Tag: Action

Deadpool 2 review

Director: David Leitch

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Josh Brolin, Morena Baccarin, Julian Dennison, Zazie Beetz, T.J. Miller, Brianna Hildebrand, Jack Kesey

Release date: May 18, 2018

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After Deadpool’s success, a sequel was obviously going to happen. Hell, the first movie’s after credits scene said they were going to do one. I was eagerly awaiting the release of Deadpool 2, which had just as much of a hilarious and creative marketing campaign as the original. After thinking it over, I have come to the conclusion that Deadpool 2 manages to surpass the first one, despite being more inconsistent overall.

Deadpool 2 begins sometime after the first one, with Wade now working as a contract killer going after the worst humanity has to offer. Eventually, he crosses paths with Cable, a time traveler from the future who’s come to kill a young mutant named Russel. I’m giving a detailed summary as the plot of this movie genuinely took me by surprise at many points, even in the first ten minutes approximately. The plot moves at an exciting pace and is always giving you something new to enjoy. I honestly had no idea where it was going to go, and ended up being surprised at every turn. That being said what it has in surprises and exciting moments it lacks in consistency and a tight structure. It feels all over the place at times. There is for the most part a connective tissue, but some odd editing likely from reshoots can give one a feeling that they missed a scene when they haven’t left the theater for a second.

The new side characters of Domino and Cable really give Ryan Reynolds and the movie itself more opportunities and material for humor. Cable plays as the straight man to Deadpool’s ridiculous personality and antics while Domino’s power of “luck” makes for some of the most entertaining scenes of the film, which itself lampshades that her power doesn’t make for a very cinematic experience, but then we see that it actually really does.

Deadpool 2 also ups the ante with its action scenes. I thought the first one peaked too early in this regard, not the case for the sequel. The action scenes are always consistently entertaining, creative, and violent. The high point comes during the film’s second act, where an absolutely exciting and nonstop thrill of a convoy chase sequence takes place. Each of the main characters get to shine with creative displays of their powers and abilities. The beginning of the film also has a hilarious and violent montage of Deadpool going on contract killings. The film further enhances its action scenes by being visually better looking with more creative and dynamic camerawork. Getting one of the John Wick directors to replace Tim Miller was definitely a wise choice after Miller left due to creative differences with Ryan Reynolds. He did a great job with the first one, but David Leitch for the most part managed to surpass him where it mattered.

Performances from the cast, especially the new additions are great pretty much across the board. Ryan Reynolds is still nailing it, Josh Brolin is a perfect Cable, Zazie Beetz as Domino is fun, likable, and gets a lot to do, and Julian Dennison as Russel is hilariously rude. T.J. Miller however is again the weak link that could’ve been cut from the film, and if they make a third one they should just forget his character ever existed. The humor is also more frequent, which results in it not always hitting its mark like the first one, but when the jokes do hit they hit harder as well. The joke involving the regular guy Peter is especially funny. Yet the film still manages to save its best joke for last during the credits sequence, which instead of hinting at future movies to come will have you clutching your gut in laughter and serves as catharsis.

Deadpool 2 is a messier sequel than the first one, but it also manages to be funnier, have more compelling stakes and character growth as well. The first one was pretty good, but the sequel honestly manages to surpass it in spite of its flaws. If you were a fan of the first one, you’ll definitely want to see this one.

Score: 8/10

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Deadpool review

Director: Tim Miller

Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick

Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T. J. Miller, Stefan Capicic, Ed Skrein, Brianna Hildebrand, Gina Carano, Leslie Uggans

Released: February 12, 2016

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Deadpool was the most entertaining comic book movie of 2016. Yes, that year had stinkers like Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad, but it also had the excellent Captain America: Civil War. It wasn’t the first R rated comic book movie ever made, but it was by far the most successful of its time. The plot of Deadpool is not anything groundbreaking. At its core it’s a standard superhero origin story you’ve seen told before. We see Wade Wilson before he has his powers, there’s a love interest, a rather bland villain, Wade gets his powers and must find his place in the world with them. What manages to salvage the by the numbers plot is its delivery and how the characters interact with each other.

Deadpool gleefully takes full advantage of its R rating to enhance its plot. The humor is crass and raunchy, with sex and dick jokes galore. The humor also takes fire at superheroes, superhero movie conventions, the various cinematic universes studios are pumping out today, actors, and many others. No one is safe from this movie’s satirical knives. Deadpool managed to breathe fresh life into the market that it sorely needed.
Deadpool also makes sure to take advantage of its R rating for the action scenes. People have their heads chopped off, get blown up, and have their bodies eviscerated in all manner of gruesome ways. It is refreshing to see a superhero movie just go all out with insane violence. The violence is also very well choreographed and directed, with a mixture of practical stunt work and effective CGI. The action unfortunately peaks rather early, as after the highway sequence the film never manages to reach the same level of intensity and creativity.

