making them their own (The Lion King = Hamlet + Kimba the White Lion, Pocahontas rewriting history, The Little Mermaid being more lighthearted than the original source, etc.). Rip off movies, stop trying to claim that they’re remakes or sequels!
*deep breathe* Ok, with that out of the way, and after metalhead gets sucked into the videogame, the film basically becomes its own thing that bares little resemblance to Jumanji. 4 kids get put into detention, one for be a snot-nosed bitch who refuses to turn her cell phone off, 2 of them because they cheated on their school assignment, and the other because she mouthed off to the PE teacher. And in detention they stumble across this game (somehow), and plug it in, play, and get sucked into it, each becoming a different character based on which character they chose at the start of the game. So each of them is given a new body with certain personality traits that peak through occasionally.
Now, before I continue, it’s worth noting that the dumb fucks who made this movie think that cartridge games actually have a loading screen. Did any of you motherfuckers ever play a Sega Genesis or a Super Nintendo? None of those fucking consoles had loading screens. Why? Because cartridges are faster than CDs! Just take a USB drive compared to a fucking Disc for comparison in today’s world! On that note, I wouldn’t be surprised if games eventually went back to a cartridge style play, assuming everything doesn’t wind up online (not likely since Net Neutrality has been killed and now cocksuckers like Verizon and Comcast can start throttling other companies if they don’t pay a little extra, like in 2005 when Comcast delayed BitTorrent traffic, or in 2007 when AT&T censored Pearl Jam, or 2007-9 when AT&T forced Apple to block Skype, or in 2011 when MetroPCS announced it would block streaming services over its 4G network except for YouTube, or 2012 when Verizon blocked tethering app use on their phones, or when Verizon and Comcast throttled Netflix until 2014 when Netflix agreed to pay them extra, or 2014 when T-Mobile used data caps to manipulate competition, until 2015 when net neutrality was in place until 2017 when that went away [those dipshits will likely throttle my site now just for bringing that up]).
With that tangent out of the way, the plot of the film is that our 4 heroes need to return a green crystal McGuffen to a big McGuffen statue in order to win and get back to the real world. So no, there’s no trying to roll a 5 or an 8 on the dice. That’s all I’ll say about the plot.
So, are there any deep character moments in this film? What the hell do you think? Of course there isn’t! As if you would think otherwise after seeing any of the trailers. There’s this theme of friendship, and acceptance, not being selfish, and of tranny stuff like being a woman trapped in a man’s body, or a wimp trapped in a muscular body (or vice-versa), or an average-looking chick trapped in a hot chick’s body. There’s a line in the movie that goes, “What you are on the outside is not what you are on the inside,” which is stating that it’s your character and personality that counts, not your looks, but it’s more fun to think of this is as a transgender message. Personally, I think the tranny theme existed just so Jack Black could do that role of acting like a woman. And in his case, it works, because he completely steals the show from everyone else. He gets the most laughs and produces the best comedic charisma out of everyone, even doing better than Dwayne Johnson (who also got a couple laughs from me here and there, by doing his usual The Rock routine). He must’ve loved doing this, and I’m not going to lie, despite my gripes, it was fun watching him do this role.
This movie exists primarily to be a comedy, not giving much of a shit about the dramatic moments, which would be fine if it was funnier than it is, but it isn’t. The film is just another typical forgettable comedy affair that offers some chuckles here and there, but nothing that’s going to be all that memorable. It’s not the trainwreck I expected it to be, but it’s still a desecration to the Jumanji film, and it does not deserve to have that word in its fucking title. I would’ve liked it more if it had nothing to do with that title. Just being called Welcome to the Jungle would’ve been fine. Hell, I’d be interested if they just called it Atari Jungle or something.
So in case you didn’t guess from the rating, this movie is a pass. You’re better off tracking down and watching the Jumanji animated series. And you can buy the entire series right now on DVD, all 3 seasons for less than ten dollars (hey, if this fucking movie is going to have advertisements in it, then so will this review!).
