Monday, February 18, 2013

Confused About Silent Hill: Revelation

by K. Jerry Peterson

When adapting the first Silent Hill game into a movie, some key changes were made to the source material. Most of those changes were cosmetic, such as recasting Harry Mason as Rose Da Silva. Howeverk when it came to handling the Order of Valtiel, the motivations of the cult were radically altered from the game. If Silent Hill were to be a single, stand-alone movie, these changes wouldn’t affect any future stories. The movie as-is works. However, this past weekend saw its sequel hit store shelves. Silent Hill: Revelation is a confused movie, trying to navigate its way between the conflicting motives of the cult as seen in the video games and the first movie.

In the games, the Order wants to keep Alessa alive, but in a suffering state. The spirit of their dark god, Valtiel, incubates within her, feeding off of her hatred and pain. Valtiel’s powers manifest through Alessa as seen whenever the town is transformed into a nightmare world. The Order encourages these displays of dark power and even command the surreal monsters of Silent Hill at times. Their ultimate goal is to rejoin the two halves of Alessa’s soul, so they can restore the full power of their dark god. The other half of Alessa’s soul is in the young child, Cheryl Mason.

The Order as seen in the first movie is a cult of witch hunters. They fear Alessa and her dark powers. They are not in command of the monsters that Alessa creates. They seek refuge from the darkness in a church and pray for the light to deliver them from evil. They speak of purification and fighting demons. It’s clear that they are trapped in a purgatory of their own making, and want to kill Alessa to free themselves from torment. As with the games, Alessa has split her soul in half and put her last shred of innocense into a child named Sharon Da Silva. The Order figures that if they can kill Sharon, they’ll be able to weaken Alessa and destroy her too.

Cult leader, Christabella, prays before a mural of a witch burning.

All well and good until we try to understand what's going on in Silent Hill: Revelation. This movie adapts the story of the third game, but runs into some problems due to the differing portrayals of the cult. The confusion comes about in the movie, when it’s revealed that the Order is also trying to resurrect Valtiel. This is a huge departure from the cult of the first movie that was devoted to fighting demons. Several members wear protection to prevent being corrupted by the darkness, but then work to restore their dark god to power? They hate the demons, but their altar is a giant statue of Valtiel? They fight the monsters but employ them too? What the hell??

New cult leader, Claudia, redecorates the church with a giant demon statue.

The confusion is all because Revelation is trying to create an amalgamation of the cult seen in the games and the cult seen in the first movie. If Revelation stuck with the original reasoning of killing Sharon and Alessa to free themselves from purgatory, it would've made more sense and the plot would still be the same. At the very least, Claudia's group could have been established as a splinter group of extremists, that had turned their back on The Order and chosen to worship the demons. But no such distinction is ever made.

Instead we're left with a half-decent movie with a mess of a plot. There's plenty good about Revelation, up until about halfway through. Then the plot starts to trip over itself and unravel. By the end, I was left scratching my head and trying to make sense of the numerous inconsistencies.

- Jerry Peterson
I still enjoyed seeing Pyramid Head act as Heather's protector though.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

World 6-3

by K. Jerry Peterson

Remakes pose a tricky dilemma. How do you find that perfect balance between giving people what they loved about the original while presenting it in a fresh way? How far can you take a remake before it no longer resembles the source material? For my purposes, I'm going to examine "Super Mario Allstars", a remake that did almost everything right, and what I learned from its one big misstep.

Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 for the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. In 1993 Nintendo compiled Mario’s major NES outings onto a single cartridge for the 16-bit Super Nintendo. Each game on the cart was given a graphical overhaul. The original Mario benefited the most, seeing as how its graphics were the most dated and blocky looking. The results were amazing.

From left to right: SNES 16-bit remake and NES 8-bit original.

Look at this first picture. Notice how, despite the graphical improvements and the addition of a scrolling parallax background, that all the core elements are the same. There’s the blue sky, puffy white clouds, and leafy green platforms. The color palette remains the same too: blue, green, white, and tan. You can look at this and immediately see how the remake is an enhanced version of the original.