Ryan Reynolds is perfect for the role of Deadpool. He manages to walk the line between funny and obnoxious without straying into the latter. His fourth wall breaking jokes are always well delivered, and he has likable side characters to play off of. The love story between him and Morena Baccarin’s character is lovably raunchy and crass, in comparison to other bland romances in superhero movies. The dynamics between him, Colossus, and a blind old lady named Al played by Leslie Uggams keep the humor fresh and new, thanks to the tried and true combination of the straight man working with the quirky character. The only side character that could be pegged as the weak link is T.J. Miller’s. He just serves to make jokes at the expense of Deadpool’s cancer ridden face. He’s not terrible or even bad, but is just an average presence in a movie full of good and funny characters.

A comedy movie such as this needs to be very tightly paced in order to prevent the audience from getting annoyed by the characters, and a character like Deadpool runs a serious risk of this happening. Thankfully the movie doesn’t outstay its welcome and both satisfies you while leaving you feeling like you’re hungry for more. A feeling every movie should strive for.

Deadpool helped fend off comic book movie fatigue by being fresh and different. Not necessarily different in every way, but different in the ways that matter. I’ll admit it did go down half a point upon second viewing due to the plot’s delivery not feeling as fresh the second time around, but still, if you want proof comic book movies still have plenty of room to be creative, look no further than this film. I’ll get to the sequel sometime later.

Score: 7.5/10

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time review

Developer: Nintendo

Publisher: Nintendo

Game played on: 3DS

Released: November 23, 1998/ June 19, 2011 (Ocarina of Time 3D)

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So this is it, the game considered by many to be the greatest ever created. It revolutionized 3D gaming and its influence is still felt to this day. I’m glad to have finally gotten it out of my backlog, even if it is not in its original form. I don’t regret the time I spent playing Ocarina, in fact I think it’s a very good game, but not certainly not the best game ever.

This is the very first Zelda game I have ever played from beginning to end. I have not played the 2D Zelda games and I don’t care about them. Ocarina of Time tells the story of a young boy named Link (but you can change his name to any one you want), who is destined to save the land of Hyrule and the princess Zelda from the ambitions of the evil Ganondorf. With help from his fairy sidekick Navi, Link’s quest will take him to places from villages where the children never become adults to dark, forbidden dungeons full of booby traps and monsters, and even across time itself.

A simple story right? Yes. However, that is as much its greatest strength as it is its greatest weakness. Ocarina of Time’s story and plot harken back to classic fairy tales and fantasy books we all know and love. A young peasant boy with a great destiny, the quest to save a young princess and the land from great evil, strange fantasy creatures and monsters, etc. The simplicity of the premise lends weight to some truly emotional story moments. As you travel back as an adult to locations you visited and helped as a child, you are confronted with these lands having become ruined or corrupted by Ganondorf and his evil rule. Characters that once knew you no longer recognize you at first, and sometimes never do. It explores themes of how much crueler the world can be as an adult, when everything seemed so much more happy and innocent as a child. All of these very good qualities aside, it is a pretty simple plot. If you have any knowledge of fairy tales, you’ll likely be able to predict where it will go, and there’s only one major twist in the game which given its age you might already know. The side characters are also mainly forgettable. You will meet them, they’ll serve their role for the story, and then be forgotten about to move on to the next plot point. Your fairy companion Navi has a bad reputation even amongst this game’s biggest fans, but I didn’t find her to be that annoying, and she has genuinely useful advice for you throughout the game.

The gameplay mainly revolves around exploring dungeons, solving puzzles, and combating enemies. The dungeons are all varied in their visual and level design, and each has a different atmosphere. However they also vary greatly in quality, with some being entertainingly challenging, and others just being obnoxiously hard for no reason. The infamous Water Temple is considered the prime example of the latter, but honestly I don’t think it’s that difficult, in fact once you figure out how it works you can solve it fairly easily, and switching between required items is a lot less tedious thanks to the 3DS remaster’s new features. The temple immediately after it I think is a lot more annoying just because it throws so much at you. The best temple in the game I feel is the Forest Temple, because of its place in the story, the boss, and the resolution at the end.