PS: Oh, right, and there were some blatant obvious advertisements in this film, mainly with Sony, their PS4, their smartphone, and Dave & Busters. Well, at least they kept it game-themed with the ads.
Note: I have only played this game with the Full Combat Rebalance (FCR) mod. Any input I provide based on the combat gameplay will be a reflection of this, as this mod does give the game a significant overhaul.
Yep, regressed from the 2nd game into the first one. Why? Because I recall from playing it years ago that it was decent so long as you were patient about it. Also because I wanted a refresher on some of the characters before getting back into The Witcher 3. And like in my previous review, I did a (modded) playthrough which I recorded, edited, and uploaded as videos in a movie-like format (currently ongoing). This proved to be more difficult than editing footage for the 2nd game because:
1.) I was nowhere near as familiar with this game as I was with the 2nd.
2.) It’s longer. Five chapters plus a prologue and epilogue vs. the 3 chapters and prologue/epilogue of the 2nd game. This game can easily run you 50 hours of playtime, and unfortunately not all of those 50 hours is fun (more on that later).
3.) Much of the stuff that I wished was a meaningless sidequest, uh, isn’t, exactly. Some of the minor stuff in some of the chapters ends up playing into the main quest of each chapter. That may sound nice, but it isn’t, because most of these side quests just aren’t very interesting (something rectified to the extreme in the 3rd game).
Gameplay and Comparison to Witcher 2
So here’s the thing about this game vs. it’s sequel. Aside from this being graphically inferior (that’s expected), the gameplay is also considerably different. This isn’t an over-the-shoulder (sort of) run-around hack-and-slash like the 2nd game. It plays more like a top-down point-and-click hack-and-slash ala Diablo and Titan’s Quest and Torchwood. You click where you want to move to, your character moves to that spot. You click on an enemy to attack, Geralt will proceed to do a sword combo on it (a combo that increases in sword swings and damage the more you upgrade Geralt, assuming you spend time upgrading his swordsmanship). And there’s 3 different attack styles: fast, strong, and group. Strong attacks are effective against enemies who are unarmored, fast attacks are good against those that are armored, and group attacks are great for when you’re surrounded by foes (though it’s usually best not to get surrounded or flanked). Of course, there’s also magic spells to cast, but I used those rarely in my playthroughs. Granted, if I played on a higher difficulty, that would likely force me to adapt to using spells more often, but the game isn’t worth putting that much effort into in my personal opinion. Others may find it more to their liking.
In any case, I found that I had to think more tactically in combat in this game compared to the sequel. In Witcher 2, I could mostly just hack-and-slash without much worry, especially on the later levels. In this game, I couldn’t do that, even when I was leveling up pretty high. The game succeeds at this partly by not increasing your vitality when you level-up, thus keeping things tense with each combat situation in each chapter. Plus it adds an extra level of interactivity by giving you a small window of opportunity to chain moves together by clicking on the enemy at the right time when the sword symbol changes to a certain shape/color. Click at the right time, you land more seamless blows. Miss it or click too soon, the enemy will likely get more decent hits in before you can start chaining sword blows again.
Leveling up is also different compared to the 2nd game. When you gain enough experience points to level-up, you don’t just gain “talents” to be spent on whatever, oh no. There are 3 types of talents, bronze, silver, and gold. Bronze talents you get on every level-up, silver talents occur less frequently, and gold talents less frequently than that. And these talents aren’t just spread across magic, swordsmanship, and alchemy like in the 2nd game, it’s more branched out than that. There’s a section for strength (increase damage), dexterity (increase dodging/parrying), stamina (increase resistance to poising/bleeding/etc.), and intelligence (making magic and alchemy stronger). That’s just one section. Then there’s a section for upgrading each spell type (Aard, Quen, Yrden, etc.). A section for upgrading silver sword attacks (good against monsters) in either fast, strong, or group style, and another section for doing the same with steel swords (good against humans). Don’t like it as much as the simplified leveling system in the 2nd game, but it’s decent enough. Did make for some somewhat difficult decision-making, which isn’t much of a bad thing, especially when you can see the results of your leveling choices and see where you may need improvement depending on your play-style. I don’t prefer use of magic, but others likely will.