The SNES sees the forest for the trees.

This picture taken from world 2-1 may seem to deviate from the original, but in fact, it is again taking the established elements from the 8-bit original and expanding on them. Each tree in the Allstars forest is the same shape as the trees in the original background.

Brick wall becomes Epic wall.

World 8-3 always stood out for its massive red brick wall that dominated the level. No other level was like it. The Allstars edition took this element and made it even bigger. Now it’s not just a simple brick wall- it’s a massive castle wall, complete with steel gates, loopholes, and crenels. Whereas the wall in the original was broken up into segments, the Allstars wall spans the length of the whole level.

Sunken ruins available at your local pet store.

This water segment from World 8-4 added a sunken ruin in the background. This addition doesn’t draw on inspiration from the flat, blue and green water segment of the original, but it doesn’t detract from it either. Being underwater made the water levels unique, not the ruins. The seaweed and wavy motion effects of the remake enhance that underwater feeling. Again, a nice improvement.


And then there’s World 6-3. The white brick of the castle, the night sky, and the off-white platforms were unlike any other level in the whole game. The lack of color was the one thing that made World 6-3 truly unique and memorable. I always thought that maybe everything was covered in freshly fallen snow, or the castle was made of marble. The platforms might be white trees or luminescent plants. It inspired my imagination. When I saw the remake's take on World 6-3, I was let down. They took the one unique feature of 6-3, the one thing that made it stick in my mind for years, and they got rid of it. In its place we have a level indistinct from other treetop levels like World 3-3.

Let's paint the Taj Mahal red while we're at it.

Barring this one level, I love the Allstars remake of Super Mario Bros. Graphically, it’s superior to the original in every way, and I would love to see what a remake on a next-gen console would look like. What I took away from all this was, hopefully, a little bit of insight as to why some remakes work while others fall short. When it worked, the game remained true to its roots, despite the improved visuals. It took the source material and expanded on the ideas and concepts and made them stronger. When it didn’t work, it abandoned core elements and replaced them with something entirely different. The Allstars edition of World 6-3 didn’t enhance what was already there. It replaced it with something completely different.

Remakes that work are following these simple rules: Explore, Enhance, and Expand on the ideas of the original, while staying true to its roots. Remakes that don’t work are likely changing things for the sake of changing them. Shaking things up and trying to keep old ideas fresh is great, but not at the cost of losing what made the originals worthwhile in the first place.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Jason Voorhees: Creampuff

by K. Jerry Petersson

Another Friday the 13th weekend has come and gone. For a lot of people, this is a good excuse to pop in a Jason flick and watch the hockey-masked killer rampage around Camp Crystal Lake. For gamers, it’s an opportunity to reminisce about one of the worst games ever made for the NES; Friday the 13th by LJN. There’s plenty of complaints to be made from the dull graphics to the repetitive music. Over the years this game has earned a reputation for being brutally difficult. If you watched Game Informers’ Replay segment this weekend, you no doubt saw four grown men felled by the merciless Jason. But I’m here to say that the difficulty of this game is a myth.

Here’s how I play Friday the 13th. First, of the six camp counselors you can choose from, pick Mark. He’s the fastest and can jump the highest. His agility makes it easy to jump over the roving zombies and other enemies. Most of the time, I just ignore them rather than fight them off. If you bother to explore the caves, Mark is an absolute must. The other camp counselors can’t jump high enough to make it from platform to platform. And if you run into Jason out in the open, you’re going to need Mark to jump when he charges you.

Mark is your go-to guy.

If Jason is attacking someone clear across the lake, and you don’t have the time to run there, just jump into the nearest cabin. From there you can take control of the other counselors regardless of location. Inside the cabins, everyone moves at the same speed, so using Mark exclusively isn’t necessary here. Now here’s the important part; when you’re fighting Jason in the cabins, it is absolutely vital that you dodge diagonally when he attacks. Running back and forth is pointless, because he will catch you. All it takes is about four good hits and Jason can kill one of your campers. But if you dodge, and then quickly counterstrike, you can beat him without ever taking a single hit. And that's all there is to it. It really is that easy! Jason's pattern never changes. He just speeds up a bit in later rounds, so this technique works all through the game.