Enemies will have either weaknesses that Link can exploit with the right weapon and timing, or he can just hack away at the simpler ones with his sword. This really gets taken to an extreme level in the boss fights. They will have one, very specific weakness that you have to exploit over and over again until they finally go down using a special item found in their respective dungeon. Once you figure it out and can predict their move sets, they won’t be any trouble whatsoever save for their high damage output. They all have designs that are creative and fit the environment that they inhabit.

Ocarina of Time’s gameplay is held back the most by its focus on keeping everything varied in the moment rather than overtime. Items that you find in dungeons rarely, but not always have any usage outside of them, and despite the overworld of the game being fairly large, there isn’t really much to do save for the odd minigame and the game’s very few sidequests. The only sidequests I pursued were one which will get you the most powerful sword in the whole game, and even that is mostly just fetch quests mixed with time trials, and the other that will get you a bigger wallet to carry money in.

What manages to carry Ocarina of Time to the finish line is its atmosphere and music. You genuinely feel immersed in this fantasy land that is counting on you alone to save it. Link is perfect for this, having zero personality and existing solely for players to project themselves into, to the point where Link doesn’t even have to be his name. Lastly, even decades later, Ocarina of Time’s music is still amongst the finest ever crafted in gaming.
There is nothing really bad to say about Ocarina of Time on a technical level other than the framerate dropping a few times during more intense moments. It was glitch free and while a bit dated, the character and background models are not ugly or aged too badly. I played the 3DS remaster of this game, which updated the graphics to be more bearable, has better controls, and generally feels nicer to play.

Sorry but the greatest game of all time Ocarina of Time is not. It’s still very good, but even with the remaster’s graphical improvements and better controls, age still has exposed this game’s flaws. Other games have come out afterwards that are more worthy of “greatest of all time” status than Ocarina.

Score: 7/10

Vampire Hunter D review

Director: Toyoo Ashida

Writers: Yasushi Hirano

Studio: Ashi Productions

Released: December 21, 1985

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This will be my first review where I will attempt to give a numerical score based on a number out of ten. I don’t know if I’ll stick with this system but I think it’s worth a try.

There are timeless classics, and then there are works that might have been good around the time they originally came out, but haven’t aged well overall. Vampire Hunter D is the latter.

Vampire Hunter D is an anime movie adaptation of the first novel of a long-running, popular series of post-apocalyptic/fantasy/horror novels from Japan. I haven’t read any of the books so I can’t speak for its faithfulness to its source material, but I’ve read that it is a faithful adaptation for what that’s worth if you’re a fan of the source material.
It’s a real shame that I don’t particularly care for Vampire Hunter D, because there are elements to it that are well executed. It manages to deliver a pretty heavy atmosphere, the soundtrack is decent, the unusual setting is interesting, and the designs of the monsters are creative and genuinely disturbing in appearance. The movie has a lot of potential to be something special, but alas, it doesn’t manage to reach even half of it.

The story is set thousands of years after a series of nuclear wars, the Earth has become a world filled with mutants, monsters, vampires, and other dangerous creatures. A vampire hunter only named “D” is given a contract by a young woman to kill an ancient, powerful vampire that takes young girls from a small town to his castle to be his brides every 50 years. There are a couple of side characters and villains, but none of them are interesting or well developed. Our main character D comes off less like a character and more of a plot device at times with how powerful and underdeveloped he is. As the movie goes along, it will become clear to you that nothing is really a threat to D. Oh, he might have difficulties, but they feel artificial and move along so quickly you’ll barely notice, save for one instance where you think for a moment he might actually be dead (he’s taking a long nap really). He reminded me a lot of Geralt of Rivia from The Witcher series in terms of demeanor and occupation: A monster hunter feared by most of the populace, loved by a few, and women will want to sleep with him just after getting to know him. The pacing to the plot is also a mess, moving too fast with some scenes feeling barely connected together, yet with some scenes just dragging on. There’s an attempt at a one sided love on the young woman who hires D that feels totally artificial thanks to the bad pacing. Lastly, while the world the movie is set in is interesting from a concept point of view, the world presented on screen feels very patched together. There’s some advanced technology, but the small town looks medieval in architecture and clothes worn by the townspeople, like a steampunk setting. It’s a unique idea, but the world comes across as artificial and not lived in at all.

The animation for the movie is the most poorly aged aspect to it. The stiff, recycled animation makes the action scenes on a technical level very weak and lacking in tension, and because the characters are so poorly developed there’s no emotional investment to the fights. We know D will win, it’s just a matter of when. The most entertaining aspect to the fights is the blood and gore, which I’ll admit can still be entertaining today. Voice acting isn’t exactly good either. Now after doing some research I found out that the English voice acting I heard was in fact a newer dubbing done by Sentai Filmworks after they got the distribution rights to the film in 2015, not the original 1992 dub from Steamline Pictures. Neither is what I’d call good, but the newer dub is better than the old one. At least the new one has some cheesy camp to it, the old one is just stilted and dull. I did listen to a bit of the Japanese voice acting and it sounded okay by today’s standards.

