Friday, July 17, 2009

That Guy's Impressions of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen

Let me preface this rant by saying that I thoroughly enjoyed the first Transformers film despite having no appreciation for Michael Bay as a director. I thought it was a fun, action-packed popcorn flick that was perfectly appropriate for a source material as widely respected but as narrowly studied as Transformers.

So I went into Revenge of the Fallen with a positive outlook on the franchise and a little bit of nerdy anticipation. And it would appear that the filmmakers did everything in their power to stifle that anticipation almost from the first frame.

The film had all the same high-flying, military-fu sequences I appreciated from the first film, but they were bogged down in a cesspool of immature jokes and pointless profanity.

I often found myself wondering what the target audience for this film was. The first Transformers film was original enough to give non-Transformer fans a fresh experience that didn't require any back story while still giving the fanboys enough pop-culture service to satiate them, for the most part. Of course, fanboys will always have something to bitch about, but it seemed to be mostly limited to Optimus Prime's flames.

Of course, the first film wasn't nitpick proof, but it is water-tight compared to the newest installment. Characters magically transport locations shot to shot regularly, the actual technology behind the transformers themselves is brought into question numerous times that brought me to one conclusion: whatever it is the tech is supposed to do will work if Michael Bay says it can, regardless of actual logic.

When the fuck did decepticons get the ability to turn into people? Didn't they turn into cars and planes because they could only transform into simple looking metal objects?

And one more thing, wasn't Megatron fucking huge? What happened?!?

Okay, so the canon-humping logic holes alienate the fanboys and needless, over the top profanity alienates children of responsible parents, so who's left? I'm left with the impression that this film was designed to be watched by an older movie-going populace with too much money to burn and not enough self-respect to appreciate quality cinema.

It was obvious that Michael Bay and his cronies decided to put all their money into the action sequences in hopes of scoring a quick cash-in. The writers should feel ashamed of themselves unless their production staff somehow hamstrung their abilities to tell a good story. Bay took what could have been a good narrative and used it as a vehicle for poorly-paced explosion orgies and slow-mo shots of long hair blowing in the wind.

There was actually one point when I expected one of the characters to break the fourth wall and say, "If you believe in Optimus Prime, just clap your hands."

And sadly, the movie probably would have been better if they had. At least then it would have acknowledged how corn-ball the whole affair was.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

An Eye-Opening Dungeons and Dragons Session

Throughout my juvenile career as a dungeon master, I have had very few instances when I've prepared adventures for my players. Usually I'll have a vague idea about where I want them to go and maybe what kind of adversity they'll have along the way and I make it up as we go.

Usually I don't have to come up with much since my players like to roleplay a lot in safe areas before setting off on any quests or missions they'd find. It's not uncommon for us to play for an hour before I even introduce an objective for them to work towards. The characters are all so interesting on their own, we don't necessarily have to be in combat for it to be entertaining.

I ran a session last night, however, that I wanted to be different. I actually prepared a full host of potential enemies and presented my players with a mission almost immediately.

The mission was designed to make use of some of the more plunder-hungry characters in the party because it was (hopefully) a stealth mission with at least one piece of really bitchin' loot. Sadly, only one of three money-centric characters actually played it appropriately and he nearly died as a result.

The task was simple, they had to procure naval travel to a small farming island to the west and steal an arcane artifact of indeterminable function and return it to their paycheck NPC.

They ended up jumping on the first boat that passed through that could be persuaded with coin, despite the fact that it was going the opposite direction, had a full cargo hold to unload within a specified deadline and they were in a port town that sees trade vessels come through all the time.

Needless to say, passage on that barge was expensive as hell.

After two random encounters in transit, the group landed at the farming village to find it basically a clueless hippie commune that didn't fish as most coastal towns did, and grew corn and soy beans in what is otherwise a tropical region.

To give you any idea as to the understanding of my players, one of the group's two rogues actually asked "Does it look like a place where there would be traps?" To which, I repeated my description of the town and moved on.

Ironically enough, there actually was a trap but I couldn't exactly tell them flat out.

The group found out that the device was kept in a longhouse at the north side of town and decided to wait until nightfall to attack. Rather then go straight for the longhouse, our bloodthirsty ranger (who is surprisingly influential with the players) talked the other party members into attacking the various wooden huts around the town for fun, rather then actually going for the longhouse and completing the objective.

Needless to say, they found themselves beset by about 8 commoners armed with various farming implements and the dice did everything they could to kill the player characters. A surprisingly epic battle ensued in the town square and in various huts throughout town while the longhouse lay silent.

In all the commotion it was obvious that many of the players completely forgot what the mission was and were just enjoying a macabre sandbox filled with unarmored peasants.

After finally killing what appeared to be all the able-bodied fighting men in town, all the characters beset against the various women and children in the huts while one money-grubbing character (a swashbuckler) actually decided to try accomplishing the mission.

He pressed against the longhouse's front wall and smacked his fist against the front door in a manner that would make Solid Snake proud, in hopes of getting someone from the inside to open it and maybe step out.

He found himself engulfed in flames and unconscious.

The two rogues finally arrived at the longhouse to attempt finding and disabling the trap. Neither succeeded in finding the device or picking the lock and they actually set the trap off two more times before someone finally decided to find another point of entry.

They ended up busting through the roof, killing the final guards and getting the device. At this point, everyone was wounded, both rogues had proven that they're lousy at being rogues outside of combat and the dexterous swashbuckler was nearly dead.

Oh, and did I mention that the group has no healer? In fact, it was nothing but dexterous fighters: two rogues, a melee ranger, a swashbuckler and a swordsage.

I found out that "standard adventures" with traps, environmental pitfalls and critical thinking just don't work well with a group that has the balance of a breakfast made up exclusively of Hershey products and characters who pleasure themselves in chaos more than story progression.

I'm left with the impression that I could just draw out different towns and fill them with random NPCs for my players to kill and most of them would be happy with that.

It's a little sad actually because I had planned on telling a story.