And then there’s the potions and oils, which you make using an alchemy process. Potions strengthen you in some way, while oils are put on sword blades to make them stronger against specific enemy types (humans, specters, insectoids, etc.). Only 1 oil type can be applied to a sword at a time, while you can drink as many potions as you want (theoretically), but each potion you drink poisons you more, and if you go too far into the drinking, your health will start getting sapped, so you need to choose your consumption wisely. The main potion I consumed throughout most of the game is the Swallow potion, which regenerates your health faster than normal. So, yeah, you’ll be swallowing a lot.
Another thing about the gameplay is, like in Witcher 2 and 3, there’s a day/night cycle. Time moves, and NPCs will be in different locations depending on whether it’s day or night, or even dawn/afternoon/dusk/midnight. But unlike those games, this mechanic, while immersive, proves to be frustrating. It gets goddamn annoying when you realize time dictates when and where characters are that you need to interact with in order to complete quests, and you can’t fucking find them until you either wait or meditate to the right fucking time. This wouldn’t be so bad if this game had a tracking system as good as Witcher 2, where you see the destination/objective on the map which is tracked in real-time. Not so in this game. Each quest objective is always listed in the same static map position, regardless of the time of day, so you have to wait for that time of day to interact with so-and-so. This is why I liked Grand Theft Auto V, and least in that game, when you reach an objective and it’s no the right time of day, the game fast-forwards until it is the right time and lets you carry on from there. The day/night mechanic is more trouble than it’s worth, and it drags on the game length needlessly. The immersion is not worth this.
Another little annoyance is the running from one destination to another. Really wish Geralt could run faster from place to place.
Lastly, a lot of the NPCs are recycled. As in it won’t take long to notice that many of them look the same. Get’s particularly frustrating when some of the npcs that play a role in the main plot are hard to distinguish from some anonymous merchant on the street.
So that’s the gameplay. Then there’s the story. Long story short, it’s not as good as The Witcher 2’s story. Mainly because it’s not as intriguing with the plot and characters and political intrigue (though this game does still provide that albeit in watered down doses), but also because it takes a while for things to click into high gear. The prologue is typical introductory fluff. Chapter 1 is more of the same, with most of the events proving to be insignificant to what would come later, and is more of a stand-alone chapter to get the player more acquainted with the gameplay and the “decisions have consequences” feel. Oh, right, you do get to make choices in this game that produce different outcomes, but unlike the sequel, there are no alternate endings. Only 1 endings, and how you get there can alter slightly, and almost no decision you make will alter how the sequel(s) play out; save for saving or killing Princess Adda (whom you get to bang, of course), but even then it’s just a minor afterthought brought up in Witcher 2, and hardly even noticeable in Witcher 3 without a mod if I remember correctly.
So like I was saying, the Prologue does get the story going, giving you a goal and motivation. Chapter 1 more-or-less just gets you acquainted with the gameplay and only 2 other significant characters (for about 5-8 hours). Then comes Chapter 2, which is easily the slowest fucking chapter in this entire fucking game. So many sidequests that, to this game’s credit, do link up to the main quest. But in hindsight nothing really significant happens in Chapter 2. Chapter 2 exists to get you familiar with the main city you’ll be spending most of the game in, and those who live within it, and some backstory. The gangs, thugs, drug addicts, poor people, old people, the hospital, those infected by the plague, the knights of the Order, the town watch, the grave-digger, the humans and non-humans, some people from Geralt’s past, etc. It sounds nice and all, but not for 10 fucking hours with the plot progressing at a pace so slow even snails would be feeling sorry for you. Chapter 2 is a glorified detective/mystery, where solving it doesn’t really accomplish much or move the plot forward hardly at all. It’s just for atmosphere and getting you familiar with the world.