I’m sure there are some people with nostalgia for this movie, and it is an interesting work from a historical perspective with some redeeming value to be found, but that can’t redeem its flaws. Vampire Hunter D is just an average movie as a whole that isn’t really worth your time. If you want to see some violent, monster killing action that bad, go watch Netflix’s first season of Castlevania. Maybe the sequel will be better and it did get me interested in the original novels, so it deserves some credit.

Score: 5/10

Alien Series review

So for this October I decided to watch every single movie in the Alien franchise. What began as a sci-fi horror movie in 1979 directed by Ridley Scott has now become a massive franchise with sequels, prequels, video games, crossovers across various media, and comic books. I did not watch the Alien vs Predator movies because they are just non-canon fanservice for fans of both properties and I have not seen the Predator movies anyway.

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Alien
It’s been decades since it was first released in theaters and is still one of the best horror films ever made. The story and characters are nothing special but they’re well carried by the actors’ performances and the plot’s pacing. A crew of a commercial spaceship called the Nostromo discover a derelict alien spaceship that ends up housing a dangerous threat unlike anything ever seen. It looks better than most movies in general today thanks to excellent set design, practical effects, and Ridley Scott’s superb direction and cinematography. The eponymous Alien (Xenomorph) is still one of the most menacing horror antagonists ever because of its design (RIP H.R. Giger), and of how there is no complex explanation or backstory for its actions. It’s a predator and the crew is the prey, simple as that. Like the best horror movies, it relies on subtlety and nail-biting tension rather than jump scares and gore. A sci-fi slasher movie where the slasher is a Lovecraftian-esque monster with origins unknown to us. The only negative that drags it down is the characters not being memorable outside of our main lead Ellen Ripley, but other than that it’s still a great movie.

Aliens
This movie is awesome. The sequel that surpassed the original and then some. Ripley wakes up after over fifty years of hyper sleep to discover her daughter Amanda has passed away years ago from cancer, and no one believes her story about how her crew was killed. A Xenomorph outbreak on the colony Hadley’s Hope causes her to team up with the Colonial Marines to take on her old enemy. Directed by James Cameron instead of Ridley Scott, Cameron wisely decided to take the film in an action oriented direction instead of trying to one up the original, thus creating one of the best sci-fi action movies of all time. The universe set up in the original is expanded upon more, the characters are much more memorable, Ellen Ripley cements her status as one of the best female action heroes in history, and it has the best action scenes ever. Like the first movie the story itself is nothing really special, but the characters are vastly better in this one and with Ripley becoming a surrogate mother to the child character Newt in this movie, it’s much more emotionally engaging since it’s genuinely sad to see characters get brutally killed, and extremely happy to see others make it out alive. Hicks, Newt, Hudson, Vasquez, Bishop and then some all make up the best set of characters the series has ever seen. It also has messages about the arrogance of a technologically superior force fighting a seemingly weaker enemy, which was inspired by the U.S.’s bungling of the Vietnam War, so it’s a much smarter movie than it appears to be at first glance. The lines are iconic (“Game over man! Game over!” “Get away from her you bitch!”), the special effects still look great today, it still manages to keep the nail biting tension the original movie had, and the ending has one of the best final battles in action movies ever with the Xenomorph Queen and it wraps up Ripley’s character arc perfectly. You can make other movies in the series but here is where Ripley’s character should’ve been left. Easily now in my favorite movies list, one of the best sequels ever, and the best movie in the franchise. There’s a small but vocal minority of people who hate this movie for moving away from first movie’s horror. Well be careful what you wish for because you get a new Alien movie with an emphasis on horror in the next one…

Alien 3
This is the exact opposite of Aliens. It’s one of the worst sequels ever made because instead of being exciting it’s boring, it’s a slog to get through, the characters are mostly dull and unlikable, has an bad ending and pisses on Ripley’s character. Remember Hicks and Newt? They get killed in the beginning of Alien 3, retroactively ruining the completely wonderful ending of the previous movie! I’m not against movies set after Aliens, but they should have little to do with Ellen Ripley. There are other stories you can tell, as shown with the now non-canon Dark Horse Alien comics and Alien: Isolation video game. There can be a movie about Newt grown up kicking Xenomorph ass, or another movie about the Colonial Marines, but leave Ripley alone. This movie had a notoriously troubled production and was David Fincher’s directorial debut, but not even he can salvage this boring turd. It’s the kind of horror movie that relies on shock value deaths and gore to scare its audience, which gets boring after it happens once or twice. The special effects aren’t even that good thanks to some poorly used and aged CGI, and that’s not even getting into the new prison setting being visually uninteresting with only the colors being grey and yellowish brown. Lastly, Ripley goes from being a badass who kicked Xeno ass to being terrified of the Xenomorph again, then they kill her off at the end of the movie via heroic sacrifice to end the threat once and for all. Some people say the Assembly Cut is a genuinely good movie. It’s not, so don’t watch it for your own sake.

