Men in Black 3 Review

I saw Men in Black 3 recently ( I’ve also seen Prometheus and Brave, reviews forthcoming) and for the most part I enjoyed it.  MiB3 is fluff, its cotton candy, but tasty cotton candy.  At times it borders on being something great, but consistently backs away from anything that even hints at having some weight.  The first MiB movie was a ton of fun, but its sequel was hard to watch.  It seriously took me a few tries to get all the way through it.  Luckily, MiB 3 is much closer to the first one than the second.

The movie starts with a space prison breakout (the second one on the screen this year how many years can claim that?) and the escape of Boris, the most dangerous alien criminal that K ever put away.  On Earth, J is chafing against taciturn K, wanting a more personal relationship with his partner.  Boris goes back in time and manages to eliminate past K.  So J time travels himself to stop him, teaming up with a younger version of K and discovering why he is so closed.

MiB 3 is polished and funny, but there is little here that is new or all that inspired.  Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are still a great pair to watch, and Josh Brolin does a tremendous job as young K.  The villain Boris does little to justify his reputation as one of the most dangerous foes the MiB have ever faced, but he is less of an obstacle and more of an excuse for time travel shenanigans.  Which are satisfying, if only half explored.

I liked the movie.  It is terrific summer fare, but there is plenty that keeps it from being a really good movie.  Like the reason K is so shut off.  Is it because he let Boris kill [redacted] or is it because he didn’t kill Boris?  There is the relationship between K and O, which is hinted at and starts being elaborated upon then just disappears from movie. That is perfectly fine for a small subplot, but just about every subplot in the movie feels only half-examined.  The pieces are all there for something nearly great, but it doesn’t quite come together.

On the whole, though, Men in Black 3 succeeds in being a fun action comedy.  It doesn’t aim too high, but it manages to hit its mark.  The crazy aliens are as visually interesting as they were in the first movie, though they don’t possess the same wow factor.  Or maybe I’m not 15 anymore.  It also avoids spending too much time reveling in cameos from the earlier movies.  Some characters return, but most for only brief glimpses.  The biggest draw is the byplay between the glib Smith and the gruff Jones and Brolin, more Brolin than Jones.  Worth seeing, even if it is easy to forget.

Yeah, I’ve been gone

Things have been pretty slow around here lately, with only two posts in the last month plus a week or two. Things kept piling up, first one thing keeping me from writing then another. Most of them were the usual boring details of life: I went of vacation for a week, my work schedule changed and took up most of my writing time, etc. A few of those reasons are worth going over in a post.

The first reason is that I bought a Kindle Fire. Time I would previously have used for writing I started using to read crappy free books or watch Arrested Development (speaking of which I really need to write about Arrested Development here) or play terrible app games. I really do like my Kindle. While sorting through a lot of crap books can be tiresome, even if I just used it to read free classics it would be worth the price I paid for it. There is definitely something different about reading a book on a Kindle rather than reading an actual physical book. It is not a good different. I don’t see myself switching over primarily anytime soon, especially not if the price is the same. But while there is a dip in the quality of the experience, often the convenience factor more than enough to make up for it. Luckily it’s not an either or choice, I can have both. Fortunately for my production, both writing here and getting anything else I want done done. So that is a problem that has passed, aside from the fact that I expect my What I Read posts will be slightly longer.

Another reason I stopped posting was that my laptop died. The screen just flat stopped working. Nothing I could do would get it to work again. Which meant I had to get a new one. Not that big of a deal, except I did just spend $200 on a Kindle Fire. No computer means no posts, it’s pretty simple math.

So the distractions and lack of a computer is what shut down my blogging. Honestly, though, I have been meaning to cut back. I’ve been spending too much time writing here on WaFC. If I write fewer posts, I expect I’ll have more time to write better posts. Also, I haven’t seriously written any fiction, something I’ve been doing since I was a freshman in high school, since NaNoWriMo in November. I need to spend more time working on that if I am to meet the goals I set for myself at the beginning of the year. So I do plan on blogging regularly, but only 2 or 3 posts a week, if that. Right now I’m going to concentrate on finishing my Wheel of Time Reread, which I have 3 books worth waiting to go from scattered notes to long rambley posts, and 2nd Quest. Otherwise I’ve got movie reviews, What I Read and Video Game Archaeology.

What’s the point, then? I don’t know, but somehow this post felt necessary.

