Azn Badger's Blog

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Conan The Barbarian Review

Hey look! Orange and Blue!

Let’s get one thing out of the way before we start this review:

I liked the Arnold Schwarzenegger Conan.

I liked it A lOT.

Truth be told, I haven’t read any of the original Robert E. Howard Conan stories, nor any of the Dark Horse comics.

To that end, everything I know (and love) of Conan has been culled from the Arnold movies, and the Conan the Adventurer cartoon series.

Fuckin’ loved that show…

*ANYWAY* while the examples of Conan that I’ve experienced may not be the most traditional, they’re all I have; and frankly, I don’t mind that.

Which brings us to the 2011 film version of Conan, the oddly titled reboot/retread; Conan the Barbarian, henceforth referred to as Conan the Hawaiian.

To be perfectly frank, Conan the Hawaiian honestly felt like a double-length episode of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, both in terms of plotting and tone.

Sadly, no Kevin Sorbo cameos...

Aside from the names of the locations, the origin story prologue, and maybe some of the characters; much of Conan the Hawaiian’s plot could easily have been transposed onto another generic sword and sandals flick with virtually the same degree of success.

Indeed, had the Conan name not been attached to this movie; for all intents and purposes, I likely would not have bothered to go see it.

Such is the power of licensing and iconography.

Despite all this, I came into the film with fairly realistic expectations.

I would never expect a movie called Conan the Hawaiian to have brilliant writing, nor any degree of complex storytelling in it’s plotting.

For the most part, I just had my fingers crossed for a hefty dose of tasty sword related violence, and a decent performance from the lead actor, Jason Momoa.

Way to go bra'! Represent!

Conan the Hawaiian delivered (with varying degrees of success) on both of my expectations for it, so why then is my opinion of the film so negative?

I think it has something to do with the inescapable elements of cheapness that are evident when watching the film.

For instance, do you want to know how you can tell a movie is cheap, even when it’s props and CGI backdrops are of decent quality?

When the film takes place in about a dozen locations, all of which are represented from afar by a CGI matte painting, and in the interior by a dining room sized sound stage.

Few things are more irksome in a fantasy film than being teased by the promise of cool cities n’shit, only to have the interior of said cities be represented by a SINGLE FUCKING ROOM.

Also known as Star Wars disease, wherein we frequently are shown the splendor of a cityscape, only to see maybe 3 locations within it.

Despite this minor quibble, one thing that I have to commend Conan the Hawaiian for; is the fact that it represents one of the rare cases when a shitty movie both acknowledges and revels in it’s shittiness.

As mentioned earlier, Conan the Hawaiian’s plot is pretty lame, not even as complex or engaging as The Scorpion King, (which is a better movie, in case you’re wondering) however one of it’s greatest strengths is the fact that it never attempts to be.

To my surprise, Conan the Hawaiian’s running time is largely dominated by action sequences, leaving little room for cheesy plot or equally cheesy dialogue from what I’d assume was it’s 5 page script.

The action/fighting is executed with some degree of competence, and it’s indeed quite bloody; however in my opinion the goryness of the violence could’ve been dialed up just a notch or 2 for effect.

Watching anonymous bad guys get cut down left and right every 5 minutes is fun and all, but it’s a lot more fun when said instances of cutting are unique and memorable.

I’m just saying, I personally would’ve appreciated a disemboweling or de-limbing here and there to spice things up.

In my book, EVERY movie needs a Mola Ram heart rip!

On that same note though, another gripe I had about the film was the fact that, early on we are teased by the villain possessing an honor guard of sorts, an elite cadre of unique villains who all participated in fucking over Hawaiian Conan at the beginning of the film.

By showing us these characters, and how they figure into Hawaiian Conan’s revenge plot, the movie makes a promise that we’ll see all of these characters meet their fate ala Shurayukihime, Kill Bill, and Conan the Barbarian.

While this does in fact happen, very little care is placed in how each of these characters are dealt with.

In fact, I only remember 2 of the characters receiving names, one of which bears a rather alarming resemblance to one of the other nameless honor guardsmen.

Pictured: A GOOD example of eliminating an interesting character OUT OF FUCKING NOWHERE.