Alien: Resurrection
Accomplishes the impressive goal of being even worse than the third movie. It takes place 200 years after Alien 3 and a new company studying the Xenomorphs clones Ripley. Yep, they didn’t even have the guts to stick with 3’s ending of her character. Even the opening credits are inferior to 3’s, and the worst of the entire series! This is the Batman and Robin of the Alien movies, with terrible acting, special effects, and a campy tone that is disrespectful to its own series. The only good things I can say about it is that its visual style is more interesting than 3’s and Ron Perlman is a blast in it, but everything else is worse. The story I hear is Joss Whedon wrote this script to try to get fired from his job, but studio executives actually took it seriously. If that’s true, then every stereotype of movie executives is pretty much justified. Another Xenomorph outbreak occurs because of corporate incompetence, but this time it’s really inexcusable. The movie takes place 200 years after Alien 3, so they should know the Xenos have acid blood, but their cages aren’t even acid proof! It’s like they wanted an accident to happen! It’s constantly pulling stuff out of its ass as the plot keeps moving that make no sense. Fuck this movie.

Prometheus
This is a prequel to the original movies with Ridley Scott back at the director’s helm. I don’t find it to be the masterpiece it tried to be or the ultimate betrayal of the other movies fans found it to be (Did they forget the last two movies exist?). I’m glad they finally moved on from Ripley’s character so as not to butcher it any further, so that was an automatic plus in my book. I think it has some interesting ideas but the execution left a lot to be desired. It wants to explore the origins of the Xenomorphs and of humanity in general, with an advanced race of aliens called the “Engineers” being the overall antagonists. The problem with this is that it feels torn between being a prequel and wanting to be its own movie, so none of the ideas it wants to explore feel fleshed out. Ridley Scott is still a great visual director that very few can match, and that combined with the much better CGI and special effects for this movie make it utterly beautiful at times. Everything else though, there’s a lot left to be desired. The biggest problems by far are the characters and their stupidity. These people are the dumbest group of researchers that have ever lived. The plot wouldn’t move if it weren’t for their idiotic mistakes, like a biologist approaching a strange alien creature or one of the crew members not telling the others he noticed a parasite in his eye while looking at his face in the mirror. Also, the technology is more advanced despite being a prequel to the other movies, but that’s kind of a nitpick that can be explained by the crew having a higher budget compared to the crew of the first movie who were basically truckers in space. Michael Fassbender’s android character David is pretty interesting, however he’s the only one I liked. Not even the main character Shaw was memorable. I wouldn’t call it good, but exploring the origins of the Xenomorphs with other characters is an interesting premise that a sequel could have built upon. Key phrase being could have.

Alien: Covenant
Whatever potential the ideas from Prometheus had to be fleshed out has gone unfulfilled. It has the same problems as Prometheus but with some new ones too. The characters are uninteresting and make dumb decisions but even more so. David returns from Prometheus and is turned into some cartoonish super villain who created the Xenomorphs just because he could, killed Shaw off screen, and committed genocide on the Engineers between the two movies. The Xenomorphs and facehuggers make their return to pacify the fans who were disappointed that Prometheus had very little to do overall with the actual origins of the Xenomorphs. The best aspect is the good direction from Ridley Scott again, but it’s a very hollow movie overall and at this point I have no doubt he barely cares. The script went through some pretty heavy rewrites, and all the ideas it had before sound way more interesting than the glorified half sequel to Prometheus, half remake of Alien we got.

Overall
This is how I rank the Alien movies from best to worst:
1. Aliens
2. Alien
3. Prometheus
4. Alien: Covenant
5. Alien 3
6. Alien: Resurrection
The first two movies are amazing while the rest aren’t worth watching. Prometheus has its moments but its issues drag it down too much. After the mess that was Covenant, I have no interest in seeing any other movie made in this franchise. They should have called it quits after Aliens, at least in regards to Ellen Ripley’s story. Just watch the first two, then play the video game Alien: Isolation. It’s about Amanda Ripley, Ellen’s biological daughter who died in between the first two movies as she tries to discover the truth of her mother’s disappearance. It’s a pretty good game that actually tells a much better story than the other movies of the series.