Dodge and then strike back!

Friday the 13th is a bad game no matter how you look at it. Even when you master dodging and start winning with ease, the game just plods along at a sluggish pace. Beating Jason (and the game) becomes less of a nail-biting experience, and more of an inevitability so long as you’re willing to stick with it for the many, many run-ins with Jason. But for all the things this game is guilty of, jacking up the difficulty isn’t one of them.

Of course, there's no way to avoid this cheap shot.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Krueger Kombat!

by K. Jerry Peterson

I felt a tingle of excitement, when I heard that Freddy Krueger was going to be in “Mortal Kombat.” I grew up watching the dream stalker’s exploits, and he’s long been one of my favorite movie monsters. So imagine my disappointment when I saw that the Freddy in the game was not the original played by Robert Englund, but Jackie Earle Haley’s from the atrocious 2010 remake. Don’t get me wrong. Haley’s performance was one of the few good things about that movie. Even so, he's a far cry from the Freddy I wanted to see. Maybe it wasn’t so bad though. As I watched footage of Freddy slicing his way through the likes of Sub-Zero, Scorpion and all the rest, I realized something. He may have Haley’s looks, but he’s got Englund’s moves! From his quotes to his attacks to his gestures, this is the original Freddy in spirit.

When it came to naming Freddy’s special attacks and finishing moves for “Mortal Kombat”, the MK team looked to inspiration from Englund’s Krueger. “The power glove,” “What a rush,” “Tell ‘em Freddy sent ya’,” and “Welcome to my nightmare,” are all quips spoken by the original. Not one move is named for anything said by Haley.

Freddy's fatalities likewise take their inspiration from the original Krueger. One fatality has him pulling a defeated kombatant down into the ground. Moments later a geyser of blood erupts and showers the area in red. This gruesome death will be instantly recognizable to anyone that saw Johnny Depp meet his end in the 1984 original. His second fatality has him summoning a steel door from the ground. The door opens to reveal a fiery furnace that he throws his opponent into, much like he did to Kristen in "Dream Master.". When a Babality is performed on Freddy, a black stroller appears, which harkens back to the evil stroller from “Dream Child.” Thankfully baby Freddy is much more adorable in this game than he was in that movie.

This is what the stroller (and Freddy) looked like before getting burnt.

Of his regular moves, Freddy can send disembodied claws skittering along the ground just like the mechanical claw in “Wes Craven’s New Nightmare.” The move that put a grin on my face was his throw, where he grabs the opponent and then makes the “shh” motion with his bladed finger up to his mouth. I was reminded of Phillip’s nightmare in “Dream Warriors” where classic Krueger did the same thing. His flying claw projectile could be lifted from the fatal blow that killed Rick in “Dream Master.”


And finally, Freddy’s ending in Mortal Kombat recreates the poster art of the very first movie. They could have come up with something more in line with the shadowy close-up of Krueger that adorns the poster for the remake, but they chose to homage the original.

One of these things is not like the other. . .

For everything that was borrowed from the original Freddy, it begs the question why the MK team didn’t just render the likeness of Englund’s Krueger. I suspect the answer is as simple as Warner Bros. wanting to promote the newer movie and drive dvd sales. I would venture to guess that the MK team wanted the original Freddy but were given a mandate by Warner Bros. to use the current one. Whatever the case, they've made Haley’s new Freddy cool by injecting him with the style and moves of the original.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Top 10 Megatrons

by K. Jerry Peterson

The name Megatron carries a lot of weight. For those of us that grew up in the 80s, Megatron was in the upper echelon of villainy. With the decline of the Transformers brand, the name faded into obscurity until Michael Bay's live action movies made Megatron a household name again. For those that had never seen the original show, Bay's towering metal nightmare established himself as the one, true Megatron. Contrary to popular belief, Megatron has been very active since his demise in 1986 and Bay's Megatron was only the most recent in a long line. There have been no less than 10 versions of Megatron to conquer the TV and movie screens! These are my personal favorites ranked from worst (#10) to best (#1!). I am only considering those Megatrons that have appeared in film or television. If I were to include all the rest from video games and comics, this list could go on forever. Now without further ado, here are. . .