It’s a minor gripe, but it pains me to see a film like this, that has so little going for it in terms of plot; sweep away it’s own breadcrumbs though clumsily eliminating potentially interesting characters with little to no fanfare.

Gripes aside, the one element of the action that I can’t knock at all, was Jason Momoa’s swordplay.

Watching a man of Momoa’s size handle a sword with such grace is truly a sight to behold.

Indeed, he and Stephen Lang’s pair of duels in the film are very much the highlight of the film.

While I’m on the subject of Momoa, it pains me to say that his acting performance was kind of “meh,” though on the plus side; it’s hard to deny that his physical presence is the sort that can largely make up for that.

I think the problem with Momoa’s acting in the role of Conan, is the fact that the temperment of the character, at least in this film; doesn’t seem to fit him.

It’s kind of like Christian Bale’s turn as Batman in the Christopher Nolan films.

Bale does great as Bruce Wayne, and indeed looks the part of Batman, however something about the Batman voice and attitude just doesn’t work.

Momoa has these problems as Conan.

Everything seems to fit pretty well in his quieter and more contemplative moments, though whenever he’s supposed to put on his mean face and get all savage, his voice sounds forced and just doesn’t work for me.

On a side note, Leo Howard, the kid that played the young Conan; was probably the strongest performance in the whole movie.

Seriously man, that kid was a BEAST.

Moving on, despite having some decent actors involved, most of the performances in Conan the Hawaiian feel largely phoned-in.

Stephen Lang’s role as the villain is a little bit more complex than you’d expect given his motivations, however the paltry script affords him very little opportunities to flex his acting muscles or chew scenery.

For fuck’s sake, I can recall an instance when Lang is in battle in Conan and declares:

“I don’t like YOU!”

Really?

You’re the fuckin’ “last boss” of the movie, and that’s your big menacing one-liner?

Anyway, Rose McGowan’s turn as Lang’s creepy-ass daughter had some thought put into it, though it came across as being hammy in the bad way.

The bad way as in Sci-Fi Channel, “bad way.”

She does what she can to play to the morbid nature of her character, as well as her bizarre wardrobe, however at the end of the day she comes across as a shlocky villain in the tradition of The Baroness or Evil-Lyn.

That's right, I made a He-Man reference in a Conan review.

Oh yeah, Ron Perlman was in this movie too.

… That’s about all I have to say about that.

Anyway, Conan the Hawaiian wasn’t a horrible movie, especially if you’re purely in the mood for blood and boobs; however it’s largely uninspired and more than a little cheap.

I will say this though:

In terms of pure entertainment value, it’s better than Cowboys & Aliens.

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More Footage From My Adventure In The Woods

The clip above was taken on July 2nd when I was out in the woods with my buddies.

As I mentioned before, we had one helluva’ bonfire going out there, so naturally one of us took it upon themselves to snag a flaming stick from the fire and start swinging it around like Conan the Barbarian.

What can I say, boys will be boys…

As it so happens, the guy swinging the stick around in the video has a fair amount of training in kenjutsu; which is likely the reason for him making such a fundamentally simple activity look so damn awesome.

Anyway, I was starved for words today, so I figured I would share this clip with you.

Hope you like the song!

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Fallout 3 Didn’t Do It For Me…

Fallout 2 is one of my favorite games of all time.

I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped into the boots of the savior of Vault 13, but I’d figure the number would have to be close to triple digits.

For the most part I skipped Fallout 1, largely due to the absurd degree of enjoyment I experienced from my time with the sequel.

That being said, Fallout 2 had a charm to it that few other games, in my eyes; have managed to live up to.

See? CHARMING.

There’s just something about the inherent minimalism of the first 2 Fallout games, and indeed most text heavy adventure games; that lends so much to the experience.

Reading a graphic description of how I just blew some poor shmuck’s eyeball out his ear, while watching the same shit different day stock death animation play out; was a primitive gameplay element that really worked for me.

Which brings me to my feelings on Fallout 3.

In short, I really didn’t care much for Fallout 3.

Being as it’s a Bethesda product, I came into the game fully expecting the game to play like “Oblivion With Guns,” (and equally shitty animations) and to be honest; I don’t think anyone could dispute the fact that it does.

You got your Oblivion in my Fallout! No wait... THIS SUCKS!!!