Berserk movie trilogy retrospective part 3: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc III: The Advent

Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Studio 4°C

Release date: February 1, 2013

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Warning: major spoilers for Berserk and discussion of graphic material

Now this is how you end a trilogy. It’s very rare that the third movie in a trilogy manages to be the best one, but what do you know, they managed to pull it off. After a disappointing start and an improved but still flawed second movie, they managed to end on a high note, albeit still with some flaws. Whatever you may say of the previous movies, you’d be hard press to call this final installment bad either as a movie or adaptation. Honestly I would argue this movie is worth watching the other two movies for, just so you aren’t lost and can have more emotional investment in the story and characters. This is what the previous films have been building up to. Griffith’s destiny is finally realized, the Hawks are permanently lost, and Guts swears revenge on Griffith for his abominable betrayal.

This is the movie the other ones have been building up to. Longtime fans were dreading it from the beginning, and new fans likely had no idea what was coming. Here is the plot and major, major spoilers. You ready?

Guts and the Band of the Hawk reunite after a year, and he and Casca end up fully expressing the growing feelings that had been building between them since the last movie. After making love, Guts is warned by an undead rider known as Skull Knight of a coming disaster that he will not be able to escape, but Guts is unable to understand what he means. Afterword, the Hawks go on a rescue operation to save Griffith from imprisonment, but arrive far too late. Griffith is broken in mind and body. His tendons are severed, his tongue has been cut out, and his face has been horrifically disfigured. He will never become the kind he has dreamed of being since he was a child. Once they escape, and the gravity of the situation becomes acknowledged by everyone, Casca says she’ll stay behind with Griffith while Guts leaves to become Griffith’s equal. Unknown to them, Griffith hears all of this, and distraught that the man he cares so much for is leaving him again, he breaks completely. He takes a carriage and runs away, but doesn’t get far before being thrown off and crippled further. He tries to commit suicide, but can’t even do that. Griffith completely sinks into despair, but as if destined by fate, finds his Behelit. When the Behelit comes into contact with his blood, it turns into a crying face, and he, Guts, Casca, and the other Hawks are teleported to a hellish dimension. Here, four demonic entities known as the Godhand reveal that this is an event called “The Eclipse” and this is Griffith’s true destiny, that he is destined to sacrifice his friend and comrades and be reborn as their fifth member. Griffith, rationalizing that he has come too far to give up, and if he doesn’t he will become the very sort of desperate survivor that he despises. After mulling it over for a brief period, he looks at Guts, admits to himself that he really did see him as more than just a soldier, and sacrifices them. The Hawks, save for Guts and Casca die and are devoured by demons in a horrific bloodbath. When only Guts and Casca remain, Griffith emerges from his cocoon as the new member of the Godhand named Femto. Femto descends to Guts’ level, orders some demons to bring Casca to him, and rapes her while forcing his best friend to watch. Guts tries to save her, costing him his left arm and right eye, but he fails. Just when all seems lost, Skull Knight arrives and saves them. Four days later, Guts awakens from being passed out from exhaustion and trauma, only to find the events of The Eclipse have driven Casca insane. Guts vows war upon demonkind to avenge his friends and Casca. The movie ends with Guts donning his iconic Black Swordsman getup, and going off to slay monsters.

Compared to the other movies, and especially The Battle for Doldrey, The Advent is much more subdued and less large in scope. The majority of the movie is spent with just the characters interacting with each other, as they come to grips with their horrible situation, and old bonds are both reforged and broken. This is easily the most emotional of the movies, and captures the human and tragic spirit of Berserk more than any other. Big thanks should go to the voice cast, who put in their best work yet. Everyone shows off impressive range, from anger, sadness, despair, happiness, the whole emotional spectrum. Jon Avner as Void, one of the members of the Godhand, is only in the film for a short while, but his appearance will leave an unforgettable impression. This is also has the best usage of music in the trilogy. Shiro Sagisu and Susumu Hirasawa once again deliver and then some, providing what I feel are some of the best musical tracks in any Berserk adaptation. The music ranges from epic, dark and grandiose for epic scenes like the horror of The Eclipse, to calm and understated during the film’s quiet moments. A perfect example is the love scene between Guts and Casca, with just a flute playing in the background.