10. Transformers: Energon (2004)

voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “Megatron Resurrected”

In the sequel to TF: Armada Megatron returns from the dead. And like a rotting zombie, he has a serious need for braaains! Of all the Megatrons on this list, Energon’s Megatron is the only one I actively dislike. Out of 51 plodding, aimless episodes he had exactly four stand-out moments. Fifty-one episodes with a running time of 22 minutes each. That’s 1122 minutes in which Megatron could have done something noteworthy. Instead he gets four moments.
He spent the remaining 1118 minutes being the most bland, uninteresting, one-dimensional caricature of a cartoon villain ever. When he wasn’t lazing about on his throne all day, he was routinely beating his own troops for daring to think on their own and take initiative.
Not even the talented David Kaye could imbue this uninspired tyrant with a personality. This guy has no brains. No intelligence. He might as well be a comet hurtling through space, threatening Earth for all the personality he displays. He needs to crawl back into the grave! Onto the next!

9. Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2001)
voiced by Daniel Riordan

1st appearance: “Battle Protocol!”

Ugh, this guy. RiD Megatron ranks above Energon Megatron because he managed to be slightly more entertaining and he didn’t beat on his troops. . . too much. That said, he also spends all his time in the comfort of his mobile base watching TV. Not even joking. On the off chance that he does participate in a battle, don’t expect him to stick around long. Just look at that glossy finish on his armor! Do you know how long it takes to buff out scorch marks? Like, forever!!
You know what else is really cool about RiD Megatron? His voice. It’s cool how no matter what, he’s always yelling with absolutely no variance at all. Whether he’s giving orders, shouting insults, wryly delivering a joke, or musing on some newfound information, he’s always yelling. That never gets old, right?
RiD was a show made very silly for very young kids and not many others. Perhaps Megatron’s greatest failure then is being in a show that plays up the laughs while not actually delivering any himself.

8. Transformers: Cybertron (2005)
voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “Fallen”

Not a spectacular Megatron, but not a failure either. He displays more personality than both Energon and RiD Megatrons. In a comical scene with the ditzy Thunderblast he grudgingly allows her to join with him, but promises that he won’t cut her any slack just because she’s “cute.” Megatron’s most interesting scenes have him sharing screen-time with the leaders of other Cybertronian outposts throughout the galaxy. He is forced to race speed-obsessed Override to gain information. After losing he simply walks away rather than fighting it out. While visiting a wild jungle planet , Megatron reigns his temper in and abides by the law of the honorable but brtual Scourge.
Where Cybertron Megatron falls short is his nigh invincibility. No one except Optimus can come close to beating him, no matter how big or powerful. Megatron will triumph through sheer stubborness. It gets old quickly. A villain without any weaknesses does not make for tense or interesting fights.

7. Transformers: Armada (2002)
voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “First Encounter”

Technically this is the same Megatron as those in Energon and Cybertron, but what a world of difference there is between them. Like them, this Megatron started life as a simple-minded brute. He displayed little in the way of intelligence, preferring to turn every battle into a war of attrition.
Then about halfway through the 52 episode epic Megatron suddenly gets an infusion of memory and processing power! He starts thinking and displaying qualities that could be attributed to having a personality.
During the final arc of the show Megatron finally pulls his head out of his metal-plated aft and is made to see that an alliance with the Autobots is the only way to save their homeworld from total destruction. The planet-eater, Unicron, appears in orbit and Cybertron’s looking finger-licking-good. Realizing that Unicron is feeding off of the hatred between he and Optimus Prime, Megatron casts himself into the maw of the monster in order to help weaken it.
Though born stupid, Armada Megatron grew into a leader that learned to respect his troops and put the good of his people before his own personal quest for glory.