There was a time in my life when I played a lot of Oblivion.

I missed out on Morrowind, but regardless; Oblivion was a neat game with a colorful world and an impressive breadth of content to uncover.

Sure, there were a shit ton of problems and issues that cropped up while you played it, but for the most part; my time with Oblivion was a positive experience.

Fallout 3 however, despite borrowing several ideas and gameplay systems from Oblivion; just didn’t do it for me.

Kind of like Puke Face Zellwegger.

The first major problem that I’d like to address in Fallout 3, was the fact that the dialogue system feels weak compared to Oblivion, or even previous Fallout games.

That’s right, I said “first.”

As stupid/pointless as the speechcraft system in Oblivion was, I kind of liked the idea of playing a brief mini-game to stand-in for the very real process of developing a rapport with someone.

In short, Oblivion gave one the option to improve their standing with a person through idle chit-chat, thusly expanding the number of subjects they could converse with them about; and the depths of which they could probe into said topics.

Fallout 3 ties it’s dialogue options directly to your character’s skill ratings, with speech skill centric options being listed with a percentage of success statistic.

In other words, if you have a high enough rating in appropriate areas; then a special speech option becomes available.

What I discovered, early on; was the fact that all of these special speech options, were the “right” thing to say.

"Success!" Get used to seeing this a lot...

In Fallout 2, the “right” thing to say wasn’t necessarily the appropriate thing to say.

I can recall an instance or 2, particularly in New Reno; wherein I said something that seemed lucid, that seemed like what needed to be said; only to have the character I was speaking to take offense to my logic and blow me off.

This wasn’t because I didn’t have a high enough speech rating, but rather because I failed to read the character of their personality properly, and simply said the “wrong” thing.

By my reckoning, there wasn’t a single person I wasn’t able to talk down in Fallout 3.

With all of the “right” dialogue choices clearly outlined for me, all of the guess work and intricacies of conversations faded away the moment my skill ratings got high enough.

Honestly, the “right” comments were so boldly outlined; that  I’m pretty sure I managed to get through more than a few conversations without even reading what people were saying.

That’s enough about that, let’s move on; shall we?

I think a huge part of the problem for me, was the scrounger/pack rat mentality the game instills in you through scattering usable/pick-up-able items fuckin’ EVERYWHERE.

I understand that about 80% of what you find in the game is in fact junk, and not really all that useful; but the fact of the matter is, there’s simply too much shit to pick up/look at/jam up your ass.

Do I really need to be able to pick up a garden gnome? Or worse yet, do I really need the option to turn on a useless ham radio?

Seriously, I don’t even want to think about how many minutes or hours of my life I spent dumping shit out of my inventory, picking up a busted-ass rifle, using said rifle to repair my slightly less busted-to-shit rifle, and re-picking up my previously dumped shit.

I hardly got anywhere in the main story of Fallout 3, quitting around the time I first got power armor; but rest assured, I did every fuckin’ fetch quest and sidequest up to that point.

I’m a completist, I do shit like that.

That’s why sandbox/open world games never work out for me, ’cause in trying to do everything, I end up accomplishing nothing.

Pictured: Agent 47 demonstrating the Azn Badger's typical reaction to sandbox gameplay.

*Ahem!* Let’s get back on topic, shall we?

Another gripe I had with Fallout 3 that was somewhat similar to the hoarding bid’ness of the gameplay, was the fact that items and equipment felt somewhat “cheaper.”

I use the word “cheaper” in the sense that, with so many items strewn about the environments; the frequency of quality items, or failing that; shitty items that can be pawned for profit, made most every item I ran across seem far less important or special.

In Fallout 2, good armor and guns were really fucking hard to get your hands on unless you were a really skilled thief, had a shit ton of money, or managed to kill someone equipped with said items.

All of the above methods required either high skill ratings, a little energon, or a lot of luck to enact.

"More than you imagine, Optimus Prime..."

Not only that, even if one were to have all of the above going for them; the number of items in any given environment was significantly lower than in Fallout 3, resulting in items being scarcer, and thusly more vital.

In Fallout 3, I can’t think of a single moment wherein I couldn’t afford to buy whatever the fuck I wanted, nor can I think of a time in which my inventory wasn’t full of decent shit that I was never going to use due to the extraordinary wealth of better shit I’d run across on a regular basis.