Thankfully, once you get past Chapter 2, it only gets better from there. The political intrigue picks up in Chapter 3, where you wonder about Triss’ intentions and ulterior motives, you get more involved with the conflict between the Order of the Flaming Rose and the Scoia’tael, learn some interesting things about the criminal organization the Salamandra, and how they link into different sects high and low, and how they are used by those sects. And it only gets better from there. And I have to admit, by the time it got to the epilogue, a plot twist came up that, to this game’s credit, I honestly did not see coming, even if in hindsight I should have.
Chapter 4 slows things down a bit, but not to the extent of Chapter 2. And, again, it slows things down so you can get familiar with a particular character who pops up off and on throughout the previous chapters (excluding the prologue). Then when it gets to Chapter 5, full steam ahead all the way through to the prologue. It becomes pretty damn difficult to stop playing the game once Chapter 5 hits. And it all leads to a potential “end of the world” scenario. You know, like just about every single fucking RPG game ever made because creators/writers/corporations think having the stakes set that high is the only way to have a rousing and intense finale. I always roll my eyes at plots like this about as often as I roll my eyes at forced love interests in both games and film, because both usually come off as cheap and easy ways to get the player/viewer invested in the character(s) and/or plot. If you want my appreciation, make the characters interesting via their interactions with one another, their motivations, their personal journey and character arc. Which is why I have an appreciation for Witcher 2’s plot because it accomplished exactly that. The plot isn’t about the end of the world so much as the fate of a nation (or several), and how the leaders have their own personal goals, how they each treat their own people, and how your character feels about that and if he will side with any of them, or none. On top of that, there are also character well aware of his amnesia who may or may not be trying to take advantage of him because of that. Is he being used? Is he choosing to be used? Does he (or anyone else for that matter) have free will? What’s the price to pay for existence? Did you do the right thing?
Now in this game, it does focus primarily on the purpose of Geralt, what’s his motivation, what’s his character. They make this simple by starting the game off with him as an unknown prisoner who breaks free to make a name for himself and save the world. Wait, I got that wrong, that’s like every Bethesda game ever made. They make it simple by starting the game off with him running through the wilderness being chased by some ominous unseen figure calling his name (like the opening to the Witcher 2, but with worse graphics and camerawork), and he awakens at Kaer Morhen (home to a school of Witchers), with no memory. Then the place gets attacked, and he is off on his own to find out about the attackers, get their Witcher shit back that was stolen from them, and learn about himself in the process.
Now, it’s the “learning about himself” that is key here, in an attempt to make the players become attached to Geralt. The player is faced at several points in the game to make decisions that not only have consequences, but determine just what kind of a character Geralt is going to be now. Will he be like his old self? Will he follow the Witcher’s code? Or will he choose a side in the ongoing conflict between the Order and the Scoiatel? This may seem a bit more common in today’s RPGs, and I can’t say this is the first game to do this (the earliest in current memory is Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic), but 2007 seemed to be a big year for games like this where this sort of “choose your own adventure” RPGs became more prominent. After all, this game was released in the same year as Mass Effect (though it doesn’t look as good from a graphic’s standpoint).
Now, while this “choose your own adventure” element seems nice and all, the game becomes a bit of a dick about the whole thing during the later chapters. If you choose not to remain neutral during the events of Chapter 4, characters in Chapter 4 and 5 won’t let you hear the end of it. Basically, the game is just straight up telling you, “How dare you play it your way! How dare you not stay lore friendly and true to the Witcher’s code! For shame!” Basically made me flip them the bird before reloading to an earlier save prior to one of those “choices” and go for the more neutral path. Yes, I’ll admit it, the game shamed me into doing it, and I was pissed about it.