It really is The Advent’s quiet scenes that where it truly shines for me. It’s these scenes that are the best done adaptation wise between it and the 90s anime. Casca lashing out at Guts for leaving the Hawks, thus inadvertently causing Griffith to act recklessly and cause the Hawks downfall, and Casca explaining to the Hawks that Griffith is crippled beyond repair and it will never get better for them, happens with absolutely no music playing at all. Now it’s not perfect, with some poorly handled CGI, but the voice acting, 2D, and sheer atmosphere of scenes like these that make them work so well.

Of course, how The Eclipse is handled needs to be touched on as well. It’s the most important event in the movie and in Berserk in general. It’s one of the most gory, tragic, bloody, nightmarish events I’ve ever seen in an anime or manga, and The Advent’s version of it is faithful in all ways imaginable. It is the bloodiest thing you will ever see. If you can’t handle intense gore and violence, then you shouldn’t even bother with this movie or series. One scene that is completely unique to the movie, and proves without a doubt proves the naysayers of the movies wrong in that these are bad adaptations, is Griffith’s metamorphosis into Femto. The animation style changes completely from the traditional into a painterly like style, meant to represent that Griffith is moving beyond the human plain and is becoming another being completely divorced from our senses. It’s surreal and genuinely creepy. Between this and the 1997 anime’s representation of The Eclipse, while the 97 anime follows events more closely to the events as they were drawn from the manga, The Advent better captures the violent and tragic nature of The Eclipse, and makes some new events that better serve its medium.

So what does The Advent do wrong? Well aside from the CGI still looking misplaced (though it is much better now and the focus is brought back to 2D animation), the romance between Guts and Casca doesn’t feel as strong as it did in the manga and 90s anime, due to the cuts made for time on scenes between the characters throughout the trilogy. One character moment between Guts and Casca that was left out that is especially disappointing. In the manga, after making love, Guts breaks down over being molested as a child, until Casca hugs him and says he can open his heart to her without shame. It’s one of the most emotional moments in the entire series, and this wouldn’t be so bad if it weren’t for the fact that in the first movie a flashback is shown of Guts being raped as a child. It’s a genuinely wasted opportunity on the part of the creative team. It also ends on yet another cliffhanger. Now it’s an ending with much more resolution than the original anime’s was, but like the original anime, we’ll never see the rest since due to diminishing financial returns, the other planned movies were cancelled.

The Advent is easily the best film in the entire trilogy and any fan of Berserk should watch it. So as a whole, how does this trilogy fare? Well it was definitely flawed, with its cutting of completely perfect plot threads and overuse of CGI, especially in the first movie. Adapting such a monumental manga like Berserk was always going to be a challenge, and adapting it to movie theaters even more so due to the time constraints they were under. And yet, there is still more good than bad here. By the third film they clearly has gotten a hang of adapting the source material, and even in the first film you can see the spirit of Berserk in it. There was clearly a lot of love and heart put into these films, and it’s a genuine tragedy that we won’t get to see more of them, especially in light of the 2016 and 2017 Berserk anime adaptations. I haven’t watched them in full but I’ve seen an episode and… well let’s just say you’re better off first watching the movies and then reading the manga, and if you want another adaptation, watch the 1997 anime. Warts and all, these movies deserved better than just getting unceremoniously cancelled.

Well this retrospective was a lot of fun. It was really interesting to look at these movies both on their own terms, and as adaptations of Berserk. I hope that anyone reading enjoyed and that I managed to at least convince one person to both check out Berserk in general and the trilogy.

Berserk movie trilogy retrospective part 2: Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey

Director: Toshiyuki Kubooka

Writer: Ichiro Okouchi

Studio: Studio 4°C

Release date: June 23, 2012

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Warning: Major spoilers for Berserk

This a movie that is overall an improvement over the first movie, which was just average overall. Here we see a greater understanding of how to make a more competent adaptation and capture the more important qualities of Berserk, which is why as an adaptation Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II: The Battle for Doldrey manages to deeper examine the characters of the cast and ends with the beginning of their end, and it’s also just a good movie on its own.

