What I (Finished) Playing: Mad Max
I know I wrote about this game before, but I only completed it last week. (this week I played Warhammer. Probably talk about that later) As I said in an earlier post, I got stuck on the last race and thought for a while I was just going to leave it and never finish the game. But wonder of wonders, I completed the race, and fortunately, the rest of the game was much easier (though again, kind of frustrating. Also not very imaginative because the big boss was exactly like the minibosses)
Unfortunately, the ending was terrible.
(Spoilers Incoming, obviously)
It’s more than that the ending was sad. It’s that it made no sense within the game’s themes AND where the game is supposed to fit into the Mad Max canon (which is admittedly a mess), and basically ends with the main character’s entire journey trashed.
Throughout the game, an ongoing theme is that Max is afraid to connect to people, to make friends, to help out, lest he get hurt again. As I said before, it’s the love story of a man and his car, but (supposedly) it’s also about him learning to open himself up again, to befriend his mechanic, the different warlords in the region, the (concubine) mother and her child.
And at the end of the game, they all die.
It’s easy to say, “oh, of course the ending is sad, this is the Mad Max universe where messed-up stuff happens and people die.” But actually, if you consider the Mad Max movies, the endings are generally positive ones for the vast majority involved. And more to the point, killing off the cast rejects every other part of the game’s themes. Everyone’s been saying: “You need to open up, stop being afraid of being hurt,” and when he opens up, he gets hurt.
In fact, the game ends nearly identically to how it began–Max is in the same car, going back to the same goal he had at the start, he even has the same exact picture on the dashboard, despite it making literally no sense anymore given how he’s lost someone much more recently that apparently isn’t worth a dashboard momento. And he’s again considering trying to cross “the Plains of Silence,” even though multiple people have made clear that’s an empty and worthless goal masking a deeper longing.
There’s no emotional journey, no cathartic payoff. You’re left feeling angry and frustrated, after 30+ hours of gameplay.
Someone online suggested that the game was meant as a prequel to Fury Road, to explain why Max is so emotionally closed off, and why he somehow knows that 190 days ride won’t take them anywhere. That might make sense (though it would still make for a frustrating story), but checking the wiki, it’s actually the reverse. The video game is supposed to occur after the movie, thus the many references to Scrotus’ “immortal father” (Immortan Joe). So apparently, the character growth in Fury Road was equally pointless and got immediately obliterated, with the newly hopeful, newly compassionate Max somehow returning to the heartless, apathetic driver he starts out as in Fury Road. (And somehow returning to the idea of crossing the salt flats that he’d dismissed in Fury Road.) Maybe the story crew was working at cross purposes or something.
The game was already not stellar–serviceable and entertaining enough, but bare and repetitive. I doubt I’d have revisited it again even if it weren’t for the terrible ending. But the ending leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth, just feeling frustrated and a little betrayed.
So naturally I’m writing a fanfic to clear that mess up and give it an ending more in keeping with the game’s themes. Keep you updated on that.
What I (Finished) Watching Moon Knight
Overall underwhelming. The final episodes had some neat twists, no denying that, but ultimately the story is simplistic and the mental disorder aspect isn’t used as much as it could have been, amounting essentially to a superpower akin to Split.
It hit me during the final battle that the chief villain, Harrow, is really stupid. Like not his character, everything about him. He’s not particularly intelligent or master-mind-ish, he has no combat abilities whatsoever, his only ability, his chief schtick, is that he has a staff with undefined powers (but which is still somehow able to overpower just about everyone, even though it’s supposedly just a fragment of the power?) Supposedly he’s charismatic, but if so, it doesn’t come across very well. It’d be one thing if he played genuine mind games with the mentally-uncertain Stephen, but he doesn’t.
There’s also a profoundly stupid moment where Moon Knight, having carved his way through multiple goons, suddenly decides that killing Harrow, aka the LEADER, is a step too far.
This happens all the time and it infuriates me. I mean, pacifism, moral codes, sure that makes sense, but you’re seriously going to kill all sorts of people just to get to the leader and then spare the guy responsible for the whole thing? Like most of the people you killed would probably have lived perfectly fine lives without this leader. Some of them may not even like the leader or his mission and just be serving out of loyalty. And you’re going to spare HIM?
I sort of understand it on a narrative level–you want to slow down on the confrontation with the boss to lend it significance, and once you have, there’s something very different about killing an enemy in cold blood as opposed to the moment of the fight. And it’s a good way of signifying the hero moving on from his life of fighting–that he’s not going to live as a killer.
But story-wise, it makes no sense, and there’s other ways of doing that.
Overally, Moon Knight seems to have been overhyped, and doesn’t really deliver on anything. It was sold as a horror superhero story dealing with mental issues, but it’s Disney so it never really gets into horror (the santized tone it goes with doesn’t fit well with the comics Moon Knight), and it has to spend too much time on action-y stuff to really feel like it’s really dealing with mental issues.
What I (Finished) Reading: The Icarus Hunt by Timothy Zahn
I’m pretty terrible with actually reading books, despite that literally being my job. I can’t even remember why my brother Matt gave me this book–if it was a Christmas present, or my birthday, or just something he thought I’d like. I do know it was over four years ago when he gave it to me, and that it’s just been sitting around in my apartment with only the first chapter read for an embarrasingly long amount of time. A combination of insomnia and long bus rides finally enabled me to pick it up and finish it this week.
Timothy Zahn is a name that will mean a great deal to hardcore fans of Star Wars. He wrote some of the best-received novelizations set in that universe, particularly the Thrawn trilogy, named after the antagonist Grand Admiral Thrawn, who is now being adapted into the new Disney canon, per his name drop in Mandalorian. It’s a pity that much of his original works will probably be obscured and lost behind the new mythology being created for the Star Wars canon.
It’s tempting, of course, to see parallels to Star Wars in everything. The Icarus Hunt is mostly it’s own thing, though it has the dashing clever smuggling captain Jordan McKrell with his hypertalented super-strong partner. There’s not really an evil empire, though, and there’s no plucky group of rebels, there’s no space-psychics even hinted at, apart from the partner’s telepathic connection to his ferrets.
It’s a good read, full of twists and intrigue, with seemingly incidental details paying off down the line, and minor things dropped about the world turning out to have major consequences. The characters are not all equally interesting, but McKrell is an entertaning mixture of hard-boiled ne’er-do-well and spacefighter. Twists come thick and fast once the story gets going, and while it’s not exactly boundary-breaking in terms of what happens to its characters, it still keeps you reading and leaves you with a satisfying finish.
You know what’s weird, though? I spent the whole book reading it thinking it was a typical pulp-space story from the 1980’s when everyone was writing space adventures.
But turns out no. It was published in 1999. There’s even a sequel. Maybe I’ll have to get to that later.