So anyway, the story does get good, it just takes a while to get there. And by a while, I mean 15+ hours. This is not a short game. Hell, I positive it takes longer to get through than Assassins of Kings does. According to howlongtobeat.com, this game is anywhere from 10-15 hours longer than Witcher 2, and it feels that way during the early sections. But, again, if you have the patience, and can withstand some mediocre voice-overs and some slow slogs, the game does manage to feel worth it in the end.
Comparison to Mass Effect
It’s worth comparing the two (briefly) because, despite the fact that both games play completely differently and occur in entirely different settings, both games share similar flaws, and were released in the same year (2007). I’ll be the first to admit that Mass Effect is the better game compared to The Witcher. That being said, I’d be hesitant to play either game again in the near future, especially Mass Effect. Why? Because the decisions you are forced to make in The Witcher are more thought-provoking and intriguing than in Mass Effect, in my opinion. Plus, while the side quests aren’t THAT interesting in The Witcher, I’d take those over the monotonous side quests of Mass Effect. In The Witcher, at least the side quests involve some preparation and learning, where you have to prep yourself for the monsters to go after, and fight differently for each one. Some of the environments are similar (particularly the caves), but most of the time the encounters are in distinct areas to give them a different feel. In Mass Effect, holy Christ! The side quests sucked ass! Similar levels/rooms/buildings (to the point where I’m positive they were clones of each other), the same fucking enemies making the same fucking comments (which they took comedic jabs at in Mass Effect 2), and it became a chore real fast. But when it came to the main quest(s), I’d have to give the edge to Mass Effect. The story was told better and paced better, if you discount the side quests.
And also like Mass Effect 2, Witcher 2 could be played by carrying over your save file from Witcher 1 and have some influence over the plot in that game. However, it was much more significant in Mass Effect 2, just about everything you did in the first game had an impact in the 2nd game, a significant and noticeable impact too, even with those shitty side quests from the first game. In Witcher 2, to be honest, it really doesn’t matter that much if you carry over the save or not (again, something heavily rectified in Witcher 3). And that’s all the comparisons I’ll make for those 2 sequels.
In regards to the gameplay, Mass Effect is more involving, where you have to constantly aim and shoot (or aim and cast, depending on your preference), and had a greater variety of play-styles compared to that of The Witcher. Granted, Witcher has variety too, where you can focus on spells or swords, or a combination of both, but the variety is greater and more noticeable in Mass Effect. Plus Mass Effect had more tactics where you could direct squad members to attack other enemies in a certain way, or hang back, or use an item/ability, etc. In The Witcher, it’s only your character Geralt, and his fighting styles, and that’s it. But Mass Effect’s tactical play comes at the cost of pausing the gameplay so you can click on an ability, aim it at an enemy or ally, and then un-pause it. Some people like this style of play, and to be honest it didn’t bother me all that much in Mass Effect. But games like Dragon Age: Origins (released 2 years after Mass Effect and The Witcher) where you’re doing the same thing except from a top-down perspective just didn’t gel with me. So I probably would’ve hated The Witcher if it incorporated this aspect so heavily. Granted, you can pause mid-battle to get a better angle on things, but this didn’t happen very often with my playthrough.
I know that CD Project Red was a small-time indie company at this point, so they had less finances to work with when making this game, and it is admirable that it turned out as good as it did under the circumstances. But it is what it is, and I can only judge it by how I feel now, and I’m not going to take it easy on it just because of the circumstances surrounding the making of them game, I’m just going to judge the game as-is. Both games are good, both have faults, and Mass Effect is probably the better made one overall. But neither one is something I would likely want to revisit while it’s still fresh in my memory, especially when the sequels to both games are so much better.