I think the worst example of this that I can think of, was at the very beginning of the game.

I just came out of the Vault, and the game told me to go to Megaton.

Given that I’m me, and I’m not one to go anywhere without looking for hidden goodies first; the first thing I did, was run up onto a collapsed highway.

To my surprise, I happened across a hoard of bandits that wanted my nuts.

Despite my being armed with little more than a baseball bat, using the power of circle strafing and bunny hopping; I beat the ever-loving shit out of about 20 bandits and took all of their shit.

Yeah, I was basically doing this to people with a bat...

That’s right, I fought 20 bandits, with a bat; and took all their good shit, thusly putting me ahead of the curve in terms of equipment and weaponry for, I don’t know; THE WHOLE FUCKING GAME.

Speaking of killing 20 bandits with a bat, that brings me to another gripe I had about Fallout 3: the “cheapness” of life within the game.

Killing someone, anyone; especially in the early portions of Fallout 2, was a fuckin’ EVENT.

Given the turn-based, purely statistic based structure of Fallout 2’s gameplay, it was very much appropriate that difficult battles; wherein your character or his party were severely outclassed or outnumbered, were really fuckin’ hard to win.

That's right, get used to listening to Ron Perlman tell you that you just died like a little bitch.

I’d never say Fallout 2’s combat was realistic, but it’s inherent difficulty made it seem appropriate given the nature of the game’s environment.

Fallout 2 was a mean game that often took it upon itself to dick-slap you across the face and remind you that, as cool as your character was; he was still just a man.

As opposed to a Batman, who is of course a symbol; and thusly cannot be killed or corrupted.

Fallout 3 seems to have tossed this concept out the motherfuckin’ window and into a 4-lane highway.

As mentioned above, I took out 20 bandits, with a bat; all within the first 5 minutes of the game.

Admittedly, that was kind of cool at the time, as I can recall humming the Conan theme at some point during all the mayhem and carnage; however after it started happening every 5 minutes, it started to bother me.

During my time with Fallout 3, I killed hundreds upon hundreds of raiders, robots and crab monsters.

I'LL KILL ALL OF YOU!!!!!

I did that in Fallout 2 as well, (with the exception of the crab monsters, of course) but the only difference is; it took me the whole fucking game to achieve said kill stats, not the first half of the game.

You what’s really fucked up though?

Of all the things I killed, I’m pretty sure I ended up taking out Super Mutants more than anything else.

SUPER MUTANTS.

The LOU FUCKING FERRIGNO’S of the Fallout universe.

Holy shit, way to rock the Ultimate Warrior hair Hulk.

In Fallout 2, Super Mutants would utterly wreck your shit.

You could be decked out in power armor, and rockin’ a motherfuckin’ Bozar; but Super Mutants could still tear your ass up unless you came in with a plan.

In Fallout 3, I found myself killing Super Mutants with alarming regularity.

Not only that, I did so with leather armor and a fuckin’ hunting rifle.

To be fair, I could do that in Fallout 2 as well, but only because that game afforded you the option of scoring pinpoint shots to people’s eyes and radioactive packages; making it easier to disable or severely cripple your enemies.

*Sigh* Believe it or not, I’ve got more; so I’m just gonna’ dump these last few gripes in bullet point fashion.

Money is far too easy to acquire, given that anyone will buy anything from you for a decent price, even if you never put a single skill point into barter like I did.

Dungeon textures and layouts are cookie cutter at best.  There wasn’t a Vault or cave I walked into that felt at all different or unique.

Karma is too easy to acquire, (through giving water to the unfortunate) nor is it seemingly all that important.

Perks are too frequent, and too powerful.  Seriously, since when does Bloody Mess give you a damage bonus?

Weapons and enemies aren’t varied enough.  Like the dungeon textures, everything kind of felt same shit different day.

Anyway, there’s probably other shit I can say about Fallout 3; but in all honesty, I think I’m running out of steam.

I bought Fallout 3 for $10 retail, knowing full well that I probably wasn’t going to like it.

From what I read and saw before picking it up, it seemed to me like a pretty good game; but in my heart, I knew from the get go that in my eyes; it just wasn’t Fallout.

