The return of the joker

So, I guess I should start updating again.

May wasn’t a very enjoyable month for me. The good news (I guess?) is that I managed to resist the natural inclination that comes hand-in-hand with soul-searching and/or contemplating how much of my life I waste on frivolity: namely, erasing all traces of my life from the Internet. Beginning, as always, with this site. But for once I decided to be realistic; I’ve invested waaaay too much effort this time around, and we all know I’d be drawn back into the fray sooner or later, so I bit the bullet and left online for a while longer. Hooray for progress, I suppose.

Speaking of wasting my life on frivolity, I’ve written yet another preview of Final Fantasy XII. By our previews editor’s count, this makes something like 10,000 words I’ve written on the subject, and I’ve got to say I was ready to claw my eyeballs out at around the halfway point of this one. But, since it contains the results of my E3 interview with Kawazu, Yoshida, Maehiro and Watanabe (an interview that went much, much too badly to stand on its own merits) it had to be done. And actually, once I got past the agony of trying to find a new way to write about the game, I think it turned out pretty well — it’s the sort of thing that could almost stand on its own merits as a magazine cover story. Almost.

As a small bonus, I included a brief review of the FFXII OST, which is superb. For videogame music, I mean. I really think it’s the best Sakimoto brain dropping I’ve ever heard, and he is one talented and prolific man to begin with. FFXII’s music sounds a lot like what you’d get if the OSTs from Final Fantasy Tactics and Vagrant Story had a baby together, and then that baby went on to give them a grandchild with Michiru Yamane’s Castlevania soundtracks as the mother. It sounds a lot like Sakimoto’s other work on Matsuno projects, but there’s a definite warmth to the music that his earlier work generally lacked. Plus there’s a totally unexpected rearranged version of one of the best tunes from a much older chapter of the series that brought a tiny flicker of happiness to my bus ride home this evening. Home audience, say it with me: Aww.

In other stupid, frivolous news, I’m going to buck the conventional wisdom and say I liked X-Men III a bit more than the first movie. That doesn’t mean it’s better, because it’s not; but I found it much more enjoyable than the first flick. And, let’s face it, no matter how terrible it was, it’s still a lot better than any X-Men comic ever created. At least there were no Claremont-esque three-paragraph essays being spouted between punches. Nor did characters ever refer to themselves in the third person — “I’m the Juggernaut, bitch!” is awful, but not as awful as “Juggernaut will destroy you!”

I also saw the Da Vinci Code over the long weekend, at my girlfriend’s bequest, and it turned out to be less painful as I expected. Sometimes I forget that critics have no clue what they’re talking about. (You’d think it would be easier to remember, being a critic myself.) Watching the two movies within a day of one another, a revelation dawned on me: you can save tons of money when you recruit your screenwriter by simply hiring Sir Ian McKellen for a part. He has the rare ability to turn the world’s worst dialogue into sheer euphonic rapture, meaning you can get any ol’ hack to draft your script. He’ll make it sparkle for you. His gentrification of Da Vinci Code was no small feat, either, because it had a screenplay like starch: totally stiff, and it left me feeling uncomfortable and kinda sick after swallowing it for two and a half hours. I’m pretty sure he could give a reading of The Eye of Argon and leave his audience with the impression that they’d just experienced a big ol’ deep kiss from Shakespeare himself.

32 thoughts on “The return of the joker

  1. i just read the text to myself, hearing it in his voice. that would be fucking awesome. someone should pay him to make a dramatic recording of it.

    Sir Ian is definately the grandmaster of fantasy movies. If he had been made into Dumbledore when he got Magneto and Gandalf, the world would have buckled under the weight of his geekitude.

  2. ja… XIII was my favourite of the three, also. two simple little stories, no overblown introductions. wouldn’t mind seeing the extended ed.

  3. I think a lot of folks just made up their mind that they weren’t going to like X-Men 3 long before they saw it. It was fine. A pefectly respectable popcorn flick.
    In retrospect, Kelsey Grammer as Beast seems so obvious, I feel kind of dumb never seeing it before. I’m no big fan of of Beast, but the perfomance was spot on.

  4. Uemetsu only scored one track for the entire game? HERESY!

    Err, what I mean to say is is that if anyone deserves to take over the reins of the series’ music, Sakimoto’s the one. The only other serious rpg composer that comes to mind, Yasinori Mitsuda, at this point almost feels like a one-hit wonder with Chrono Trigger, but maybe that’s because he keeps scoring music for crappy games that start with ‘Xeno-‘.

  5. Oh come on, let’s be realistic here — X-Men 3 was better than any X-Men comic in the last 30 years, but not better than any X-Men comic EVER.

  6. Wow, last time I heard you gush that much over a game OST was when Chrono Cross came out. Looking forward to it!

  7. One of the things I noticed in the FFXII demo was how unique sounding the music was. If that little tidbit was any indication, Parish is right. That is one awesome soundtrack.

  8. I’ve managed to convince myself that there are no X-Men comics other than Grant Morrison’s 40-issue run a couple years back, and it’s left me with much more pleasant memories of the franchise.

