Wednesday, June 15, 2016

London Has Fallen

London Has Fallen

There are just enough over-the-top Americanisms in the London Has Fallen for my brain to struggle with Poe's Law.

The casual disregard with which a wedding is blown up by a barely-teenaged pilot half a world away, orders given based on intelligence gathered by a different country. Gerard Butler's now-infamous "go back to Fuckheadistan or wherever you come from" line, which in more capable directorial hands would be a deliberate indictment of the US military's indifference to the targets of its drones. US president Benjamin Asher's chest-puffing delivery of Agent Smith's "the sound of inevitability" line from The Matrix, where the approaching subway train is instead Butler's unstoppable Secret Service agent Mike Banning, a brick shithouse who fires profane one-liners almost as often as bullets but whose face washes blank with every kill. Morgan Freeman's closing speech which is so on-the-nose that its horrifying justification for US interventionism is "do it for our children", delivered atop a patriotic orchestral swell.

The terrorist leader is ultimately executed in a drone strike almost identical to the one which opened the film, which he escaped and which served as his entire motivation, suggesting that the United States has learned nothing from the experience.

Despite the constant culling of sidekicks (anybody who spends more than a minute and a half with Banning and Asher seems to end up dead) and enemies, there is no tension to the film. When the President is captured by the terrorists (who have, in two short years managed to plan and organise a large-scale infiltration of the Metropolitan Police and Queen's Guard, plan and carry out a secret assassination on the British Prime Minister and orchestrate the simultaneous assassinations of every world leader attending his funeral), the film places a ticking clock on his head, counting down to his supposed execution but obvious rescue.

Banning is never in the slightest danger. The most ambitious action scene in the movie, an alleyway shootout faked into a single long take, features easily a half dozen deaths of SAS soldiers on Banning's side, gunned down by enemy fire while Banning himself saunters unscathed from cover to cover. The American is impervious to bullets while his allies are bullet-sponge sacrifices to be made in his unceasing mission to save one man - and when he manages to free the President from his captors Banning gives a speech about how the United States is greater than a single man.

This is a sick, brutal sociopath of a movie, an oddly clinical parade of gunshots and stabbings that seems more curious about violence and its effects on the human head than excited by it. It's a snuff film made for the audience to revel in, but London Has Fallen itself isn't getting anything out of this exercise - there's no… joy in it.

It has no clear politics, it has no message or lesson or even point to its violence. I cannot see any reason for this film to have been made.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 doesn't look like they've learned a fucking thing.

"Stick a black guy in as protagonist," says a fool in a plaid shirt with a beard stolen from an early 20th century lumberjack, "and give him a backstory where he was falsely accused of a crime after evidence was planted. What additional hacking abilities should he have?" "I know," a moron drools, incapable of processing irony. "Let him plant evidence on innocent people! And drones were cool when we started this project, so they're bound to still be relevant when the game is released three years later."

It's ridiculous enough that Star Hacker Extraordinaire Marcus Whateverthefuck runs around with the name of his secret hacking collective on his own bright purple hat, but it's fucking Mr Emoji Eyes that really gets me. Sure, in some kind of William Gibson cyberpunk dystopia that shit would fly, but come the fuck on - that's gonna stick out in suburban San Francisco, especially when it's paired with the world's least subtle iconic studded jacket.

Maybe come the third game the licensing team'll get their shit in gear and we'll actually be hacking around late-21st-century BAMA with the Panther Moderns, rather than this sub-Doctorow power trip masquerading as political commentary.


This tweet makes me deeply uncomfortable.

In the wake of Orlando, the idea of fantasising about being a self-appointed vigilante, righting perceived personal wrongs, seems especially horrifying. The staggering lack of empathy - even momentarily, in a twitter joke - just does not, can not, sit right with me.

With Donald Trump ready to assume control of the button in American and David Cameron's cronies already taking crowbars to the most lucrative parts of our public services here in the UK, we should be striving for more empathy, rejecting the violence that society has, somehow, allowed to become so common that we daydream about causing it.

I remember when violence in videogames was an escape, an over-the-top cathartic release to escape from the tedium and mundanity of reality. But violent media is no longer an escape - it's what we already see in headlines every other fucking day.