6. Transformers (2007)
voiced by Hugo Weaving
1st appearance: “Transformers”

Probably the most famous of all Megatrons thanks to Michael Bay’s trilogy of live-action movies. Benefitting from a massive budget, Weaving’s Megatron is animated better than any other Megatron. The hard PG-13 rating allows him to dole out death and carnage on a scale unseen in the cartoons. His schemes were grandiose, threatening the entire planet every time and he had some brief but meaty bits of characterization. So why does he rank only 6th on this list?
Looking strictly at the movies, he doesn’t actually do much. In part one he spends the entirety of the movie frozen and gets thawed out just in time to get killed by Sam Witwicky. In part two he spends all his time reporting to his fallen master. And when he’s not doing that, he’s getting his face blown off by Optimus. In part three he transforms into Hobotron and finds a dirty alley to mope in. He’s bummed out because his new boss, Sentinel Prime, is treating him like a bad employee.
Aesthetically I’m not a fan of the metal demon from Hell look. His hands and fingers are anorexic and feeble looking, his face looks more like a monster than a robot, and the rest of him looks like a towering jumble of metal bits that got spit out of an auto-shredder.
To his credit, he seemed genuinely committed to restoring Cybertron and making it habitable again. The scene in part three where he wearily says, “Cybertron. . . I saved you,” was one of the shortest, greatest scenes in the whole movie for me. His final scene where he beats his would-be master to within an inch of his life was simply grand. Weaving’s Megatron just barely claimed his right to the name in the 11th hour.

5. Transformers: Prime (2010)

voiced by Frank Welker
1st appearance: “Darkness Rising part 1"

This is the newest Megatron, and while Transformers: Prime is only 21 episodes in as of this writing, he’s had enough characterization that I can make a judgment on him. Frank Welker reprises the role that he defined with the original Megatron. Unlike his original incarnation, this Megatron is deathly serious all the time and has absolutely zero tolerance for smiling. There have been hints that he’s personable with some of the Decepticons off-scrren, but on-screen no one dares test his patience. He won’t be sitting around getting drunk and reminiscing about the good old days with his men. And rather than letting out a big ol’ belly laugh at his enemies plight, he’ll give you a silent, intense glare of hatred from his burning red optics in the darkness. This Megatron is truly something to be feared.
He shows no qualms about leaving behind troops that have fallen to enemies. By the same token, he welcomes back troops that have proven their worth. It’s still early in his career, but he’s off to a good start.

4. The Transformers (1984)

voiced by Frank Welker

1st appearance: “More Than Meets the Eye part 1"

The original Megatron. This guy set the standard for evil villains back in the 80s. To truly grasp his impact, you must journey back to 1984. Cartoon villains of that time were pedestrian. We had Snidely Whiplash and whatever monster Scooby and the gang were trying to unmask. Johnny Quest had a couple tribesmen shooting blow-darts at him. Some evil wizard that Thundarr the Barbarian had to fight.. Villains were forgettable and laughable.
Then Megatron showed up waving the Decepticon flag of conquest. The human race? Puny insects barely worth his attention. He didn’t care about conquering humans or ruling over Earth. He just wanted to strip the planet bare of all its resources and fuel his army to total victory over Cybertron.
How evil was the original Megatron? His greatest act as a villain, indeed the crescendo to his symphony of destruction, was killing the heroic Optimus Prime in “Transformers: The Movie” (1986) and ending the childhoods of thousands of children across the country. The anguished cries of kids were heard everywhere. Somewhere just off-screen Megatron was chuckling a sinister, evil chuckle, knowing what he had done.
On a personal level I like this version of Megatron more than most. He laughs, he gets drunk with his troops, he says, “Exxxcellent!” a lot while clenching his fist, and generally seems to enjoy screwing with Prime and the Autobots. In an attempt to make Megatron more scary and evil, other versions of the character have removed many of these traits. But it’s those very traits that make him so endearing all these years later.