In all, it’s still a neat game world; with some neat characters and places, but for me it all just seems like too much.

I think the first-person perspective and 3D engine hurt the game in the sense that it forced the game world to contain all the things that a real world would.

In the real world, cans probably would be fuckin’ everywhere following a nuclear holocaust.

SHIT. EVERYWHERE.

In the world of Fallout 2, said cans indeed were apparent; however they served as static scenery and couldn’t be interacted with.

In Fallout 3, pointless interactive shit like this is fuckin’ EVERYWHERE, simply because; in order to maintain the illusion of a livable 3D world, it must.

Anyway, I ended up selling my copy of Fallout 3 to my brother; so for me, the nightmare is over.

Hopefully this marks the end of my days raging on Fallout 3.

Come to think of it, here’s hoping my brother doesn’t suffer the same fate…

 

 

 

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Thoughts On Conan The Barbarian Teaser

I’ve posted a couple of times now regarding my thoughts on the upcoming Jason Momoa Conan film, however this marks the first time said thoughts have been anything less than hopeful.

That being said, while I’m completely aware of the dangers of using a teaser trailer as a quality barometer for a yet to be released film, I’ve gotta’ say; whoever is in charge of the marketing for Conan The Barbarian needs to be dick-slapped something fierce.

Speaking of which, I’m not sure when they decided to go with the title “Conan The Barbarian,” but personally I think that was a bad move.

I mean yeah, I understand that the producers are probably looking to create some brand recognition, not to mention distance their film from the similarly titled Conan O’Brien show, but even so; the thought of 2 films of such a short series bearing the exact same name seems a little strange to me.

Anyway, let’s back to the topic at hand, namely that of the teaser from said Conan movie.

Speaking of which, I should probably post that for you to see.

Here yah’ go:

Long story short, I found the teaser to be laughable.

Other than a few foggy images fading in and out through a smoke cloud, there’s little to no content to be found within it, making it the very definition of a teaser; which in and of itself not a bad thing.

Remember when the first teasers for Inception came out and we were all totally drawn in by how enigmatic and full of Hans Zimmer infused BWAAHHHH!!!! they were?

Well, that would’ve worked for Conan, had they excised all of the voice-over and narration and instead gone with something a little more subtle.

Unfortunately, they didn’t.

No, instead we get some of the most over the top (and cerebral) voice-over this side of UFC commentary.

Seriously, I don’t know if it’s just me, but the voice of the narrator sounded really fuckin’ stupid to me.

He sounded like he was trying to work from the badass Don LaFontaine school of “IN A WORLD” style voice-over, but sadly it just kind of ends up sounding really dumb and horribly forced.

To make matters worse, when the narrator is switched out for Jason Momoa’s “Conan voice;” it ends up sounding like the 2 guys were trying to one-up each other in the excessively manly voice department.

Anyway, while the teaser might be really fuckin’ stupid, and poorly imagined at that; I feel it’s worth reiterating that at it’s core it’s just a trailer, and should have little to no bearing on the quality of the finished product.

In any case, I’ll still end up watching the movie anyway; ’cause let’s face it, it’s Conan, and Conan’s the shit.

In the hopes of giving this post at least some element of positivity, I feel it’s worth mentioning that in perusing the Conan The Barbarian wikipedia page, I happened to note that Bob Sapp was listed in the cast, which at least gives the movie the added benefit of potentially playing host to a Jason Momoa/Bob Sapp smackdown.

As you can see, Mr. Sapp is pretty fuckin' awesome...

As much as I like Bob Sapp, in all honesty; the man has a pretty awful track record in his film appearances.

Seriously man, Devil Man and Elektra were shitty movies on their own; however it could easily be argued that Bob Sapp’s presence in them, actually might have contributed to making them the piles of ass they are.

Come to think of it, he’s been out of the spotlight for long enough that I’m just kind of hoping he hasn’t ballooned into a fat fuck like a lot of retired pro athletes.

In his defense, "The Fridge" was never all that slim to begin with...

Huh, guess that wasn’t all that positive after all…

Anyway, here’s hoping that despite the horrible teaser trailer, Conan The Barbarian ends up being the worthwhile movie I’ve been waiting for all these years.

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