The real strengths of HBO’s The Night Of are placed right front and center in the first episode. The hour chronicles the titular night, and we sit with future-murder-suspect Nazir Khan as his journey out to a party goes from ethereal to tragic. This episode is impeccably directed, with gradual shifts in tone emphasized by the color pallette and a softened depth of field. Director Steven Zaillian does a terrific job of drawing our attention to the little details that seem small in the moment, but will be significant down the road.
The decision to begin a criminal procedural mini-series with an episode that features practically no procedural elements is a real stroke of brilliance, and it colors our perspective of the whole show moving forward. We trust that Nazir is innocent not only because we know that his account of the night is truthful, but because he is our initial eyes and ears into the world. We have no reason to doubt him, since his perspective is our reality. Meanwhile, introducing some of the key points of contention in the first episode makes the procedural elements even more engaging. We have a real point of reference from watching the events unfold on our own.
Continue reading The Night Of Review
The long-awaited Playstation 4 space exploration title No Man’s Sky finally released this month, and while some are enjoying the game, its overall reception hasn’t been pretty. In its current state, the game is a bit of a buggy mess, with many PS4 users (and even more PC users) reporting frequent game crashes and, occasionally, needing to restart the game from the beginning to get past issues. Bugs at launch alone wouldn’t be especially noteworthy in today’s release-first-patch-later publishing culture, but No Man’s Sky has also failed to meet most gamers’ expectations. Many were expecting a practically infinite world full of things to do, but found themselves repeating the same boring tasks over and over again for dozens of hours, until they reached the center of the galaxy and (mild spoilers) essentially got to do it all over again.
For many, it’s disappointing. For others (*cough*me*cough*) it was inevitable from the start. Hello Games, the independent development team that created No Man’s Sky, is made up of 15 employees. Sure, they may have created an algorithm that mixed and matched a number of elements and created 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets (allegedly), but that doesn’t mean that said planets are wholly unique, nor does it say how many different variables can go into the flora and fauna of the game. And even if they created hundreds of variables for the planets and lifeforms that inhabit them, after a dozen hours or so, you’re going to be looking at various mashups of things that you’ve already seen.
Continue reading Who’s To Blame For High Expectations?
(The following contains spoilers for Mr. Robot and The Walking Dead)
I’ve been very critical about how The Walking Dead has treated its audience over the last season. First, when the Glenn fakeout debacle occurred, I wrote about how such trickery betrayed the trust that the show had established with the viewer and weakened the stakes of the series. Then, when the show decided not to tell the audience who died at the end of the season, I called them out for cheaply manipulating the audience in hopes of increased ratings. I still stand by both criticisms: The Walking Dead had an unfortunate habit of being dishonest with its audience last year, and it soured a lot of the more positive aspects of the season.
However, since writing those articles, I’ve caught up with another show that is somewhat notorious for lying to its audience. The first season of USA’s Mr. Robot structured itself around the fact that there was more to the story than we were being told. While the viewer likely realizes that something is amiss, and may be able to predict a particular twist (especially if they’re familiar with Fight Club), the full scope of the show’s withholding isn’t revealed until late in the season.
Continue reading Subjectivity in Storytelling: When It’s Okay To Lie To Your Audience
Hardcore Henry is a lot smarter than people are giving it credit for.
Perhaps that’s not surprising. The film is a representation (and arguably, a glorification) of all of the things that run rampant in modern video games. Shot entirely in first person, Hardcore Henry is gloriously over-the-top in its action, breathlessly paced, and one of the most violent films in recent memory. It’s also crude, short on character development, and far more interested in cool moments than a traditional plot arc.
But Hardcore Henry is absolutely aware of these things. They’re not so much flaws as intentional nods to the video game medium, both positive and negative. This becomes overtly apparent towards the end (more on that in my Spoiler Section below), and for better or for worse, Hardcore Henry shows a great understanding of the “language” of the gaming medium.
Continue reading Hardcore Henry Review