Mass Effect’s strongest point is its story and universe-building, getting into the races, their interactions, and how the main character can impact all of them. The central character(s) tend to be secondary to that. This does not mean the characters are weak, they each have their motivations and such. However, they seem too influenced by what you (acting as the protagonist) do and want to happen, being less independent in their own right. The game cuts a fine line between them acting on their own and acting based on how you want, and it works fine as is. It tends to be on the fan-service side in regards to characters.
While the Witcher has a world-building aspect to it in terms of Temeria and its occupants, it’s focus is less on that and more on the character of Geralt himself. How much is he influenced by others? Should he be influenced by them? The characters in The Witcher come off as more independent and self-motivated than those in Mass Effect. While Mass Effect has the aspect of, “Your leadership and influences those around you.” In other words, the lives of most other major characters seems to revolve around the main character, and thus revolve around you. The Witcher seems to be the reverse of this. It’s more like, “How much are you influenced by those around you?” Because the game continuously jabs at you for the decisions you make, making you wonder if you made the right decision, or if there ever was a right decision to make. In this case having the game end the same way no matter what, while changing the way it gets there, fits perfectly because of the whole fate/destiny theme being brought up. The free will theme being an extension of the player pulling the protagonist’s strings. Or is it the player having their strings pulled by others in the game? Either way, the message is the same. You may or may not choose to get caught up in a cause, or to stay neutral to them all; but no matter what you do, do not forget about yourself and what really matters to you, what your principles are, and if choosing or not choosing a cause runs the risk of you being forced to violate your principles. The fact that Geralt is imperfect and is guaranteed to make mistakes (regardless of players trying to choose the lesser of evils, or not) is what makes him a fascinating character, and is what makes the game every bit as memorable as Mass Effect. That, and he’s capable of banging more broads, and of different races too (speaking of similarities to Mass Effect).
Plus the last act of the game will have you questioning whether or not you’re doing the right thing, and I love games that provoke that thought. Indicates it’s smart enough to make a lot of grey rather than keeping things black and white. Mass Effect tends to be more on the black and white side of things. If you make a decision that doesn’t involve saving/sparing lives, sometime down the road you will be punished for it. In the case of the Witcher, sparing a life or killing someone doesn’t always result in a good or bad thing. And even if it does result in a good thing, down the line it could lead to a bad thing, and vice versa. It’s what makes the better moments of The Witcher stick with me. That being said, the sequels took this element and did it better, especially in Witcher 3.
The Witcher is a more deep thought provoking philosophical and character study at its core, while Mass Effect is more of a fun sci-fi ride with plenty of story and lore and, dare I say, universe to keep it interesting. That being said, both games have a bit of both, I’m just mentioning the main narrative strengths of each. Looking back on both, the main thing that stuck with me regarding the Witcher was Triss’ mysterious backdoor political dealings in Chapter 3 (which ultimately made her a fully realized 3-dimensional character), and the whole finale from Chapter 5 and onwards which provoked a sense of guilt and wonder. With Mass Effect, I enjoyed getting introduced to the universe and all that lived within, how the races worked, what their personalities and traits are, the first appearance of Saren, the confrontation with Liara’s mother and the spider monster, and everything from when the original creators of the Citadel are revealed and all the way to the action-packed finale. Both games know how to put on a finale.
Why I revisited the game
I brought up earlier that one of the reasons I wanted to play through this again was to get familiar with the characters again. Because some characters who are in this game are not in the 2nd one, yet they make reprising roles in Witcher 3. Sure I could’ve just watched one of those 3-6 hour “movie version” videos online, and I was tempted, and that sure as shit would’ve been less time-consuming than this game, but I wanted to experience this game again, even if it’s for one last time. Plus I wanted to see if it’s still fun to play today. And I must admit, if you have the patience and are willing to invest into it and become immersed in the world, it is worth it. If you can get to Chapter 3, the rest of the game is a breeze in terms of pacing and progression. It becomes quite captivating at that point. Plus it does have some unintentional hilarity with the dialogue.