2nd Quest Part 4: Ocarina of Time

There are two games in the Legend of Zelda series that usually get mentioned in “greatest game of all time” discussions: Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. They are the 2D and 3D epitome of the series, respectively. While LttP’s reputation seems to be unassailable, probably as much as because it is a great game as because it was the last big 2D game in the series, Ocarina of Time lately has faced some harsh critical evaluations. While most people think that at least one or two the later 3D are significantly flawed, plenty find at least one to be better than Ocarina. Flaws pointed out usually involve the mostly empty Hyrule Field, as well as the game being too easy and too ugly. For the most part I disagreed. Hyrule Field is empty, but it only needs to be traversed a couple of times, and for most of them you can ride Epona. Even with its emptiness it helps provide a sense of scale, to make Hyrule seem like a real place. The game does seem easy now, but that is mostly in the difficulty of translating puzzles from 2D to 3D. Plus, I still say it provides enough challenge. There is no defense for its ugliness, there are no good looking N64 games. After playing the new 3DS version of the game, I have reconsidered. I don’t disagree for the most part, I disagree entirely. Ocarina of Time is one of the greatest games of all time. It has flaws, slight, forgettable ones, but on the whole it is a triumph.

One thing I had forgotten about Ocarina was how well it told it story. Story is something that the Zelda series puts so little emphasis on that I find it easy to forget. Ocarina’s story has a fairy tale quality to it. Link is the only Kokiri without a fairy companion, and while he gets along just fine, some of the other Kokiri treat him like a second class citizen. One morning a fairy comes to him and requests that he see the Great Deku tree, beginning his epic journey. The first third of the game, playing as young Link as he tries to help Zelda fight off the evil Gannondorf, is perfectly plotted. It tells a fun, childlike story while planting the seeds for the time jump to the second half. Link leaves his home and meets a Princess, becomes an honorable member of the Goron tribe and inadvertently wins the heart of another Princess, this time of the Zora’s. He also manages to visit almost all of the land of Hyrule and meet just about everybody. This opening part last about 4 or 5 hours, and it is a near perfect introduction to the world, while still providing meaty gameplay. The first dungeon, the Great Deku Tree, is pretty rudimentary, but the next two, Dodongo’s Cave and Jabu Jabu’s Belly, while small are perfectly good Zelda dungeons. The early part of Ocarina is just a wonderful fairy tale.

Which makes the second part particularly jarring, even when you know it is coming. As the player returns with the third magical doodad to open the door to the master sword, he is met by Zelda and her protector Impa being pursued by Gannondorf. He retrieves the magic Ocarina she flings at him and goes to get the power to defeat Gannondorf once and for all. Unfortunately, Gannondorf is thee waiting for him. So instead of stopping him, Link gives him the power he has so desperately sought. When he wakes up 7 (?) years later, finally old enough to wield the sword Gannondorf has turned the Hyrule into a nightmare version of itself. Instead of dancing people and carnival music in Hyrule square, it is full of zombies. Every idyllic place that young Link visited is not a twisted form of itself, ready to fall apart after years of misrule. And Link, being the hero that he is, sets out immediately to right these wrongs by finding the last five of the six sages, as explained to him by Rauru, the Sage of Light. One connection I did not pick up on before I played Zelda 2 was that the names of the Sages are the names of the towns from that game: Rauru, Saria, Ruto etc. He is also helped by the mysterious Sheik, a member of the sheikah, of whom Impa was the last member.

The second part of the game is amazing. The five main dungeons are all impressive, with distinct looks and feels. I know some hate the Water Temple, but it is one of my favorites. I’m not a big fan of the Spirit Temple’s reliance on doing it at different ages, but it is a neat gimmick. Another thing I had forgotten were the mini-dungeons. I had no recollection of the Ice Cave and I had little memory of the bottom of the well. Those small dungeons helped keep the formula of solve a dungeon, mess around in the surrounding area/town, go to the next area fresh. Sometimes there is a little something extra to do. Really, the second part of Ocarina of Time is as good as video games get. There is minimal interferences from the game, it is left up to the players to find their way. Of course, there is only some sequence breaking possible it is more than most of the later games would allow.

I played the 3DS version, but it has been long enough since I had played the N64 one that I can’t really note detailed differences. The graphics have been noticeably cleaned up, fixing the game looking ugly problem. There have been some fixes for the Water Dungeon, with color coded doors for water height and a quicker way to put on and take off the iron boots, but I didn’t remember that being such a problem. On problem it did add was that the 3DS joypad is too close to the shoulder button used to lock on to enemies, making some fights actually physically painful. As far as I could tell, the 3DS version is mostly the same truly excellent game that Ocarina of Time has always been.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is a game that completely deserves it reputation. It is a terrifically designed game from start to finish. Each area builds on the ones that came before it. The young Link set and older Link payoff is much more impressive than the dark world shenanigans of LttP. The story is simple, but it is perfectly executed and given just enough attention, by which I mean very little. Ocarina of Time is the reason that the Zelda series is still relevant today, unlike nearly every other 2D holdover, Mario excluded. Nintendo and Miyamoto found out how to translate the 2D experience into a different, but still completely satisfying new 3D experience. It has been 15 years since Ocarina was released and it is still just as vibrant today as it has ever been. It is a true classic.