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6.26.2012

Mass Effect 3: Extended Cut


"Let sleeping dogs lie" is a phrase which comes to mind at this time. It's been awhile since my nerdrage against the Mass Effect 3 ending subsided. And now I just don't care that much. Good game. Horrible ending. Surprisingly fun multiplayer. Kinda evens out. As I've said before, Mass Effect 1 is the best when it comes to story anyhow so I'll just think of it whenever Mass Effect's story is brought up.

But now we have the so-called "Extended Cut." How odd for a video game.

Let me just pose this question: has an "extended" or "director's" cut ever seriously improved a film that had a major flaw? Possibly, I suppose. But I don't know what they are. Mostly they just contain extra tidbits for salivating hardcore fans to lap up.

Lack of information, as has been said time and time again, is not the core problem of Mass Effect 3's ending.

But let me tell you what: in talky sci-fi it does help. What a difference a couple of additional lines can make!

The Extended Cut, in my mind, supports the theory that the ending was rushed. This is the ending that always should have been. No, it's not fundamentally different, but it is definitely a lot better.

The "Star Child" Catalyst is still there. You're still presented with the same choices, but there's a few extra bits here and there that help cut down on the unexplained and seemingly nonsensical nature of the ending. And the three endings are differentiated much, much better than before.

The thing that really won me over was the addition of a forth choice to the mix. That's right. You can tell that little A.I. snot to take his choices and shove 'em! Awesome. Yeah, that'll basically doom everyone, but - hey - freedom of choice and jazz, right? Plus the ending you get after that is pretty well done.

I got pretty excited when I saw this option. Finally!

As for the other choices, you can actually have the Catalyst explain what's up with them. Y'know, investigate. Find out more information. I mean they're kinda significant choices, right? It was a little odd before when you couldn't get much information even though most every side character in the game will spout off their life story at the slightest provocation.

Now perhaps I've just accepted the whole "Star Child" thing. Perhaps if I played it for the first time ever I'd still get angry even with the Extended Cut installed. Perhaps it still makes no sense at all and my standards have been lowered since the original ending was so disappointing. I don't know. It truly is impossible to know at this point and what's the point of speculating?

The Extended Cut fixes or at least attempts to address nearly all the major problems I had with the ending. It will not quell the rage of others who are just predisposed to hate or were fundamentally looking for something different in an ending. For me and for many other fans, we were simply looking for real choice, real closure, and real effort and now I feel like I've gotten that even though it's not perfect. It's pretty good.

This does a lot to repair my damaged relationship with BioWare. So objective accomplished there, guys. Next time don't rush. And when EA wants to get involved in your creative decisions tell them what I told the Catalyst: buzz off!

Prometheus Review

This review is spoiler-free... mostly. I mean, if you want a totally sanitized experience then don't read anything about any movie before you see it!

Review


Let's face it: people are biased. And by "people" in this instance I mean me.

Sci-fi is probably the genre that I have the most natural love for. Especially space movies. I go for space movies the way most of America (apparently) goes for team-up superhero films. That means I'm generally willing to cut them more slack and give more benefit of the doubt when they turn out a little less-than-amazing.

Generally. I mean things like Avatar are the exception that proves the rule.

As long a particular sci-fi gets me thinking, entertains me, and presents some cool visuals and ideas, I'm basically good. Prometheus did that for me and it didn't scrape by with just the minimum effort either. 

There's been a lot of talk about Prometheus being disappointing or full of plotholes (or unanswered questions) or not as intelligent or intelligent as it portrayed itself. Eh, I see where those people are coming from. But I disagree... mostly.


Yes. Prometheus is only half "smart" while the other half is merely entertaining. It's kinda weird. You can fairly clearly discern which bits are the Alien prequel and which bits are the other story they wanted to tell. But despite being easy to spot, the two ideas generally mesh alright without being too detrimental to one another.

The "thoughtful," exploratory half of the film poses giant questions. Why are we here? How did we get here? What happens after we die? Is there more to existence than can be measured by our senses and scientific methods? In the vein of classic sci-fi, these questions are posed, but not really answered. They're there because they're questions the characters and indeed all people wrestle with at some point in their lives.

It seems like this is the half of the movie that Ridley Scott really wanted to make. The 74-year-old director must be asking these sorts of questions himself as he approaches the end of his life.

Going in I knew this was going to be a film that posed more questions than it answered. And I'm cool with that especially since I don't personally have a bone to pick with Lost co-creator Damon Lindelof who also was one of the writers of this film. One of the purposes of sci-fi is to stir up speculative thinking in the audience. And Prometheus does deliver in that arena.

The Alien half of the movie is entertaining at worst and really, really gripping at best despite all the little questions that keep popping up and the occasional horror movie act of utter stupidity from whichever character is supposed to die next. I liked the rest of the film's elements enough to ignore these things (at least on my first viewing). Possibly they would ruin future viewings. I don't know. Like I said, I'm a sucker for space movies.

There are a million little nitpicks one could make. Things that aren't explained. Things that don't make sense. Stuff just happens and you don't know why. We're left to guess or dismiss some events entirely. It's unfortunate they weren't able to escape some of these frustrating details because they really do keep the film from being great.


For my money, the exploration half of the film is fantastic. It's what I love about sci-fi. Cool visuals. Cool concepts. Mind-expanding premises. I love that kind of stuff and it's stuff that sci-fi is uniquely good at.

It should be mentioned that the principle cast (a bunch of very excellent people) all do a fantastic job with Michael Fassbender and Noomi Rapace leading the way. The choice of Guy Pierce (who will always be a good actor in my book due to his turn in Memento) as the elderly Peter Weyland is frustrating. He does a fine job, but the makeup is noticeably... just wrong. The Weyland character was originally to appear younger in the film which makes this casting choice a lot more understandable (indeed he appeared younger in a fictional TEDTalk that was done as promotion for the film).

Anyhow, I recommend this one. It certainly moved my meter a lot more than The Avengers. But then again I was the only one who really seemed to feel that way so your mileage with Prometheus may very. I'd rather have a meaningful, watchable film with a few flaws about the edges than a perfectly polished, highly watchable film that's hollow inside and out.

Honestly my biggest disappointment with the film is that the awesome scream-punctuated song from the trailers doesn't actually play during the film (or even the credits). There are worse criticisms I've leveled at films.


After re-watching the original Alien, I have to say I like Prometheus better. Sure, Alien is classic and got the whole thing started, but it really is very basic and plodding. It's a bit too slow and empty of ideas for my tastes in sci-fi (if your sci-fi is slow it must be really stimulating, see 2001: A Space Odyssey).

Prometheus is Alien with a couple of interesting philosophical/theological/scientific questions kicking around. And I see that along with a little faster pace as an upgrade. While Alien has better individual scenes, Prometheus is more watchable overall and has more for my brain to chew on.

But Aliens is still the best of 'em. And believe me: I mean that. I am no fan of James Cameron.