So, the game is flawed, tests your patience, but is a decent enough experience. If you’re to play any version, makes sure it’s the Enhanced Edition (like how Witcher 2 got an enhanced edition, and how Witcher 3 got a Game of the Year edition). Despite the annoyances and frustrations, there’s enough here to make it worthwhile. But it’s only worthwhile if you play all the way to the end. That will run you around roughly 50 hours.
* A good storyline with some intrigue and questions on morality and destiny, and will leave you pondering on some points.
* Some colorful characters.
* Combat on any difficulty above Easy can prove challenging in a fun way, encouraging tactics and positioning and timing, plus some prep-work that fits with the whole theme/lore of how witchers work.
* Great finale.
* Immersive and interesting world.
* The plot pacing is spotty, and requires much patience before getting to the good stuff.
* Graphics are dated, even with the mods.
* Too many NPCs that look exactly the same.
* Voice-acting ranging from acceptable to laughable.
* Running from one objective to the next gets tiresome.
* Uninteresting side-quests.
* The dice-poker still sucked as much as it did in the 2nd game.
* The brawl mini-game is really not that good (gets better with the sequels, especially #3).
* The camera angles during some of the dialogue bits are terrible some of the time.
And should you choose to undertake the endeavor of playing this game, I know of some mods that will make it less painful. Which brings me to the other reason I’ve decided to go through this again. None of the videos are of the modded version, at least not in terms of graphics mods. Well, time to bring them up:
This is THE main graphics mod to get. Makes the game and characters look so much better. I mean, look at the comparisons between the vanilla game and modded game version of Geralt:
[Geralt image comparison]
And it not only makes the major characters look better, but also enhances the look of the UI. There’s one other mod next to this one that I consider mandatory. The only thing I don’t like is what they did with the druid chick and the water nymph.
[druid image comparison]
Would not play this game without this mod. Makes combat more tactical and deep using a very simple method. It makes Geralt more susceptible to high damage when taking hits from the sides or the back (especially the latter). Something the developers liked so much they incorporated it into the second Witcher game. On top of that, enemies no longer just appear wherever just for the hell of it, they are more focused in areas they live in. Drowners stay near the water, swamp monsters stay near the swamp and/or islands in the swamp. In other words, enhances the immersion and lore, and gives a heavier dose of tactics to the combat.
Witcher High Res Character Models
Improves the looks of most other characters in the game that Rise of the White Wolf missed (though you will need to remove some files if you don’t want them overwriting that particular mod).
Stop the Rain
If you think it rains too much, you’ll be given access to a scroll that, when read, gradually stops the rain. Immersion-breaking in the sense that Geralt has the ability to control the weather, plus I’ve never personally used it. But hey, for those who are interested.
WARNING: THIS REVIEW HAS SPOILERS FOR BOTH THE FILM AND THE NOVEL
If I had seen this movie before I read the book, I would have thought it was just ok. But because I saw this after I read the book, I thought it wasn’t all that great.
The biggest problem this movie has is a problem I fear that every novel adaptation has, and that’s pacing. The movie is too fast for its own good. It doesn’t allow the viewer to settle into a single scene for very long. There are a couple exceptions, such as the first time the students enter the Battleroom. But for the majority of the film, it’s difficult to get into because the scene transitions happen too often without allowing the atmosphere to set in, or allowing the characters to settle into their respective roles for how they are to act in a scene. This film doesn’t have the worst case of this symptom that I’ve seen, but the film suffers from it regardless.
Oh God has it been too long since I’ve witnessed a film that gives me so much material to work with for my review. So eager to type down my thoughts. Oh, and if you’re wondering if there’s going to be spoilers, you bet your ass there’s going to be spoilers. I’m going to spoil the shit out of the 2017 film, the 1990 film, and the novel. Yep, I’ve been reading the novel too.
Oh, and by the way, I will be spoiling the shit out of this.