This movie covers the events titled “Battle for Doldrey”, the siege of an impenetrable castle that Griffith and the Band of the Hawk manage to capture and end the Hundred Years War between Midland and Chuder, and Guts leaving the Band of the Hawk to pursue his own dream to become Griffith’s equal and be seen as a true friend in his eyes, thus beginning events that would lead to Griffith’s and the Hawks’ downfall.
The most important improvement The Golden Age Arc II makes is deepening the personalities of its characters. We learn about why Casca is so devoted to Griffith, and her behavior in the previous movie begins to make more sense, as she was jealous of the attention Guts was getting from Griffith. Guts himself begins to stretch his wings more, wondering why he’s fighting in his famous internal monologue where he is slaying over a hundred enemies while wondering what his own motives are to fight. Griffith gets more explanation into his motives too, where after Doldrey has been claimed, it is revealed he slept with a pedophiliac lord in order to get funds so his men would get better equipment, and says that the only way he can repay the lives his men have given is to fulfill his dream. He then kills the nobleman so that his secret won’t get out. It doesn’t always work though, due to some events being cut from the movie such as the King of Midland trying to rape his daughter. When tortured by the king after Griffith is discovered to have slept with the princess, Griffith mocks with disgust how the king lusts for his daughter, but this scene is never followed up on nor does the movie explain the king’s lust, which the original manga did by explaining that the Princess Charlotte resembles his dead first wife. The original anime actually cut the subplot out entirely, thus avoiding any awkward scene placement. One subplot completely cut out by the film left in the anime and manga was the Queen of Midland conspiring to kill Griffith, until Griffith retaliates by kidnapping the also omitted Minister Foss’s daughter and blackmailing him into compliance. This showed Griffith, despite his likability is also utterly ruthless and will go to any lengths to fulfill his ambition. It also had Griffith asking Guts if he was a bad person, with Guts reassuring Griffith that it was all okay if he got closer to his dream.

One big change character wise as an adaptation this movie makes is the introduction of characters from later down the manga’s story. Characters named Farnese, Serpico, and Puck make cameos near and at the end of the movie, and are clearly shown to be important to newcomers due to their unique designs compared to the other extras. For longtime fans this is definitely nice fanservice, but it might be distracting to others. It doesn’t last long though so it doesn’t feel shoved down your throat.

The movie also feels much more complete this time around. While there are still scenes that are reduced to showing and not telling, such as when you’re only told Griffith slept with the lord, and not shown it like in the manga and anime, and Casca’s backstory is cut down more simply to tell her story of Griffith saving her life, it comes across as much more natural. The studio even had some clever ideas as to how to get around some of the changes they had to make, like when Guts is fighting General Bascogn of the Chuder army. In the original manga and anime, Zodd threw Guts a sword from the distance, like divine intervention in Guts’ favor to win the battle. They weren’t able to animate the scene properly, so they decided to change it to Guts thinking of a new strategy on the fly. While it’s a shame that the badass Zodd didn’t make an appearance and serve as very ominous foreshadowing of the larger powers at play in the world of Berserk, their solution was pretty decent. The movie’s cuts also create another issue when months after the Hawks have reached the height of their goals, Guts leaves to find his own dream and be seen as an equal in Griffith’s eyes. Guts tells both Casca and the other major Hawk members this in the anime and manga, but here Guts is just shown implying it to Casca. It’s an admittedly minor issue compared to the first movie’s timeline related plot hole, and I was able to fill in the blanks, but I’m sure they could’ve animated a scene of Casca telling the other Hawks Guts’ intentions.

More good news is that the balance between the CGI and 2D animation is much better in this film. Bad news is that it still isn’t quite right, and the quality of the animation styles individually are still the same. The 2D backgrounds and character models are still beautiful and the CGI animation still looks choppy and bad and can take you out of the film at major moments like the Gut’s fight in the forest and the titled Battle of Doldrey itself. And that goes for the rest of the movie too. The voice acting is still great and the music is still great. All these elements really become obvious during two scenes: the ballroom scene where Griffith and Hawks are granted nobility and Guts’ duel with Griffith. In the ballroom scene, the voice actors show off excellent range, the 2D is awe inspiring and the music is beautiful, but every time the CGI shows up it takes you right out of it. Guts’ duel with Griffith is easily my favorite scene in the film. It’s all in 2D, the only sound is the wind blowing in the air kicking up the snow. The two men are silent, we see their eyes meet each other and hear Griffith thinking “Do you want to leave this badly?… No. You’re not leaving. I won’t allow it.” They swing their swords, the dust settles, and we see Guts has won this time. Words can’t do it justice how well done this scene is. It’s another solid point in the movie’s favor as an adaptation, and just a movie I general. The aftermath is just as well done in its own right, where Griffith makes the tragic mistake of sleeping with Charlotte the princess, is caught and sentenced to be tortured for the rest of his life, the Hawks are branded traitors, and Guts is shown walking off on his own journey, unaware of what has befallen his comrades. It’s a way better cliffhanger than the previous movie’s.

Berserk: The Golden Age Arc II is definitely an improvement over the first film. The filmmakers clearly learned lessons from the failures of the last movie. It’s still not without its fair share of shortcomings though. The third film is where this trilogy finally got its groove on, and showed that more movies like these could’ve done the series justice.