  9. The fact that Marvel worked to remove Morrison’s much-vaunted run from continuity as soon as he left is why I think it’s very silly to hold up the X-Men comics as any sort of standard, except maybe as an incubator for cool ideas that talented people working in other media can do something interesting with.
    Also, I doubt Sakimoto will score another FF game — this was probably a one-time deal since Matsuno and Yoshida were along for the ride. All the more reason to cherish it.

  10. and dude, x3 doesnt open in this god forsaken country till fucking september. silly japanese.

    frankly, after seeing the black mages in concert last year, i’m glad that uematsu isnt scoring games any more. his time has passed.

  11. I enjoyed X3 upon watching it. However afterwards, when I actually started *thinking* about the film, was when I began to develope intense undying hatred for it. X3 + brain = bad news, I wouldn’t recommend trying.

  12. I have never been an X-Men fan (there used to be this ongoing battle when I was in grade seven–people who loved Batman: The Animated Series versus the people who preferred the X-Men cartoons, AKA the losers). I especially dislike Jean Grey. But I really did enjoy “Origins.” Damned if I know what I did with our copy, though.

  13. Amen Tomm, Astonishing X-Men is pretty great!

    Also, are we counting Ultimate X-Men? Because issue #41 was pretty awesome, though not in any traditionally “x-men-y” way.

  14. Better than any X-Men comic? Wrong.

    Grant Morrison’s New X-Men is the first and last X-Men run you will ever need. It is a 40+ issue graphic novel that is nothing short of brilliant. It ranks right up there with his work on Animal Man, Invisibles and Doom Patrol.

    Please check it out.

  15. In the interest of not getting bogged down in X-minutia though, I agree with Jeremy’s sentiment, if not his hyperbole. This is better than most X-Men comics, or most of any super-hero comics actually. I don’t know how I’d compare X3 against X1 since I haven’t seen the first in quite a while, but I can definitely get behind the idea of X3 being more enjoyable than it is good.

  16. Would it be a terrible spoiler to tell us what nostalgic tune you’re talking about? I loved Sakimoto’s score for Vagrant Story, but then everyone should.

  17. I would agree with Parish in that it’s better that most comics, but I largely disliked the flick for being too inconsistent within itself. Characters and their deaths are often plot devices and that bothered me immensely. Constant disbelief -with no “suspension” benefit- does not check as “enjoyable” on my book. On the other hand, Beast was seriously fun. He had heart.

  18. Parish, spill: what was so disasteriffic about the E3 interview? Was it a translation problem? Or a surly-developer problem?

  19. It was a talking-to-four-men-who-were-sick-of-being-grilled-all-day-by-pasty-white-dudes problem, compounded by the first-developer-interview-I-had-conducted-in-a-year issue, futher complicated by the classic meek-translator crisis.

  20. Eeeesh, parish – the sacrifices you make for the rest of us dorks. Happily, the article still turned out pretty swell, methinks.

  21. In much the same way that my enjoying Legend of Legaia more than Final Fantasy 8 in absolutely no way makes the former better than the latter.

    You saw The Davinci Code at your girlfriend’s bequest? Exactly what the hell did she bequeath?

  22. The desire to see the movie. (Sadly, my week has been lame enough that I was waiting for someone to ask about that.)

  23. I have said, and maintain, that X3 made a better ending to the trilogy than it did a movie on its own. 1 made a better beginning to a trilogy than it did a movie on its own–so I think we’re on to something here. Think of X2 as “the movie” and then think of X1 as some guy explaining the backstory, and X3 as a different some guy explaining what happens after the movie.

  24. The movie was nice but I honestly couldn’t say it’s better than Morrison’s grace, as his works tend to truly be diamonds in the rough. Honeyed droplets of good literature extracted from the congealed mass of nonsensical farce that is the modern comic-book.

    I admit, there are a few things I’ve struggled with in regards to his envisionment of reality over the years. The pseudo-artmagic sillyness can be overwrought with pretention and he, as many others, falls into the bottomless pit of writers consumed by the ever obiquitous cliché of portraying Science and Machines as teh EVIL.

    Still, he’s got a lot going for him. I’d say the man’s a genius and unique. The latter being an incredibly rare commodity in the World today. Most storylines are simply rehashes of what’s gone on before, much as the movie was. His efforts though tend to be genuinely original, perhaps so much so because both he and his efforts writ are batshit insane.

  25. I saw both movies as well. ‘Da Vinci Code’ was okay-meh but definitely not as bad as the critics made me think it’d be, and I’m also one of the folks who enjoyed X3 immensely, despite its various problems.

    Lets hear it for great dirty mutie casting. And Sir Ian in general.

  26. Poor “Sir Ian”! On a local radiostation they were doing Magneto impersonations but under the guise that the real life Ian McKellan is gay. So they were saying stuff like: “I shall unbuckle your pants and unzip your zippers” but in a Magneto voice. It was hilarious yet so, so mean all at the same time.

Comments are closed.