3. Transformers: Animated (2007)

voiced by Corey Burton

1st appearance: “Transform and Roll Out”

Villain degradation is a symptom feared by all wtiters. It happens when the same villain shows up too frequently and always loses to the hero. After a while no one takes the villain seriously anymore and a bored audience waits for the villain to receive his next beating.
The Megatron of TF: Animated cleverly escaped this fate by being written at a disadvantage for the entirety of the first and third seasons of the show. First he was reduced to an immobile head and stripped of all his physical power. In this state he was forced to use his wits and guile to manipulate his enemies and stay one step ahead of everyone. When he did arrive on the scene, it was always cause for major panic and season cliffhangers.
Corey Burton was no stranger to voicing transformers, being the voice of the original Shockwave in 1984. In Animated he delivers one of the more unique takes on Megatron. Unlike his raving counterparts, Burton’s Megatron was not prone to outbursts of manic laughter, sudden cowardice, or fits of yelling. He was calm, controlled, and a calculating mastermind. His plans spanned the course of millions of years as his double agents worked their way into the highest levels of Autobot command. And while the Autobots have had a rally cry in the form of, “Transform and roll out,” since the beginning, the Decepticons have had nothing until Burton’s Megatron coined the phrase, “Decepticons, transform and rise up!”

2. Beast Machines (2000)
voiced by David Kaye
1st appearance: “The Reformatting”

The sequel to “Beast Wars” opens with Megatron in control of all of Cybertron. All life everywhere has been exterminated and now a planet-spanning army of mindless drones swarm the globe in search of any survivors. Megatron hardwires himself directly into the planet and controls everything. His single goal is to consume all the captured sparks (souls) of fallen transformers and ascend to demigod status. And he actually does it! Of course, a last second twist frees the sparks and sees Megatron destroyed.
Megatron was undoubtedly more successful in Beast Machines than he was in Beast Wars. He holds the spot at number two because while he accomplishes more than he did in “Beast Wars”, his time spent on a desolate Cybertron has made him less charming and aloof. He’s become colder and his sense of humor is much more dry and tempered. His hatred of organics consumes his time. During his stay on prehistoric Earth he had plenty to be mad about, but he always maintained this air of haughty superiority as though he couldn’t be bothered by the Maximals. Here, he’s so obsessed with them, that he can’t see straight. I think this Megatron needs people around to see how great he is. He can’t handle being alone.
So while he soars to new heights of conquest un-imagined previously, he’s lost some of the charm that made him so endearing during his run in “Beast Wars.”

1. Beast Wars (1996)

voiced by David Kaye

1st appearance: “Beast Wars part 1"

Frank Welker’s original Megatron set the bar in 1984, but David Kaye’s Megatron raised it to new heights in 1996 with Beast Wars. This is a guy that really enjoys his work. He’s charming, aloof, dangerously smart, has a sense of humor, and comes off more of an aristocrat than a warlord. He does spend a lot of time commanding from the safety of his base, but unlike Energon and RiD Megatron, he won’t shy away from a fight either.
Speaking of, his track record in fights is about as good as could be expected. I like that he’s not so ridiculously powerful that only Optimus can stack up against him. Not this guy. He’s big, he’s strong, but he’s just a robot like all the others. It brings him down to Earth and forces him to be smarter and more cunning. He knows he can’t win through brute force alone.
Simply put, he doesn’t have the resources. While all the other Megatrons have an army behind them, time-traveling BW Megatron becomes stranded on prehistoric Earth with four Predacons. Human civilization and technology are non-existent at this time, so Megatron’s stuck with whatever he brought in his broken down ship. Where he excels above all other Megatrons is his intelligence. He has back-up plans for everything and is constantly two steps ahead of his opponents.
Belying his intelligence, BW Megatron is a smooth talker. Whereas some Megatrons have a heavily synthesized voice and others snarl and talk like they were gargling gravel all morning, this classy cat’s voice puts him in league with James Bond’s villains. You almost expect to see him in a tuxedo and sipping a glass of fine wine while surveying a battle from a cliff side.
He’s the Megatron by which all others are now compared. He’s not the most powerful by a long shot, but he proves that a wise tyrant can do anything. Perhaps more importantly than that, he’s got an ocean’s worth of depth to his character. He’s easily the most interesting and most entertaining Megatron to watch. He is the best Megatron of all time!

Monday, August 1, 2011

DOA: Dead or Alive Review

by K. Jerry Peterson

When DOA was released in theaters, it barely made back half its budget. Critics and gamers alike trashed it. Knowing Hollywood’s track record for adapting video-games into crappy movies. I had no intention of watching DOA, but when those credits began to roll after 87 minutes, I’m glad I did. DOA is one of the most fun movies I’ve ever seen!

The plot follows ninja princess, Kasumi (Devon Aoki), as she searches for her missing brother on DOA island. Her personal protector, Ryu Hayabusa (Kane Kosugi) accompanies her to the mysterious island where a tournament is being held.

Meanwhile, career thieves, Christie (Holly Valance) and Max (Matthew Marsden), have made their way to the island looking to loot the place. The main cast is rounded out with Tina Armstrong, (Jaime Pressly), a wrestler trying to prove to the world that she’s not a fake, and Helena Douglas (Sarah Carter), the bubbly, energetic daughter of the late DOA founder.

The throwaway plot is pleasantly predictable and unfolds exactly as you’d expect. By the end of the movie, Tina’s proven that she’s a real fighter, Kasumi has rescued her brother, Helena has avenged the death of her father, and Christie and Max . . . well they don’t get the money, but it’s a happy ending anyway.

So happy!

What makes this movie great is its vibrant visual style, its humor, its relaxed atmosphere, its crazy fight scenes, and especially its likable cast of characters. Visually this is a beautiful movie to watch. Colors are all bright and crisp with nary a spec of dirt to be seen even when people are crashing through walls. The movie takes on a cartoonish look because of this but it works.   

The bright, lively look of DOA matches the relaxed atmosphere. The mood on the island is upbeat and carefree. Even the villainous Donovan (Eric Roberts) finds time to enjoy watching a game of beach volleyball. All of the characters, save the ultra-serious Kasumi, bring their own humor and wit to the table.

The fights kick ass too. Every fight makes great use of the environment. Whether fighting across a series of rafts, on the beach, in a bamboo forest, or a flight of stairs, the fighters are keenly aware of their surroundings and make the most of every setting, usually with awesome or comedic effect.

Raft Battle!

DOA has some of the most memorable supporting characters in the form of the cocky Zack, the always-smiling Max and the nerdy Weatherby. The movie represents all the characters from the game wonderfully, but Weatherby (Steve Howey) seems to represent the player. We first see him staring with infatuation at Helena on a computer monitor. He sets up the matches just as players at home select their fighters. He calls out obvious discrepancies between the game and the movie, such as Max’s involvement in the tournament. And later he’s able to meet Helena in person and finds that she likes him too! Weatherby’s place in the story seems like a fan’s dream come true. He may be a dorky computer nerd with a bad Hawaiian shirt, but he’s instantly likable and a great source of comedy.

The coolest nerd ever: Weatherby

If there’s one drawback to DOA, it’s Devon Aoki’s portrayal of Princess Kasumi. Her dry, emotionless performance is reminiscent of Queen Amidala in “The Phantom Menace.” Even so, Aoki has few scenes to herself, and the lively characters are able to play off of her straight-man routine.

Kasumi wonders why everyone hates her movie.

DOA: Dead or Alive is quite possibly the greatest underrated movie ever. It’s fun, it’s fast-paced, it’s full of beautiful women kicking ass, and you can tell that everyone working on it was having a great time making this movie. Ignore all the flak DOA: Dead or Alive gets, and check it out for yourself.